New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches



New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Sunday, June 9 2002 Vol 02 : 101
Re: [NTCP] Spiritual Bankrupcy in the CHurch
[NTCP] Religious cloning vs church planting.
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God


Date: Sat, 08 Jun 2002 08:50:42 -0400
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Spiritual Bankrupcy in the CHurch

Steffasong wrote:

>PS: --- Just leaving the header dangling there in space as a possible topic
>for further development....

Dear Stephanie,

Perhaps the following might be, at least, a partial explanation for the
apparent bankruptcy. In any case, I have a feeling that it is a subject that
will really stir up the nest. This is certainly not carved in my heart yet, but
I continue to wrestle with The Lord about it. The following is the way I
brought it to the attention of Bearded Bill:

Dear Bill,

Even in my ignorance to follow after you closely, you are such a delight and
blessing to my spirit. For me the timing of this latest is, once again, Divine.
The other subject which was in my hopper, when I sent the last concerning the
"codification of the highest truth", was "adoption vs the new birth". As a
parallel to your exploration here, I should say that the only difference would
appear to be the word order of our subject titles. As I am presently looking at
it, Adoption has to do with "authority", and the new birth with power or as you
put it further down in your own exploration, "e" and "d".

With that introduction I would like to note the following in what you have
written and then include what I have put on paper, so to speak, thus far.

WilliamSThurman wrote:

"Power and Authority

... The mere position did not confer the authority needed. The position
conferred responsibility. After that, acquiring the authority depended on how
the man discharged his responsibility. The better the handling of the
responsibility, the more extensive the authority acquired...

... You might put duvamic dynamis as 'power' and e3oucia exusia as 'authority'
out of your mind for a minute and decide what the citations' settings show
about the two respective words, denoted by d. and e., so that d. duvamic
dynamis and e. e3oucia exusia..."

In 1987-88, I was in Germany, working for a machine building firm. I wasn't
there very long before I realized that my ability to perform was hampered by a
lack of authority. Actually, I found that I was lacking both language and
authority. Then I went to my employer, the founder and C.E.O. of the company,
and pointed out that I had not been introduced to his staff, as one having
authority, and therefore was unable to perform my expected function, He
responded by saying, "Just fight for the authority."

Responsibility without authority is a lose/lose situation. I responded by
saying that I do not believe that authority is something that can be taken, it
must be given. The principle is the difference between Satan and Christ. "All
authority in heaven and earth has been given to me..." "I give you authority
to..." I told him that I would not accept one gram more responsibility than I
was given the authority to carry out - "... one comes whose right it is to
rule..."

With the "position" comes the authority to perform its duties, the "e" to
perform its duties. The "e" without the "d" makes us nothing but unprofitable
servants, what's lacking is the "d", so the servants are told to go nowhere,
and do nothing, until they receive the "d", the "d" that, in our case, can only
come down, "from on high". No matter where we are where responsibility is
concerned, authority and power must go hand in hand, if we are to prove
faithful even in the small things.

Adoption vs New Birth, ("e" vs "d")

I have been thinking quite a bit in recent months about the "new birth". There
are many verses of Scripture that were part of the meditation, but perhaps the
following two passages are a good place to begin:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power ("e") to become the sons of
God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor
of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12,13

And:

"But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a
woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we
might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent
forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Galatians
4:4-6

Here is where this is going:

The debate of the past century where the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is
concerned centered on something which was sometimes referred to as a "second
blessing". The Evangelicals, generally said no such thing, "We got it all in
the original package of salvation". The Pentecostals said, "No, being baptized
into Christ was not all there is, there was also the Baptism of the Holy
Spirit, with the confirming sign of 'speaking in tongues".

In general, the Pentecostals acknowledged the salvation of the Evangelicals,
but argued that they had not yet received the power of The Holy Spirit.

Without reopening this whole debate which by now has almost become mute, I
would like to focus on two distinct aspects of our salvation.

"Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw
him: and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:44

A clear implication of what Jesus said is that, before the new birth, there is
a "drawing". This drawing process can take time, short in some, and long in
others. Our reliance on confessional or, "repeat after me regeneration", can,
and I believe does, cause a presumption of new birth where the new birth has
not yet taken place. The person may well be being "drawn", even to the point of
receiving their "adoption as sons", but they are not yet there as a matter of
saving faith, in the sense of, "...how much more, having been reconciled, shall
we be saved through His life!" Romans 5:10

In the first two passages cited above, there is a chronological distinction
made between, "receiving Him" in the one passage, "adoption" in the other, and
being empowered to be a child of God, in the first, receiving the "Spirit
whereby we cry 'Abba" in the other passage. This to say that, there is a
difference between being adopted, and having the same nature, the same DNA.
Where being included in the family of God is concerned, adoption is a
necessary, and legal precondition for receiving the very nature of God.

Adoption is a legal matter, a new birth is a matter of impregnation. We had
been "under the law". Under the law, it would have been illegal for God, The
Father to adopt us, so Jesus took care of the legal obstacle to our adoption,
so that God the Father could legally adopt us. That was a necessary
precondition to our adoption. That having been taken care of and we having
availed ourselves of that provision by faith in Jesus Christ, His blood, and
His righteousness, we were adopted.

The fact is, we were the wrong species to be part of God's household. and
adoption did not change our species. In my case, it was as though God had
adopted a chimpanzee. God was looking at me through the blood of His son, so it
was ok for me to be there, but for my part, I was still a chimpanzee.

Now some chimpanzees are quite good of doing imitations, even imitations of
Christ, but Christianity was not to be built on imitations, but the reality of
Christ.

Having adopted me, however, and because I was a consenting recipient to my
legal adoption. God then poured out His Spirit into my heart, so that I was
able to cry out in Spirit and in truth, by a brand new nature, "Abba".
Everything to that point was the drawing of the Father to receive The Son, but
at that moment I became born again by an incorruptible Seed.

Now, if sometime prior to that moment of Divine conception, the process is
aborted by somekind of manhandled confession, after which I am told that I have
just been "born again", then I am "still born" or born dead.

Here's another passage, which supports this perception:

"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his
Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Romans 5:10

First reconciliation by the blood of Christ, then salvation by His Life.

Adding premature baptism to this deception, only compounds the problem. What I
am suggesting is that, as a result, we have a "Christian culture" born out of a
subnormal or, in a sense, aborted response to the gospel. I say aborted,
because before the new life has truly been formed, the birthing process is
terminated, and the would be child of God is born dead. Actually it is more
fundamental than that, the confessional salvation doctrine, as it has been
practiced, acts as a kind of birth control technique which blocks conception.

Please don't misunderstand me, I would be very reluctant to make that judgment
in any particular case, but the track record or witness of "nominal
christianity" is not looking too good.

Let me also quickly add, that while the Kingdom of God may not come by
appearances, there is a substance to the relational integrity of the genuine
which ought to have taken place in time for the "... world to know".

What I am saying is that, "adoption", and the "new birth" are not the same
thing, they are two separate aspects of being included in God's house.

Please allow me to say this once again; there is a legal aspect to adoption.
You can't just go around picking up any child you want. It has to be legal. In
God, our Father's case, until the sacrifice of Jesus, it would have been
illegal to adopt any of us, for all have sinned and come short of the right to
live in The Father's house. So, we were reconciled to God by the death of His
Son. That got us in the door or through the curtain, by the blood of Jesus, by
adoption, having gotten rid of the legal obstacles to our being included, and
because we were now qualified by the blood of Christ for adoption, and, in
fact, adopted by our faith in Christ, and His sacrifice for us, God was then
able to send the very spirit of his Son into our hearts, without which there is
no supernatural heart's cry of "Abba, Father". That heart's cry only happens at
the moment of the new birth, when we actually become partakers of the divine
nature, when we are actually born from above by the incorruptible seed of
Christ. Everything short of that is only the drawing of the Father, but not yet
the new birth. The "drawing" precedes the impregnation.

