NT Church Proliferation Digest Monday, September 3 2001 Vol 01 : 061
[ntcp] City or Meeting level elders, or none at all for that matter.
[ntcp] The Organic Church-Part 3
[ntcp] Bible education for the church
Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2001 14:05:53 +0200
Subject: [ntcp] City or Meeting level elders, or none at all for that matter.
I have finaly got a working P.C. back in my hands, and so I can resolve
my frustration after days of posts to which i would have loved to reply!
I'm afraid this post is going to be a general response to everything
that i have read here rather than being a specific response point by
point. It might not be very scientific but it is real.
1. Nowadays almost none of us live in cultures that are truly new
to the gospel. Therefore we are not working within a NT base. Our base
will be different from that of Paul and Barnabas. Someone working in LA
among street-people, will not be working with the same class of people
that Paul encountered on his missionary journeys. Then again, I work in
a country where the majority would consider themselves "post-christian"
(That is: Been there, seen that, bought the t-shirt and found it
irelivant), yet which has a thick as treacle layer of the most
supersticious Catholicism (Just 40 miles from my home a woman
daily "channels" the virgin Mary, with the full aproval of many
catholic priests). In my area I have difficulties that Paul and
Barnabas could never have imagined, and yet I feel the need to work in
a NT way. How then should I continue......................
2. First, I want to think about wether we should appoint elders
straight away or wait awhile. For me it is clear that appointing
seminary students to lookafter the work here would be disasterous. the
local witches here would swallow the average seminary student whole
(they've had many a missionary in their time). And if the witches
didn't get them the secular rationalists, would run rings around them.
We took three years before appointing elders in the church here, and
then chose a father-son duo. The father is a we respected member of the
gypsy community, who married a payo (non-gypsy) wife. Both are
respected for their love, care and faith by the whole community (not
just gypsies). Neither read or write very well, but they are full of
the Holy Spirit and Power. Because of his gypsy past, the father is
well able to cut through the supersticious, showing his utter disregard
for it in the light of the revelation of Jesus. The son on the other
hand has blended into secular Spanish culture and become a banker. He
show a similar faith and servant leadership as his father. Since their
appointment, both men have showed their worth many times over.
3. Should elders be older? Well, I was first appointed "elder" of
a church at just 19 years old.......... I won't bore you with the list
of mistakes I made, I doubt if there is enough internet space in all
the world for that. That being said I have been involved in apostolic
ministry since i was 21 years old. I tend to think of the term elder
more interms of "more mature" than in terms of "old man". Whilst I
accept that the hebrew understanding of elder was and is, someone that
is older, I am drawn to the image of the twelve year old Jesus, arguing
with the elders in the temple. His spiritual maturity and authority
confounded them all. I think that my reaction to this question could be
summed up in the old addage: If young men have visions, and old men
dream dreams, why is it that the middle aged run the Church? I find a
healthy tension in the Timothys and the Moseses, although never trully
at home in each others company they have the tendency to get things
right. Those who know a bit more about Church history than I tell me
that Clement of Rome was a young man when he was made Bishop,
4. The question of city or meeting level elders, I think is a non
argument. Those who have read my work will realize that I argue for
both (I just love to have my cake and eat it - I'll send you a photo
sometime to prove it). I think that each christian needs a personal,
direct, close relationship not only with members of his cell/ Home
Church/ Group or whatever but also with a servant leader. This is not
to be seen in terms of a covering, but in terms of a caring,
relationship. Although it is not a perfect analogy, I sometimes talk
about the influence that a favorite uncle had over me as a child. He
had no real authority in my life, but led me through example, love and
just being there for me. I would do anything for that man.
Cities are undoubtedly the level at which God and his servants the
apostles see and relate to elders, I guess the real question is: Is the
servant leader of a cell/ Home Church/ Group or whatever an elder? As I
see the cell/ Home Church/ Group or whatever as a fully valid
expression of church I would have to answer YES. you may say that this
would lead to an unweildy presbetry, I would dissagree, I think it
leads to a broadly based presbetry.
