Exploring Burke’s Comment

From GroupSects, RW Burke said the following:

“… It’s interesting that Catholics don’t have this problem, because their Priest Fathers don’t build empires for their own children, since if they have behaved they don’t have any! (ha) Anyway, here’s my point. For all the so-called enlightenment our pastors do, seldom do they point out self-condemming things: Like any business is self-interested. The barber will almost always tell you, you need a haircut. Thus, the preacher will say, you need to attend church…( and donate!) Thus is self-interest.

Western Enlightenment always taught this: That man is sinful and needs systems of verification and checking. Thus the pastor teaching enlightenment would tell his flock that even he might recommend his own church to… someone who might not need it! He, the pastor, might …. need to fire his relatives! He, the pastor, might be wrong in thinking his… granddaughters sing well and need the organization to pimp a CD of their music. (As done by a certain big TX televangelist!)

So, the crazy thing is that pastors teach so much…. blindness… and not self-examination! You get that from a class on Western Enlightenment… and critical thought.”

I thought his comment was well worth exploring. Are pastor/evangelists selfish getting people to attend their church? With the pastor/evangelist saying “you need to attend church“, does this undermine their own work? Interesting…

S&P


114 thoughts on “Exploring Burke’s Comment

  1. Ephesians 4:11-16
    ‘And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.’

    It’s clear from scripture that the pastoral ministry was God’s idea, and is gifted through Christ. The oversight of the churches is given to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, called and gifted by God, and they also appoint elders until pastors are raised up or sent.

    Pastors who guard, tend, feed and lead the flocks God has given them the care of, are not being selfish, in the terms Burke is describing, but obedient to the call of God. Burke is talking nonsense. A good shepherd will always lay down his life for the sheep. How is this being selfish? Perhaps you should ask Burke if he believes in the local church, and in saints gathering together.

    I wonder how you think a gifted, graced pastor is supposed to equip, train and teach their flocks if their flocks are not kept together in some way. Does a shepherd learn his sheep’s names, and know their ways, by allowing them to pass from flock to flock, or by being away from the flock? Surely he is to do all he can to KEEP the flock!

    Why do you think the Bible consistently uses the illustration of sheep in sheep folds to demonstrate God’s means of taking care of his people?

    I ask you who it is that is admonished by Paul to guard the flock from wolves? It is not the sheep, in fact, but the overseers.

    Acts 20:28-30
    “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”

    Jesus made it clear that the people were scattered over the hillsides like sheep without a shepherd. He said this was the harvest, but that we needed labourers to gather the harvest in, so they were no longer scattered. He said if we do not gather with him we are scattering.

    He also said that the good shepherd would leave the 99 to retrieve the one which was lost. In other words, to bring that sheep safely back into the fold, again implying sheep being in one place, for their own nurture, safety, and care.

    There is more. Much more!

  2. FL : “I ask you who it is that is admonished by Paul to guard the flock from wolves? It is not the sheep, in fact, but the overseers.”

    Are you saying, FL, that the parisioners have no role in discerning incorrect teaching or wolf-like motives both within and external to the flock? That the task of guarding and taking action against these things belongs only to the called and recognised ministers (pastors, teachers, prophets etc.)?

    Even though people are called to ministry and have the gifts of prophecy, teaching, pastoral care etc. they are not immune from self-interest. And I think Burke’s point was that we shouldnt set up structures in which there are temptations to give in to self-interest. Because experience would tell us that eventually people will give in to temptation.

    Much is said in the Bible about Jesus being the true shepherd. The Pastor is also a shepherd (the word for Pastor means that). But we shouldnt get the two mixed up and apply the attributes and responsibilities of Jesus to the Pastor. Most Pastors would not lay down their lives for their parisioners – although some would – and I would not blame them for making the decision not to.

  3. wazza2,
    ‘Are you saying, FL, that the parisioners have no role in discerning incorrect teaching or wolf-like motives both within and external to the flock?’

    Well, no, that would be taking it to an extreme. We are all told to test every spirit whether it be of the Lord. The scripture I gave you was addressed directly to overseers, who were summoned by Paul for final instructions. He told them to take heed to themselves first, that is make sure they stayed within their instructions as overseers, and then to take heed to the flock, which they have been made overseers by the Holy Spirit.

    ‘The Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood’

    Shepherd: ‘to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep; to rule, govern.

    But the subject is the selfishness, or not, of pastors, whether they have the right to gather people into a flock and encourage them to stay within that flock for nurture.

    You have always maintained that pastoral leadership is steeped in self-interest. I’m sure this does take place occasionally, and some are career ministers with no other goal but to earn a decent living, but we would not call this person a true shepherd, or pastor, but a hireling. But, in general, it is a rather callous assessment of a godly vocation, and harsh judgement on men and women who do, actually, give up their lives to shepherd God’s flock.

    And of course they have to do it through, and in, the name of Jesus. There is no other way, since it is his Church, ad his flock, and they are called by him to stand in his place in the place he has sent them, which is very often not the place f their own choosing, and would, otherwise, for many, be a disadvantage compared to a career or vocation they left behind to serve in God’s field.

    This will end up as a thread on the moral dilemma of talking offerings, which then go towards the support of the person who teaches on how to take offerings and why! You see!

    But there’s far more to pastoring than taking offerings!

  4. Well I read this already on Group sects and while it’s certainly true that after the Enlightenment the sharing of power and the building up of institutions designed for checking those in power became quite established, the conclusions do no good in being so generalistic, and with regard to sinfulness (in Christian understanding) it’s simply incorrect.

    First point about Catholics: The papacy is monarchy, not a dynastical one but a monarchy and therefore the pope, if he is a strong leader, has more power than all the church “family businesses” could ever dream of.
    Also them having no children due to mandatory celibacy has other implications. I do not know if you’ve noticed but there are a good number of pedophiles among priests (especially homosexual ones, because for them celibacy in the sense of being not married was and is not an obstacle) and there are widespread cases of sexual abuse among catholic clergy, there is currently a high profile case with hundreds of victims uncovering in Germany, and Ireland had it’s big case just a short time ago.

    Second, the Enlightenment is not about depicting man as sinful in the first place, but more of rediscovering the pure, natural state of the “wild savage” (J.J. Rousseau, man are bad now, but only because of society and culture, naturally they’re good) or freeing man’s mind from the bondage of religion or other supremacy (Voltaire). Interestingly enough is that Voltaire had not the freeing of the whole man in mind, he invested heavily into the slave trade during his years in England.

    Just read this passage yesterday:
    “the intellectual “coup d’etat” […] goes hand in hand with the enlightenments other proposals, not least that we have now come to age, that God can be kicked upstairs, that we can get on running the world hwoever we want to, carving it up to our advantage without outside interference.
    Tom Wright, Surprised by hope, p. 86

    So the enlightenment is not about humiliation but more about emancipation from God (and his moral law).

  5. FL said : “You have always maintained that pastoral leadership is steeped in self-interest”

    In fact I’ve never said anything of the sort, most Pastors are less self-interested than the average Christian. You are polarising the debate and setting up caricatures of positions – straw men that you can then mow down with alacrity.

    There were two points I made, one was about conflicts of interest. For example, I wouldnt begrudge a Pastor their salary in the employment of a church. If the Pastor also was a writer and wrote some Christian books he is also entitled to the proceeds of that labour. The difficulty comes when he is allowed to promote his books in his sermon. This is a conflict of interest because the perception will be that he may modify his preaching to promote a book, and indirectly profit from that action. This is not entirely the Pastor’s fault, it is the fault of those who allowed him to setup this conflict of interest.

  6. as with regards to pastors and relatives, I heard that Chuck Smith from the Calvary Chapel Movement removed his son from leadership because of severe doctrinal issues.

  7. Are shepherds to ‘rule’ the sheep in the worldly sense of that term???

    Aren’t sheep led, rather than ruled? Try ordering a sheep around!

    Mark 10:42…” 42Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.

    43″But it is not this way among you, (AN)but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;

    44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

    *************

    So the notion of leadership as ruling in the worldly sense isn’t quite what a shepherd is to do. Leading and guiding the flock to fertile ground is serving them and looking after them. Being an example whom they respect and know to follow, is also different from ruling over.

    *************

    I have a vague memory that the term ‘nepotism’ actually came from the practice of some Catholic popes setting up their nephews in positions of power in the Catholic church some centuries ago. So the tradition of this in a church setting is well known.

    Obviously moral hazard is always a potential issue in any structure where power is involved. Power corrupts. Honesty about this danger is important and can help churches avoid that path. So can a good _local_ eldership, that turns over every so often.

    Corporate structures where the senior pastor is CEO and chooses his own board members are a real hazard in this way I think. Structures where governing bodies are far removed from the local church are another hazard I think, where the local church congregation has no influence or input on decisions that affect them.

    BTW, I don’t think many people mind a pastor saying he’s written a book, and in fact many people might quite like to know about it, but if he spends a sermon pushing it that’s a bit much. There’s a balance there somewhere.

  8. I gave the meaning of the Greek word used in the Acts passage for ‘shepherd’, but didn’t add the word itself, ‘poimaino’, which also has the meaning, ‘to rule’, but that wasn’t my personal definition.

    A pastor is to lead, and serve.

    wazza2,
    Maybe I’ve misunderstood you in the past then, but I’ll take you at your word.

    I’ve been at Conferences where ministers, not always pastors, are permitted to promote their materials from the pulpit, usually before they preach. I don’t see a problem with this. Books are often written because the teaching is important to the reader. It’s a very expensive exercise producing books in large quantity, but they can be helpful.

  9. By the way, wazza2, far from putting up straw men, I placed the scriptural basis for pastoral work and the reason – keeping the sheep – which speaks of sheep, or people gathering in a fold, called the local church. God gave the strategy. It is his plan.

    Sheep, by nature, herd. So do people. If they are not encouraged to flock before God in his preordained organised structure, they will flock in worldly ways and potentially be led into destruction.

    Burke has indicated that pastors, I think, meaning pastors in general, have self interest, and, because of self interest tell people to go to their church. S&P converted this to selfishness. In fact, as scripture makes clear, it is in the sheep’s interest to flock, that is be in regular communion in churches, and be pastored.

    RP,
    As you suggest, you don’t actually order sheep around. You provide an environment for order.

    They are led to still waters and green grass. They are guided and helped through difficulties. They are protected as the shepherd wards off the lion, the bear and the wolf. Many scripture passages speak of the interaction of shepherds and sheep, meaning pastors and their flocks.

