Does it matter where you sit on Sunday?

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

I don’t know of another Scripture that has suffered more abuse than this one. It is often quoted as the reason people must file into a religious institution on Sunday morning, sit in rows and submit to a music performance and a lecture that others have put together for their benefit.

For many, that is the only standard that determines whether someone belongs to God’s church or whether they are regarded as independent and rebellious. It has become so enshrined in our religious psyche that nothing else matters.

If you frequent one of these religious establishments with some regularity (every few weeks will do) others consider you to be a healthy believer. If not, however, they raise an eyebrow of caution. Just going validates someone’s faith even when nothing else about their lives would indicate that they know who he is. Some of the most arrogant and independent people I know sit through a weekly religious event and still go out and live life on their own terms.

Pressed on the point, many will admit that Sunday morning attendance isn’t going to earn their way into heaven or secure a life-transforming relationship with the Living God. But while they concede it may not work for everyone, they consider those who do not attend to be in grave danger.

How tragic! When we fail to view the church as God does, and unthinkingly embrace what 2,000 years of religious tradition says it is, we miss out on some of the simplest and best truths of God’s Word. For the writer of Hebrews is talking about something far more vital than where someone sits on a weekend morning …

From Living in the Relational Church, Part 2

Stick that in your pope and smike it!


79 thoughts on “Does it matter where you sit on Sunday?

  1. An element of truth, but this could be misleading, particularly since the author has an aversion to general church gatherings, and shuns them himself, which means, consequently, that he has to justify this.

    Assembling together – ‘episunogoge’ – ‘a gathering together in one place’.

    The same word used for the great gathering unto Christ of the Church at His coming – 2 Thes. 2:1.

    In this passage in Hebrews, obviously referring to the general gatherings of the church, in particular Hebrews, which could include, but were never intended to mean merely small groups, house-churches, or ‘two or three’, or couple of believers having a coffee and a chat, since he says the habit of some is not to gather, which indicates a general church community is meant.

    As for those who neglect to attend, their absence could be as a result of great persecutions referred to in Heb. 10:33-34, hence the exhortation to them, and to those who remain in regular gatherings, to not cast away their confidence, to maintain patience, live by faith, not draw away unto destruction, but continue believing to the saving of the soul.

    It interests me to see how often the term ‘institutionalised church’ comes up in these pieces, as if large numbers of fellow believers gathering together in common praise, worship, giving, fellowship, discipleship, baptisms, communion sharing, sitting under the Word, receiving ministry and celebrating together had some kind of stigma to it.

    There are millions of us who really enjoy gathering in large and small groups, having a astoral team oversee us and care for us, serving together, meeting together for social events, having a lively, friendly environment to bring unsaved people into and generally fell part of a vibrant, living community.

    I know everyone doesn’t see it that way, and that’s fine, so meet in two’s and three’s without having to justify your smallness, but stigmatising small, medium or large organised church groups as if they are the anti-christ is really unnecessary.

    I notice, again, that the author very much has friendship and fellowship with uncommitted, unorganised, random, unattached, small, socially oriented, self-serving ministry groups, and doesn’t take his devotees into the essential place I have mentioned a few times here – the Great Commission.

    I’m sure he believes in it, but it has to be said that if we are all engaged in preaching the gospel, leading people to Christ, making disciples, baptising them, teaching them what Christ taught his disciples, the groups we are involved in, under the leadership of the Word and Spirit, will grow, and along with the growth will come responsibility and leadership needs, as well as accountability to minister correct doctrine, care for those who need social, physical, emotional or spiritual assistance, mutual support and care, and an awareness of how a growing community functions. It is inevitable, unavoidable, and God’s intention for His Church.

  2. your last paragraph FL. Doesn’t really apply for the billy grahams of the world. They grow the church (I guess) but don’t have all the headache of leadership etc.

  3. I don’t know how Billy Graham follows up converts, maybe I’ll check it out, but I would venture that he works with local churches to help his organisation disciple the masses who have come in through his ministry.

    I doubt very much that he sends everyone a letter which says ‘do what you want with the rest of your life now you’re saved. Go out for a coffee with a couple of other people who know Jesus, if you can locate them, that is, and have a nice life, love Billy!”

  4. Facelift, look carefully at, and consider well, these verses of scripture.

    The content of these verses is true of all who are in an incorporated church.
    The true ‘body of Christ’ is a spiritual body; it is not an “I am of Paul” (Protestant), or “I am of Apollos” (Catholic), incorporated for tax purposes organization with a statement of beliefs and by-laws of incorporation and led by a business magnate/investor parading as a Pastor.

    There is no ‘statement of beliefs’ that includes the entirety of God’s Word. Any such “statement” is therefore “taking away from the words of the prophecy of this book.”

    Now look carefully at these verses of scripture:

    1 Corinthians 1:1 “…Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…”

    These Corinthian brothers in Christ were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [not chosen] to be saints!” Not only were they ‘called to be saints,’ they were also casting out demons and healing the sick and doing many wonderful works in Christ’s name. Nevertheless, look at what Paul says of Christians who are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints:

    1 Corinthians 3:1 “…And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?…”

    In four verses Paul tells these Corinthians who were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,” and who “came behind in no gift (1 Corinthians 1:7), that they “are yet carnal” and the carnal mind is “…enmity against God…”
    Why were they carnal? The very fact that they identified themselves with a man/movement and not with Christ proved their carnaility in Paul’s eyes.

  5. “I know everyone doesn’t see it that way, and that’s fine, so meet in two’s and three’s without having to justify your smallness, but stigmatising small, medium or large organised church groups as if they are the anti-christ is really unnecessary.”

    It’s fair enough to object to stigmatisation of organised church groups. However, in turn casting aspersions upon those who choose to meet in another fashion, such as gathering in groups of two or three, is not justified.

    You will find that this author is often invited to speak to large gatherings. He doesn’t actually tell people to leave their large churches, either. It is the nature of the gathering and community that seems to concern him, rather than the size of it.

    Both large gatherings and small gatherings are capable of following man, or following Christ. Both are capable of falling into the bondage of ‘religion’. Learning to live in Jesus’ freedom requires losing religion. Sometimes that’s easier out of a church than in it.

    However, this author does not tell people to just go out and leave their churches. He has even spoken of how smaller groups have sometimes been prone to worse abuses in practice. Nothing is guaranteed by the size of the gathering, though some types of meeting may have certain risks more associated with them.

    I can’t speak for this author, but it is misreading him to think he automatically always condemns organised churches in favour of small groups. He does preach freedom from religious thinking, which is a transitional process for most of us, since we’ve had that type of thinking programmed into us for a long long time in many ways, not even just at church.

    Some Christians find a more authentic expression of community in Christ outside their organised church life than in it.

    When a community expresses Christ’s love, it will grow. Yes, then leadership issues may arise. But that doesn’t mean they have to be solved in the traditional hierarchical fashion that is the pragmatic norm.

    The pragmatic approach is not necessarily Jesus approach. The Bible speaks quite strongly about the dangers of hierarchies, and the strong oppressing the weak, and Jesus died because of this. So we must not seek to aquire leadership which involves exercising power over others. A Biblical leader is a servant, is recognised as a mature Christian well on in their walk, and an example to others. Not a lord of others, but an example, whom people willingly follow – they are inspired by seeing Christ in that person. Man cannot do this by himself – only His work in us creates this type of leader. This type of leader is recognised by those around them (if they are not blinded by a hierarchical and religious system), and people willingly listen and are persuaded because they recognise Christ in that persons life.

    So don’t stigmatise those who are searching for a more authentic expression of community in Christ which they have failed to find in their local church. They are searching, following Christ, and He is leading them on their journey. It is a narrow road. It doesn’t always start, stay or finish in an organised church.

    It is not true to say their groups don’t grow. Ideally, their groups are likely to organically change in response to God’s movements, rather than programmatically change in response to a man-made pattern (and the latter can of course also be used by God, but may stifle God’s work where the program stays rigid despite the Holy Spirit wanting otherwise).

    Also, Jacobsen has some very interesting material on evangelism, so one can’t accuse him of not spreading God’s word. He is led in some very interesting ways.

  6. BTW, FL, I know you said ‘don’t have to justify your smallness’, however you also labelled small groups, “uncommitted, unorganised, random, unattached, small, socially oriented, self-serving ministry groups”, which sounded like quite strong criticism to me.