I hope that my incoherant babblings add something to the debate.
Love and blessings,
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Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2001 14:11:10 +0200
Subject: [ntcp] The Organic Church-Part 3
The Apostolic Planting of Organic Churches
As I work more than anything else in the area of Church planting and
development, I have often been asked by others working in the field to
spell out how one could plant a new organic church.
This type of Church Planting should always start with your
family, where you are. Whilst it is possible to use this method in new
areas, it works best in a place where you are to some extent known. For
example, anybody trying to apply the following method as a newcomer to
a town in Spain, where I work, would find that they either had poor
results or weak commitments. I will give some suggestions for people
starting in totally new situations at the end on this article.
Your family is the beginning of the first cell, perhaps with
one or two others who have joined you to start the new church. From the
very beginning you should stress informality and your commitment to the
others in the group (thus mirroring a commitment that you want to see
in them, although you may never demand it). It is vital that you bring
no preconceived ideas with you into the group, only the Bible may be
your guide. If you don't like dancing in church you must learn to love
it, because God thinks it's neat. If you don't like people falling
over, then you're going to have to argue with God if it starts to
happen in your group. You must do nothing to stop any Biblical move
that comes into your Church. If you can't live with that idea, then
please don't even try to plant an organic church, because you will
probably fail and will almost certainly damage any who enter the poor
misshapen thing that you may produce. The Holy Spirit is life, and He
will certainly not be constrained to your ideas, or mine.
Add 1 or 2 new people at a time (not necessarily believers, but
open seekers). Your main thrust at the beginning should be making new
contacts and friends, whilst at the same time maintaining those that
you have for evangelisation within the group. Remember, new folk always
bring others with them. Where you make new contacts will depend very
much on the culture within which you minister. For example, the
Apostles went to the market places. Whilst we lived in Eastbourne we
made many useful contacts and friends in the local launderette. Later,
when I had a part-time job in a health food store, our contacts came
from the clients there. Still later I headed up a counselling centre
and almost all of our contacts came from there. Here in Spain, things
are somewhat different. Most people meet and make new friends and
contacts in bars where people drop in at all times of day and night to
have a coffee or a drink. One of the most widely heard criticisms of
(especially American) missionaries here in Spain is their failure to
understand that bars are where you make contacts in this culture (I
even met one missionary that was forbidden by his mission board to
enter a bar). WHEREVER PEOPLE NORMALLY MAKE FRIENDS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD
BE. I once knew a very shy person who liked hiking, and joined a
rambling club. Within a few months she had told everyone in the club
about her faith and two or three went to her house a couple of times a
week to look at the Bible and/or watch Christian videos. Within a year
every member of the rambling club had become a Christian, and she had a
sizeable cell- church meeting in her home. You don't have to be an
extroverted "go-getter" to plant churches, you just have to share the
most precious thing that you have, your faith.
At the beginning, don't have "meetings", just informal get-
togethers in the evenings and at weekends. Naturally share your faith,
as you have the opportunity, teaching by example. Other things you
teach as need arises. For example, pray for the needs of folk. In this
way you teach prayer, trust in God and that God answers prayer, all at
the same time. Vary the content of your get-togethers; watch a video
(Christian or secular - secular videos are great conversation
starters). Talk about current affairs in the light of God's Word, read
the Bible, Listen to Christian music, rather than sing praise and
worship, which should be a heart response to god and will naturally
flow as the folk learn to trust God. Have practical Bible studies, what
does the Bible say about marriage, our work etc. You should pray
naturally in the group about peoples real and specific needs (not just
God bless Dolly, but God, please heal Dolly's in-growing toenail and
help her to stop being so crabby).
Your meetings should be natural, not organised. Not just once a
week, but everyday as need arises (Acts 2:46). As the group grows
encourage members to open their homes, and move from house to house.
Some have thought this a weakness, because the reason for the group (to
be a church) may become diverted by a new couple, but in my experience
this can easily be corrected when they next meet in your home (which
should be the most regular meeting place anyway). There is a small risk
of losing some, but this risk is worth it for the saints to be able to
live in the liberty of God. You can find further information about this
in Gene Edwards excellent book, "Preventing a Church Split".