    Burke is being crude with his assessment. I suspect his motives are, at best, unkind, and what he says is unwise.

  10. I’ve just observed through advertising and materials promoted by the stereo-typical pastors, evangelists and ministers that they usually minister fear and condemnation for congregations to dependent on them and their teaching’s, ministries and materials.

    Often tactics to suggest that the world is a scary place that is why you come to church on a Sunday.

    Another is “get involved with the movement for God is moving powerfully” – the pastor or evangelist stressing to people they might miss out on what God is doing because they are not committed to the church enough.

    A pastors book entitled “How To Pray More Effectively”, condemns the Christian into thinking that their prayer life sucks and therefore willing to buy a pastors book because it might be a solution to a highlighted failure that could be an advertisement lie.

  11. The lie of the pastor is that you NEED to attend church. Otherwise we are committing ourselves to the instituted religion.

    The truth is we need to be in fellowship with the church.

    Even if someone who sincerely believes it is their job to equip the saints for ministry in getting into the community, I think to say ‘you must attend church’, undermines their credibility. I see an hypocrisy in that statement.

    I remember someone saying: “The bigger the ministry, the bigger they’re failing.”

    I disagree with the statement because it was very judgmental, but the underlying (possible) lie is there. If the pastor is convincing people that they need to go to church and be committed, isn’t the pastor or evangelist contradicting himself if the desire should be outreaching to the community?

  12. Very cynical, s&p, and not really true!

    We have to outreach the community with something to offer, which of course is Christ, and him crucified, the power of the gospel. We need a place for people to gather, simply for convenience and so we are together. The local church facilitates training to this end, and encourages evangelism, but there is a base for this outreach, and an ultimate place for congregants to gather.

    The writer to Hebrews admonished saints to avoid neglecting assembling together. Assembling, as in ‘episunogogue’, gathering together in one place, as the assembly of a local or city church.

    I’m not sure why you’re going down the track of branding all pastors with the same iron of hypocrisy.

    The first churches were, in fact very large, and experienced exponential growth. The original city church at Jerusalem church had 12 apostles in leadership, who had been with Jesus, before they were eventually persecuted and scattered, when the Church took its message to the known world and evangelised it in a few short years, again rapid and multitudinal growth.

    You mention ‘tactics’ about a dangerous world. What are you trying to say? That all pastors are wolves? I’m not sure where you’re coming from with this. You seem to have a problem with pastors in general. Do you consider the wrld to be a safe place? If you do you are going against scripture, against Jesus, and against the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have tribulation”. Was he wrong?

    I’m sorry to seem to be contradictory, but the introduction of pastoral leadership and servanthood was God’s institution, his plan, his mode of operation, and most pastors are good men and women who are serving God, not their own interests.

  13. I agree with FL, as given in Hebrews re assembling.

    Maybe Specks’ cynicism comes from certain demands/words said from the pulpit – we certainly heard such things. We would go to church twice a day, (and it was more to please man than God) in response to being told more “faithful” people attended morning and night. Wrong way to deal with sheep. If “sheep” are fed truly nourishing “food”, you can’t keep them away.

  14. Yes Teddy, i believe one will go where they get properly fed. Thats not why i left previous megachurch but after consideration i realised i was not on nourishing stuff and now attend more traditional church, or not, or pray and talk with other like-minded Christians. REading the NT “again” too has helped. Plus sites such as SP2 and others ive found on the net throughout the world

  15. Yes, I agree – we will go where we are properly fed. Two of the times I’ve left churches have really come down to the ‘food’ – the first time the food was limited to basics and I needed more nutrition; the second time, the food lost its nutritional value and I could see this time, was causing some of us to become stunted in our growth.

    The thing is, we are not fed solely by a pastor. We are fed by Christ Himself. He at times directs us elsewhere, and then we follow Him because we know His voice. We also realise when a pastor speaks with Jesus voice, and when a pastor does not.

    When we are in fellowship with Jesus, we are part of His body, the church, wherever we are. We cannot leave. To interact with others in the same body, we gather with people, whatever the setting. Whether it be a house, a park, a workplace, a tent or a cathedral. Jesus who has led us to our gathering place for this time, also provides gifts – pastors, teachers etc, whom we learn from, and are led by at times.

    But to specify a particular form of this leads to religiousness, legalism, and potentially kingdom building in a human sense. We can live free of all that when we are just following Him, no matter what our setting.

    So a pastor who is seeking to equip and serve his conregation is doing a good thing. A pastor seeking to be in control of his congration is usurping the Shepherd. A pastor who holds his church loosely, submitting to the Chief Shepherd as he sometimes directs individuals in and out, can be of great service, and knows not to judge by numbers or to coerce and manipulate using fear or guilt to make people attend on Sunday. But at the same time, his flock may well grow for very healthy reasons.

  16. I’m not sure that I can agree with this concept that Jesus is my Pastor, therefore I don’t need a potentially flawed, earth-bound person to pastor me, and I don’t need to gather in an assembly with saints.

    God gave us the mystery and marvel of the Church, and happens to appoint fallible humans to lead and nurture church communities. None is perfect, all have weaknesses, and all can possibly stumble at any time.

    Despite these disadvantages, it is clear from scripture that if we are truly in fellowship with Jesus, we will follow his means of being fed, which, surely, involves being in a local church setting with, at the very least, the guidance of an eldership, and, preferably, pastoral leadership and care.

    Otherwise, what is the point of Jesus appointing the pastoral leadership of Ephesians 4:11, or Paul warning the Ephesian overseers in Acts 20? If it is true for one person that they can disengage from God’s pattern for care and leadership, then it is true for all. Why bother with the concept of the church, or pastors, or apostles? We can all just hear from Jesus, and never have to assemble.

    If we are followers and disciples of Jesus, then we are being led by the Holy Spirit. If he can lead to us to an understanding that a certain local church is no longer beneficial to us, then he can lead to to a place where we will be fed, led and equipped.

    If we were to leave our present church, I already know of at least half a dozen really good churches with excellent pastors we could join. The point of engaging with the whole body in the local community is to get to know what is happening in various local church settings, mingling with other believers, engaging with them, and being pat of the larger Church body in our city, or town, or community.

    I can’t see that Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, encourages us to be outside of the flock for a significant amount of time, and I say this respectfully knowing RP’s situation, and maybe that of others who drop in here. That is not meant to be a criticism, but a scriptural and life-fact observation.

    The primary reason for people being involved in and engaging in a local church community is the safety and well-being of the people, or the sheep, no the puffing up of the pastor’s ego.

  17. I don’t think RP and others of us in similar situations would consider ourselves “outside of the flock” or “not gathering”. The pastoral gifting is a ministry that exudes from a particular type of person. Do we have to meet in a building on Sundays for these realities to manifest in a God-given way?

  18. Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”

    There’s a warning and encouragement in these verses, an almost “eschatological” urgency as well. And as we don’t know the day or the hour, and could come under persecution, we need to be with or around like-minded believers, strengthening and encouraging each other just as it says….. I know I can’t do it on my own!

  19. Seven times in Jesus’ Revelation given to the Apostle John, he says, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’.

    In apocalyptic terms seven is ‘all’, a fullness, so there is a sense in which Jesus is addressing the whole Body, the Church, whilst acknowledging all the churches, individually, in various places, and bringing instruction, rebuke, correction and exhortation to them.

    He doesn’t address, in these passages, individuals outside of the local church, but those within. In fact he sends the messages to the churches through the angel, or ‘messenger of good’, often understood to be the pastor, either directly or indirectly, of those churches. Seven times he says, ‘to the angel of the church’.

    The idea was that these were read out to the gathered assemblies and they took the action required.

    Here, in The Revelation, John is the Apostle and the Prophet. He releases the information Jesus gives to the Churches, and they are then expected to gather and hear. Many of the Epistles were directed to city churches, to be read to the assembly, as pastoral letters.

    The strong indication is the necessity of gathering.

  20. So are you limiting gathering to a Sunday service? Are you saying the local church is only made up of the people who attend this service?

    Does everyone have to gather in the same way? Were the colonialists correct in dressing everyone in white and singing hymns in specially designed buildings called churches?

    Can gathering be centred on the relationships rather than a specific location and a specific time?

  21. Back on topic – I think there are certain logistics, financial aspects and strategies for growth and serving the community that are involved in running a local church organisation (institutional), which go alongside the spiritual aspects. The outworking of these practicalities require certain decisions to be made that are undoubtedly self-interested, but there’s nothing wrong with that of itself. The organisation can’t exist without such decisions – doesn’t necessarily mean that the pastor is being selfish.

    However, there is a balance, some churches can get a bit too concerned on church business at the expense of the spiritual growth of its individual members.

  22. I would still like to hear any answers to Muppet’s earlier questions.

    Muppet was quite right earlier when he said:

    I don’t think RP and others of us in similar situations would consider ourselves “outside of the flock” or “not gathering”.”

    I don’t see myself as not gathering, or as outside of the flock. Though I am not attending an ‘organised church’, I think its clear that we aren’t to be in isolation generally speaking (there would be some understandable exceptions), and that our relationship to the rest of the body of Christ is an important part of our lives.

    Does this always have to be as part of an ‘organised church’ for everybody, all the time?

    BTW – I understand that I’m not being attacked here, and thanks for the non-accusative tone. I do understand that my view is a minority one in organised church circles, however, there does seem to be a growing number of people out there in a similar place to myself, who have also previously been part of organised churches. So this is a very current issue.

    As a side thought, I do think that if I decide to attend an organised church again for some reason, my thinking will have evolved to have become less religious about a lot of things, and this for me is something that can only happen in my current environment I suspect. I need the freedom from pulpit pressure to think a certain way. Currently, I’m also enjoying the freedom to receive from other parts of the body of Christ that I might have been closed off from previously. Another reason I’m not in a hurry to go in a congregational door and close myself off in some way again. I’m not trying to suggest this applies to everyone; just speaking personally.

  23. It wasn’t easy taking that step back to a church RP, let alone find a decent one – I still have my guard up, but perhaps that’s just a protective thing.

    Having a serious Q & A at the end of the service at a church helps too.

  24. “It wasn’t easy taking that step back to a church…”

    You’re still suggesting that RP is not tied into a local church because she is not in a recognised organisational gathering.