The seed necessary for that impregnation was not available until the day of
Pentecost. Until Jesus died, there was only one seed. It was the seed of Eve,
and God watched over it all through human history making sure that it never
died until it died in Jesus. The seed was always passed along prior to the
death of its carrier. It finally gave birth to Jesus, and in Him it died.
(Interesting, it was the seed of Eve, but without the intervention of a man,
it gave birth to the last Adam.)

Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into
the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much
fruit." John 12:24

It takes more than, just planting a seed to multiply it, it has to cycle
through death, and come up out of the ground as fruit, because only in the
fruit is the seed multiplied.

"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the
fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the
earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed
after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after
his kind: and God saw hat it was good."Genesis 1:11,12

Only in the resurrection did the fruit come into existence. Jesus resurrection
was the firstfruit of death.

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that
slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the
dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But
every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are
Christ's at his coming." I Corinthians 15:20-23

But, before the seed in that fruit could be made available to others, it had to
be presented to the Father. Only then could God deliver on His promise. Only
then did the "promise of the Father" become available. That promise was poured
out on flesh on the day of Pentecost. It was poured out on those He had adopted
by faith, their faith, given by Him, and because they had been adopted, God
sent the spirit of His Son into their hearts whereby they cried out "Abba".

This to say, before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, there might have been legal
adoption, but there was no new birth. If this understanding is correct, the
implications for "the church" in our own day are far reaching.

As I understand it, human cloning does not require the seed of a Father. Is it
possible that a "christianity" that stops short of the baptism of the Holy
Spirit, is after all, just religious cloning without any authentic new birth?

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12,13

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye
shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in
Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8

Were they His before Pentecost? Yes they were: "I have manifested thy name
unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou
gavest them me; and they have kept thy word." John 17:6

They were His, but they did not yet possess His life. Only death and
resurrection could accomplish that.

For the first time in human history, a Seed which was both human and divine and
which had already passed through death and resurrection was made available for
the propagation of a whole new race, one that was born of a Seed that would
never have to die again."

Yours in Christ,

Jay


------- <><><> -------


Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2002 07:10:17 EDT
From: Steffasong
Subject: [NTCP] Religious
cloning vs church planting.

Jay, your thoughts reveal one of the many aspects that cause spiritual
bankruptcy in the contemporary church. You wrote:
>
>As I understand it, human cloning does not require the seed of a Father. Is it
>possible that a "christianity" that stops short of the baptism of the Holy
>Spirit, is after all, just religious cloning without any authentic new birth?

Surely we need the seed of our Father to walk in the dynamic power and
authority of our God. I'm not sure that it has as much to do with the baptism
of the Holy Spirit as it does other missing links, but I enjoyed your post and
gained much from it.

Obviously there are many contributors to spiritual bankruptcy in the Church,
and one of the them is DEFINATELY our lack of laying hold of the authority that
is ours in Christ Jesus. Surely we cannot apprehend it if we have never been
truly born from above.

When I left that dangling header I was pondering leftover thoughts from the
structure vs. life thread.

If individuals do not have intimacy with the Father then we become spiritual
bereft. We may follow the rules and teachings, but we are more like little
religious clones of the teachers we 'sit under.' Intimacy with God does not
progress because we are not really relating to God, but we are just soaking in
one particular man's (or church's) way to worship Him.

In the same way, the Church ends up in spiritual bankruptcy because all the
little individual clones of following some"thing" spiritual or religious, but
not relating to the Head of the Church.

This is where 'structure' becomes the bane of the Body. Structure is not
wrong. We need the bones in our body as much as the muscles and organs,
however, the structure can sap the life out of the Body if everything in the
Church is based on it.

When we plant churches or encourage new gatherings of believers to meet we've
got to pay special attention to allow God's imprint to be upon the group rather
than our own little fingerprints. This can only happen when we encourage them
to function, each bringing a psalm, a hymn, a word, a spiritual song. If we
don't do that from the start we end up with one of two things:

1. the church plant goes no where because it isn't connected to the supply,
and when we walk away it walks way. When we die, it dies.

OR

2. we get a perfect little replica of our own life or our own church, full of
people that love and appreciate US and OUR amazing teaching more than God.

These are somethings we really must consider when planting or calling the
saints to gather.

In the Lamb,

Stephanie Bennett Creative Services & Consulting Marketing Solutions for the
21st Century

Jay, your thoughts reveal one of the many aspects that cause spiritual
bankruptcy in the contemporary church. You wrote:

As I understand it, human cloning does not require the seed of a Father. Is it
possible that a "christianity" that stops short of the baptism of the Holy
Spirit, is after all, just religious cloning without any authentic new birth?

Surely we need the seed of our Father to walk in the dynamic power and
authority of our God.&nbsp; I'm not sure that it has as much to do with the
baptism of the Holy Spirit as it does other missing links, but I enjoyed your
post and gained much from it.

Obviously there are many contributors to spiritual bankruptcy in the Church,
and one of the them is DEFINATELY our lack of laying hold of the authority that
is ours in Christ Jesus.&nbsp; Surely we cannot apprehend it if we have never
been truly born from above.

When I left that dangling header I was pondering leftover thoughts from the
structure vs. life thread.

If individuals do not have intimacy with the Father then we become spiritual
bereft.&nbsp; We may follow the rules and teachings, but we are more like
little religious clones of the teachers we 'sit under.'&nbsp; Intimacy with God
does not progress because we are not really relating to God, but we are just
soaking in one particular man's (or church's) way to worship Him.

In the same way, the Church ends up in spiritual bankruptcy because all the
little individual clones of following some"thing" spiritual or religious, but
not relating to the Head of the Church.

This is where 'structure' becomes the bane of the Body.&nbsp; Structure is not
wrong.&nbsp; We need the bones in our body as much as the muscles and organs,
however, the structure can sap the life out of the Body if everything in the
Church is based on it.

When we plant churches or encourage new gatherings of believers to meet we've
got to pay special attention to allow God's imprint to be upon the group rather
than our own little fingerprints.&nbsp; This can only happen when we encourage
them to function, each bringing a psalm, a hymn, a word, a spiritual
song.&nbsp; If we don't do that from the start we end up with one of two
things:

1.&nbsp; the church plant goes no where because it isn't connected to the
supply, and when we walk away it walks way. When we die, it dies.

OR

2. we get a perfect little replica of our own life or our own church, full of
people that love and appreciate US and OUR amazing teaching more than God.

These are somethings we really must consider when planting or calling the
saints to gather.

In the Lamb, Stephanie

Stephanie Bennett Creative Services &amp; Consulting Marketing Solutions for
the 21st Century steffasong


------- <><><> -------


Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2002 07:33:45 EDT
From: Steffasong
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God

Hi TC,

Your post was compelling in many ways. In fact, one evening last week I sat
for a long time and thought about what you said.

You wrote:

>Two points. On the one hand, what you have written could be, (and I am very
>definitely saying this is not how you intended it to sound), if taken in a
>different context, very arrogant. Basically this is saying that those in the
>institutional church are "dependent toddlers" that will be always immature in
>the faith because of the church structure and organization they attend and
>won't ever be mature unless they toss the institutional church for the house
>church.

>>
No way. I don't believe that the answer inherently lies in how we meet. Please
forgive me if I made it sound that way. God forgive me if I sounded arrogant
or WAS arrogant. That's such a nasty thing, and it's the kind of thing that
none of us think we are, so, when someone points it out it's a scary thing not
to be taken lightly .... I am surely bringing it before the Lord.