When the group size reaches 10 to 12 you should consider
starting a regular teaching plan. This should be foundational teaching
for the new church and should include: "what is a Christian?" ("Alpha
Course" for example), living and growing in the faith, the local church
(Organic church principles as explained in the first part of this book)
etc. other subjects you should tackle as they come up, not what you
think people need but their real, voiced needs. These studies will be
the first step towards organization and should be handled sensitively
to find a time and place suitable for all. These studies should not be
a straight teach. It is obvious that the folk will look to you as
leader, but each person should be encouraged to contribute what they
have found in the Bible, or even their own personal point of view, but
always balanced by the Word of God.
There should be a continual influx of people as a result of
active outreaches (Alpha courses, open-airs, evangelistic meals, etc)
and as present members introduce friends and relatives. As these new
people come along, they should be immediately incorporated into the
group. If an Alpha Course (or any other entry course) happens to form a
particularly close knit group, there is no reason why this should not
become an associated cell straight away, thus precipitating the
formation of the congregational level.
By this time your teaching programme should be tackling the
local church and the sacraments (See a possible teaching plan later).
As far as the local church is concerned, one must stress that a small
group without a grand building is a valid expression of the local
church and that all true believers are priests apt to minister to God
(whatever their cultural backgrounds may say). They need to be taught
that authority normally resides with the elders, who will inform and
consult with the members about important issues. Those who exercise
ministries of the Holy Spirit should be seen as the gifts to the church
that they are, and not as some sort of pope or bishop.
As far as the sacraments are concerned, I believe that
many "cell-churches" fail in this area, either the sacraments are moved
to the congregational level, thus making that the real expression of
the church, rather than the cell. Or, on the other hand, some try
to "do it" like the "church down the road", therefore introducing an
unnecessary formality into a group.
Baptism can best be performed within the family atmosphere of
the "cell", with other leaders and friends to participate too. If
several cells have people to baptise at the same time, then the leaders
can agree to have a congregational activity. For example all of the
cells could meet in a local park for a baptismal service. The
candidates would be baptised by a recognised local ministry (Apostle,
Prophet or Evangelist) and one of their cell leaders. Later all could
share a communal meeting (Agape) with other members of their cell,
whilst having social interaction with other cells.
Holy Communion should almost always be celebrated within the cell, as
it has its roots in the Passover meal, which was always celebrated in
the family and never communally. It is hard to justify H.C. in large
gatherings. Perhaps the only thing I can think of is when there is a
need for a corporate demonstration of unity (e.g. when new cells or
churches come into the congregation/celebration, when new leaders or
ministers are recognised in the wider group, etc.)
Another significant move at about this time will be the possible
separation of the original cell into two or more new cells. This is a
vital time in the new group. Stress should be placed on our
congregational unity and not on "splitting into smaller groups". I
often use the illustration of a gardener planting seeds. As the seeds
grow in the seed tray the gardener carefully transfers the tender
seedlings to another situation where they can grow on with more room,
sometimes having to transplant them again before they are put into
their final position. I have written in part 1 that friends should
wherever possible be kept together at this time. In stressing our
congregational unity we will obviously have to start a congregational
meeting. Look for a suitable meeting place in the community that can be
hired on a weekly basis (a community centre, school, library, lounge of
a pub or hotel or a restaurant) and then start your meeting with some
sort of special celebration, to which you can invite the press and
local authorities, thus announcing your presence to the wider community.