    I didn’t leave an organised church because I had any problems with it, I haven’t gone back due to any issues etc. But I am involved in a church family that fulfills all the Scriptures that have been quoted so far. It’s a church that is purely relational and has nothing to do with a particular meeting place or meeting time.

  25. I would say that for me this is a rich and necessary season, with more growth than for some time, and I feel that my personal closeness to the Lord is increasing as I learn to express in a more personal way the relational qualities of gathering in an organic, spirit-led manner.

    Its interesting referring to the churches in Revelation. Some writers use those letters to suggest that our church divisions are immaterial – when God speaks to ‘the church in Sydney’ for example, He is speaking to the body of Christ in Sydney, comprised of all those who know Him, rather than one organised church in Sydney. In other words, the body of Christ in a locality, but without respect to different gathering places in that locality. So some people use that reference to support less organised divisions of the body of Christ, and to see the body over a geographic area, rather than in a specific organised setting.

    Still others say that the church gathering should always take place in someone’s house, to better emulate NT times. The larger organised gatherings are anathema to these people, except as maybe a less frequent occurrence, because they don’t see the NT way of doing church in that setting.

    What did Jesus say? Matthew 18:20
    ” 20for where there are two or three gathered together — to my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

    So who would not call that a gathering of His body, so a gathering of ‘the church’?

    Nonetheless, it is natural that we would want to gather with many other Christians, and an organised setting is often the practical thing for many people. But there is a season for everything, and God does call us to this or that gathering over time, and in many different locations.

    I now see all those Christian friends that I have supportive relationships with as my church, regardless of what ‘church’ they attend. The relationships are the bonds that hold the body together, not an identifiable structure or membership. I feel richer for it. Within that circle, and in the other opportunities open to me, there is counsel, mature elders, pastoral care, the chance to meaningfully serve, and even prophetic gifting. God supplies.

  26. Teddy – there is actually a church I’d consider attending, but I don’t live anywhere near it. In the past, I’ve gone where I’ve felt led, and that has been good while its lasted, which is usually some number of years. As you say, we all need fellowship. I hope you are forming relationships in your new community, as starting again is not easy. I have not had to start again in the same way, which is one reason I do have fellowship right now – God had already supplied me with relationships that did not go when I moved on from my last church. I have other friends who have lost almost their entire social circle. This is very hard.

  27. Also, I do have trust issues. I just can’t go into any church and trust what the pastor tells me to believe, after having been taught lies for some time about some major things. This process is healing for me. So I can relate to Teddy saying it was hard to go back in again. In my case, there is some major stuff to work on and learn, before I go back in anywhere, but now I have also discovered the freedom that I don’t have to go anywhere unless God draws me to a particular gathering.

    Sorry for rambling on.

  28. Facelift: “Seven times in Jesus’ Revelation given to the Apostle John, he says, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’… He releases the information Jesus gives to the Churches, and they are then expected to gather and hear… The strong indication is the necessity of gathering.”

    When I first read your comment about what the Spirit was saying to the churches in Revelations, I was going to say a smart comment to you Facelift. But it looks as though you missed what the Spirit was saying to the churches in Revelations with in your own words anyways. Producing an article that situated around this topic around December-January, I made it obvious what the Spirit was saying to the churches in Revelation.

    I encourage you to read it. It might help you.

  29. I totally agree with RavingPente in everything that she has said about leadership and the church in this thread. She knows me well, and I believe she would think that I would hold very similar views to her on what church is.

    I understand completely where she is coming from and relate to the circumstances she faces in relation in going back to churches and also having issues with trust.

    You only see me blog the critical side to things FaceLift. In reality I’m quite the optimist. I like believing in people. But what’s kicking me in the guts over and over again is how ministers operate in blindness rather than humility. I have trouble tolerating that. However, as you’ve seen FaceLift, there are some fantastic ministers who do outstanding work in church and secular communities.

    I did come out rather strongly above in my comments. My observation is that pastors can and do operate out of insecurity. When money flow into the church is low – the tithe could be tough, because of an insecurity the minister might have in church finances. Attendance might be low and out of insecurity, the minister puts out certain doctrines, advertisements and hype to promote people to come to the next Sunday service. I can tolerate this – I can understand their problems – let grace flow.

    I can forgive them for that if they remain human. It’s only when they unforgivingly start putting themselves before others as more important than those gathered that my alarm bells go off. I believe they are still saved. But now that they are purposely damaging those in the gatherings for their own sake, something needs to be said or done.

    It’s not about me trying to be a martyr. (Far from it.) You’ve seen me come across quite foolishly on Signposts02, FaceLift. I can say some strong things,

    I just pray whoever reads these articles will be affected and think about what is said in their own churches. I hope they come to see that the relationship they have with the church does not evolve around the pastor, but around God and the body of believers.

    The pastor is often exalted so people can be inspired to remain in and apart of the program. This generally has unhealthy consequences.

    I believe that the pastor should generally believe and equip the body of believers to not do his job, but do what they feel the Spirit is telling them to do in church or the community.

    A pastor’s faith should be in God to build God’s church and not the pastors own. In healthy churches I’ve seen, good pastors demonstrate their faith in God by putting their faith in the congregation to equip, teach, edify and grow the body of Christ.

  30. s&p,
    I was mainly commenting on Burkes assertion that, apparently, pastors in general have self-interest, and teach blindness. Unfortunately, you equated self-interest with selfishness. There is a subtle difference between them, even though both are less than desirable in ministry.

    Maybe it would be helpful if you and he were to use the term ‘some’ pastors, rather than generalise. With that I could agree. If, as you say, you appreciate the majority of pastoral involvement, but there are some who buck the trend through folly, lack of wisdom, or, worse, for personal gain, then I would have no argument with you.

    RP,
    I’m sorry you’ve had to go through a season of abandonment of the local church. It must be difficult. It does happen to people, and it is sad when relationships are broken. Whilst I can’t agree that it is a good thing to be outside of the local church, I appreciate that it can take time for trust in the local church to re-emerge once it is broken. Based on your use of the word ‘season’, I pray that you and heretic will soon be able to find a place to call your church home where you’ll be able, once again, to establish lasting friendships and be served by a Jesus-loving, people-serving pastoral team.

    Maybe you’ll consider this peripheral to your present situation, or understanding of the way the Church is, but I base this prayer on the encouragement we’re given in scripture to gather together, pray together, and worship together, with the saints, and on God’s plan to give us all pastoral leadership, so I hope you don’t mind.

    I very much believe in the Church and the local church as a refuge for all souls.

    What the unsaved world needs to see and hear more than ever today is a strong, vibrant, unified, proactive, powerful, influential, godly, caring Church. It needs to see and hear a Church of multitudes, as in the days of Acts, where the community either joined the Church or held it in awe.

  31. FL i think also with the internet “church” is changing. One can dowload a service or read websites to paraphrase the bible. I found this happening when i worked in business too.

    computers/internet have changed everything. Now wasnt that because of the “Enigma” in ww2. sorry off topic

  32. I think that is very true – one person cannot adequately lead a congregation and that is very clear. One person might evangelise and found a church, but they can’t lead it on their own indefinitely.

    FL – I appreciate your prayers, and know others who accept my position and see it the same way as you do. I respect their good intentions. I would once have had the same stance. It is quite possible though that this season might last for a very long time – I don’t know. Only God knows. In this time, I am truly enjoying gathering informally, and am appreciating the body of Christ where God sometimes is the one who does the gathering, rather than us. That can be quite inspiring. It is not at all difficult because I’m not in isolation. I’m finding my fellowship with others has been enhanced, and it includes the kids more, rather than separating us into different groups. Its just different, not more difficult. In some ways, its much easier.

  33. “It needs to see and hear a Church of multitudes, as in the days of Acts, where the community either joined the Church or held it in awe.” – FL

    I agree. Perhaps the closest we’ve been to this recently has been in countries like China, where there was phenominal growth in the underground church (which was also based on relationships rather than large organised churches).

  34. S&P – thanks for your supportive comments.

    Also, I think Muppet is more mature in his experience of a purely relational church family than I am, and I think he has a lot of wisdom to offer us on the subject.

  35. Ha! No, I wouldn’t say that; you are pretty smart. I just talk a lot – sometimes too much. 🙂 Now I really must get on with my work!

  36. Greg,
    ‘Jesus? I thought Paul wrote Ephesians.’

    It was Paul who dictated the passage and one of his co-workers who wrote it down, and probably Tychicus who delivered it.

    But I was talking about who appoints apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and that is Jesus, not Paul.

    If you read the passage, including the preceding verses, you will see exactly who gave gifts, and what the gifts are. The gifts were given to the Church to equip, train and build it up, and, if you read, you will know why.

    The Church, that is the people of the Church, builds itself up in love using the incredible assortment of gifts, graces and callings God has endowed us with, but it is the so-called five-fold ministry which is charged with the task of training and equipping under Christ.

    That is one reason why I believe it is essential that all believers, all saints, are part of a city-wide, country-wide, or community-wide church, and part of God’s process for impacting the nation.

    Our comfort is less important than our call.

  37. All things are possible with God and I think the net will change things. Everyone will have access to the net one day, even in Africa, in cafes etc

  38. I think thats right mj, what may have been the only way to communicate and provide pastoral care in Paul’s time may not be the most appropriate in our time.

    For much of Christian history people were unable to read or obtain the scriptures in a form suitable for them to study. Before the invention of the printing press and mass education people had to gather together to hear the word and have it interpreted for them. Now everyone has access to a Bible and there are also mass-media and now the Internet.

    There are writings in the Bible concerning the organisation of the church, but there are also writings which are anti-organised church. It is not a simple issue, and it is something everyone has to work out for themselves.

    As for Pastors having self-interest, dosent everyone have self-interest? Isnt that a given for each human being? And self-interest does cause a degree of blindness and needs to be managed appropriately.

  39. I think that’s the key: ‘and needs to be managed appropriately’. If its acknowledged that we all have self interest, then any position of influence can have some checks and balances in some form, which help it to be managed appropriately. Plus conflicting interests can be acknowledged and addressed. Some structures seem to have been set up to avoid addressing these things, particularly the top heavy ones where some people are more equal than others.

  40. Between me and you Facelift I think you have a more limited view of what church is. I know it sounds rude of me to say this, but it explains a lot of what you’ve said above to me about this issue.

    I actually find our differences interesting here. Do we put blinkers up as we step into ministry as we focus on what we are doing in the church? What I do in ministry is quite different to what Facelift does in ministry.

