A Summary of This Week’s Keynote Message for Prayer, Reflection & Response.
Signpost: See & Engage the Harvest
Theme: ‘Jesus: Did He exercise a ministry OR build His church? Part 2 of 3
Reference Scriptures – Matthew 16; Acts 1:1 – 2:40-47; Acts 6:15-7:60; Ephesians
Speaker: Graeme Hush
(based on work done in partnership with Brian Medway since 2008 and edited with fresh revelation)
The late Spring into Summer 2018-19 Campaign
Introducing a 3 Part Series to give ‘Kingdom of God’ foundations for the ‘Communities of HOPE’ Strategy and ways we can all play our part
Jesus: Did He exercise a ministry OR build His church?
- The idea of a Community of HOPE (church) in a sphere
- What we can learn from New Testament Pictures of the Church
- There’s nothing wrong with a Ministry; It’s just not Church
2.What we can learn from New Testament Pictures of the Church
There are a lot of places to look for Biblical snapshots of the idea of church.
No doubt there were some aspects of the life of the synagogue that carried over into the church, but the people who want to suggest that church was just a Gentile or multi-race version of synagogue will have to disregard a lot of Biblical evidence to the contrary.
Our passionate focus at CCC is for Jesus to build His church (Communities of Heaven On Planet Earth) right where we are.
If we can sidestep the large cultural default association of “church” that we have developed in the west over the last few centuries we might be able to glean a picture that will not just ORBIT AROUND a crack worship team, a few talking heads, a stage and a sound system, but will give a community sphere the opportunity to see, hear and feel the presence of Jesus Christ (whether they have these things or not).
Our way of doing this will be to take a passage of Scripture that gives some picture of the church and gather all of the information we can and then write a summary description for our own circumstances and see how it might apply in our everyday ‘kingdom’ engagements and conversations.
We’ve spent priority time in Matthew 16 because this is the only time Jesus gave specific or detailed information about the church. That idea alone is not the significant thing.
What we need to be sure about is getting a strong sense of the picture that Jesus painted. If he didn’t say much, what he did say must be important. Here’s a brief summary – Matt 16
- An acknowledgement of Christ based on a revelation, Peter’s burning bush moment with God (Matt. 16:17)
- Engaging with and overcoming the powers of darkness (18)
- Receiving the keys of the kingdom from Jesus & exercising authority that sees the kingdom of God established (binding and loosing) (19)
- Discipleship that demonstrates Jesus’ strategic weapons through becoming selflessly God centred, willingly cross bearing and submitted (i.e. YES – SAYING) followers of Jesus. (21-27)
Our next summary picture of the ‘church’ is taken from Acts 2:40-47
Here is the picture of the first ever church – a picture that indicates or examples the church the Holy Spirit can produce from 3,000 people who believe, are baptized in water and filled with the Spirit – that is, ‘immersed INTO Christ’.
We have generally created theological institutions out of these experiences. The many I can think of (and you can probably think of others), are identified with either traditional institutional (including liturgical) positions, evangelical and or pentecostal theologies.
Let’s make a clear point here … the language used to paint this picture of church DOES NOT make those distinctions and probably for very good reasons.
Here’s my summary picture of ‘church’ as per the objectives of this brief study – see if you can envision these things being reality in the life of our own Church Missionary Hub AND in the potential Communities of HOPE in your sphere?
- People who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to effectively represent Jesus (Acts 1 & 2 cf. 1:8)
- People who have decided to set aside the perverse ways of the prevailing or dominating pagan culture (2:40)
- People who have made a willing commitment to Christ and have been baptized (2:41)
- People who devote themselves to receiving and representing the apostolic* message (2:42) * The message of Jesus’ life & ministry i.e. heaven On earth – kingdom advancing – sustainable and reproducible equipping strategy – ‘as you are going’, disciple all nations
- People who devote themselves to building strong and strategic relationships with the other believers (2:42)
- People who value the sharing of the covenant meal (2:42)
- People who devote themselves to prayer (2:42)
- People who share a common reverence for God (2:43)
- People who have faith for the super-natural (2:43)
- People who are willing to share what they have to meet the needs of others (2:44)
- People who see others constantly coming to Christ because they represent and demonstrate something that looks like Jesus and celebrate this gift they’ve received in a way that encourages others to engage and receive (2:47)
Our next summary picture of the ‘church’ is taken from the whole of Ephesians
The book of Ephesians is all about church. All Paul’s letters are about church, but the Ephesian letter is possibly the most comprehensive.
Taking the six chapters as a whole, the major issues could be summarized like this: see if you can identify things that support and add to the Acts 2 picture we just glimpsed and envision these things where you are?
- People who’ve embraced the spiritual blessings of heaven (1:3-14)
- People who pursue every expression of the rule of Christ (1:15-23)
- People who share a common experience; having been rescued from darkness (2:1-10)
- People whose oneness provides a dwelling place for God’s presence (2:11-22)
- People who collectively proclaim the plan of God for the universe (3:1-13)
- People who love what God loves the way he loves (3:14-21)
- People whose relationships reflect divine oneness (4:1-6)
- People who together proclaim the fullness of Christ to their community (4:7-16)
- People who live a lifestyle marked by heavenly values (4:17-6:9)
- People who know how to use the strategic weapons & armoury that Jesus used, to engage and overcome the spiritual enemies of God’s purpose (6:10-20)
Now … let me encourage you to have a look at the churches of Corinth, Philippi, Galatia, Thessalonica, Colossae, Seven Churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 & 3 etc. and see what you can identify in those churches that might apply where you live, work and or play…..
Over the next couple of weeks, I will establish a variety of times across a few days and at different times where those of you who are up for it, might have some reflection and review conversations with me …. I have my home study set up now, so I will ‘bed post’ some reflections also.