    I have known large organisations to be socially oriented and self serving; committed to their own visions while putting down visions of those beyond their own borders – so size is no guarantee of commitment to the ways of Christ. Actions show our commitment, and when people are treated in a non-loving fashion, in the name of fulfilling some bigger vision, then I don’t see a commitment to following His example, though there is a definite commitment to some ‘greater’ goal.

  7. The ultimate small group was of course Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. There is a sense in which His words “This is my body … This is my blood…” were a radical criticism of what sacrifice had become in the Temple. He had driven out the merchants who were selling things to people so they could fulfill their so-called religious obligations. And now he was showing what was the true sacrifice – in a small community of like-minded people.

  8. RP,
    ‘I know you said ‘don’t have to justify your smallness’, however you also labelled small groups, “uncommitted, unorganised, random, unattached, small, socially oriented, self-serving ministry groups”, which sounded like quite strong criticism to me.’

    I didn’t put that label on small groups generally, but on Jacobsen’s style of group, having read a few of his ideas. He seems to be wary of growth and organisation beyond a certain point, which could be his limitations surfacing rather than anything Spirit led. Not all leaders are limited by size or functional paradigm changes.

    In fact, I believe small groups are the ideal way to start, sustain and develop large groups, and are a Biblical pattern which all churches should consider.

    Small groups, including family units, friends gathering, common interest groups, connect groups for study, worship and/or prayer, house groups, and all the variations, gathering at various times during the week, are just as much the Church as a medium to mega-church gathering on a Sunday morning, and in many ways more so.

    We have people meeting in small groups who rarely, if ever, attend on a Sunday because they are not into larger crowds, or have a disability, but surely they are as much a part of our community as anyone. Small groups are a brilliant entry level for new people.

    What I suggest though is that each group should enjoy the same basic functionalities which go into making up the local church, including the ability to serve, worship, be discipled, fellowship, and reach out to friends and relatives, with the expectation of experiencing qualitative and quantitative growth and increase as part of the Body.

    Small groups should always remain small so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and feel wanted and cared for. So there has to be an organised way of maintaining this intimacy without ignoring the need to reach out to others. Inclusiveness without being overly exclusive.
    ___________________________________

    The Corinthian Church had several levels of dysfunctionality, but Paul brought correction. He rebuked them for schisms, but he did not tell them to stop gathering. In fact he gave lists of instruction for how to conduct themselves when they gathered. He told them to do all things in church decently and in order. “Let two or three’ prophesy and ‘let the prophets’ judge, etc, along with several other instructions implies a large gathering, not a small group, was being referred to.

    Being registered in Australia for legal purposes is actually unavoidable, and for many contributors here, is an essential element of accountability, especially for mega-chuches, and, in fact, some would like heavier degrees of Governmental leverage imposed on churches, not less. There is no way to do this without small, medium and large gatherings of believers having to comply with existing laws, which, we are told in the Word we must do to obey the authorities. You can’t have it both ways!

    Churches arrange themselves under denominational structures because the law says certain things can be done when a group of churches declares itself to be a recognised denomination, mainly to do with marriage licensing.

  9. FL, you have chosen not to answer the question on whether you hold a formal leadership position in your Church. Clearly, if you derive income from a formal leadership position it has the potential to influence your views and your theology on this question.

  10. FL, it seems that you reject the notion of small groups being church that exist outside of a recognised and organised church structure.

    As wazza says, you have also failed to indicate whether you hold a formal position in your church – teacher, leader, pastor or other paid staff.

  11. Why would holding a position of responsibility change anything? Paul had more than one position of responsibility, but decided to forgo being paid for it, although he did on occasion receive finances to further his activities. Are you saying this influenced his thinking on Biblical matters. What a nonsense.

    I have a number of positions of responsibility in my church, but really what has that to do with anything but that others have seen fit to ask me to take those responsibilities. I am not self appointed, but given charge of areas by those who see a call on my life. That’s as far as I need to go with this. Your argument is preposterous!

    Don’t penalise a person for giving his life to serve others, please! Next you’ll say I might be prejudiced about my ideas of certain areas of family life because I’m a husband and father, and have responsibilities towards my wife and children. Get real!

  12. So do you reject small groups outside an organised church structure as an expression of church?

  13. Facelift – it appears to have glossed over the enitre point of my post. I can see now why Lance pulled S2 down in a frustrated rage.

    The issue is denominationalism – is Christ divided? Was Phil Pringle or any other big-name minister crucified for you? Paul’s contention was that believers identified themselves with men (Paul, Apollos) and not with Christ. It amounts to the same thing today – I am a baptist, I am a methodist, I go to CCC or HS etc…

  14. Wazza2 said:

    The ultimate small group was of course Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. There is a sense in which His words “This is my body … This is my blood…” were a radical criticism of what sacrifice had become in the Temple. He had driven out the merchants who were selling things to people so they could fulfill their so-called religious obligations. And now he was showing what was the true sacrifice – in a small community of like-minded people.

    Awsome stuff Wazza2. How did you come across this?

  15. FaceLift says:

    Don’t penalise a person for giving his life to serve others, please! Next you’ll say I might be prejudiced about my ideas of certain areas of family life because I’m a husband and father, and have responsibilities towards my wife and children. Get real!

    Er I don’t see any penalties being applied. But people who have an interest is something often don’t see them as clearly as those who have no interest – just think about football teams and umpires. People see things from their own world view and that is strongly coloured by what is perceived to be good for them personally. It would be foolish to claim to be different.

    Your world-view is so obviously different to others on this blog that you have been asked numerously whether you are a pastor. I can understand that as part of the ministry team you have experiences of church that the rest of us don’t have. Maybe that makes institutional church work for you but people in your position are in the minority.

  16. Come now, Bill, I’ve discussed many things with many people, and seem to be rather isolated in some ways, and having questions fired from more than one direction, and limited time to answer, so how can I get to every question everyone asks? I have dealt with what I can to the best of my ability.

    You think Lance was frustrated by me? What for disagreeing with his stance against the people he called pond-scum? Good Lord, he was anti-everything Pastors or Pentecostals stand for. He frustrated himself.

    You still haven’t answered my questions about the Great Commission. How do you reconcile Christ’s commands for all believers to preach the gospel, make disciples, baptise them, train them and send them, whilst living separate from the commission?

    Your issue is denominationalism. I answered that five comments ago. Christ is not divided. You are either in Christ or out of Christ. You are either in His Church, His Body, or out. You are either obedient to His call or not. He only knows those who do the will of His Father. You can say, “I know Christ,” all you want, but if you are not doing the will of His Father, you are none of His!

    And you have know that Christ is the Head of the Church which is His Body, and that he has given the Body strict instructions to multiply itself through evangelism and discipleship, which means we are all to be engaged in building His Church with Him.

    He has made his instructions very, very clear.

    The real issue is the reason for the Church!

    The ultimate small group, as wazza2 indicates, was the small group, but it was small group trained, equipped, set apart, sent and charged with going into all the world, going into every nation and making disciples of every nation, baptising them training them and sending them to do the same work of evangelsim and discipleship, ‘causing increase of the Body of itself in love’.

    It was never intended to remain a exclusive small group. It was Jesus’ Training school for a hand-picked team of soul winners, evangelists, Pastors, yep, Apostles, young men who would shake the world. It was the ultimate beginning of what became a massive, unstoppable group of people cross the know world within the disciples’ lifetime. The church at Jerusalem was a mega-church, as was the church at Antioch, and Ephesus, and on and on, within the lifetimes of the Apostles including Paul, who was set apart to win the Gentiles.

    Every time they faced a problem or seeming disaster, or had to bring leadership decisions to bear, or set goals, or arrange counsels, the Church grew, and kept on growing, and is still growing, from the twelve Jesus chose, to the Pentecostal evangelistic explosion of 3,000 in one day in Jerusalem, to addition through house groups, the Lord adding daily such as should be saved, to multiplication, through acts of power, through great far coming on the Church, through organisational decisions, through miracles and signs and wonders, through rebuke, through correction, through repentance, through persecution, tribulation, trials and tests, through disputes, through teaching and training, and always under the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  17. Did I lose a comment somewhere in the ether? If you can’t find it I’ll attempt to reiterate it, otherwise Bill will think I’m ignoring him!

    I can’t answer every question, guys. i only have so much time. Don’t bark at me if I miss something, please.