    As a result, with me seeing the church in a broader, different or stubborn way, can only I understand what the church is from my experiences and encounters?

    Or does a program limit one’s perception or understanding on what the church is and it’s purpose? I don’t see the church as a meeting place but as a global phenomena of a people called out by God. Naturally this global phenomena wants to congregate. Because the body functions together, odd events happen where people randomly meet in the right place at the right time to receive love, teaching, encounters and edification from eachother.

    God organises these random gatherings for His sake so that we can all help eachother. Therefore I don’t limit what the church can accomplish outside of Sunday services.

    When people become dedicated to the program, I wonder if the only way they can possibly see evolves around what it is already established and not further beyond the building. Perception limited… Hmm…

  41. There will always be the “church” and there will be the internet. People will flock to church if it is edifying.

  42. ‘The Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood’

    ok, if Jesus appoints, through the Holy Spirit … who actually makes the appointments here on Earth? Who does the Holy Spirit speak through to make appointments?

  43. a blog is a reasonable place to recover, work out you theology with others etc. Good for fellowship too.

    However, I do advocate getting into some kind of gathering … small home group would be a good thing. There is nothing quite like a small group to really get a sense of fellowship and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    That is church.

  44. s&p, between you and me, the Church is God’s great mystery revealed. There is far more to it than either of us see. If you think my perception and appreciation of the Church, and, within it, aspects of the local church, are contained here in these brief interactions, your own thoughts are limited in respect to mine.

    Never once have I limited church to a Sunday experience. Others have mentioned this here, but the Church isn’t about time or a time, it is eternal, it is Today forever, it’s about Jesus and his people, it is the Body of Christ, it the General Assembly and Church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.

    But there is no escaping the truth that it is arranged into flocks within a Flock, with shepherds and overseers under the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. It is well defined in scripture and inescapably simple in in its design and function. There is no doubt about what God intends for his Church, that, during the age of the Church all adherents should be part of the flock of God, and overseen by those called to do so.
    •••••••••••••••••

    The idea that the internet can replace the local church is interesting, but not practical, any more than the idea that increased literacy could have replaced pastoral care.

    In fact, the internet isn’t a totally trustworthy environment. Has anyone checked out the background of the main commenter in the post on this thread, yet? What do we know about RW Burke? Is he born again? Is he a Christian. Is he liberal, conservative, orthodox? Yet he is quoted as if he is a person of good Christian character? Is he? What do we know about anyone who comments here? Or posts? So, what do we know about people who put up a website and claim t be orthodox Christians with a point to make? Do we allow them to replace pastoring?

    The net is useful and viable as an information centre with shared ideas, but it is, as yet, still less personal than true pastoral care, and cannot displace many of the ministries God has implemented, especially point of contact, such as the laying on of hands, or the manifestations of the Spirit.

    I think it is unhealthy to allow the internet become a surrogate church, any more than we can allow TV Evangelists. It is missing too many vital ingredients.

  45. Bull: “There is nothing quite like a small group to really get a sense of fellowship and the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is church.”

    True. But still I’m hearing an emphasis on only the gathering that signifies that being church.

    To me the church is called out whether some people in it are gathered or not.

    I’m wondering if ‘church’ will always be a ‘doing’ word and ‘being’ word.

  46. You anger me FaceLift. Even in reading the above post, in spite of you throwing out grand words to encapsulate the eternal and enigmatic nature of the ‘church’, I still find you limit what church is.

    “But there is no escaping the truth that it is arranged into flocks within a Flock, with shepherds and overseers under the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. It is well defined in scripture and inescapably simple in its design and function. There is no doubt about what God intends for his Church, that, during the age of the Church all adherents should be part of the flock of God, and overseen by those called to do so.”

    Maybe I’m more liberal in my perception of what Church is, but when Paul is telling the churches and Timothy in his letters to ‘imitate me the way I imitate Jesus’, he is essentially saying, be accountable to both men and God. A pastor or overseers job would be much more beneficial if they let people know they can be accountable to themselves and others by listening to the one True Shepherd.

    In this way, you are open to rebuke as much as I am. I think Signposts02 is a good example in how we grow with no real so-called ‘shepherd’ over us – and I’ve enjoyed the freedom’s of others expressed on this site. We’ve all had places we’ve corrected each-other! And look at us now! We’ve grown so much.

    I think you would not consider me a ‘shepherd’ FaceLift, but in some ways you take RP’s, Teddy’s, mine and other people’s views and opinions away from these conversations and apply them to your ministry. I do the same. This, to me, is impartation. We are all growing together even if a human ‘shepherd’ isn’t actually overseeing a blog like Signposts02. As a result, we all believe the Spirit is growing us more into His ways by the challenges we face online or what truths we here from one another.

    I totally know that God has grown me so much in the last few years while I’ve been on here. I aint claiming to be a shepherd. And I’m not messaging everyone on Signposts02 to see how they are going. That is naturally happening on here.

    We all have the gifts of looking after one another, being moved with compassion, justice and grace. We all behave like leaders and shepherds, even you do this FaceLift on Signposts02.

    So stop limiting the church by placing limits on how it must be run and overseen by seers. They’re good to have, but it’s important to believe that the greater body of Christ can flourish into Christ’s love and authority. Christ oversees his entire church and usually uses individuals to help individuals, not necessarily pastors and overseers. They have a place, but not over the entire church.

    That is controlling, and you can’t seem to get over this so-called ‘truth’.

  47. No need to get angry, s&p. You used the term ‘limited’ to describe my outlook on the Church. I disagree. I have an open view of the Church, and I am active in championing the break out of the Church from the shackles of denominationalism and schism. It takes time, and involvement in the church community as a whole, and is a very patient work, which should be obvious by the length of time it has taken to get into such a fix. Obesity is not fixed overnight, or simply by the desire to be lean. It takes time to become obese, and at least the same length of time to slim down. So it is with schism and division.

    The Body is limited. It is One! When it breaks out it is fractured. It needs to be healed.

    And you can’t step outside of scripture, so, in a way, there are limitations on what we can accurately believe and act on. It is the narrow Way which leads to life, and the broad way to destruction. Even God, in a manner of speaking, is limited, in regard to his interaction with us, by his own Word. He is not man that he should lie. He has made promises he will and must keep, or he is not our Faithful God, and not True. So, within God’s Word, there are limits placed upon us, and they are actually beneficial, not constraining. They are liberating, not constraining.

    Hence the New Wineskins of the Church of the New Testament, which is the structure given, by God, which encompasses the growth potential of the Church. New Wineskins being necessary because, as the wine, or the Church, matures, it expands, and only New Wineskins have the capacity for this exponential, unstoppable expansion.

    Structure places defined limitations on us. It provides the guidelines for increase. It places us in a position of submission to God’s will. If we do not have God’s will we have no limits. If we have God’s will and we adhere to it, then we have limits, which effectively direct us to his Presence, and to salvation. Growth, under God’s designs and pattern for living, comes from order, not chaos. He is a King, and kings rule, govern and command, whilst subjects obey.

    So what you see as limiting, in fact, leads to our liberty. Liberality is only effective when it is accompanied by sufficient boundaries. The kingdom of God is not a free-for-all, no-holds-barred environment. It is based on holiness, which means that all unholiness is excluded, and limits are placed on us, which, in fact, protect us from falling, failing and missing the mark, which would ultimately exclude us from the kingdom. Fear and trembling are boundaries. They keep us in God’s grip.

    So you’re basically saying that saints shepherd one another through their interaction, and that the internet is a new mode of pastoral care. I think that is the wrong application of a truth. In fact, we provoke one another to love and good works, but that is not the same as pastoring, or shepherding. This is a gifted vocation given by God alone. That is scripture. That is truth. That, in a way, is limiting, if you like, but only in the sense that it is also liberating.
    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••

    From Burke’s site, in his own words, in a book he wrote:

    ‘In 2007 a fellow by the name of Robert Winkler Burke said the modern media church which broadcasts its message through the United States and by satellite around the world must…

    Stop preaching the lie of the rapture………….. And preach God’s overwhelming scourge.
    Stop waiting for God to manifest Himself…. And preach we must manifest God Himself.
    Stop preaching dispensational fear……………. And preach overcoming peace.
    Stop dreading a governmental mark of 666.. And preach it is a mark of spirit, soul, body.
    Stop preaching in outrageously evil spirits…. And worship God in spirit and truth.
    Stop modeling greed and self-interest……….. And be non-profit leaders of non-profits.
    Stop insisting God’s rules are inviolate……… And preach God delights in breaking rules.
    Stop extorting and demanding tithes………… And preach Jesus criticized tithing people.
    Stop preaching eternal security…………………. And preach only God guarantees absolution.
    Stop preaching foreign affairs intrigue………. And preach personal overcoming of evil.
    Stop purchasing costly jets with donations… And travel with commoners and be humble.
    Stop preaching fear of a Euro-antichrist…….. And be sure not to be of any ungodly spirit.
    Stop pandering to spirits of envy of success. And preach fear of God and His scourging.
    Stop selling each other’s evil books…………… And promote listening to the spoken Bible.
    Stop idolizing easy-on-the-ears “prophets”… And allow rebuking prophets to speak truth.
    Stop praying for an uncorrected revival…….. And repent of being unworthy of revival.
    Stop preaching six-day creationism…………… And admit the earth is as old as science says.
    Stop cursing who comes in God’s nature…… And bless those who come in God’s nature.
    Stop fighting the ACLU’s efforts…………….. And fight the Church’s efforts to deny God.
    Stop fighting the full baptism of the Spirit…. And encourage full baptism of the Spirit.
    Stop fighting the full baptism of the Fire…… And encourage full baptism of the Fire.
    Stop evil controlling techniques in crowds…. And repent massively of using evil control.
    Stop preaching only “about” Jesus……………. And manifest His essence so others learn.’

    http://www.inthatdayteachings.com/itdtbook1.html

    But you won’t make head nor tail of it!

  48. s&p, you equate oversight with control, but that is, again, a cynical view of a truth.

    God appoints the oversight of the Church. It is his concept. We can only follow his purposes.

    There is a difference between control and provision of order. My children, when they were small, needed oversight at road crossings. You could cynically call the parental care of these crossings control, but in fact it was a safety issue. A rebellious child would ignore the assistance given and direction of the parent, and potentially suffer as a result.

    Pastors are given a call and training to oversee saints. God ordained that this should be so. You can read all you want about how to cross the road on a website on a blog, but getting across that road for the very first time, when you’re small, at least, requires the assistance of someone experienced and equipped to get you there.

