Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Can We Learn From The Basic Transitions Of The Church?

Ever study the Church or Church history much? It’s all pretty fascinating and we can learn from it!

The Bible gives us some wonderful Church history and even different pictures of Christ’s Church. Each picture has its purpose. In the Word, the Church (us Christians) are described in different ways so we can grasp how God views it.

Ever thought about us collectively as a building (1 Cor. 3:9), or a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5), or a flock of sheep (Heb. 13:20) before?

The Apostle Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it..” (1 Cor. 3:7-13, nkjv).

Each of us Christians will get our own reward according to what we’ve done; yes according to how we have obediently co-labored with Christ in relation to His Church.

Of course I don’t excuse the large and small blunders of the Church throughout history, nor the failings of so called ministers who brought reproach upon the Church in the past. God knows which ones were real believers and which ones were counterfeit, and He in His great love and wisdom still has His own way of dealing with all of us appropriately. Hey, I can’t see hearts, but He can and He did in the past.

I love to read about all those who served the Lord right, and were used of the Lord to influence and win countless needy people! Many today claim to be great, but they actually were. There were some wonderful examples of faith that we all would do well to look at again, and again.

But what about Church transitions, Kurt?
   
Well, Jesus didn’t leave behind a chain of restaurants, a nice full service gas station, or a law firm. He left us with the Church ..to be a part of. If you are lost in your sins—if you are unregenerate, then He indeed wants to save you today in the fullest sense of that term. It’s so that you can grow up and enjoy fellowship with Him in a healthy, Christ-honoring, Bible teaching church.. that is led by saved, spiritual elders who live the life (according to Scripture) in Him. The Lord really wants the best for you and He wants to be together with you, with your family, and with your friends for all eternity. He longs to use you to reach them in a unique way that’s fitting, yes, that isn’t quite like what you’ve seen with other so called Christian ministers. He wants to make you more you than you already are and to minister through you.
   
Listen, you can’t join the Church as many pastors might push for you to do. According to the Founder, God, you must be born into it.. “I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3b). I kind of understand why some pastors want a formal membership process, but they all should seek to see people repent and become born again far more! It matters far more to God!

Christian husbands are to sacrificially love their wives as Christ loves the church and both spouses are to represent the loving union of Christ and His Church. Family speak. Throughout the New Testament believers are referred to as being brothers and sisters and God is said to be our loving heavenly Father. Why? Well, because He is! God doesn’t speak of CEO love per se, but He does speak of a brotherly kindness and a brotherly love that is pure, because this is so radically important (Rom. 12:10, 1 Thess. 4:9, Heb. 13:1, 2 Pet. 1:7)! That’s also Family-speak!!!

The Bible also says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:8-9). It says, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Pet. 5:1-2).

The Bible says, “But as many as received Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

Christ still loves His Church gobs today, and He is still building it up—developing it to reflect His light and glory. He wants each of us to grow up and no longer act like children doing our own thing, demanding our own independent way. Jesus, knowing what is best for you and others, wants to be Lord of all in your life.. for all your life. But..but what about church transitions ..like your title touches on, Kurt? 
  
A.) Jesus Christ began His Church as a spiritual family.

There has been a whole lot of business lingo used these days to discuss matters of Christ’s Church, but it’s a warm-hearted family. I see a lot of family talk used in the New Testament, not business speak in regards to the Church. It should be viewed as a family, not some opportunity for me to have a salary. I'm not in it (not in Christ nor in His Body) for an income. The Gospel is about Christ, not me. The Church is for the glory of God, not for Kurt.. though I've been blessed by Christ through His Church many times. 

Some so called church growth experts seem to want all churches to function like huge well-oiled secular corporations and some of them I’m sure.. wouldn’t mind profiting from them. Many Church pastors and leaders want bigger, more professional churches. Some want a lot more income, but many of them do have a heart to win more people, to make more disciples, to make an impact globally. And I really rejoice in all the good principles that many are learning about the Church. But not all of these contemporary and professional principles that are being applied in churches across our Land are biblical or even pleasing to God.