  18. Heretic said “How did you come across this”. It was again on Radio National, “The Ark” on 27/4. A program called “The Origins of the Eucharist”.

    I find these programs interesting, although often too liberal even by my standards. But they do provide new interpretations which seem to be relevant to the issues I have been considering that week.

  19. FaceLift says:

    An element of truth, but this could be misleading, particularly since the author has an aversion to general church gatherings, and shuns them himself, which means, consequently, that he has to justify this.

    What rubbish. The guy was a pastor of a church himself. His aversion is to religion and its typical purpose which is to replace a relationship with God.

    Assembling together – ‘episunogoge’ – ‘a gathering together in one place’.

    The same word used for the great gathering unto Christ of the Church at His coming – 2 Thes. 2:1.

    In this passage in Hebrews, obviously referring to the general gatherings of the church, in particular Hebrews, which could include, but were never intended to mean merely small groups, house-churches, or ‘two or three’, or couple of believers having a coffee and a chat, since he says the habit of some is not to gather, which indicates a general church community is meant.

    I am glad you agree that “small groups, house-churches, or ‘two or three’, or couple of believers having a coffee and a chat” constitute gathering as they obviously are gatherings.

    The emphasis here is about gathering. Not gathering in specific numbers or places or manners. There is no instruction to gather and go throught some ritual here like an institutional church service. There is no instruction to all gather at once. You might be tempted to add that to the scripture to support your world view but these items are simply not there in the text.

    Bill, however, is right to add that there is an implication that there is only one church and we should not break the church up into churchlets and have churchlet services and somehow deem that our churchlet services are more valid gatherings than other types of gatherings.

  20. Wazza2 says: I find these programs interesting, although often too liberal even by my standards. But they do provide new interpretations which seem to be relevant to the issues I have been considering that week.

    I am surprised the ABC has good stuff like this but I suppose I should not be. Good information/truth can come from any source in my opinion although some don’t think so. Best to test it all rather than judge it by the source.

  21. large or small group issue is, eerr, largely irrelevant. I object however to mindset that increase in number is proof of blessing and if you don’t have that exponential growth you are not blessed. Hitler was able to increase numbers in 1938. He must have been blessed by that logic.

  22. So God isn’t interested in numbers then, since growth is evidence of hitlerian demonism.

    I don’t get this. there seems to be an aversion to growth here, a fear, even a prohibitive attitude.

    Like, small is good. big is bad.

    Increase in numbers may indeed be evidence of blessing. I agree it doesn’t necessarily indicate that things are going right, or being done right, but on the other hand it may indicate hat things are going right and being done right.

    All I know is that God really wants the world to be saved, and he has no problem with how many are brought in. We’re here to do the job.

  23. not big is bad, but big is not the only end, which you must admit, some pentys subscribe to (including some I know who run very big churches)

  24. Small is great as long as the focus isn’t on remaining small and exclusive, unless an entire community os won, that is, if it is a small community, but, then there’s the world to the uttermost, isn’t there! There has to be adherence to the Great Commission.

  25. OK, Kids, well, as you know, mum’s just had twins, and we want to keep the family down to two children whilst maintaining God’s will for us to multiply, so the Jones’s and the Smith’s who love large families, have agreed to take one each, which is wonderful. We don’t want to get too attached to the twins, since we believe it’s our duty to make babies, not support them for rest of their lives, and end up with a huge family, so we’re sending them over straight away, and will let the Jones’s and Smith’s name them.

  26. My friend who can’t find a church that works for her has seen an entire family find Christ through her work with them. She sent them along to a local church that does work for them, since she views the body of Christ as being expressed in a multitude of ways. She’s still in constant contact with them. Hardly disowning them. You could not meet a more supportive person than this wonderful woman. She is a living expression of the love of Christ towards others.

  27. FaceLift you have an amazing faith in institutions. Where others believe God can do amazing things you talk as if you believe institutions and their systems and agendas can. We worship you o great institution and believe you can do no wrong. All bow down to the institution.

    It is not institutions that fit the body of christ together it is the joints of the body of Christ. The connections between individuals and God’s presence and work in the relationships between individuals. Not the institutions.

    I basically paraphrasing Paul here. Whereas I suggest you are not.

  28. You’re completely wrong of course, Heretic.

    You use the word ‘institutions’ as a swearword because you can’t get used to the idea that some people, most people, actually enjoy meeting with a crowd which includes long time intimate friends as well as new acquaintances and familiar faces. You really are so rude about any kind of church group which is beyond a handful of totally like-minded people who enjoy grumbling about anything larger than a few.

    I have never thought of my local church as an ‘institution’. It is a church, a local church. It belongs to Jesus. We worship God, not things. It is very friendly and warm. It has its ups and downs, but mostly it is a fun place with heaps of things going on most days of the week.

    My good wife enjoys putting together genealogies and photo collections, and has put together an album, amongst her many, of stuff which has happened in our church over the years. It is wonderful. So uplifting to see how many friends we have and have been around over time, many of whom are still with us, some of whom have moved interstate, but are still part of our lives.

    Your disparaging opinion and remarks diminish any love you might have for churches which are more than 2 or 3 hundred or beyond.

    My faith has never been in institutions, but in God. I can’t help it if the churches we have been involved in over time have actually grown, and people have been saved, baptised and discipled, and developed relationships and friendships which will last forever.

    I fervently believe in the whole body of believers, no matter what group they are part of, large or small, but I certainly don’t think you have a case when you try to make a growing family into an institution you can mock.

    It’s not an institution. It’s large group of people who love God and worship together.

  29. I’ll add this: I get around people from other churches, and it seems that in our neck of the woods most of the churches are similarly enjoying developing friendships and do not in any way consider themselves to be institutionalised. There is a very open approach to fellowship amongst and between churches here, and we encourage interchurch harmony.

    There is very little church to church movement, probably because of the harmony which has been developed between leaders and church goers.

    I believe God is moving amongst churches to break down the schisms which developed over centuries and bring a greater degree of openness.

  30. FaceLift says:

    You use the word ‘institutions’ as a swearword because you can’t get used to the idea that some people, most people, actually enjoy meeting with a crowd which includes long time intimate friends as well as new acquaintances and familiar faces. You really are so rude about any kind of church group which is beyond a handful of totally like-minded people who enjoy grumbling about anything larger than a few.

    A handful is 2-3 hundred? I think you are confused. I use the word institution to distinguish it from “a bunch of christians” when it not “a bunch of christians”

    Your disparaging opinion and remarks diminish any love you might have for churches which are more than 2 or 3 hundred or beyond.

    No I don’t have love for church systems. I have love for people.

    Yes I feel free to disparage a church system because a church system is not anything of value of itself, doubly so when it preaches rubbish that hides God from people. I think I have a precedent from Jesus to disparage religious institutions.

    And you disparage people. I am not as sure that you have a precedent from Jesus. You might disagree.

  31. Well a handful would be five not 300, so you didn’t read that properly, evidently. Never mind. I don’t get the impression you like more than a few in a gathering, or you wouldn’t be so mean about a few more.

    What is the difference between a church and people, or the Church and people? The Church is people. You say you have love for people, but sometimes without some kind of organised arrangement, even guidelines, the church, meaning the people, don’t get on so well, or drift offcourse.

    You seem to be suggesting that if there was no structure, Christians would just get on more famously and arrange themselves, er sorry, can’t use ‘arrange’, that’s too much like ‘organise’, a-aahm, distribute, no, err, sort themselves, no, aaah, fooey, can’t find a word which kind of means gets itself together without involving some kind of official sounding symmetry or disposition, or set up, defined, leader-follower scenario.

    But anyway, if it was just left to itself everything would be so much better. Sheep, after all, are so versatile, and not easily led by every wind of doctrine, or deceived by the sleight o men, or cunning craftiness.

    But then of course you couldn’t have any kind of systematic study, or have some people involved who had enough experience in the Word to be able to see if the non-leader type people who randomly taught the Word were, in fact, doctrinally sound.

    And of course, to be doctrinally sound, one would think some sort of formal training would be involved, but how can you achieve this without a system or a structure, and without someone being in a position to train, who, I hesitate to say this, knows more than the ones he or she is training, in fact, brace yourself, leading through relating knowledge and experience greater than the one learning, so, no, that won’t work. It involves form and structure.

    Well, the sheep will have to fend for themselves, won’t they?

    No we can’t have system in the church.