    I’ll throw a spanner in the works: If you think pastors limit you, then I have no wonder that you are so angry at them. I think Hebrews 6 may apply, that by now many saints should be a teachers, but have remained babes. I think if mature believers don’t step up to assist the over sight with pastoral care by teaching new converts, they can sometimes become critics of the leadership instead. They feel things are limiting them, and look for someone to blame, but they limit themselves when they don’t step out and mentor new Christians.

    Dissatisfaction in us is sometimes the Holy Spirit stirring us to action to step up assist others, but if we don’t act we will turn on our leaders, and say they are the cause of it. Dissatisfaction can lead to frustration, and anger.

    It is a delicate issue in the churches, but true, nonetheless. When mature believers start thinking the teaching isn’t deep enough, or not mature enough for them, then I think they’ve been sitting waiting for feed for too long, and need to get out there, exercise what they’ve learned, get lean, and bring in a few souls to disciple into the work. That’s probably controversial, and maybe I’m wrong about your situation, but, it’s true in many cases.

  49. 9/10 I could agree whole-heartedly …

    what is the Baptism of the Fire?

    =============================================

    Mature believers need to be recognised and invited to work alongside “overseers” … but they rarely are, particularly if their are doctrinal differences or more importantly, if the Mature believer is more knowledgeable. Many individuals in leadership can be thin-skinned and lack self-confidence. So Mature believers can become a threat to their position.

    This is just plain-old human nature. It necessitates regular elections. It also needs a larger group of elders and deacons to share the load. Bible Knowledge is important. Spiritual Gifts are important. The number one thing needed, after being born-again, in an Elder is character. If the fruit of the Spirit is present in abundance, you have to make the person an Elder or Deacon. It is a travesty to leave such individuals on the side if lesser men are in positions of Authority.

    My own view of leadership teams is that if they have a big theological argument every three months (as long as it doesn’t get personal) and really hammer it out, that would be a good thing.

    But we don’t want to go there. We’ll just brush things under the carpet and hope it all goes away. This is how bad teaching can get into churches btw. Let’s not argue, lets just be all friends together … and I won’t criticise you for talking about that Heretic Bentley in glowing terms from the pulpit.

    😉

  50. “Dissatisfaction in us is sometimes the Holy Spirit stirring us to action to step up assist others, but if we don’t act we will turn on our leaders, and say they are the cause of it. Dissatisfaction can lead to frustration, and anger.”

    FL, I agree … but should we push ourselves into such roles or should we wait to be recognised?

  51. How can His Body become “fractured” when it fills all things? Where can the fractured pieces go?

    In regards to discipleship and oversight etc, this is most effective when you spend all day every day with people. You can see how one another responds and thinks to situations, you can see the life of Christ worked out in real events. Jesus didn’t just meet with the disciples on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.

    He taught through lifes daily events, even communion was a meal. We miss a lot of opportunity to minister and lead if we don’t recognise the reality of it all day every day – including gathering with other believers.

  52. Amen, Muppet.

    Ministry just means service, and service to others can happen 24/7, in all contexts of our lives. As the body of Christ fills all things, so wherever we are, the church is, and may express Him, and serve the world. To limit that to the church building or organisation can prevent believers from realising that they are the church wherever they are, all the time. On the other hand, an organised church or gathered community can also support this – rather than directing believers activities into programs, by supporting the work of Christ that we all do as we live our lives in their entirety as He would live our lives. There are many worthwhile programs by the way – but there is no need to limit what we see God doing to just those programs. When we go to work we are just as much the church as we are when we are involved in a formal ‘ministry’. When we see this, the we see the Body as a whole, and function as the body in all settings.

    Rather a lot packed into that.

    We are the church gathered here on the internet, but this is just one expression of church, and we’d be foolish to limit ourselves to it alone unless we had no alternative.

  53. I’m not saying church life is limited to Sunday and Wednesday. Never have. The first church met daily. The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    There is a sense in which the church gathers on forums like this, but the subject of this post is the selfishness, or not, of pastors, by wanting to gather people on a regular basis. I’m not sure what they are supposed to do about this. The very name ‘pastor’ indicates gathering sheep, and keeping them safe. What else are they supposed to do with their call?

    I always feel sad when I see someone has bought a sheep dog and keeps it in a city environment. It is designed for gathering sheep. Its entire life revolves around keeping them in order. Yet there are people who are willing to dull their senses and frustrate them to death by keeping them away from sheep, simply because they’re nice, friendly, energetic, fun dogs, and good pets! What a waste!

    Pastors are not wired to do anything but gather, keep and nurture sheep. God put it in their spiritual DNA. That’s who they are. We need them. They need us.

    I don’t know how to express this more than I have really. If you consider the need of pastors to be superfluous to God’s plans for his people at this time, or that we, the sheep of God’s pasture, do not need them, then I will simply have to disagree with you.
    •••••••••••••••••••••

    Muppet,
    The church is fractured when it refuses to work together, when one part of the church says the other is anathema simply because it sees things differently, or has a different perspective.

    The rear sees one way, the front another, but the body is designed to be interactive, not running separate visions, or condemning the other side. It seems to me that there are too many feet telling the eyes to be feet.

    That is fractured in the sense that they have become incompatible through self-promotion of their own position in the Body. It has a paralysing effect, and has been existent since around the first century of the Church, some 2000 years ago. hence the abundance of denominations, many of whom will not give the time of day to others. That is fractured.

    Paul called it immaturity. He said he had to talk to such parts of the church in baby-talk. He named it schism and division, two words for fractured.

    A fractured body is still a body, but its functionality is impaired.

  54. The body is not made up of denominations but people. God’s body isn’t fractured just the organisations of men.

    I agree pastors can’t do anything but pastor – it’s there make up. They do it as part of who they are, all day every day.

  55. FL I generally agree with everything you are saying, and have probably been involved in many similar things. I have spent time in the past trying to break down denominiational barriers. But the most effective thing has been to ignore these barriers and just build relationships with people on a 1 to 1 basis.

  56. RP: “Ministry just means service, and service to others can happen 24/7, in all contexts of our lives. As the body of Christ fills all things, so wherever we are, the church is, and may express Him, and serve the world. To limit that to the church building or organisation can prevent believers from realising that they are the church wherever they are, all the time. On the other hand, an organised church or gathered community can also support this – rather than directing believers activities into programs, by supporting the work of Christ that we all do as we live our lives in their entirety as He would live our lives. There are many worthwhile programs by the way – but there is no need to limit what we see God doing to just those programs. When we go to work we are just as much the church as we are when we are involved in a formal ‘ministry’. When we see this, the we see the Body as a whole, and function as the body in all settings.”

    Amen RP! I agree with what you say. The difference is, (and this kind of exposes the unknowing selfishness), the pastor is at the top and not the bottom.

    Generalising here, but if the pastor is at the top, the structure is an exoskeleton preventing the body of Christ to expand. But if the pastor is under and within, the structure is a skeleton supporting the body of Christ to expand.

    RP: “We are the church gathered here on the internet, but this is just one expression of church, and we’d be foolish to limit ourselves to it alone unless we had no alternative.”

    I totally agree with this. Imagine me saying “Fear all churches. What I have to offer is more right than any other churches out there and this blog is a true move of God discerning complete and utter truth among great error. I have the answer which is why you must come see what I have to say!”

    It was kind of creepy of me typing that, because I do want the best for the body of Christ – so I saw something eerily come out of what I just wrote above. However, Teddy posts different articles up on here about good or bad ministries. I generally appreciate the variety of different views on this blog. Greg, RP and Heretic post up very different articles, and I don’t tell people what church they have to go too.

    With what RP said above, “this is just one expression of church, and we’d be foolish to limit ourselves to it alone unless we had no alternative“, I’d hate to think I have limited anyone’s ability to enjoy the diversities that can be found in the Body of Christ.

    Muppet: “The body is not made up of denominations but people. God’s body isn’t fractured just the organisations of men. I agree pastors can’t do anything but pastor – it’s there make up. They do it as part of who they are, all day every day.”

    Amen!

    Muppet: “I have spent time in the past trying to break down denominiational barriers. But the most effective thing has been to ignore these barriers and just build relationships with people on a 1 to 1 basis.”

    This is what I do too. Often the organisation or denomination rears it’s ugly head and divides friendships formed. The church lives united but divided.

  57. This is an interesting discussion.

    I agree that a pastor will pastor wherever they are, and whether or not they are formally recognised as a pastor. We’ve probably all seen this somewhere. I have a friend with a pastoral gift that was evident when I first knew them. Over the years, they have pastored people in their workplace, including those who didn’t know Christ initially, and many people have come to Him over time as a result. Yet this was a pastoral gift in operation, not a recognisable gift of evangelism. The church my friend went to took years to recognise the pastoral gift, probably because so much pastoring was happening outside the church walls, and those led to Christ were in geographically different locations, so joined churches local to them as new Christians. However, many people at church were also pastored by this person, both before and after they were officially recognised as a pastor. Eventually in my opinion, the exercise of the pastoral gifting cost my friend their church in some respects, as effective love and care for others was valued more than politics, in an environment that took a turn for the worse. Anyway, they still pastor, and always will, in some fashion or other.

    **********

    Re breaking down denominational barriers – yes, I think its pointless trying to break them down. Individual relationships are much more effective. We can’t break these things down; we can only trust God to use our relationships to help people see past those things.

    **********

    Is the church ‘fractured’ in a minute way because I (and others like me) don’t attend a recognised local gathering? I don’t think so, because our relationships are what binds us together; ultimately our relationship in Christ where we are all part of His body wherever we are, but also the practical relationships that we have. So I value the relationships highly, and will put effort into maintaining them, or will go where God directs me with new relationships as well.

    Since I am not currently attending a traditional church gathering, I’ve had more time to put into the relationships with other Christians than I had before. That’s been a real benefit. When a church helps us build strong relationships with one another, that can be great, but also sometimes people lack time. On a Sunday, they might sit and hear from the pastor, then only have 10 or 20 minutes to catch up with one another. It’s difficult to build deep relationships in that setting. Homegroups are meant to address this in part, but again, people’s time is limited. After there has been a bible study and prayer, often there is little time afterwards to catch up. Some other time has to be found to spend meaningful time with others in the body. If people are involved in programs as well, there is sometimes no time left. Plus we all have family and work commitments. We have communion in a church setting, yet barely know the other members that we share bread with, unless we have some kind of longer term history with them.

    So there is a place for other ways of gathering where the relational side can be strengthened. It happens more naturally when we open our eyes to the church gathering together wherever God has placed each of us, in whatever setting we find ourselves in. Then it can become a part of what we do, not something we have to find time for. Plus, we can allocate time that we might have once spent in a seat passively listening to a sermon, or driving to and from a building, to having people in our homes, or visiting others, or getting together in ways that strengthen our connections with one another, all the while encouraging one another in our faith. And – we can include the gifts in these meetings. Or go to gatherings where these gifts are present. It’s all out there.

  58. A question. Do you believe that the church is responsible for accomplishing the very thing that God Himself accomplishes as part of His plan to wrap up this church age?

    Jesus is building His own church and God adds daily those who are destined to be saved.

    “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matt 16:18-19)

    “AND THE LORD WAS ADDING to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)

    Should we feel pressured by notions of the “Great Commission” and the necessity to advance the gospel in order to accomplish Christ’s work? Does Christ accomplish what He has placed in His own hands. Yes. Our job is to tell the truth and preach His grace. But, the work of saving men and women eternally is His work, to His glory.

    How does this all fit in to our various notions of “community”?

    Do we preach and evangelize? Yes. How?

  59. Well, I’m glad Teddy asked the question of the Great Commission, albeit in a different way.

    To me it is the great clincher in the discussion about whether or not the local church is a viable organism in the 21st century, with the interactive communications we have at our disposal, and the diminished respect for the traditions of church life by many.

    The idea that people no longer need the church or the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher Oversight (APEPTO), is largely answered by the Great Commission, which was given by Christ, and is overseen and led by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Christ has not removed his command to preach the gospel, win souls and make disciples. He has not removed APEPTO from the church.

    I’m treading carefully here, and was initially reluctant to even go into this, in view of the situation for some people who lurk or even comment here, but, the truth is that, even if we are justified in opting out of what is seen as the organised church, we are not given special decree to opt out of the Great Commission.

    Perhaps I misunderstood this, but Teddy seems to have simplified the Commission and given a get out of jail card by suggesting it’s possible that Christ undertakes his own Great Commission and doesn’t require our assistance, since all are in the book already, and God draws them, wins them, and saves them in spite of our lack of outreach (neo-Calvinism?), but this is not born out by scripture. But how can obedience to the Chief Shepherd’s command be pressure, except though our own reluctance, especially when he has equipped nd empowered us for service so well?

    Therefore, we remain fishers of men.

    Supposing that, even outside of the accepted pattern for church life, we engage in this Commission, we will begin to see converts showing up on our doorstep as we go out and preach the gospel. Converts who will need to be baptised, confirmed, taught, discipled and led to enter the same gospel work in the same gospel field we are obediently continuing in. This will potentially lead to a gradual increase in the number of people gathering, and the growing need to train, equip, and even accommodate them.

    Viola! A new local church is birthed!

    Then follows the usual discussions about how this fledgling group should be led and developed, and of course, there are a number of models which can be approached, and through the ages, most have been experimented with.

    The truth is that we are not called to be non-evangelistic, or not participating in the winning and development of new converts and disciples. Evangelism must lead to growth. Growth requires accommodation. Accommodation requires structure. Structure requires oversight.

  60. I was saved, discipled and spent most of my Christian life ministering outside of an organised church.

    I have been ministered to in every way, have strong, long term accountable relationships.

    Yes there is a need for some kind of structure when things grow, but not always in the way that you are seeing it.

    We have a business that is exploring the concept of “being” a church. A lot of the same activities go on and we can draw from other ministries for resources as we need.

    The main difference that I’ve seen so far is that we pay people to belong to our fellowship (wages) rather than needing a tithe.

  61. FL, I asked the question because I’m seeing a moving away from the more “formal” structure of church meeting. This mainly happens to those hurt by the “church”. Initially I was one of those hurting people, no longing trusting leadership.

    However, for us personally, we believe that, though imperfect, the church community is a gift of God to His body of believers. We (my husband and I) recognised that we were drifting not just out of fellowship, but away from a more, dare I say it, disciplined structure of worship and gathering around the Word (rightly divide of course :)).

  62. And yes , I’m a calvinist who doesn’t know who the Lord is saving. Therefore I have a responsibility to share my faith and be an active witness.

    We have a tremendous responsibility to reach those around us. One day we will stand before Christ and give an account to Him for whether or not we have been faithful with the gifts He has given us. That is the privilege, responsibility and obligation God has given us as believers.

  63. I like this statement….”The world cannot detect the invisible church of real Christians. They see only the visible church of those who profess to be Christians.”

    Another good point about churches today……..”Churches quite often function like a business rather than a body, a factory rather than a family, and a corporation rather than a community.”

    This is why are people are leaving. Is leadership (or lack of) responsible? Are we really into having pastors act like rap artists i.e. Ed Young, or guys like Creflo Dollar saying things like “pay
    tithes or get shot”

    Are we receiving these guys as judgement? Just some random thoughts.

  64. First, there is no need to assume that the work of the Great Commission does not carry on regardless of context. I think everyone here on this site, regardless of their gathering context, is keen to share their faith, in the wisest way we know how, wherever we receive a genuine opportunity.

    The fact is, that while an organised church will encourage its members to fulfill the Great Commission, those of us who don’t attend the same type of gathering are not necessarily any less keen to share what we believe with those who are seeking.

    The majority of people that I know were saved outside of a church context. Some came to know Christ on their own, by picking up a Bible, or just asking ‘God, show me if you are there’, then finding God’s response. Some met Christians in their workplace or socially, and after a time, through the relationshops that developed, became interested in and came to know Christ for themselves. I was saved as a kid in a High Anglican church setting, in Sunday school. Some adults enter a church to look for God. But most of the time, people who need God are not in churches trying to find Him.

    So the Great Commission most frequently takes place outside the context of a church building. Anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can be a part of this – and will desire to. Some churches are good at equipping people for this task in a programmatic way. However, the relationships we develop with others are the typical context for sharing our faith, and this won’t happen if we our time is consumed by church programs.

    So I can’t see how not attending an organised church decreases the likelihood that we will participate in the Great Commission; it may even mean that we have more opportunity to develop the kinds of relationships where we can share our faith more effectively.

    Then assuming someone is saved at some stage, the discipling issue comes up. Well, people can go to a local church, and often do, as in the example I gave above where a pastor friend of mine led a string of people to the Lord over the years. Sometimes though, people just can’t relate to a local church, and that can be a stumbling block. So, back to our relationship again. With God’s help, hopefully in that relationship we can be an example that may be followed in a discipleship process. We have many resources to draw upon these days, and are not limited to a particular church or setting – whatever seems most appropriate at the time, that God has provided.

    So again, there is no need for discipleship to be a problem for those of us who aren’t attending a more traditional gathering form.

    Finally, I do want to agree with Teddy that the church community is a gift of God to His body of believers. I am part of a community; it just doesn’t have a label that I could fill in on a census form. Muppet is part of a community too. So are many others. It might look different but it is no less there and highly present in our lives. For those who find more structure helpful, there are more structured gatherings. Some of us are motivated to gather without that structure – we don’t just stop because its at a different time or place; we don’t just ignore our community or stop bothering with it. Also, our community will grow organically as relationships are introduced or changed – we can pray about these things and look for God’s leading at the time re the best direction to take with any of them.

    Its a matter of having faith that He provides in all things, and having eyes to see and recognise His provision, even when it has a less conventional appearance. It doesn’t have to be the same thing for everyone, or may even be different things at different times.

  65. The church organisation can work against the Great Commission, by drawing time, money, resources away from people out “in the world” into the church building.

    Having a great “worship” service is no longer a very effective tool for evangelism. Neither is the standard evangelistic crusade or tent ministry, at least in the west. These kind of large organisational approaches to evangelism have little effect on Gen Y and will have less on Gen Z. Gen X are too busy to go along.

    The solution is to go out into the world, decentralise and empower everyone on a grass-roots level. Voila!! an organisation is dismantled.

    ———————————-

    I would like to join your church, Muppet 🙂 (as long as it dosent involve Amway)

  66. “The church organisation can work against the Great Commission, by drawing time, money, resources away from people out “in the world” into the church building.”

    Totally agree – some of our casual workers are Bible College students from one of the large Sydney churches. For a lot of them the only contact they have with non-church people is through the work they do with us. (Though this may just be a season of their lives).

    And no Wazza, definately no Amway!!!

  67. The other way a church organisation can inadvertently work against the Great Commission, is when everyday people start suspecting the agenda of people from very evangelistic churches who try to befriend them. People aren’t interested in being part of someone’s evangelistic agenda – why should they be? – and sometimes will run a mile.

  68. Also, re gathering without structure, I don’t even mean that we have to get together in a group the way I do at times. Sometimes the gathering is just there because that’s where the people are anyway, and they recognise one another in Christ.

  69. RP, I probably said this before, but sadly our nearest and dearest friends were from our old church.
    We had other relationships which we are now enjoying and rightly so as we were too insulated at times.

    The old relationships grew stronger when we removed ourselves from the church/connect group environment – we would meet at each other’s homes every 6 weeks or so for a meal, some good wine and at times prayer and study. Sounds kind of biblical, don’t you think!

    The powers that be didn’t like that style and started shifting people into other connect groups. It was really weird! Our pastor and his wife were on staff and didn’t have a choice – this ended up affecting the group dynamic.

    Having moved on, we tried to retain some form of social network but it just didn’t work. It’s amazing how the group mindset is impacted by the church you attend! Out of a group of 12 C3 friends, it’s now reduced to 4, and those 4 are amazing! They actually love to talk about what God has done in our life, they are not at all threatened, still go to C3!, and are seriously hoping for change.

  70. Yes I think that is a common problem Teddy. It’s the relationships that are the important thing. That’s why a lot of what goes on in a local church is good because cell groups etc are for growing relationships.

    However, the problem comes when the church exerts itself to put a template over the relational realities that are developing and organises them the way it sees fit.

    As an extreme case, when we were first married, it was suggested that my wife and I should attend different home groups because we fell into different age brackets.

