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What would Jesus say to the Church today?
To presume to know what Jesus would say to His people today is something of a chutzpa! Nevertheless, my heart, after much thought and prayer, leads me in the following analysis:
A. A word from the Book of Revelation. (Revelation 1:11)
The nature of the true Church changes from place to place, from city to city and from nation to nation. Jesus addressed the Seven Churches of Asia and said different things to them. He did not have one message that “fitted all.” The same is true today but as we look at these churches we do find that He hates some things and loves and approves of others! That is; He hates Nicolatianism (Revelation 2:6) or leaders that exercise too much power over their congregations as if the Church were theirs! He also detests the “doctrine of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14) that uses spiritual gifts to exploit the “sheep” financially. Leaders who “fleece the sheep” are inviting His displeasure. He also dislikes people who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16) and who have lost their first love. They make Him vomit!!! Finally, sexual impurity of any type is anathema to Him. (Revelation 2:20)
This remains His word to us today and thus He very much approves of those who repent, thirst after Him and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29)
B. A word in general. (1Timothy 4:1; 2Timothy 3:1-5)
We live in a time when even evangelicals are being seduced by deceiving spirits and thus the essentials of our faith are being questioned. Jesus would say to us: Don’t fool around with the essentials of the faith including the fact that He is God, born of a virgin and fully paid for our sins by His once for all death on the cross and all of this vouched for by the fully inspired and god-breathed scriptures. Moreover, He does not endorse deviant forms of sexual behavior that challenge the age old and accepted form of marriage between a man and a woman!
Jesus’ word is: Strengthen the things that remain and be faithful. (Revelation 2:25)
C. A word from His heart. (Genesis 12:1-3)
The New Testament nowhere teaches that God has abolished or reconstructed His Covenant with Abraham. (Romans 11:29) This means that Israel’s modern day restoration is not a political coincidence but clear evidence of God’s faithfulness to His word and character. Her return to Zion is to mediate the final great covenant of history to the world; the Davidic Covenant! (Psalm 2; Revelation 22:12-17) For this reason scripture teaches that the world will hate Israel and it does! Why are we surprised? But what are we doing other than debating prophecy?
Jesus’ word is: Bless My people Israel and help them.
D. A word specific
There are four Church Models reflected in scripture; each with their own peculiar structure and mission. Jesus has a word for all of them!
1. The Blending Model
This is a Church that takes root in a familiar social/economic/religious/political culture. In
other words it emerges out of the prevailing culture and, by virtue of its life changing
and dynamic message, rapidly grows under the leadership of a strong, well educated and
trained leader. The Jerusalem Church, found in the book of Acts and led by Peter and then
James is an example of this. (Acts 15:3)
Note: Leadership in the New Testament is not democratically elected or even appointed; it is ordained! That is, leaders become evident by the will of the Holy Spirit. These are then recognized and ordained. In other words they are “set aside” because they have been “set apart” by the Holy Spirit! God is interested in accountability! So, while leaders lead and should be honored and respected they must also hear what others have to say. (Acts 16:1-5; 13:1-3)
The “blending model” is more fully understood and defined by the following:
The leadership style of this Church is “embracive.” That is, a good strong Minister is
supported and embraced by good men who value him, his gifting and ministry. They unite
around him recognizing that his gift is the “tip of the spear” that goes straight to the target!
The advantage of this Church is that it can leverage the local culture in such a way that it can
easily hear the Gospel in “tones” that are familiar. Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost is an example of this. (Acts 2) He took it for granted that his hearers were somewhat familiar
with the Bible and with great biblical figures. On the other hand, Paul could not do this in
Athens and had to find a way into the culture. He thus appealed to the “Unknown God.”
The weakness of the “blending model” is that the “laws of the culture” begin to make people
immune to the ways of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. This can be extreme, as it was
in South Africa, in that churches took on segregation or it can be subtle, as I sometimes see
in Finland, in that the quietness of the Finnish people can shut out the joy and blessing of the
Spirit! Peter struggled with this in that he resisted going to Gentile people because his
culture could not accept it; and this even though He heard Jesus say, “Go into all the world…”
In addition “blending churches’ have an uncertain future beyond their “primary leadership”
group. This being so, they have to carefully plan for succession. (2Timothy 2:1-2)
Jesus’ Word: Spend more time in prayer and fasting; take on a Christian identity before you take on a national one and; invest a lot of time in a few good potential leaders.