  32. It may be more conducive to discussion if you did not branch out on so many fronts at once. It is easier to discuss one point than many. It takes a long time to respond to them but I guess it reduces the come-backs.

    FL:

    You really are so rude about any kind of church group which is beyond a handful of totally like-minded people who enjoy grumbling about anything larger than a few. … Your disparaging opinion and remarks diminish any love you might have for churches which are more than 2 or 3 hundred or beyond

    I often read things wrongly but not in this case.

    What is the difference between a church and people, or the Church and people? The Church is people. You say you have love for people, but sometimes without some kind of organised arrangement, even guidelines, the church, meaning the people, don’t get on so well, or drift offcourse.

    I think this is an important question. One I am struggling with a bit. Sometimes it is obvious what is wrong and not so obvious what is right but I digress.

    “The” church is a bunch of people – very large bunch, or maybe not given that the road is narrow and few find it. I am not going to guess who the tares are but I digress.

    A community is just a bunch of people. A community is a bunch of people and a culture that allows them to act in ways they understand. It could have a nominal head like a mayor. It could have services like police.

    But a community could come under the influence of an individual who could then provide the community a purpose – say a five year plan to industrialise. And he could provide a vision, say “each contributes according to ability and receives according to need”. And people would want to associate with that influencial person so he might form a ruling elite and you could join his party and climb the ranks to get close to him. But then people might speak out against him so there would need to be a way of controlling dissent.

    Both the above paragraphs descrive a bunch of people. But one is a bunch of people plus extra stuff.

    Similarly the church is all the people and God has said what constitutes that bunch of people. Those that abide in Jesus and have their fellowship with him and are led by him. Jesus is our common culture. Similarly groups of individuals can come under the influence of individuals who the people for their purposes. They say they are God’s purposes but how can I know? God says pastors et al are there to serve me to equip me for the work of building up the body of christ and I don’t believe that is primarily a numerical building.

    My church is christian people plus stuff:
    1. Plus a corporate structure.
    2. Plus a vision that I am supposed to ditch any other vision for.
    3. Plus a control structure that is over the bretheren.
    4. Plus a hierarchy to climb.
    5. Plus rules that indicate what level of christian I am.
    6. Plus wierd doctrines to bind us up and stop us questioning the …
    7. demands to conform and perform to get God to bless us
    8. Plus I am supposed to do whatever I am told even if I think God is telling me not to,
    This is not just a bunch of people, it is a method of control that exalts itself and puts itself between God and the people way down at the bottom of the hierarchy in the outermost circle.

    (If your church is a few thousand, not that you actually said that, then that is definitely not a local church. A church of thousands is one that has almost certainly drained all the local churches dry. And speaking from experience in a church of thousands you don’t easily make relationships. That which every joint supplies is difficult to come by. It is difficult to have a relationship with a hierarchy which you are supposed to climb, or as Warren puts it, move to the more inner circles.)

    I think a church could in some instances be just a bunch of people but it is unlikely.

    But anyway, if it was just left to itself everything would be so much better. Sheep, after all, are so versatile, and not easily led by every wind of doctrine, or deceived by the sleight o men, or cunning craftiness.

    Where is the best place to come under the spell of dodgy doctrine. It is at church where people claim they know it all and you are not supposed to question. It is the seriously dodgy stuff we all hear/heard at church that we are up-in-arms about on this blog because we cannot discuss it at church.

    Your implication is that one man with lots of power running an institution will keep people’s doctrine sound. What rubbish, who will keep his doctrine sound.

    But then of course you couldn’t have any kind of systematic study, or have some people involved who had enough experience in the Word to be able to see if the non-leader type people who randomly taught the Word were, in fact, doctrinally sound.

    This is the great lie. That church structure is the only structure. That no structure could be more godly than yours. A municipality has a structure but it is not a hierarchical structure. It is there to serve the people who live there. It is a more christian structure than that of our mega-churches.

    How could we ever study if we don’t have church services? Are you serious? Alpha-courses, bethel courses, bible-colleges. Reading the bible? Learning from “fathers” in the faith? The anointing by which we know all things?

    The main purpose of a shepherd/overseer is to watch out for wolves. Paul uses the wolf analogy. But lots of our so-called pastors are the wolves. They preach a gospel of performance and conformance to please God. They reject the cross in favour of the old testament – this was Pauls main concern. I wish it was not mine.

  33. Our focus is on the NT, so I sympathise if you have a diet of OT. I agree that it is possible to teach just about anything using OT scriptures, whereas the NT is far more specialised for the Church.

    One point I’m making here s a common theme for a few threads, and that is the need for structure. Even Alpha has structure. You can’t avoid it. It is all through the NT. There is no loose connection between saint. The Church brings us in as open. We are bound together in the bond of peace.

    And, not to labour the point, but I said a handful because I was referring to the five fingers of a hand, and was referring to your seeming love of small informal groups over large structured groups, compared to the inevitability of becoming large through evangelism and discipleship, which has been my consistent theme in this discussion.

  34. FL:

    One point I’m making here s a common theme for a few threads, and that is the need for structure. Even Alpha has structure. You can’t avoid it. It is all through the NT. There is no loose connection between saint. The Church brings us in as open. We are bound together in the bond of peace.

    I agree we are bound together in the bonds of peace. I agree there are overseers. I agree there are all the ministry gifts in 1cor12 (apostles, prophets, teachers, administrations etc). Eph 4 says that these ministries are to help us all grow ourselves and the church in to a mature man.

    I can understand that because your church appears to work for you (and in my opinion it works much better as a community for the hierarchy than for the plebs) that you would read the NT as supporting this structure but as far as I can see it is not there.

    Which scriptures support your view of our current hierarchical structure? I suspect they can all be read another way. Another way to read them is that there are individuals scattered throughout the body that operate as led by God. There are elders who are respected and manage the culture of the community in much the way that a minicipal mayor can.

    None of this is a hierarchical system where people tell other people what to believe and what to do. These people a servants to the body. Paul of course compares the church to the human body which like the flock has no hierarchy except for the head which is Jesus. It does however have lots of important bits which server the whole.

  35. I don’t think I’ve argued for hierarchal structures, but for structure as opposed to a free-for-all.

    Structure does involve some kind of leadership, but essentially we are all equal in the eyes of God. He gives us the five-fold ministry to teach and train, and help us grow, but he also has rulerships which help us with corporate decision making.

    It is not a democracy, but consultation should take place. It is not a pyramid where some are higher than others. Leadership is also service wit responsibility, so if there were a pyramid it would be inverted.

    There are those who are called into oversight. We are told to obey and submit to those who have the rule over us because they must give account for their level of watchfulnessover our souls – leadership with responsibility before God.

  36. FL: “he also has rulerships which help us with corporate decision making.”

    OK enough postulating. Scriptures. Put up or shut-up. Show the scriptural support for “God has clearly given some the rule, or headship, over others” or stop spouting it.

  37. Heretic, so forceful!

    Is that you excercising oversight assertively? Here’s some scripture to help you with your new gift:

    Rom. 12:8: ‘he that rules, [let him rule] with diligence’…

    Rules: proistemai:
    1) to set or place before
    1a) to set over
    1b) to be over, to superintend, preside over
    1c) to be a protector or guardian
    1c1) to give aid
    1d) to care for, give attention to
    1d1) profess honest occupations

    Diligence: spoude:
    1) haste, with haste
    2) earnestness, diligence
    2a) earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything
    2b) to give all diligence, interest one’s self most earnestly

    Once more for the kiddies:

    Hebrews 13:17
    Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

    Rule: hegeomai:
    1) to lead
    1a) to go before
    1b) to be a leader
    1b1) to rule, command
    1b2) to have authority over
    1b3) a prince, of regal power, governor, viceroy, chief, leading as respects influence, controlling in counsel, overseers or leaders of the churches
    1b4) used of any kind of leader, chief, commander
    1b5) the leader in speech, chief, spokesman
    2) to consider, deem, account, think

    Submit: hupeiko:
    1) to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants)
    2) metaph. to yield to authority and admonition, to submit

    Church rule compared to ruling a household well:

    1Ti 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

    1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    In both cases – rule: proistemi:
    1) to set or place before
    1a) to set over
    1b) to be over, to superintend, preside over
    1c) to be a protector or guardian
    1c1) to give aid
    1d) to care for, give attention to
    1d1) profess honest occupations

    Folow the faith of those who rule over us:

    Hebrews 13:7-8
    Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

    Rule: hegiomai [as above]

  38. Yes well I did say I miss stuff sometimes 🙂

    FL: “Is that you excercising oversight assertively? Here’s some scripture to help you with your new gift:”

    My version of oversight is usually followed by either “whoops!” or “doh” 😦

  39. Going through the verses now FL while the kids are asleep. Good stuff though thanks.

  40. Well that was fun and the kids are about to arise so time is of the essence.

    The short version is that we are reading different versions and yours is less literal than mine sorry. It is really not as cut-and-dried as you make out. The NASB which for all its irritatations is a very literal translation renders them very differently:

    Rom 8:12 is not “he that rules” but “he that leads [or gives aid]”.