By now the growth of the church should follow the lines I put
forward in part one, eventually leading to celebration meetings and
I did say earlier that I would say something about folk who
are starting in entirely new situations. If you find yourself in this
position, perhaps you are a missionary or church planter, spend your
first six to twelve months just getting to know the lie of the land. As
much as possible involve yourself in community activities (My wife and
I are on the local town twinning committee). Make friends, and
contacts, do "normal" things. Let those around you see your faith as a
natural part of your life. Only when you have the confidence of the
people can you then move to the next step. In some cultures this can
take a long time. In our present situation in northern Spain it has
taken us about three years to become accepted as part of the town, In
another place it took us six months, on a new estate in Eastbourne,
Sussex, it took us only a month or two. Don't worry about the time
periods that I am mentioning Paul often spent a long time in the places
he visited. Looking back on our past work, I find that the Lord moves
us on every 2 to 6 years. You must be sensitive to the Spirit. Once you
are established, then continue as above.
NOTES - A possible teaching plan for use when planting an organic
Week 1 - Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant - The Alpha
Week 2 - Who is Jesus? - The Alpha Course
Week 3 - Why did Jesus die? - The Alpha Course
Week 4 - How can I be sure of my faith? - The Alpha Course
Week 5 - Why and How should I read the Bible? - The Alpha Course
Week 6 - Why and How do I pray? - The Alpha Course
Week 7 - How does God guide us? - The Alpha Course
Weekend or Awayday
Who is the Holy Spirit? - The Alpha Course
What does the Holy Spirit do? - The Alpha Course
How can I be filled with the Spirit? - The Alpha Course
How can I make the most of the rest of my life? - The
Week 8 - How can I resist evil? - The Alpha Course
Week 9 - Why and How should we tell others? - The Alpha Course
Week 10 - Does God heal today? - The Alpha Course
Week 11 - What about the church? - The Alpha Course
Week 12 - Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant - The Alpha
Week 13 - New Life in the Spirit - Telling others Acts 1:8
Week 14 - New Life in the Spirit - Good Fruit (The fruit of the
Week 15 - New Life in the Spirit - Good Gifts (The Gifts of the
Week 16 - New Life in the Spirit - Special Gifts (The Gift
Week 17 - Free to be me - Liberation
Week 18 - Sacraments - Baptism
Week 19 - Sacraments - Holy Communion
Week 20 - The Local Church - Cells - The Church at its
Week 21 - The Local Church - Local Leadership - Deacons and
Week 22 - The Local Church - Finance
Week 23 - Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant - The Alpha
Week 24 - Living a Holy life in a Fallen World
Week 25 - Growing Together - Family life in a Busy Church
The Alpha Course is a 15 session practical introduction to the
Christian Faith. For more information please contact:
The Alpha Office,
Holy Trinity Brompton,
London, SW7 1JA
Telephone: (+44) 0171 581 8255 Fax: (+44) 0171 584 8536
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Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001 20:57:10 +0700
Subject: [ntcp] Bible education for the church
Michael Millier pointed something out in an email to me recently. The book of
Galatians, though apparently written to churches that included a large number of
Gentiles (that the Judaizers wanted to circumcise) assumes a deep knowledge of
the Old Testament-- a level of knowledge most modern Christians don't have.
That's pretty amazing when you think that these were Gentile converts to
Christianity. Paul made several detailed points out of the Old Testament, as if
these Gentile Christians already knew these scriptures.
Let's think about the cultural background. Many of the Gentile converts were
probably God-fearing Gentiles already interested in the God of Israel before
Paul came along. And they may have heard the Law read, explained, and debated
in the synagogues before Paul came along. And new additions to the church who
had come out of paganism may have continued this deep study of the scriptures.
I read a point on a discussion group a few days ago that Jesus taught in simple
parables. This was supposed to be an argument against deep Bible expository
Actually, many of Jesus' teachings already assume an understanding of the Law--
the Sermon on the Mount for example. We need to keep in mind what level of
knowledge Jesus' audience had.
In Jesus' day, I've read that boys age 5 went to a school to learn the Torah for
5 years. They may have studied other books as well, especially those who went
on for five more years of training. I got this from a Sunday school book when I
was a kid, and I don't know if I can verify it, but supposedly, the boys who
studied the Torah for 5 years, learned to quote it! Imagine that- quoting
Now, many Orthodox Jewish children actually learn another language- Hebrew, in
addition to the history, tradition, and culture of their people.