2. The Missionary Model (Acts 14:21-24)
This is a new church that is being established in new territory and it should be linked to an
“Apostolic Band” or group of mature leaders, who are based in an established church. (Acts 13:1-3)
God led Israel from Passover in Egypt to Pentecost at Mt. Sinai. The lesson is clear: biblical
freedom from the slavery of sin is not real until it is regulated by the structure of law or order. This is not in opposition to the message of grace! (Titus 1:5-9; 1Corinthians14:26-40)
Slaves, albeit free, have to be ruled to be truly free or they will inherit chaos! A new church or missionary model of church must be “set in order” as quickly as possible by the ordaining of leaders (elders). (Titus 1:5) From this “pool”, dynamic Holy Spirit led ministries will eventually emerge. This will take time so initially a missionary church is led or “ruled” by a group of leaders. (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17) They in turn are backed by visiting leaders from the ‘mother church”. (Ephesians 6:21-24) The missionary model is defined more fully thus:
Those setting out to build a missionary model church must have a style of leadership that is strategic in the Spirit of God! If they don’t listen to the Spirit they will not find open doors, open hearts and open venues. The promptings of the Spirit may indeed contradict every natural and wise inclination; as Paul found out. (Acts 16:6-10)
The dangers facing a missionary model church are great at every level as it has not mature leadership and can easily fail or be beset by division and in fighting as we see reflected in the Church at Corinth. This is why the “building” of such a church must be done with a team. This is the forgotten model and yet it dominated the pages of the book of Acts and it is the model therefore reflected by Paul’s ministry! Actually, the church today is in retreat, not defeat, because it has abandoned the command to plant churches as embodied in the Great Commission. The missionary model requires a very high degree of sacrifice and commitment but those who give themselves to it will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and greatly blessed.
Jesus ‘Word: My church is not a resting place, resort or hotel! It is My Body on earth and exists for those who do not belong to it! If you “go” you will have power but if you “stay” you will become weak and lose your saltiness and light!
3. The Sending Model
This Church, reflected by the one at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3)) and Ephesus (Acts 19:1-10) of the book of Acts, is unique in that it is gifted to produce leaders who will then leave it. These leaders are mature, strong and well schooled at hearing God’s voice. The church does not support missionaries it produces them and sends them forth. It is a well established church with a fairly huge “membership” but it uniquely has a group of leaders and not one leader as we see in the Jerusalem Church of the day. It can thus afford to give away its best leaders and the congregation remains secure. It is more fully described as this:
A church that consistently gives its best leadership to the “field” must have a strong emphasis on leadership training and the ability to impart its vision to the congregation. If it
doesn’t it will breed division, leaders will become competitive and the congregation discouraged. The Church at Corinth suffered from these problems. (1Corinthians 1: 10-17)
Jesus’ Word: Without Antioch there would not have been a Paul or a Barnabas! Who will trust Me to build a new Antioch and who will hear My call to produce leaders who will “go?” Beware that you do not become too comfortable as I have a great mission to accomplish.
4. The Persecuted Model
This is a Church in total conflict with the local culture. It therefore has to meet in homes, tunnels, caves and catacombs! It requires a group of brave leaders who hold it together in these various venues.
The persecuted model is reflected in the last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. (Romans 16:1-16)The fact that Paul, who had not yet visited Rome when he wrote his epistle, knew all the leaders in the various homes demonstrates that the early church highly prized accountability, submission and working together. This protected the flock from betrayal and isolation even though they were “underground.” The suffering Church still exists today and is growing. It will be strengthened and survive if leaders submit to and love one another. Persecution has a way of bringing these spiritual qualities to our lives.
Jesus’ Word: Days of persecution are approaching. Does My word not warn of this? (2Timothy 3:12) Have I also not sent my prophets to you to warn you of these days? Indeed one is coming who will make war against the saints of God and overcome them. (Revelation 13:7) I will be with you until the end of the age! Be faithful, even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)