    1Ti3:5 is not “rule his own house” but “manage his house.”

    Vines also points out that “proistemi” means to stand before and that there are other words that actually mean rulership based on the word “arche” as in “hierarchical” or in the case of ruling ones own house “oikodespoteo” which has the meaning to rule a household. But these words were not used presumably because they were not appropriate to Paul’s meaning. Some translaters appear to read rulership into the meaning however.

    Your notes above point out there are a number of ways to read these greek words and my point was in fact that you can read these verses in another way.

    As you point out Heb13 is the clincher because it actually defines for us what it is to obey vv7-8 “Remember those who led you, and considering the result of their conduct immitate their faith”.

    These are “examples to the flock” not rulers at all. Vines in fact points out somewhat ironically that hegomai in the Hebrews verses is translated in the KJV as both “rule” and “are the guides” and “guide” in the same verses so Paul’s meaning of the word was not likely intended to denote command in the slightest but leadership in the true sense.

    This makes perfect sense because the “chief shepherd” said “follow me” and we are to follow the faith of our “fathers” in the faith.

    My point is not that there should be no structure (anarchy) but that the structures/institutions we have set up are not what God intended. There should be many elders in a church not a hierarchy of clergy. They are “among us” (1Pet5:1) not over us. Solomon said that in many counsels is wisdom. Making a single individual rather than Jesus or as well as Jesus is extra-biblical.

    The verses above are great and they are about leadership but they are about functional leadership not positional leadership. They are about leadership and not headship/rulership.

    Jesus likened the body (kinda) to a loaf of bread and Eph4 and 1Cor12 suggest there are special bits in the loaf (prophets, teachers, administrators) like a fruit loaf but man has taken all the fruit out of the loaf and piled it on top in a pyramid, out, above and separate to the rest of the loaf. When the loaf gets baked this fruit is in danger of getting burned :). Its wrong sorry, and not substantiated by careful reading of the scripture – not in a literal reading anyway.

  41. But how did you miss the qualifying words ‘obey’ and ‘submit’ in Heb. 13:17?

    ‘Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.’

    KJV ‘submit’!
    Submit: hupeiko:
    1) to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants)
    2) metaph. to yield to authority and admonition, to submit.

    Compare this with 1 Pe. 3:1-3, which calls elders overseers, no to lord it over the flocks but to be examples. So they lead by example. Of course, that is an essential of leadership, and of oversight. In fact the qualification for church oversight is correct oversight in the home.

    Then in Acts 20:28-31, Paul exhorts the leadership at Ephesus to “take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.”

    Overseer: episkopos:
    1a) a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent.

    1b) the superintendent, elder or overseer of a Christian church.

    There are many anomalies in church life. We are all one, yet we are many. There is neither gender nor race, nor position, yet there is male and female, Jew and Gentile, bondslaves and freemen. We are all sons, yet servants. We are all equal, yet some are called to lead, shepherd or direct the church. We are saved through faith in Christ, and yet not saved until our body is redeemed.

    I don’t have a problem with these things. They seem natural. You are right. i m right. Both understandings are right. We are all to submit to one another, serve one another, and yet all called to make disciples – to lead them to Christ and help them know him.

  42. Yeah forgot the obey I was too interested in the rest. Back to Vines:

    Peitho heb13:17 “to persuade, to win over … also transalated ‘they agreed'”

    He goes on to say “the ‘obedience’ suggested is not by submission to authority but resulting from persuasion”

    I am glad you got me to look at the word “obey” FL as, in Vines, the word makes my makes the point so well.

  43. So ‘allow yourselves to be persuaded of, and listen to and obey, trust, have confidence and be confident in those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves…’

    This is more than coming into agreement, since it is qualified by being asked to ‘submit’.

    This is a genuine exhortation to be persuaded, listen and obey, hence the translators’ use of the word ‘obey’, which is not out of context, although the NKJV uses ‘persuaded’ I believe. The LITV gives it as ‘yield’ which I would consider a nice compromise between ‘obey’ and ‘persuade’.

    “Yield to those taking the lead of you, and submit, for they watch for your souls, giving an account, that they may do this with joy, and not with grieving; for this would be unprofitable for you’.

    It wouldn’t be correct to diminish the strength and appeal of the exhortation to score points over the meaning of words.

  44. Great dialogue guys!-Plenty of passion and thought in here.

    Heres my two pitiful copper coins worth; I love the gathering-together of Gods people, yet have seen the above Scripture abused all-too often, by those who love to rule over others in positions of ‘authority’ in Churches- in order to victimise some and use them as examples to control others; a kind of ‘naming & shaming’ practice which is a bit carnal for me; creating the classic ‘fear of exclusion’ from the group, any group even in the world.

    I rather prefer the exhortation to be exercised with extreme care & respect for the freedom of others, in order that the group function excellently and, in the most naturally attractive way, ‘as a fragrant aroma’ that is in harmony with love, manned by truly free people.

    I find it disturbing to see pastors and leaders get lazy or impatient with members; slow to get down and care for people, and quick to vilify or exclude people; lacking perhaps ‘the patience of a saint’!’ -monkey see monkey do’ means (their) attitudes are infectious, so I plead the most gentle and yielding love throughout a church; regular attendees or not.

    [Am I wrong to say that “where two or more are gathered together in my name , there I am also”- qualifies as Church?, so the Master seems pretty easy about this.]

    Do we forget that we all sin, and all ourselves need real patience and love from the Father?-I would rather model myself as best I can from His own patience, as I work with such exhortations as above, and I would expect kind patience from experienced Christians also.

    Dear Facelift, I have seen these very same scriptures you have carefully and accurately quoted directly above, used with a darkened expression and tone of disappointment, implying the readiness to exclude or reject anyone who would not submit to the particular plans and leadership of a group within the church I go to; these were youth members in this case; [ -hah! , quite hard to get into their group anyway!]-but interesting to see this note of judgement in their young faces, and… fair enough.

    However, what seemed missing to me was the overpowering bond of love, and the freedom and patience [ie. some flexibility, and I do not mean, ‘to freely sin’]-that this would imply.

    ..A wise pastor recently said; “The Law condemns, but Love searches…”, so we ought not make the exhortation into Law, but a guide for patient Love, which seems the point of difference.

  45. Concerns noted, Zeppelin, and I agree with your points. The scripture remains, though, so we need to act and respond in the Spirit of the Word, and not turn it into the letter of the law.

    I don’t know if you could correctly consider two or three as a local church, although they would certainly be members of the Church. I mean who would be the pastor? Would one of the two become and elder and the other the treasurer? Wouldn’t that make every Christian family a church? The Church, yes, not a church, in the sense of being a local church.

  46. FL: “I don’t know if you could correctly consider two or three as a local church, although they would certainly be members of the Church”

    True you don’t know. There is no such definition of “local church” in scripture. Just “the church that is in your/her/their house”.

    There is no such concept of the institution of “local church” in scripture as separate to the “the Church”. There is only “the church” that happens to meet in “your/her/their” house. And if half the people should also meet in someone elses house that does not constitute another local church. It is just “the Church” again at a different gathering of saints.

    Your concept of “local church” being some distinct “thing” separate to different from, or over/above a gathering of the saints is a completely man-made, artificial, extra-biblical institution that you cannot justify from scripture.

    Given that you have agreed “only to promote beliefs that fully and irrefutably backed by scripture” to the best of your ability I suggest you cannot push this “local church” assumption any more.

  47. “It wouldn’t be correct to diminish the strength and appeal of the exhortation to score points over the meaning of words.” Not you you would ever do that FL 🙂

  48. So when you go to church, be it in a house or a large building, you don’t travel locally, but go to some remote place. A local church is a place near you.

    I didn’t say it couldn’t be a church in a house, you did. But I think it’s stretching things to say two people can get together, I’m talking about regularly, not just once or twice, and apart from an organised growing local church, and call themselves a church, although they would be part of the Church, except…

    I come back to part of the purpose of the Church, which is to make disciples of all nations. If it were two people meeting, then they would need to preach the gospel and add a third, a fourth, fifth eventually, so it would grow. Jesus said we are either gathering or scattering. Not gathering is tantamount to scattering. Growing or diminishing. There is no in-between. So a group of two would be looking to add and ultimately multiply. Otherwise it isn’t the Church.

  49. By the way, there is f course the concept of the city church, such as the Church at Ephesus, or the Church at Sardis, so the concept of the local church is very much in scripture.

    Besides which, there have to be words we can use to describe a development outside of the Book of Acts, where growth takes place on such a huge scale that new descriptors have to be included. I don’t think God had in mind new descriptors of growth when he said it is anathema to add or subtract from the canon of scripture.

    Otherwise we shouldn’t be using modern words which crop up in our language, like bicycle, rocket, printing press, car, technology, chocolate, and hosts of other terms we use to describe everyday things which do not occur in the Bible.

    We need to be realistic about what we mean by ‘local’ church as opposed to the Church, the entire Body. And we need to be realistic about those people who separate themselves from the rest of the Body and from a group of two or three and say they are the new church.

  50. “By the way, there is f course the concept of the city church, such as the Church at Ephesus, or the Church at Sardis, so the concept of the local church is very much in scripture.”

    I agree that that you can address the the church that is in Sardis, in the same way that you can “the church that is their house”. This means all the christians in and around (in this case) Sardis.

    You have to add anything to “all the christians in and around Sardis” to get “the church which is in Sardis” or “the church of the sardisians”. You don’t have to add anything to the christians that are in your house to get “the church which is in your house”.

    When you say

    I don’t know if you could correctly consider two or three as a local church, although they would certainly be members of the Church. I mean who would be the pastor? Would one of the two become and elder and the other the treasurer?

    your understanding is clearly that a “local church” is not just the christians in the local area or in a meeting but is a group of christians plus an agreed power structure (cf “pastor” and “treasurer”) and identity that is separate to other groups of christians in the same or other areas. Your understanding is clearly that without this power structure there is no “local church”. Your understanding is clearly that it is the power structure over the christians that meet in that particular place which constitutes the “local church”. The power structure is the local church. The same people meeting without the power structure are clearly not the local church according to what you have said.

    It is not the words that matter but the extra-biblical concepts behind the words that matter. The hierarchical structures of control are not taken from or supported by scripture. Your concept of “local church” separate to “the church” that happens to be meeting in a particular place has no support from the scripture.

    We need to be realistic about what we mean by ‘local’ church as opposed to the Church, the entire Body. And we need to be realistic about those people who separate themselves from the rest of the Body and from a group of two or three and say they are the new church.

    You say realistic but what you mean is pragmatic. The scripture does not say it but we have to do the pragmatic thing and have the extra-biblical hierarchies and structures to help Jesus build his church and get people do what the pastor thinks they should.

    But the church is Jesus’ body and he is the head. When put other structures in his place you separate the people in your “local church” from their head and put a new head between them and Jesus. You make them different from “the church” and you divide the church into churchlets with mini-heads. Yes it is realistic but no it is not scriptural. It might “work” but it is was not made by God, it is not “good”.

    These people that have no hierarchical structure above them may well have healers and teachers and overseers/elders amound them (actually I know they do). But you denote them as less because they have no hierarchical power structure and so cannot be called “a church”. Praise God! They are not a church (I don’t ever remember the term “a church” in scripture) they are “the church” and that is all they want to be and all they are supposed to be.

  51. Why does having a Pastor have to be a power structure?

    Again, your words, your concept.

    You’re caught up with the idea of there being hierarchies. I say God gives us Pastors as gifts to train, oversee and lead. That is not necessarily the kind of hierarchy you mean. It is God’s system, not mans.

    Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers represent Christ in the Body, not take his place. He is in them and with them to do His will. He leads us by and through His Spirit. he also calls and gives these gifts. He builds the Household of God on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets. He calls it the Church.

    You have a different concept of how it works. You have a negative hierarchical idea of it all. I don’t.

    When i said realistic, I meant it. It isn’t realistic to be two and only two.

  52. Wow, you guys certainly are at it!

    You are absolutely right Facelift, to say it is ‘Gods system’- what the writer Aldous Huxley noted back in the 40s, is that “Mankind tends to over-rationalise”, and this is where we run into lots of problems.

    I am fascinated by the Pauline statement; “he who thinks he knows something does not know as he ought to”, and while this has a definite context of its own, it is worth keeping in mind constantly, as we examine scriptural concepts, I believe, -by hard experience!

    My problem with your definite structural & functional assertion above, is when people, with these particular titles turn up and DO NOT function properly as they are ‘supposed’ to- this is where both flock and leaders ought to exercise their management-intelligence, however spirit-led we all think we are.

    People no longer stone false-prophets, but we need to recognize they are ‘tares’ and leave them amongst the good crop for punishment later, according to the parable.

    Consider the godly Centurion who knew that Jesus was coming; he sent a messenger ahead who said”I am unfit for you to enter my house-but you say the word [Im paraphrasing], and my servant will be healed”-at which the master was ‘astonished’…
    -What I gather from this, is that he did not know necessarily that Jesus was the Christ, but that he certainly believed he was a man , a healer from God, and deferred to his proven ability to bring healing from God; this is enough faith to astonish even the Christ.

    Then, it seems enough if we believe and trust proven ‘gift’ people are from God, to do Gods work.

    I view Christendom as ‘the Church’,[ and even then, view ‘Gods house’ most generously because of Ps 23]- and I have never ever seen an individual congregation with all the above ‘gifts’-people. This is okay for me; I just need these people to function exactly as they are ‘supposed’ to.

    However, I dont view them as ‘more important’ in any way, but as the spice that makes the dish work. I feel almost angry when people march about in church demanding submission to ‘positional hierarchy’, especially when I dont see see those leaders act as if they would ‘wash feet’, or teach others to ‘wash feet’; this tends to almost disqualify them in my eyes.

    True leaders do the things the Master does ‘ the sheep know the Masters voice’ through them, and inspire like service, quite naturally. If you know anything about natural sheep, they run away from ‘strangers’, and so I reserve that right myself!

    I cautiously look at stated-leaders and search with my spirit to see whether they are ‘old in the Holy Spirit’ or not; my simple reasoning being that ‘the longer one has been aquainted with Christ, the more Christlike he becomes, with the more fruits of the Holy Spirit.’I honour and encourage this ‘Holyspirit-quality’ most in my brothers.

    -Blind obedience is no longer for me my friends; intelligent and inspired obedience is; and this may be where youre at, Facelift.

    So, back to ‘Gods System’; I view spiritual hardware as being as complex and alive as DNA; We know only how SOME of it functions; lots of it doesnt seem to have a function, or may not function as we may think; presently it appears to be ‘junk’ to scientists!

    Im saying; our spiritual gifts and equipment deserve the most healthy and holy respect, and care; I rate all our people as equally valuable, whatever the religious descriptor.-God has a disconcerting way of emerging with power , through the most unlikely people!

    Its interesting that we cannot manipulate the Father with anything; we can pray, and relate as children, and about as weak, I must say. God is like a lion; he goes about and does as he pleases; this ‘System’ of His own invention is equally natural in function; its not a machine, but a group of Individually created servants strictly commanded to DO as the God-King has said.

    Anyone can be a prophet, even an Ass! [according to the OT; God spoke via an Ass], so no wonder Paul encourages as many as possible to prophesy!-and so I am equally optimistic about everybodys ability to transmit the Spirit’s gifts; or to be filled with every Beatitude.

    I get annoyed when people go about acting as if ” I am an eye brother, but she is a foot; he is a hand; therefore you guys go out and do the bloomin work!”, but I am always happy when even ‘ranking’ people act like real ‘brothers’, and ready to do the dirty work-this is the equaliser for the Common-man.

    Should a man cut off his own finger and say “I am now more complete”?- so then, it is always better to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and a body in harmony. I would rather be very inclusive and generous with Gods system, as far as we can understand & work with it.