Compare this to many Christian communities, where many kids grow up with Sunday
school programs that go over the major stories, and listen to topical sermons,
but often do not read through the Bible by the time they are adults.
Think about the American educational system. I did a little math and estimated
that students spend over 13,000 hours in school from first grade to graduation
from high school. They spend all that time in school, learning math, science,
history. But many of these same children never read through the Bible. Where
are our priorities in education? Didn't some of the early colonists up in
Massachusetts (?) set up schools in the hopes that everyone in their colony
would know how to read so that they could read the Bible?
Many evangelical churches have abandoned the traditional practice (which has
support from scripture) of reading the scriptures in church gatherings.
instead, some pastors teach by 'scripture hopping.' They preach on whatever
passage seems good to them. In some cases, a denominational preacher focuses a
lot of his attention on certain passages over and over again. For example, a
Word of Faith preacher might quote the verse about moving mountains in over 25%
of his sermons. He will mention many healing scriptures, but the scriptures
about not loving money and giving to the poor might get little airtime.
Shouldn't our church communities actually teach children the entire Bible?
Shouldn't parents be doing this? Educating our children in the things of the
Lord is a parent's responsibility. Teaching the saints, including children, is
a responsibility that rests upon the whole church, particularly those gifted to
I believe one of the main reasons that we see so many man-made traditions in the
church is that people in the church get the same verses over and over, and don't
really dig into the Bible themselves. There are plenty of believers who do
two-verse devotional readings, but never dig into the theme of a verse. We need
I believe there is evidence from the Bible that we should actually read and
study the Bible in our gatherings. Historically, before the printing press and
near universal literacy, the church meeting was the place for reading the
scriptures (of course by Luther's time, it was read in Latin.) In the OT, the
Law was to be read publicly at times, and the Jews certainly did this later in
the synagogue- an activity Jesus took part in. Paul wrote that certain of his
letters be read to church assemblies. He told Timothy to give himself 'to
reading' which some have translated as 'the public reading of the scriptures.'
Let me present a vision for something that is growing in my heart- putting
together curriculums for Christian education for children and for adult new
believers that become Christians.
One method for doing this is used by Bob Fitts, (author of _The Church In the
House_.) This is a simple method called Discussion Bible Study. You sit in a
circle and take turns reading two verses apiece. After two verses or so, anyone
can make a comment or ask a question. He recommends that a leader keep things
on track. Some 'simple Bible colleges' go through the whole New Testament this
way. Especially if there are some 'veterans' or people who know the Bible in
the group, this method could really be education. Reading the Bible in the
meetings also serves as a way to make sure people actually read the Bible. It's
easy for people to skip nights when they are on a Bible-reading schedule and
eventually get out of the habit of reading.
I have some other ideas in mind, too. Maybe someone could put together some
public domain, uncopywrited commentaries that could be translated to languages,
posted on the web, and used in nations all over the world. These commentaries
could explain who the Pharisees were, who the Saducees were, explain the history
and customs, etc. so that Christians could understand passages of scripture.
Maybe a good Bible dictionary would help. These commentaries could be printed
cheaply for use in poor areas.
Students could be given a general idea of church history, the history of
theology, and learn about the martyrs. The idea is to give Christians a sense
of what Christians have experienced as 'a people.' In school, they learn about
their own nation's history. Why not learn about the kingdom of God?
Maps of Israel would be good, too. Children could grow up memorizing and
coloring maps of Israel from different time periods in history, maps of the
middle east, etc. Knowing maps of Israel would make understanding the Bible
Bible memorization is another area where young people could grow up with a good
education. The Waldensian elders memorized Gospels and letters of Paul before
being ordained. In the ancient world, plenty of Bards memorized the equivalent
of long books worth of poetry. Many M'slims memorize the AlKoran. If they can
do that, why can't Christians memorize a lot of the Bible?
I used to be in Assemblies of God Teen Bible Quiz. The kids that are successful
in that program memorize a book or books every year, and quote the assigned
material. It comes out to around 30 chapters per year.