  71. Teddy, I still find it surprising when ‘the powers that be’ are threatened by our growing relationships when they happen outside the program box sometimes. I don’t know if this is part of what happened to you, but I’ve seen pastoral disapproval of people gathering on their own, over meals or on retreats, where these things have been thought to conflict with homegroup or church meetings. It’s actually a small bone of contention at my previous church, where the pastor has this attitude but many long time congregation members don’t. The people involved see these things as deepening the friendships and relationships. There would have been a lot of discussion about what God was doing in everyone’s lives at these gatherings. The pastor views them as more frivolous and not as important as keeping up with the church program. He can’t see how God uses them just as much.

    It’s great that you have friends still at C3 who aren’t threatened by the changes in your life. I do too. It’s just sad that those others you mention who may have once seemed to be good friends, can’t see that relationship continue without the previous context.

    I think I first stumbled on this when I changed homegroups in my early church life, and found that I lost a bunch of friendships that I’d thought were real. But without the group, they just stopped. Fortunately, others in other settings were real, and continued on, some to this day.

    As for the template that you mention, Muppet – I think its grown more prevalent than it used to be. Twenty years ago, I was involved in home groups that just consisted of people in a local area. Now, there seem to be age specific, gender specific, and interest specific groups. I don’t know how young man and women get to meet eachother, there are so many divisions, let alone communication between the different generations in a church. For example:
    http://www.c3churchryde.com.au/connect-in/connect-groups.html

    There are so many connect groups on that page – hopefully everyone will find something that suits them. Hopefully though they won’t just be limited to people just like them!

  72. BTW – it would not surprise me if the church I linked to above, eventually becomes the biggest C3 in NSW, overtaking Oxford Falls. Though it might compete with Hillsong’s area – I’m not sure. It is a very dynamic church. But we’ll see.

  73. Love this quote from “Signs: I’m Weary of Weird Christians”

    “Maybe you’re like me. You are an ordinary Christian living an ordinary life. You don’t hear voices, see visions, or believe you are under constant attack by demonic forces. You may have some experiences that you call supernatural or miraculous, but they are the exception, not the rule.

    When you pray for people, things usually don’t change; you change. You have no authoritative insight into what is going to happen in the future. You suspect that if you were filled with the Spirit, you would love God and people more, and do the right thing more often. You’d be more like Jesus. You wouldn’t be running around in circles pointing out angels on the roof.

    The fruit of the Spirit would make you a person others would want to be around, not someone who would frighten animals and small children.”

    Love it!!

  74. You misunderstand me, wazza2. When I speak of organised or organism, I refer to the whole church as well as the local church, not the meeting place where people gather once a week. That is a building, not the Church. It is part of the organisational structure, if you like, but it is not essential to it.

    In fact, resourcing this area, contrary to your claims, can be very useful. It produces a focal point in a community, and a gathering place for the saints. A dedicated, functional workspace. No hired building can fully supply the needs of a growing church as well as dedicated church home. One way or another, once a local church increases, as it should, there will be accommodation needs. These can be approached a number of ways, but whatever it will take some finance to support it.

    Small group activity is also vital to the life of a local church, but there are times when large meetings attract new converts. In this sense the worship event, evangelistic event and outreach become an integral part of a churches functionality, so far from dying out, this has became a more frequent event, but as a part of the church life.

    Saddleback Church hired premises until they reached 10,000 people. Can you imagine the logistics of accommodating people this way?

    There is nothing wrong with being organised. I like the word organic, also, to describe the church.

    Organic
    ‘Of, relating to, or derived from living matter; of or relating to a bodily organ or organs; denoting a relation between elements of something such thats they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of the whole; characterized by continuous or natural development’.

    A church, by nature, should be, at some level, cellular, continually reproducing itself and growing.

    Ephesians 4:16
    Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    Organisation
    ‘The action of organizing something; the structure or arrangement of related or connected items; the efficient and orderly approach to tasks; an organised body of people with a particular purpose’.

    Luke 5:37
    No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.

    The wine expands, the structure is stretched. So it is with the kingdom. Expansion requires structure or it evaporates.

  75. My family is organic and growing. We gather together as Christians. Are we a local church FL? Or do we need to be organised by someone else’s church?

  76. “When you pray for people, things usually don’t change; you change”

    surprisingly, the first time when I read something very much like this quote it was from a person out of pentecostal tradition. Which reminds me that, when it comes to actual people, stereotyping is the first error to avoid.

    I myself would not like to be under a Baptist stereotype – I do not agree with certain “typically Baptist” stuff.

  77. “Some adults enter a church to look for God. But most of the time, people who need God are not in churches trying to find Him.”

    Wow! That is such an obvious point, point but sooo forgotten in Christian land.

    And I can understand you with that Teddy with C3 Groups. I’ve encountered that not only at C3 but in other smaller churches.

    RP: “There would have been a lot of discussion about what God was doing in everyone’s lives at these gatherings. The pastor views them as more frivolous and not as important as keeping up with the church program. He can’t see how God uses them just as much.”

    In the opening article, i said the word ‘selfish’ to describe what pastors do to possibly justify their church advertising. with what we’ve discussed, it seems that isn’t the case (though it’s personally been mine). maybe just religious, fear or blindness?

  78. Well a church is, to an extent, a family, but can a family be a church? Only God can tell you that. Israel, the nation, was a family, of the same patriarchs. This was achieved through God-given organisational structure. Even then, it was broken down to two tribes which ushered in the coming of Jesus, because ten tribes refused to stay within the structure.

    Does your family church expect to increase and be open to new comers? Is it ready to find ways to reach out to the community and be inclusive, rather than exclusive? Do you envisage a time when it could grow beyond your capacity to oversee it without involving others, training others, equipping others. Is it generationally envisioned, in the sense, that it will reach people after you have gone to be with the Lord? Could it potentially be planted out to other centres as it grows and produces converts who will be sent out?

  79. There’s the danger of course, of a cult-like congregation e.g Westboro Baptist and Fred Phelps. That church is composed mainly of family members.

    A lot of churches have started in someone’s living room, not an unusual phenomenom.

    That raises the question, eventually, of pastoral oversight for the pastor himself. But then the biblical placement of elders is an option.

  80. “Does your family church expect to increase and be open to new comers?” – FL

    My wife is one of those people who seems to lead people to Christ without thinking. We’re open to new comers as it fits the normal workings of our family life. Doesn’t mean they all sit in our sitting room though. Some stay in relationship other build relationships elsewhere.

    “Is it ready to find ways to reach out to the community and be inclusive, rather than exclusive?” -FL

    We’re surrounded by communities, in life we are involved in school communities, sport communities, work communities etc. We live in these communities and are who we are in these communities. Some come to know Christ, many don’t. No need to organise a reach out though – we can be living parables to these communities.

    “Do you envisage a time when it could grow beyond your capacity to oversee it without involving others, training others, equipping others?” – FL

    My wife is beyond my capacity! – Thank God He does what I can’t and brings in other relationships to fill the void I leave.

    “Is it generationally envisioned, in the sense, that it will reach people after you have gone to be with the Lord?”

    God willing – the children will carry on, our friends will carry on. Has God ever not built His Church generationally?

    “Could it potentially be planted out to other centres as it grows and produces converts who will be sent out?”

    Of course, if you allow for the fact that “other centres” are other people.

  81. I’ll say, as is the notion of a business being a church. It’s both intriguing and challenging.

    Although when I think back, my former Pastor managed to integrate his business life with his Christian witness and fellowship. He owned a mechanics shop, and they would pray for healing for people in the shop – using the available motor-oil for annointing.

  82. “He owned a mechanics shop, and they would pray for healing for people in the shop – using the available motor-oil for annointing.”

    Love it!

  83. How excellent. I wish you well, Muppet! There is no higher vocation than ushering souls into the kingdom!

  84. Thanks FL is appreciate that.

    RP you mentioned paradigm shift, which I agree with but this makes it hard to explain to others sometimes. There are a lot of people on the same type of journey but it is hard to shake off some of our habits.

    For instance, our local coffee shop has quite a community. Once you get involved in that community you can “see” Jesus in it. However, our tendency is to monopolise where Jesus should hang out. So we start a “missional” coffee shop to provide structure and reach out to the local community. Or some would see Wazza’s old pastor and try and duplicate what he’s done by opening more garages.

    this misses the point, Jesus is already in the local community! Sometimes it’s easier to point this out to the unsaved, than to say to them “come to our coffee shop / ministry and we’ll introduce you to Jesus because this is where He is real!”.

    God has already structured His Body, we just need to fill it by being who we are where we are. Evangelism is a lot easier when you can show someone how He is already a part of their most cherished parts of life.

  85. very good posts. I came to Christ or was “saved” through a christian outside church. I did end up going to church eventually.

    I still go sporadically but have Christ imprinted in my heart now. Its horses for courses. Everyone is different, and have a different journey too.

  86. I think too, God sort of calls you to Him first. Then along comes someone to lead you in the beginning or something like that, not always the case. 🙂

  87. As Muppet says, there are many ways in which the Body is successfully expressed. None is ‘it’ in itself and yet all can be ‘it’ as a part of the greater whole.

    We were brought onto the kingdom by a pastoral door-knock. We were building a house at the time so we dedicated it people, like us, who were seeking a new life, seeking change, which equates to seeking God. We entertained many strangers there, maybe some angels! people were saved. I believe in seeker style initiatives as a result.

    On our journey we also spent time in a traditional church, hymns and liturgy, then relocated and were involved in a small church plant, charismatic and choruses, followed by a move to a big city, to what is considered to be a mega-church, contemporary and structured, where we ministered to children, fun and friendly, and went through Bible School, formal and doctrinal, before entering missions oversees, exciting and revivalist. All were a vital part to every other step of our walk.

    We can’t box what is effective, but we also can’t deny what God has given us as a pattern for the Church, and, directly and intimately, for the local church. There comes a time in the development of every work, new or established, when well co-ordinated pastoral leadership and a structure will be beneficial to its strength and purpose.

    New paradigms are interesting, and often refreshing, but they cannot be allowed to detract from the plan of God, which has been around for over 2000 years as a blueprint for church life. There are infinitesimal ways of achieving God’s goals or effectively developing the local church, but the basic structural guidelines still have to line up with his will. That is how we know it is of God and not man.

    When we dismiss the instructions in his Word as unnecessary, or old hat, we have crossed a line which leads to cultism.

  88. I would have thought that this ‘new’ paradigm is in reality a very old paradigm..It is God’s plan for the church to be throughout all creation, all of our world. Structures can be useful, as long as they recognise the church however and wherever it is gathered, rather than dividing parts of the church off from others, just because the gathering is different. There are some doctrines which are used to perpetuate desired structures, rather than encourage people wherever they are to recognise themselves and others in that environment as the gathered church (God having done the gathering).

  89. FL I’ve probably had a similar walk to yours. I was saved at university through a girl friend, but my curfew restrictions at the time prevented me from joining the campus churches.

    Once graduated I spent some time in an English village. We were a congregartion of 5ish. One week we were Anglican the next we were Methodist. Same congregation but two buildings and two ministers.

    Some of us who were spirit-filled joined together mid-week, we were all from different churches.

    I moved to Australia as a missionary working for a campus ministry. Lived in Sydney and attended one of the large churches.

    I’ve seen many of the expressions of church and think they all serve a purpose. With what I experience now, there are still problems to overcome, but nothing I’m involved in now contradicts any of the experiences that I have had in any of the other church expressions. But it does open up a whole new realm of opportunities.

    While working at the large church in Sydney, I remember God giving me a picture of an apple on a tree during one of the staff meetings. The apple was magnificent, large, red and shiny. It was a picture of the church I was attending. The apple couldn’t have been much better. As I stepped back I could see that there were numerous apples on the tree. They were as good as the first one, but there were a lot of them, different shapes and sizes etc.

    As I stepped back again I say the tree was in an orchard. And that orchard was one orchard in a wide variety of orchards that spread out as far as you could see.

    At the time, it felt that so much time and energy was going into polishing this apple to make it perfect that we missed the point that it was just one apple among millions (no more, no less important).

    As RP says, this is not a new paradigm. There is nothing new about relationships being central to our walk with God.

    We do however, live in a changing culture. The business world is learning to adapt to changes like people want access to goods and services rather than ownership of them. People now want to be more in control of their own education, health, etc. Society has moved on from the division of labour brought in to produce the model T Ford and the church needs to move on too.

    Throughout history church organisation has just been a copy of the management techniques of the time. Nothing wrong with that because Jesus is expressing Himself through the business world too. We just need to make sure the church doesn’t get left behind.

    Some churches are still stuck in the times of the Roman Empire, some are stuck in the time of division of labour (evangelism dept, pastoral dept, missions dept etc) others have moved on to more of a franshise model.

    We need to think about how the church should look going forward, not just at the models of how they have been for the last 2000 years.

  90. This site is dedicated, in part, to ‘exposing’ what it considers to be wrong or false doctrine and the espousers of false doctrine. It should be clear, then, that there has to checks and balances to what constitutes sound doctrine, who is delivering the doctrine and how.

    A gathering doesn’t necessarily constitute a place of sound doctrinal practices simply because the people attending claim to be Christians. Matt Ford claims to be teaching sound doctrine, and meets with other Christians for gatherings. JW’s claim to be Christians. What is it that we are wary of with them? The fact that their doctrine is unsound.

    How do we determine whether a gathering of Christians is teaching sound doctrine? Does having a group around for a meal and to discuss Christians values constitute a safe environment for sound doctrine? Is the internet a safe environment for deriving doctrine?

    The early church met in small groups, but they were organised to receive the Apostles’ doctrine. They received sound teaching from those in oversight.

    It has been said many times here that those who lead mega-churches, or even small to medium sized churches, should receive sound theological training. Is this now unnecessary? Can a group meet without any of the participants having formal, or even semi-formal training, and it still constitute a local church?

  91. We have access to the best doctrinal teaching ever in History. David Pawson has been mentioned before, you can google him and download his sermons. ther are many other.

    Obviously there is bad teaching too, but that has always been the case, even when the apostles were teaching. But it has never held God back.

    Why not develop ways to benefit from some of the best teachers the world has to offer. It doesn’t cost anything, and we don’t need building funds.

  92. Muppet, we can look at the church going forward, and I think we all do, especially if we are involved in the contemporary or Pentecostal churches, but we cannot go outside of the foundations given us by Christ, the Apostles and Prophets.

    There are things we can adapt and things we adopt, in terms of our methodology. The Rock remains the same however, in terms of our theology. The cross and resurrection are essential, unchanging facets of our witness. The revelation of the Christ is central to our gospel message. Sound Biblical doctrine is imperative. These are unchanging qualities, and must have first place in our ministry.

    How we publish the basics within the community is changeable. How we gather with people is adaptable. How we approach our local community is flexible. I applaud your business model, as a means of reaching people, but it is useless without the 2000 year old New Testament foundational truths.

    God has given us a strong leadership foundation for developing the Church through local churches. I don’t see that he has changed his mind about APEPT oversight. We can use different terminology to describe it, or use no titles at all, but the gifting remains vital to the strength and growth of the Church.

  93. We’re crossing over with comments, obviously, but that’s OK.

    Yes, David Pawson is excellent, as are others, like Jack Hayford, but there are some things about the internet which are insecure.

    Maybe as a mature believer you are aware of what is safe and what is not, but, there are many new converts out there, and I would not say to them, OK it’s safe to google and you’ll be alright, Jack!

    In fact I publicly caution against that, mainly because we have a large number of new converts in our church, and it would be irresponsible to tell them that the internet is a safe environment they can surf for interesting ‘Christian’ sites! We need to be able to tech them how to test every spirit, whether it is of God, not release them to every spirit, regardless of whether it is of God!

    That is where the local church is most effective. We are able to warn about what is good, and what is not. We are empowered to do this through building personal relationships within our gathering. Trust is a huge factor in the growth of new converts, and it is developed through fellowship and relationship.

    I know there are also some terrible ‘local churches’, but, I’m assuming that those who meet here, who are involved in local churches, are in fairly orthodox doctrinal environments, and most commenters here are reasonably mature on their walk, but, as in all churches, those of us who are mature are to assist those who are not. That is one of the great purposes of the local church and of the oversight structure.

    We are all supposed to be making disciples and taking them along on their journey. That is the work of the local church, not the internet. The web is a great resource, and a wonderful place for interactive commentary, but it is not, and never should be the Church. The Church is a place where people interact on a personal level, as a community meeting face to face, life with life, not in an anonymous chat room, or gathering false doctrine from false internet purveyors of false doctrine.

    I mean, would you trust a new convert with the teachings of RW Burke? yet anyone reading this post would assume s&p condones his theology.

  94. Again, I don’t think we are a million miles apart. I personally don’t like the idea of church in the form of an internet chat room. (though if I went to a churhc of 20,000 people I would probably know 99% of them less well than I know you – and we’ve never met). The internet is good for building on established relationships though.

    My brother in law became a Christian after 20 years of emailing each other every day. We still do this. Over this time a fair bit of discipleship takes place. So I’m reluctant to right any form of communication off.

    We can draw from the best teachers, take friends to the largest evangelist crusades etc. These giftings don’t have to meet in the same building in order to serve and equip the saints.

  95. I think that there’s some great discussion happenning here. Muppet, that vision was wonderful. I think that expresses really well where my heart is at regarding how we see church gatherings, too.

    FL, I also think your repeated concern about how to look after and disciple new converts is a valid concern. But I would say that God supplies this need in many different ways.

    My background is completely different to yours and to Muppet’s. I became a Christian when I was a kid, at 9 years old. I moved around, and after we left that local High Anglican church, didn’t go to another church for a number of years. I was a child, and a teenager, with no input from any church. However, I still prayed. For a number of years, all I had was a little Gideon’s bible of the New Testament, and that was what I read. I used to look up their suggested verses to help me with issues that I was facing at school or wherever. For a couple of years I went to a local Anglican church to be confirmed, then left due to a lack of genuine friendships (sadly). I was the only one in my confirmation class who actually believed, despite others having attended church for far longer. Then it was another couple of years before I attended C3OF – which I loved at the time. But going to a church did not make me a Christian, and I was discipled through reading scripture for myself for more time than I attended churches. I think that is one reason that I didn’t cleave to some of the more extreme doctrines I came across – they didn’t convince me from my own basic level of scriptural knowledge. Later, I was out of organised church again, for several more years. Then back in, now back out. Through it all, my faith in God has been steadfast.

    Some of those early lessons that I learnt on my own have really stayed with me over the years. One of the ones that really stood out to me was that we should not discriminate amongst one another on the basis of riches, race or gender. I still remember reading that and pondering that way back in high school. My faith influenced my behaviour from within in many ways from that time forwards; this was some of the fruit of that discipleship process.

    All I am trying to say, is that when God saves us; when we give our lives to Him, we follow Him, wherever He is really to be found, and we are not limited to one setting. If this does not truly come from within us, then we are still lost.

    A church organisation can sometimes help impose structure or discipline on people from the outside, which we think is helpful. Ultimately though, if our behaviour does not spring from within us, the exterior group behaviour may only help us disguise where we have problems. If our godly behaviour does come from within, then that we can move around in all kinds of settings without relying upon the environment of the organisation to make us live a godly life. I am not saying that an organisation can’t provide an enviroment where we find encouragement and support, just that we don’t need to depend upon that form. There are other places where God can also provide. As Muppet said, through our relationships. Sometimes these are found in an organised church, and other times in other kinds of gatherings.

    When we seek, He helps us find Him. At some point, for most of us (assuming there are some people who can’t do this for some reason as well), this will involve basic reading of scripture. This helps us know His voice. Then we recognise Him in different people and places.

    How else can we even choose a good organised church, if we decide we want or need to attend one, as I have done in the past? If we don’t know His voice already in some way, how can we know that just by going to a church, we will find Him? We might just be sucked into a cult. There is just as much a risk of this in an organised environment as in a smaller start-up one.

    In the end, it is only by trusting in Him, seeking Him, and knowing His voice that any of us will find ourselves in a place which is healthy. That could be one of many different places.

  96. Yes RP there are risks in whatever path God leads us down. I think thats what He intended so that we have to trust Him, seek Him and know His voice.

    The thing that I find unhelpful in all this, is the way some believers may be on a genuine journey with God that doesn’t involve the traditionally organised church. Other Christians would mainly see this as back sliding and voice their opinions as such. Told this enough times, people can accept this as an explanation of how they feel.

    Yet if you affirm what God is doing in the person and stand alongside them, it can be a tremendous period of growth in learning more about Him.

  97. Sorry – re read one of my previous comments. Obviously I haven’t emailed my brother in law for the last 20 years – it should read communicated for 20 years (he is in the UK and I’m in Aus), but have emailed everyday since working where I currently do from 1999 onwards.

Comments are closed.