    I am not inclined to be formalist with Gods ways; but certainly God-fearing and pragmatic; I will not readily follow people who say they are something and dont act it.

    Bottom-line for me; Jesus is someone anyone can trust; What he says goes, so I trust he is with me if he says He is; this means ‘Church’ can exactly be as small as two or three; why even if He says my body is ‘the Temple of God’, I will believe that also!

    When we are ‘in the Army’; we are nonetheless always ‘in the Army’, even if alone; and I believe God is sophisticated and powerful enough to equip every soldier by the Holy Spirit with EVERY resource of a large and complex Church body; yep, Pastor, treasurer, Deacon, etc-in miniscale!
    [Although you do get the ‘big-guns’ and complex stuff with the Main Army-Body, dont you think!]

    ie.-we are designed, from individual god[ly]-men, to interlock and form much more powerful forces!-big ‘God-bodies!’, part of a ginormous ‘Jesus body’-..Im stating the obvious, I hope!

    -Interesting that He made us so wonderfully and fearfully, in His own image; to do this Will.-

    For the Godly man there is no getting away from ‘belonging to Gods house’ in my mind, wherever we go; Its here to help, just as a soldier needs an Army to help.

    In love.

  53. You know people,

    A couple of things occurred to me just as I conked out last night; firstly that I greatly admire Heritics and Facelifts rigorous examination of the ‘stated truths’ and what they imply in both abstract, and then practical terms, and it led me to the following structure:

    Consider the Disciples of Jesus themselves;

    they included, offhand;
    -fishermen [a thoughtful folk,prone to long periods of sitting-around,
    -Tax-Collector [hated parasite, prone to graft] ,
    -almost certainly a ‘Sicarii'[in Judas-Thief and possible cutthroat]
    -Zealot[ in Simon-committed to violent religious-based Revolt]
    -amongst the other Galileans [not known for their orthodoxy, is my understanding!]

    These people were hand-picked by God himself to serve as ‘core-disciples’ , and some later as ‘Apostles’; Its just that the structure itself is intensely rich in difference; and I hope this is useful and encouraging as we think together; because these guys belonged together-to be sent later to penetrate every strata of Society,

    My second though was that Id like to qualify something above;

    that ‘Gods System’ really could, and I say should be understood as ‘phenomena’ first!- The New testament writers list these phenomena and place them in relation to the Ecclesia to perform particular functions- I would hazard that these ‘giftings’ always existed in some form, and that is why they naturally take the place they do in Gods body of people.

    This is why I am reluctant to think and structure too abstractly with both the body and its special gifts; and emphasise their functionality foremostly.

  54. Hey thinkers, look at this!

    I can only wonder how irritating some of the above must be, so let me add some stuff to the pot!- Here is a quotation from a book Im reading this moment”The church beyond the congregation, by Thwaites; absolutely relevant to the above dialogue;

    “In Ephesians, the book of the church, Paul gave the ministry gifts the job description put in place by their ultimate employer. He said that the ministry gifts of Christ are called to accomplish ‘the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.’ their work goes on and through ‘until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.’

    The outcome or result of the ministry, Paul says, will be that ‘we are no longer children…tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming’ (Eph4:14). And here comes the crux of the matter-“speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects [things] into him, who is the head, even Christ'(Eph 4:15).”

    So, quite precisely, the objective of these ministry Gift-people’ is to build up the body-Not merely in numbers, if Im understanding rightly, but in maturity, so that we can all be increasingly Christ-like.

    -how then is this pertinent to the above?

    “Does it Matter where you sit on Sunday?” appears to have turned into a heated dialogue over “submission to Leaders and gifts”-; obviously, the dialogue is most welcome, because it helps people to understand a thing better from many perspectives.

    For me, it came down to ‘how Christians ought to treat each other’, which to me, should always, and orthodoxly, be according to the fruits of the Holy spirit, and in increasing measure!

    However, even through the examination of ‘submission to Leaders and gifts’, I return to the same answer-‘ Christ-likeness’!

    Would it be an acceptable corollary to suggest from this, that if our leaders and giftings were NOT increasing our ‘maturity into Christ-likeness’, [which could only happen through ‘not doing their job properly’ , or descending into less than godly practice], then the member could well disregard their ‘authority, because of their :
    …”every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming:”

    Remember, the passage quoted only refers to the Church,

    Well, well,…so let the bond of brotherhood increase in love , and we persevere in the development of our Christlikeness, full of the gifts of the Holy spirit….its pretty unbreakable as a pattern guys,

  55. There have been some excellent posts on this thread. Well done FaceLift and Heretic for pouring so much thought and energy into such an intense topic.

    I just have to quote some of FaceLifts comments that stood out to me:
    “I have never thought of my local church as an ‘institution’. It is a church, a local church. It belongs to Jesus. We worship God, not things. It is very friendly and warm. It has its ups and downs, but mostly it is a fun place with heaps of things going on most days of the week.”

    “There is a very open approach to fellowship amongst and between churches here, and we encourage interchurch harmony.There is very little church to church movement, probably because of the harmony which has been developed between leaders and church goers… I believe God is moving amongst churches to break down the schisms which developed over centuries and bring a greater degree of openness.”

    “And of course, to be doctrinally sound, one would think some sort of formal training would be involved, but how can you achieve this without a system or a structure, and without someone being in a position to train, who, I hesitate to say this, knows more than the ones he or she is training, in fact, brace yourself, leading through relating knowledge and experience greater than the one learning, so, no, that won’t work. It involves form and structure.”

    “Structure does involve some kind of leadership, but essentially we are all equal in the eyes of God. He gives us the five-fold ministry to teach and train, and help us grow, but he also has rulerships which help us with corporate decision making.”

    “There are those who are called into oversight. We are told to obey and submit to those who have the rule over us because they must give account for their level of watchfulnessover our souls – leadership with responsibility before God.”

    I didn’t say it couldn’t be a church in a house, you did. But I think it’s stretching things to say two people can get together, I’m talking about regularly, not just once or twice, and apart from an organised growing local church, and call themselves a church, although they would be part of the Church, except…

    “I come back to part of the purpose of the Church, which is to make disciples of all nations. If it were two people meeting, then they would need to preach the gospel and add a third, a fourth, fifth eventually, so it would grow. Jesus said we are either gathering or scattering. Not gathering is tantamount to scattering. Growing or diminishing. There is no in-between. So a group of two would be looking to add and ultimately multiply. Otherwise it isn’t the Church.”

    “It is God’s system, not mans.
    Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers represent Christ in the Body, not take his place. He is in them and with them to do His will. He leads us by and through His Spirit. he also calls and gives these gifts. He builds the Household of God on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets. He calls it the Church.
    You have a different concept of how it works. You have a negative hierarchical idea of it all. I don’t.”

    I wouldn’t mind commenting on some of these points.
    I enjoy your comments too Zeppelin.

  56. Thanks for that, speckandplanks.

    Maybe Raving Pente could contact you and you could contribute posts here. Zeppelin too. And Heretic. Wazza2?

  57. This has become a great thread. Even achieving points of unity – and acceptance of diversity in perspective. I love hearing different perspectives with an absence of anger. We can all learn from that.

    FL’s point about even a small church of 2 or 3 expanding is a good one. There’s no getting around issues relating to leadership, in any context. It can be intensely abusive in any context if misunderstood or corrupted. For example, house church systems where you pay a tithe to your leader – a bit like a pyramid scheme. Eeuch!

    So understanding leadership is very important. The concerns I raise on this blog are often to do with the inverted nature of leadership which I believe is taught in the NT, where submission is as a result of being persuaded, by a leader’s example as much as their words, as Christ is evident in their character and life. This is the opposite to submission as a response to domination.

    Some systems institutionalise domination, or lend themselves to it. Other approaches can do away with leadership to an extent that seems unscriptural – since we do have examples of mature elders and other leaders in the NT, who are there to help us and disciple us. I suspect that if the nature of leadership and submission are truly understood in an NT sense, by those in leadership positions, then whatever the style of church, it will be a healthier place. Leadership is a lot more than just administration of a system or program – which is another way some churches seem to be heading these days.

    I’ll post more on these issues over time.