If Christian kids in a community all grew up memorizing Proverbs, a Gospel, some
letters of Paul, Psalms, portions of the Torah, it would seem normal. If
everyone did it as a part of their education, this wouldn't seem so amazing.
Unfortunately, it seems like some are so down on 'head knowledge' that they
don't like the idea of this program. But Christ had a lot of 'head knowledge.'
If we have obedient, humble hearts, head knowledge is a good thing. We are to
love the Lord with our minds, too. Paul's letters assume knowledge of the
Bible, and we should be teaching the Bible in our church communities. Bible
study isn't the only thing we should do. The church should have many
functioning gifts. But Bible study is important.
Think of some of the benefits such a program would have.
1. Bible study can help us endure temptation. "Thy word have I hid in mine
heart that I might not sin against thee." Studying the Bible deeply can effect
our world view. Instead of taking on the worlds values about money,
fornication, divorce, etc. that we can see on TV, we have another standard to
2. The program could inoculate students against worldly philosophies. Children
or adults could learn apologetics to share the faith with the local religion
near them. They could learn to see through prevailing philosophies and offer
Biblical answers that made sense. In the process, they would see the pitfalls
of these religions and philosophies. In the US, children could learn about
Canaanite mythology as it relates to the Bible, so their faith wouldn't be
injured by an unbelieving religion professor in college later on, who says that
the God of Israel evolved out of the Canaanite 'el.' They could learn about the
JEPD theory from a Biblical perspective. In countries like Indonesia, children
could learn the problem with ancestor worship or animistic cosmology, and learn
why not to go to a witchdoctor if they have a problem.
3. Raising up elders. Tradition says to get a hired pastor from Bible college,
because the average layman is considered to be too ignorant. Many laymen are
ignorant. But the Bible shows us the apostles appointing elders from within the
congregation. If all the men in the congregation already have a through
knowledge of the scriptures, then finding someone who really knew about the
faith to be an overseer would be less of a problem.
4. Helping believers grow in their gifts. A good solid foundation in scripture
is a great need for teaches. It also helps prophets stay on track and have
power in their ministry. Saints can learn to be more discerning of false
doctrine as they learn the truths of scripture.
5. Protecting the flock from false doctrine. One reason there are so many
unscriptural doctrines and practices is because so many people don't deeply
study the Bible.
6. Wisdom. A psalmist said that because he had made the Law of the Lord his
meditation, the Lord had made him wiser than his teachers. Imagine the wisdom
that young people could gain, the ability to think through problems, to examine
themselves and see their flaws, if they really dug deep into the scriptures with
pure hearts. Wisdom from the word of God can really impress unbelievers.
Success in family life, and knowing how to make godly decisions full of wisdom
is a great witness to unbelievers whose marriages are messed up, and whose lives
are suffering from the effects of sin.
7. Saints would be educated, and know how to think. This program could be done
in such a way that there is a focus on obedience. Students can also be
challenged to think through ethical and spiritual issues, learn to practice real
practical hermeneutics, and have their minds trained by the word of God. This
could be a great help in countries like Indonesia, where some say the education
system teaches people not to think or be creative.
Of course, a new believer could start out simply, by learning the commands of
Jesus, learning to love God and his neighbor, starting out with basic
principles, and moving on into deeper education and also discipleship.
If anyone knows of materials like this already available that could be
compiled, it could be very useful.
Imagine a church planter starts a church in India and moves on. Someone else
follows up behind him with some low-budget Christian education materials. In
addition to their main meetings once a week, the saints meet in even smaller
groups to study about the Bible and other things through the week. Those who
can't read are taught to read by fellow saints. If the person who presents the
program is the only one who can read, he teaches others to read, and they in
turn teach others. This can bring education to villages, in addition to all the
spiritual benefits. The mouths of the saints can be filled with the wisdom
found in the scriptures, and as they study, the can be given a new world-view,
to help protect them from the temptations to idolatry and other sin.
If anyone knows of similar programs, please let me know about them.
End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #61