Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Biblical Church Models - Have We Been Sniffing the Glue?

Two years ago I had a wonderful revelation. Church is never going to happen if you and I don't get involved. And it requires the Spirit of God. I know, you already knew that. Today I was reminded of that again.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, there are some common themes - even if you are a farily recent reader, you know I just finished teaching the 5-Fold School of Ministry.

Did you know the church cannot function without vision? Nope, and most of us either embrace the pastor's personal vision, or we find ourselves rejected and left out. Certainly it is good for those that embrace it and tough on those that don't. The Bible says that the people perish for lack of vision. (Proverbs 29:18) So, we've got to have vision. The problem is that a pastoral vision is incomplete. Ouch! I know, but let me explain.

Every vision is subject to the Biblical principals. The president of the United States may have vision for something, however; he is still subject to the laws of the land. His vision couldn't include some sort of illegal policy. It is the same with church vision. Spiritual vision cannot violate God's principals.

I want to take a look at the overall mission of the church so that we can attach a local vision to it, and get something done in our community for Jesus. The overall mission of the church is to preach the Good News, and get out there and heal the sick, cast out demons and use other types of power and love ministry to advance the kingdom of God. The vision of the local church needs to achieve this mission: where there is power and love, God's work will be accomplished. The actual work is done through the church, and the individuals in it. From the macro view, what to the micro view how, that is how we need to look at the process. Vision must include a what and a how, and of course a when and a where. What are we going to do (Preach the Gospel , heal the sick, do VBS etc.), how are we going to do it. (Let's face it the methods some churches use are ineffective)

The problem with the personal vision of a single leader, is they spend a lot of time trying to get everyone to adapt to it. It will ultimately fail the mission even though it may grow a local church. Why because the vision must be 5-fold (Eph 4:11). The fruit of the biblical mission is not numbers, it is disciples that can replicate the vision and accomplish the mission! Jesus did it, then he sent out the 70, then the 120, and then He gave the great commission for us all to go out.

Many different models have been suggested for replication and church growth. Since the beginning of the church, small fellowship group models have proliferated. And I think small groups are good, but they replicate a significant problem in the church. Most of them are pastorally led. Many times, they don't do evangelism or outreach, and the small group pastor is usually forced into teaching. Many small groups also do not have a prophetic voice. The church, whatever size it is, need all the gifting that it can muster from the participants.

As much as I love huge celebration services with hundreds or thousands of people, small group is still church. Therefore; it needs to be a collective microcosm of the 5-Fold ministries or roles. Jesus said that where two or three come together, I am there. I am going to suggest that you would want to have the pastoral and teaching roles met, and hopefully add evangelism. The apostolic and prophetic roles certainly can be resident, but they may foundationally support more than one group.

Before we get all legalistic about how to run a small group, there is some very good advice from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. The primary point of this passage is that we should, based on our gifting, be prepared to bring something by His Spirit. This would be a hymn (some sort of music), a lesson (teaching) and a revelation (prophecy or tongue with interpretation). These are the essential ingredients in a church meeting, and are as valid for a home/small/cell-group situation as well as a giant celebration.

What has happened with this model, is that the pulpit has become an icon for "church," pushing aside the apostle, the prophet, the teacher and the evangelist.

The senior pastor's vision is can be unbalanced depending on the gifting he or the small group leader bring to the table. What I often have seen is leaders that staff to replicate themselves; they do not staff for their weaknesses. The purpose of many churches is to get some sort of pastoral care to the flock. But this does not promote the spreading of the Gospel. It is essential that the local church vision includes teaching, directing (prophecy) , bring in new converts and caring and discipling those that are in already. In the process they need to be equipping all the saints to replicate this vision. Why? Because a disciple is one that can give testimony to God's ability to save them, grow them and send them out to produce fruit in the Kingdom of God.

If our 5-Fold equippers have done their job, their small groups will replicate a vision that fulfills the mission of the church on a local and regional level.


photogr said...


You have made some good points here but do we always find then in churches? The answer is no. Do the people with vision get an opportunity to express them in a way that will benefit the church? The answer again is no. Perhaps it is that I am looking in the wrong places again.

Here is an example: I recently found a medium sized church that had all the trappings that might interest me. I asked the pastor about charismatic happenings and letting the Holy Spirit out of the box. His reply was "we don't subscribe to Charismatic movements.

I aked about the 5 fold ministry and all I got was a blank stare. How can we really experience God's grace and his miracles if we put up restrictions based on a churches doctrins and rules?

Is it possibly a fact that these churches are not any better than the priest and temples in biblical times ( Pharases)?

Perhaps I am looking for something that doesn't exist any more in modern times. If that is a true, then I am terribly dissapointed in churches, small groups, and denominations based on what I read from scriptures.

I find I am closer to God when I am out on my own wandering and talking to people independently that usually do not attend a church and sharing God's grace and love.

Why would God allow me (A messy sinner but a follower of Christ) of all people to carry out this ministry reaching out to others?

I just don't get it.

David-FireAndGrace said...

I don't know, Larry. But keep searching, keep praying, and keep loving others.

I love your heart!

And thanks for being the best commenter that I have!

photogr said...

Thanks David.

Perhaps your thoughts hits a nerve with me. Perhaps what you write about brings up my own frustrations about what I see wrong in churches based on scripture.

Take care. God has big plans for you in the future.

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

I agree that sometimes the church reflects the vision of one person, and they get everyone to rally around them, rather than being a blend of what is going on in that community. That's when it becomes John Bob's vision, not that group, and though John Bob may have a great vision, it's often a losing battle to get people to volunteer - round pegs in square hole kind of stuff. I also theorize one of the problems is you're trying to get people to fit into positions within certain programs, instead of just encouraging people to act out in love apart from formal roles and ministries. Gosh I hope that even makes sense.

Carla said...

Excellent post. It was well thought out and I enjoyed you backing up your points with scripture. I think sometimes our churches fail to fulfill Biblical requirements because instead of focusing on leading a church that reflects the one of Acts, our leaders are focusing on how they are different from other churches. One might not subscribe to charismatic movements because they don't want to be associated with Charismatic churches. Some churches don't evangelize because they don't want to be lumped into the Evangelistic category. If churches and their leaders cared less about what people thought and more about what God wants us to do we'd find more churches that are exactly what we are looking for.

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