(At this point in the message I shared some reflections from my heart about some of the conversations that have been circling about the place. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to clear some things up that may have been a little lost or become foggy along the way, misunderstood or misinterpreted. Just a few things for our context. I used points to be as brief as I could but invited deeper conversations about any or all of what follows)
Culture Change NOT Disregard for or Dishonouring Heritage – just because we have done something a certain way for a long time OR do things because others do them; in NO WAY makes them more correct or better than anything else. IN FACT, if we don’t align what we are doing and thinking of doing with the standard of Jesus’ life and ministry, we are in danger of continuing to use a can opener that looks OK but can no longer open cans.
To be CLEAR, I believe the task I was invited by this church to do, has been to nurture a fantastic bunch of people whilst helping them to reform their ‘doing church’ culture to seek everyday to be more like Jesus and less like the world system so the kingdom of God can advance in the neighbourhood with the awesome heritage of this wonderful church but without the encumberments of the challenges of its past and the cycles of its programming. Reframing a church’s methods to prioritise the Primary Purpose of God (so everything else is an outworking of that and not vice versa which has never ended well for any church), is not an easy or a speedy journey – just absolutely necessary if the local church is to sustain and reproduce the sort of community transforming ministry that it craves to leave behind as an appropriate legacy with this and the next generation.
I’m not interested in change for changes sake, BUT I am interested in equipping a church towards the sort of fullness IN Christ that can equip us for ‘fishing in stormy seas’.
‘Why don’t you focus on increasing attendance at Sunday morning’s gathering?’
I will answer this question the same way I answered a similar question in 1984 just so you can see it’s not a new response, it’s a consistent one.
I will seek revelation from Jesus as often as my humanness will allow, to reshape ministry to focus on ‘making disciples and making sure we disciple/equip them for the work of God’. If I focus on that and start there, I will be closer to where Jesus started and everything else will flow from that. If I don’t focus on this, as soon as I stop doing what I do, however worthwhile it might be, I won’t have built the house on rock – only sand and it won’t stand the test of time, however long we have left.
The Sunday meeting won’t have any future or context if it relies on what one person can bring to it. It must become a celebration of a ‘body’ of people who each have testimonies about what Jesus is doing in their lives and spheres of life, otherwise it will always rely on the quality of the performance or presentation. These things aren’t mutually exclusive (as I learnt from my mentor back in the 80’s) because our best gifts and efforts are our ONLY appropriate offering to God; BUT we must reproduce – even replace ourselves from the moment we can so it’s about the grace that Christ apportions and not something less worthy. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.’ (Ps. 127:1)
The Sunday meeting will grow AS WELL as multiple other established gatherings that missionaries equipped by us will ask Jesus to build around them, because we declare, represent and demonstrate the kingdom of Heaven on earth TOGETHER and people will want to be a part of a CAUSE like that.
NB: Check out the difference in responses to pretty much the same message in Acts 2:36ff and Acts 6:15-7:60. Could the difference have something to do with the hearts of the target audiences?
The following are point form reflections that are responses I listed intended to clear up some misunderstandings, even misinterpretations.
Most evangelism is done in places where the saved already are. I am not saying stop doing that, I am simply saying, let’s learn together and equip each other for evangelism in the majority of places we live, work and play where the saved aren’t.
Jesus has a plan & a strategy, why would I focus on something I thought might be more effective than that.
To build something that genuinely carries God’s presence takes time, prayer, a vision, an unswerving commitment and a plan that helps everyone to play THEIR part. Don’t stop doing bible studies or playing scrabble or doing coffee meetings, just pray about how we might be able to take what is being revealed to us by God and apply it with the Spirit’s help and leadership so that the event or program can become a safe community where people can enquire about the Jesus that has made the difference in you. That’s a foundation for ‘communities of HOPE’.
We are in the world NOT of it. In order to establish a safe place that the community will trust again so some of the things that some of us would like to see be restored can be, we need to comply to the law. To do this as a church (and not some other institution) we need to start with Jesus and work out how we can give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and do it as ONE IN CHRIST so we don’t become more like Caesar. … Yes, we are supposed to be God pleasers NOT human pleasers BUT I want more relationship NOT less, I want more accountability, shared responsibility and community engagement NOT less, I want a constitution that supports this sort of openness, oneness and covenantal transparency NOT one that disempowers and marginalizes because it’s unclear & can be used without clarity to achieve less than helpful outcomes.
The new wineskin has been around for a while & we can grab a hold of it with everything we have or not. By the grace and power of God we can create MULTIPLE entry points so that wherever there are followers of Jesus, people who have never experienced kingdom truth can engage with it OR we can keep pouring new wine into skins that just can’t hold it, can’t sustain it and can’t reproduce it.
I’m talking about a boat, where there are a few people who are growing in the skills needed to sail and navigate, there are a few others who can assist in a multitude of ways with what they bring to the boat and there are others who just need to be carried in it for a while until they recover or find their sea legs.
We just need to give control of the anchors to those who know where to drop them and know where and when to raise them instead of allowing indiscriminate anchors to work against the flow.
Boats are safe in the harbour but that’s not what they were built for – in fact they are safest and achieve most for all involved if they pursue their primary purpose
My concluding comments on Sunday were: –
On your behalf I have been busy making connections, developing relationships and establishing opportunities to inspire the process and provide some catalysts.
I will outline the most tangible possibilities in the next few weeks as part of our annual vision review, so we can together determine what God’s calling us to have a go at and what He’s not.
Let me encourage you to get on board, take your ‘right place’ as a crew member (skilled or apprentice) or a passenger, for a time such as this and prepare to cruise out of the Heads.
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