Personally I believe every church and every believer needs to grow. Every Christian and every local church needs to evangelize so they won’t stagnate. I have served in and still love to see healthy mega churches as well as healthy small churches! What a joy!!! Spiritually well-fed Christians naturally reproduce other reproducing disciple-makers and Christ rejoices in this. He gets the glory for He alone is our Source that we look to! He is the Head of the Family. 

Never forget that Christ is to be our focus and that the Church began as “Family” ..and that it will be a loving family through out all eternity. Let's all get back to the truths and principles that we see in the book of Acts if we want to see the same kind of evangelistic results that they saw. 

I love all the family terms and concepts that the Bible uses to describe this relationship we enjoy: Father (Matt. 26:42), births (1 Pet. 1:23), babies (1Pet. 2:2), maturity (Heb. 5:12-14), growth (2 Pet. 3:18), learning to walk (Gal. 5:16, 25, Eph. 2:10, 5:2, Col. 4:5). There are many more. 


B.) The church then changed into an institution in Rome. 


And I don't mean that there were no more real Christians on earth at the time. There were believers who were reflecting Christ's light in the darkness and other people seeking to make it into a mere religion. 


There have always been some believers doing their part on earth ever since the birth of the Church in Acts. But ask yourself.. Why does Mr Lu-Cifer (the devil) diligently seek to turn God’s church into a religious organization that's acceptable with this world system? It’s because he himself is religious and God is not. Many in Europe where we used to live, told us how they felt that they had tried Christianity before, but it somehow failed them so they turned to other things for answers. But after a closer look, what they actually had tried was really just dead religion and these people were never born of the Spirit at the time (later on they told me they did experience the John 3:3 experience).

Hey gang, God is so practical, but Satan knows that if he can get saints and sinners confused about churches and denominations and about what the Church is to be… if he can simply get the people in the churches to trust in their works, in old church traditions, in so called church leaders (who are dead as a doornail), and in rituals to save them, and then guess what.. the enemy has accomplished his goal.

C.) The Church then changed into a political view in all of Europe.

Many real believers in Europe and in America who are primarily called to lovingly know the Lord and make Him known in love.. have now made politics their main passion instead. This is simply foolish. 

"HEY KURT, TOGETHER WE HAVE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS AND FIGHT AGAINST THE EVIL!"

"If only we can vote into power other selfless Christians, we will then have a better safer world for our families." 

Good desires! I want to join in the good fight of faith every day with you! Don’t get me wrong, we all need to pray and go vote ..and I am for having godly leaders in power too, but people’s hearts need to be changed by the Lord. 

Sinners sin because they are sinners. No leader can force them to be right in how they live. God starts with the heart. They need a new nature inside. Spreading the Gospel addresses the root of the problem, not merely the symptoms of it. Voting is a great privilege for us and we need to pray and vote wisely, taking what the Bible says into consideration as we prioritize all we do! Prophecy will be fulfilled, for sure. Therefore, we need to be 100% committed to Christ and live what we believe.. witnessing faithfully about Christ and His Gospel that saves even more.
   
D.) And then the Church was changed into a business ..in America.

It's amazing to me how many ministers spend hours and hours each week writing polished letters to other ministries here in America wanting them to send em money so that they could have a full time "career" with a good salary. I get these letters often and some of them are scams and frauds. But some of the most godly men I know who are making an impact are bi-vocational ministers and lay leaders. Paul did both. There were times when he build tents and others times when he was full time on the mission field. He wasn't all depressed or angry at God because he wasn't full time with a salary. He didn't seek a career for himself first or a big title. Pastors in China are sometimes full time, then in prison, then part time or full time and then back in prison, but they don't sweat it. Fact: All born again Christians are full time ministers of the Gospel, but not all are to be full time in vocational ministry. Duh. Are the full timers with salaries superior? No; sometimes they make less impact with their witness! Some of the most effective witnesses I know never had a salary. Ever heard of Bill Bright the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ? 


Have you ever been to a so called religious book selling conference in America with big named entertainers performing? Many real Christians go to these for all the right reasons, and I guess some go with the wrong motives. Those things can get real weird though when you see all the cheap plastic junk sold that has the name of Christ stuck on it. Christians, we need to stop that kind of stuff. Seems like they'll put "Jesus" on anything these days just to make a buck. 

Yes, it’s amazing how many Christians we come across here in Dallas that have as their main aspiration inside of them ..to becoming a full-time paid professionals for God. And many do want to become more fruitful sure. Nothing wrong with that. Many do want to make a worldwide difference. That's wonderful, but the church is to be seen as "family," not as a business opportunity.

As Christians, our identity doesn’t need to be tied to our career any longer, no matter what career path we choose. And all Christians are to be full-time ministers in a sense, no matter what vocation God leads them into. None of us should feel like beat-downs if we don’t receive a salary or some sizable income for serving Jesus. Don't listen to, or support the TV preachers who teach that you should have faith for millions of dollars as your serve Jesus. God might not want to give you millions, but He will provide for you however He wants to. That is His business. Our job is to remain faithful to Him.

In China where believers and their pastors go to prison for sharing their faith ..sometimes incarcerated multiple times.. we often see pastors and Christians serving the Lord in various jobs upon their release during different seasons of life and walk, just so that they can provide for their families before they are thrown into the jail again. But they each continue to minister ..as they should. Perhaps things in Western World countries will become more and more like that, especially for witnessing believers. We, the Church, have got to be ready to die for our faith!
       
As brothers and sisters in God’s Family, all Christians are to relate as a family members. We are to be servants to one another, and no one of us is to lord it over the others (Mk 10:42-45). That's why Jesus specifically criticized the use of honorific titles that might contradict our status as children and even undermine our sense of intimacy we enjoy with our Father.. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12). Have you been raised in a formal church where you were trained to call your pastors, Priest or Father or Apostle or Prophet?

And why would we, as God’s family, want to start calling our leaders by corporate titles as well, or be treating each other as non-family members?

The Bible says that we’ve been redeemed by Jesus Christ for our Father and are now the children of God,  “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:1-7).

Although spiritual authority including submission to God’s direct or delegated authority is not really sought after by the masses these days, many people of the younger generation.. who perhaps have come from broken homes with absent dads.. is desperately hungry for “loving Family.” They are not craving or hungry for some cold corporation that primarily cares about the bottom-line. That’s why we have seen the rise of gangs in our cities and why we are seeing so many TV shows and movies where friends are making their own friends.. their family. Everyone wants to be accepted and appreciated as God made them!

He giveth His Family more grace when the people’s burdens grow Heavier, He sendeth more strength when the their labors increase; with much added pain, He still remains sane, to acute affliction He addeth more mercy, to multiplied troubles, tribulation and trials, He can add in multiplied peace. Where sin abounds, grace all the more!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father. ~Matthew 5:16

Let us go forth, as called of God, redeemed by Jesus’ precious blood; His love to show, His life to live, His Message speak, His mercy give. ~Whittle

Christians and pastors need to provide “Family” for the hurting, before others with not-so-good-intentions do this. Are you feeling lonely today? Have you had church-hurt and now need to be healed and restored? It can happen. God so wants all who are lonely or still breathing to be placed in healthy local churches that nurture, so that they can experience His kind Family forever!

Of true Christians, the Bible says, “..Let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. Sing to God, sing praises to His Name; extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him. A Father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land" (Ps. 68:3-6). He could set them in a lean, mean business settings I suppose, but He still chooses to set them in His Family!

If we want to see Bible results, we've got to get back to Bible principles putting the Word first! The Church is family; it can't same anyone really, but we can view each other properly and work together exalting Christ to the ends of the earth. 


Q: What have you been craving or wanting to see God do in your life? Are you needing a place to belong with other flawed people ..who care? 
Of course a lot more could be said about the Church with verses included, but I will allow you to say it for me here if you’d like to…
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