God can and does use anything to grow us up. He uses less than wonderful
circumstances and well as the ideal situation. He can use a dead institution or
a lively institution to show us our need for Him. He can use a fully
functioning, healthy house church, as well as He can use an abusive situation
or a mega church where get lost in the crowd of 10,000.

Personally, I just do not believe that immaturity it is as much willful
disobedience or lack of knowledge of scriptures.

I liken instituational chrisitanity to big government, TC. Inherent in the
"Big Church" are ideals and practices that promote (sometimes unintentionally
but often quite purposely) dependence on the programs and dependence on the man
in the pulpit, rather than actual dependence on Jesus Christ.

THIS causes the toddler syndrome of which I spoke. I do not believe that most
churches set out to keep people immature, but I do believe that happens because
maturity only comes from spending time with our Father. HE's the one who grows
us. HE's the one who adds growth to the Body. If we do not learn early on how
to hook up with Him and be supplied by His life, we learn other ways to
function, ways that cause us to calcify and walk in our own understanding
rather than His.

Do you see what I am saying, TC? It's not that structure is evil, but it is
one of the things that encourages numerical growth but hinders spiritual
growth.

Like you, I totally see the exchange of one idol for another. It happens when
we make the church our life instead of making Christ our life. When we focus
on any one good thing in the church we are off the mark.

You said,
>>
Funny thing is, I've noticed that the replacement structure and organization of
the house church Vs the institutional church has given rise to this as well.
It has led to the opportunity for maturity or has given the opportunity of the
rise of new idols, of the theology of glory, that is just as deadly. anything
good can be set up as an "idol" and be turned into something that keeps us from
trust in God. Friendship, relationship, and emotional experience are all good
things and are elements of walking in Christ, yet become idols when they are
given precedence over faith and Scripture.
>>

So true! But faith (a la the 'faith theology') and scripture (lives centered
on the Book) are also things that are not our center. Friendship,
relationship, and informality cannot be the ground on which we meet either.
There is only one cornerstone of the church, and it is Jesus Christ, Himself.
This, I know you agree with. The question still remains, however, HOW do we
promote and foster the central focus of the Church (JC) to be the center and
remain the center?

Structure and hierarchy definitely inhibit, even (in many cases) destroy that
goal. Do you have any ideas about how structure and organization can be
maintained without fostering focus on something other than Christ.

Thanks for the thoughtful and encouraging interchange! Bless you, Stephanie On
the other hand again the blame goes onto the organization and structures as
>the source of all these poor believers' immaturity -- "always in diapers and
>being spoon fed, never learning to walk in Christ, but always jotting down the
>notes and behaviors of those 'in the know.' " Again, IMHO this behavior is a
>result of both the wrong interpretation of Scriptures (theology) and of
>willful disobedience.
>
>Having been on staff at several large churches has given me a bit of a
>different perspective. Many go to the churches for the programs, much as a
>consumer would shop for the best bargain at a mall. They purposely choose
>churches that do not preach the gospel, or are founded on the theology of the
>cross. They are very comfortable socially, economically, and theologically in
>these churches, and woe to the person, clergy or lay person, that challenges
>the status quo! In these organizations and structures it is for the purpose of
>catering to spiritual tourists (not "seekers") and the immature. Yet I have
>also been in churches as well that have been based on the gospel and the
>theology of the cross, where discipleship hasn't been a 9 or 12 week program,
>where the people have been encouraged to be engaged in the life of the church,
>and they had passed the elementary things, the milk, and have gone into
>maturity and the meat of faith.
>
>Funny thing is, I've noticed that the replacement structure and organization
>of the house church Vs the institutional church has given rise to this as
>well. It has led to the opportunity for maturity or has given the opportunity
>of the rise of new idols, of the theology of glory, that is just as deadly.
>anything good can be set up as an "idol" and be turned into something that
>keeps us from trust in God. Friendship, relationship, and emotional experience
>are all good things and are elements of walking in Christ, yet become idols
>when they are given precedence over faith and Scripture. Believe me, I've been
>to many places, both institutional church and house church, when it wasn't
>Christ that was worshipped, it was the "worship experience," the singing
>little ditties about how "I will worship You" and the emotions that went with
>it.
>
>>>The structure causes us to try and mimic Christ rather than walk IN HIM.
>
>Is it the structure, or the hearts of men and women?
>
>>>Let all things be done for the edification of the body, -- for the
>building up of the saints! Amen and amen! Blessings to you, Stephanie, enjoy
>the day God has given!
>
>TC
>
Stephanie Bennett Creative Services & Consulting Marketing Solutions for the
21st Century