  58. Would it be an acceptable corollary to suggest from this, that if our leaders and giftings were NOT increasing our ‘maturity into Christ-likeness’, [which could only happen through ‘not doing their job properly’ , or descending into less than godly practice], then the member could well disregard their ‘authority, because of their :
    …”every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming:”

    I think this comes back to the functional nature of leadership. Your question kind of assumes that the person with the title is your leader. When I read Heb13:7 in the light of Vines above I understandthat we should immitate the faith of those who are leading us.

    My leader is not so much the guy with the job description and “greater anointing” but the guy who is actually leading me. There is no indication here that the person who spoke the word had that “authority”. It is more important that I received God’s word through them and in relating with them I may receive more as we do receive from God through each other as we submit to each other. This is not a hierarchical structure – it works in both directions – the person I relate with may just as well be experiencing a different facet of God from me.

    I also note that it is not one person. My leaders are the people who are walking in God and maturing in faith and I want to do that too. Just turning up on Sunday and singing and paying does not do that for me. I actually need to know people in order to have a snowball’s (poor choice of metaphore really) of immitating their faith.

    Thirdly and lastly it is all about faith because we relate to God through faith and not really in any other way. Obedience is not the end goal and nor is good works or learning but faith and through faith life.

  59. Late replying sorry, lots of work on, dug myself into a bit of a hole 😦

    FaceLift:

    Why does having a Pastor have to be a power structure?

    Again, your words, your concept.

    You’re caught up with the idea of there being hierarchies. I say God gives us Pastors as gifts to train, oversee and lead. That is not necessarily the kind of hierarchy you mean. It is God’s system, not mans.

    Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers represent Christ in the Body, not take his place. He is in them and with them to do His will. He leads us by and through His Spirit. he also calls and gives these gifts. He builds the Household of God on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets. He calls it the Church.

    You are absolutely correct as you have stated it. And when it works like this I don’t have a great problem with it I admit.

    But, if the Pastor is not a power structure why is there only one? Surely the biblical structure is to have many elders (and elders are overseers/pastors) and many prophets, teachers etc.

    “When i said realistic, I meant it. It isn’t realistic to be two and only two.”

    And if it is not about spower structure why is it necessary for 2 or 3 that gather together to be anything (for example “local church”) to be of value? Why have this artificial concept of “membership” of “local church” that is not in scripture. Does it make any difference at all whether when 2 or 3 meet that they are members of a “local church” or not? Jesus is there and they are the gethering at that time. Seriously what else matters?

  60. “But, if the Pastor is not a power structure why is there only one?”

    What I imply here is that there is only one pastor (or Senior Pastor in my church) so that that person can lay down “their vision” and so they can have the last word on doctrine and direction. No contradiction is allowed (or you lose your “open heaven” – God forbid).

  61. All wonderful thoughts above- I really enjoyed being reminded of ‘gathering & scattering’ above, Specksandplanks; perfectly right in principle and practice!

    You know friends, my chief concern as a Christ-loving person, is not the fact that we need to

    “Disciple all nations… ” [increase the Church with disciples] according to Christs command, but the very real problem of “…teaching them to do everything that I have commanded you”, which is to me the question of;

    ‘Into what KIND of Church do we bring people?’

    This really bothers me; pastors continually call [our congregation at least!] to increase numbers ; our senior-pastor is into the ’20-20-vision'[some of you may be familiar with], and is using this to become what looks to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy…

    …Meanwhile, most of us are aware of the problem of simply feeling abandoned neglected, or alienated by the warm, smiling people who once got you into the religion, and then being required to lock-step into all sorts of really rather weird programmes, cell-groups, drives or whatever, which then change, almost faddishly, while leader-people cite The Holy Spirits leadership into this, or that, and then their own authority over you for you to ‘get with the program’.

    You see, the “..teaching them to DO everything I commanded you” bit is the piece I feel sorely neglected by our leaderships- its the “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ” that Paul writes of, and ultimately, the bit that causes the most trouble!

    Let me use a strange illustration:

    Think about a collapsing ‘Regime’ of one sort or another;-people are given the authority to hurt others; information is limited; only ‘Victories’ are highlighted; defeatism is warned against, frantic calls are constantly issued for urgent action, here and there to put out various emergencies; endless demands are made for material & personal ‘sacrifices’, and ‘loyalty to the Leadership’ stressed, and people sometimes threatened, or summarily executed; inexperienced people I call ‘Hitler-youth’ (fanatics) are enlisted and thrown into the struggle, goaded on with pure ideology..resources run-out;.and then the end comes, usually with the sudden vanishing-disappearance of the leaders, and the collapse of the regime, -then the common people are left to pick up the pieces……

    This is an extreme negative image to help us understand the positive image of the Church; and the above sorts of warning-signs are the giveaways of a ‘regime’ in action.-hah!- do the opposite, dear people, and you will be safe and secure!
    [-some of you may notice ‘mini-regimes’ -same warnings apply!]

    And its the DOing of Christs teachings that is the “house built on solid rock”-

    Up to now, and perfectly honestly,[ & it sounds horrible and stupid] . but Ive never seen
    Christs teachings comprehensively taught; rather, they seems slowly and patchily-assemblaged , over a very long time for the individual Christian, and often blatantly ignored as leaders race ahead with fancy interpretations of the ‘Epistles’, so they can ‘run their churches’& increase numbers!

    ‘What kind of Church indeed, are we bringing people into’?-I must return, again and again, to postulate a culture that beautifully and constantly develops maturity into Christ-likeness, and every Christ-behaviour we can each and every one, begin to get a handle-on; this builds the Church with the co-operative harmony Im feeling in your entries above, guys.

    I love Paul’s encouragement to ‘build beautifully’ [whoops-an epistle!]:

    “But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

    How shallow then, when our leaders build with such slapdash workmanship as ”
    “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, (brother so-and-so),…”

    without the substantial craftsmanship of “… but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

    -This, is good-quality leadership.

  62. PS- hey Heretic- we must have been writing at the same time!

    I think I know what youre writing about, but can you elaborate for the rest of us please?

    Z.

  63. Amen brother. And I LOL at the “hitlerjugend” analogy I can so see it at my Church – so “1984” 🙂

  64. Hey there Heretic, your church sounds simply awful in that case!-

    …and yet, its funny how people’s little worlds gan collapse and vanish away, as if they never existed. – I know Christs kingdom can overflow out of you and affect many other people, though its uncertain that your congregation will be willing to intelligently develop & change ,
    or mine for that matter!

    (-Ah, the smugly confident and serious face of the fanatical youth!…and the awful, aghast expression when he/she suddenly begins to realise he is losing his life, and is feeling very abandoned by his leaders, who are just starting to appear rather… deluded.)

    Imagine if you will, the experience of the faithful prophet Jeremiah turning up at the Temple , and finding all those false-prophets and religious leaders praising-away and teaching their stuff, and not being able to persuade those authorities to repent and save the kingdom of Judah from downfall…so, is He actually mad?…-are They right, because so many of them
    ‘are -in-agreement’, as some are fond of saying?,,,,,all we can do is continue to love God and keep working on ‘the truth of things’, my friends!

    I recently had the very great pleasure of meeting Jim Thwaites at the TELEIOS conference in Sydney; [guys, you really all should look up his work at Koorong or on the Net]

    His work describes a much freer Christianity of the future, and a church which gets on with Christs mission while placing the ‘gift-people’ of Ephesians, including pastor in a much more relaxed relationship within the Congregation by taking the’ hierarchical nature’ out of the described Church structure, while remaining fully functional; the scriptural work looks very sound to me, and,

    .. I also met some pastoral leaders already running congregations along these lines–yay!

    Terribly exciting, dear people, and a possible Church that looks like it will result in far less pastoral or leadership abuses!

    Here’s to Freedom in Christ!

    Z.

  65. Hahahhahaaah!- But Z if for Zorro, and Z is for Zeppelin!-haha!”

    Great to meet you!

    CLINK!-glug-chugalug!…Crash!..tinkle…..

  66. Just re-read this thread. Very good discussion and what i got from it was that it is not the quantity but the quality that counts.

    Another point i got too was that if one is in submission to “leaders” and they are responsible for us and accountable then it is sort of “easy” to hand over our soul to them. For safe-keeping so to speak. This is so spiritually dangerous! I just had a lightbulb moment about that. Its easier just to handover authorithy to them than seek out or work out your own salvation….

  67. Yes RP i can see that was what i ws doing part of the time instead of seeking for myself about my ownparticular “issues” and questions…

    Now, after re-reading the Bible and discussing more i feel more aware and understand the Bible like never before

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