------- <><><> -------


Date: Sun, 09 Jun 2002 14:59:25 -0400
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God

Dear Stephanie,

I'm pasting something you wrote in your other email of this morning into this
one, just to get back on the structural track, so to speak.

Steffasong wrote:

"When we plant churches or encourage new gatherings of believers to meet we've
got to pay special attention to allow God's imprint to be upon the group rather
than our own little fingerprints. This can only happen when we encourage them
to function, each bringing a psalm, a hymn, a word, a spiritual song. If we
don't do that from the start we end up with one of two things:

1. the church plant goes no where because it isn't connected to the supply,
and when we walk away it walks way. When we die, it dies.

OR

2. we get a perfect little replica of our own life or our own church, full of
people that love and appreciate US and OUR amazing teaching more than God.

These are somethings we really must consider when planting or calling the
saints to gather."

Before pleading guilty to the above, I would like to make a more general
observation concerning structure. When the bones are as messed up, dry and
lifeless, as what I think we are experiencing, according to Ezekiel's
revelation, the first thing that happens is the bones come into right
relationship with each other, then all the rest of the body parts are added.
First the structure, and then the function. In that case, the structure is
certainly primary. While it is not possible to restructure the dry bones
without the bones moving, it must be God who does the moving of the bones, and
the relating of the bones. This is why I believe that the relational Lordship
of Jesus is the most foundational aspect of His Lordship, first of all with
His/our Heavenly Father, and then with each other.

One of the difficult lessons my wife Carleen and I had to learn in opening our
home to the house to house dimension of our inheritence in Christ is that,
people tend to bond to the one who does most or all of the teaching. (At least
if the teaching has any anointing on it.) The result is that relational
expectations are formed that cannot be lived up to. If there is great
fruitfulness at the household level, it is possible to very quickly be embraced
as parents to many more children than we are capable of parenting. When they
discover that we/they are not there for them/us 24/7, they/we wind up with
wounded expectations.

Since discovering that, we have been careful not to dominate the time in the
meeting with our own teaching. I have found that this is much more conducive to
the formation of relationships which is much more broad based. The Lord still
gives us spiritual children, but not so many, and at a much deeper level. We
now do our indepth discipleship or parenting in a more personal setting rather
than trying to do our breast feeding in the meeting. We still believe in breast
feeding. The old creation, as well as the Word of God make it clear that this
is a normal season of nurture. But, we also realize that it works better when
it is personal rather than in or with a group.

One of the biggest problems in this connection is that it's harder to take up
an offering for a conversation than it is for a lecture. The money seems to be
in the "mass production". (Did I say "cloning"?

Steffasong wrote:

>Hi TC,
>
>Your post was compelling in many ways. In fact, one evening last week I sat
>for a long time and thought about what you said.
>
>You wrote:
>
>>Two points. On the one hand, what you have written could be, (and I am very
>>definitely saying this is not how you intended it to sound), if taken in a
>>different context, very arrogant. Basically this is saying that those in the
>>institutional church are "dependent toddlers" that will be always immature
>>in the faith because of the church structure and organization they attend and
>>won't ever be mature unless they toss the institutional church for the house
>>church.
>
>>>
>No way. I don't believe that the answer inherently lies in how we meet.
>Please forgive me if I made it sound that way. God forgive me if I sounded
>arrogant or WAS arrogant. That's such a nasty thing, and it's the kind of
>thing that none of us think we are, so, when someone points it out it's a
>scary thing not to be taken lightly .... I am surely bringing it before the
>Lord.

I didn't read it as arrogance, but rather an observation in the form of a
generalization. There are always exceptions.

>God can and does use anything to grow us up. He uses less than wonderful
>circumstances and well as the ideal situation. He can use a dead institution
>or a lively institution to show us our need for Him. He can use a fully
>functioning, healthy house church, as well as He can use an abusive situation
>or a mega church where we get lost in the crowd of 10,000.
>
>Personally, I just do not believe that immaturity is as much willful
>disobedience as lack of knowledge of scriptures.

I took the liberty of correcting that sentence. I hope I got it right.

>I liken instituational chrisitanity to big government, TC. Inherent in the
>"Big Church" are ideals and practices that promote (sometimes unintentionally
>but often quite purposely) dependence on the programs and dependence on the
>man in the pulpit, rather than actual dependence on Jesus Christ.

This is an excellent comparison; "The beast is my shepherd, I shall not
want..."

>THIS causes the toddler syndrome of which I spoke. I do not believe that most
>churches set out to keep people immature, but I do believe that happens
>because maturity only comes from spending time with our Father. HE's the one
>who grows us. HE's the one who adds growth to the Body. If we do not learn
>early on how to hook up with Him and be supplied by His life, we learn other
>ways to function, ways that cause us to calcify and walk in our own
>understanding rather than His.

Life teaches me that early nurture and awareness are centered first in the
mother, and then the Father. Where the Church is concerned, the challenge is to
get the new born past their second birthday, before the slaughter of the
innocents gets to them. It takes about that long to get them of the breast and
able to feed themselves.

>Do you see what I am saying, TC? It's not that structure is evil, but it is
>one of the things that encourages numerical growth but hinders spiritual
>growth.

Perhaps we could call it structural retardation.

>Like you, I totally see the exchange of one idol for another. It happens when
>we make the church our life instead of making Christ our life. When we focus
>on any one good thing in the church we are off the mark.

It's something like how it was when Moses delayed to come down off the
mountain. Jesus made it very clear that He would build his church. When He
seems to delay in doing that, we build our own, and "Oops, out comes this
golden calf."

>You said,
>>>
>Funny thing is, I've noticed that the replacement structure and organization
>of the house church Vs the institutional church has given rise to this as
>well. It has led to the opportunity for maturity or has given the opportunity
>of the rise of new idols, of the theology of glory, that is just as deadly.
>anything good can be set up as an "idol" and be turned into something that
>keeps us from trust in God. Friendship, relationship, and emotional experience
>are all good things and are elements of walking in Christ, yet become idols
>when they are given precedence over faith and Scripture.
>>>
>
>So true! But faith (a la the 'faith theology') and scripture (lives centered
>on the Book) are also things that are not our center. Friendship,
>relationship, and informality cannot be the ground on which we meet either.
>There is only one cornerstone of the church, and it is Jesus Christ, Himself.
>This, I know you agree with. The question still remains, however, HOW do we
>promote and foster the central focus of the Church (JC) to be the center and
>remain the center?

If I read it right, I think it's by "... not considering the center a place to
be grasped..."

>Structure and hierarchy definitely inhibit, even (in many cases) destroy that
>goal. Do you have any ideas about how structure and organization can be
>maintained without fostering focus on something other than Christ.

I continue to believe it is by believing, living, and sharing Jesus as Lord of
relationship.

Yours in Christ,

Jay 


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