For a period of one year we carried out as we had known and had been taught by the church system. I had a traditional education in Bible College and Seminary. I had credentials with a Pentecostal denomination, and always believed in the full participation of the Priesthood of Believers, and had an understanding of the pastor being like a manager of a team, and equipping the team to be successful (whatever that means to the traditional church). I was heavily involved in small groups ministry and training and conducted workshops and seminars for the wider body of Christ and for different para-church organizations. I always believed in small groups, or in kinships (as the Vineyard called them). I believed in community and relationship and the participation of as many people as possible. This was my background and it has taken us four years of journeying to discover the heart of what I believe is crucial for the church to recover and embrace the revolutionary principles and essentials of the New Testament church.
At the end of 2000 the Lord revealed to us He wanted us to continue in our gatherings in our homes. I originally thought that the 14-18 of us who gathered would be the nucleus of a cell-based church. Little did I understand the path of the Spirit. He revealed that we were to continue gathering and depending upon His leading as we gather together. Over time we evolved into a different kind of structure. Much of what we were about was centred around activities. Much of the traditional church still left its imprint upon us. I will declare for you a truth, it is a profound truth and one which must be understood, for it stands over and against the very idea of New Testament relational community. YOU CAN TAKE A PERSON OUT OF THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM, BUT ONLY GOD CAN REMOVE THE SYSTEM FROM WITHIN THE PERSON!
Why am I saying this?
Simple. We screwed up a good thing that was happening among us. The hardest things to learn as the most simple, not the more complex. It is really difficult to discern and navigate being led by the Spirit and having everyone participate with no head, but the Lord Jesus in the midst. To hold on to the truth of ìno title, no agenda, no gloryî can become little more than a catch phrase without power if we fall into the trap of relying on the arm of flesh and the knowledge we already possess.
No matter how much we spoke of and believed in our “being” in Christ, we always were about “doing”! People came to our gatherings because they heard that the Lord showed up and stuff happened. We had some wonderful experiences in the Lord and the Lord did indeed show up and bless, but it was based on His mercy, and the fruit of it was not greater community and a greater awareness of who we were in Christ.
Rather for many of us, we did not understand how much the Lord operates from our state of being in Him, rather than in us doing the work of the ministry. We had people who desired to operate in ìtheirî gifts and discover ìtheirî callings. This seemed good at face value, but in the end, it caused people to be consumed on the self, their giftings, their callings and their ìministries. In the end this obsession with the self and perceived needs and desires, it all takes away from the focal point being Jesus and the life we have in Him and in community.
THE R3 COMMUNITY Vision: To express the life of Jesus in relational, redemptive, revolutionary community.
What does this vision look like?
RELATIONAL: If it doesn’t relate, it doesn’t matter!
Being a relational community is a foundational belief and core value reflective of who we are in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring us into a restored relationship with the Father. The whole basis of His mission was and is reconciliation and life, His abundant life flowing in the lives of those within the Kingdom. It is all about living full and giving relationships. If it isnít relational, then it really doesnít matter!
In John 15, Jesus states:
1 “Iam the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! 8 My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.
The very essence of who we are is found in our being grafted into Jesus and His life. His life flows in us and through us, and it is our desire to gather with those who have a similar passion for the intimate communion we have in Him. It is our heart and purpose to meet and gather with kindred brothers and sisters who want to relate in intimate genuine community, where the focus in not on ourselves, but upon Jesus, all the life that flows from Him in us. It is a fellowship of Beloved, where we express His life and grace to one another and give away what He has given, to build up and encourage and to strengthen.
It is a holistic vision that seeks to see the whole of life be engulfed with the grace and virtue of Jesus. We desire to live and to breathe Jesus in all circumstances, in all trials and afflictions, and in all our joys and triumphs. Jesus is very much present whether we are playing a card game, enjoying a sporting event, or sharing a meal with other brothers and sisters, as equally and readily as in obvious ministry activities. The bottom line, in relational community, is that we relax the deliberate ministry focus, to experience life together, and then let the Spirit guide us in whatever avenues He chooses us to follow.
Our focus it to remain in Jesus, grafted in the very essence and source of His life and power, and to enjoy the abundant life He has promised. It is a fully participatory gathering of brothers and sisters who are gathered together much like a family does. The activities in family flow with limited planning and are often spontaneous. Likewise if we are truly led of the Spirit, we will come to a consensus and agreement as a community, where there is no human leadership (titles or hierarchy), and as we focus on Jesus, and not our agenda, and learn to wait and navigate in the flow of the Spirit, we will be able to declare the words in Acts, that it ìseemed good to us and the Holy Spiritî when we need to move in a particular direction.
All believers, are our brothers and sisters, no matter how old they maybe in the Lord. All have a say and participate. If you are looking for the traditional elder, you wonít find him or her here. In our understanding the ìelderî brothers and sisters, are those who have walked a deep and mature walk with the Lord and
who have been seasoned through the trials and afflictions of life and have garnered much wisdom and discernment through there journey in deep intimate community with Jesus and fellow brothers and sisters. We recognize no human head or form or structure of leadership in the traditional sense. We seek only to be led of the Spirit and through the consensus and agreement of all the saints gathered together. If there is no agreement, there is no movement.
The goal is to seek Jesus and express Jesus to one another and to share in the abundance of who He is in us and through us. In this way, when we experience His life, the flow of His grace will manifest in touching others through the works of Jesus, advancing the Kingdom and fulfilling the desire of the Father. We desire to sow relationship, and ask the Lord to water the relationships that they may grow and bloom into the Fathers beautiful garden! We desire to become perfected in Jesus and His love and to reflect Him to one another and to a hurting and desperate world.
REDEMPTIVE: There is nothing and no-one beyond redemption!
In John 15 Jesus said:
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. 13 And here is how to measure it, the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. 14 You are my friends if you obey me. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 I command you to love each other.
As we remain grafted in Jesus, and we are led by the Spirit, and we yield and submit to the grace walk, the walk where Jesus walks in and through us, and releases His grace for every situation, we will experience the fullness of the Father, and see the full redeeming work manifest through our lives together in community. The Early Church expanded the Kingdom of God through the selflessness of those who carried the message of the Kingdom to other regions of the Roman Empire. That message was a message of reconciling community. It was a redemptive message that no-one, and no-situation was outside of redemption.
Paul was against the Early Church, and when he encountered the living Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) he experienced the redeeming love, and passionate relationship that the Father desires for all who will come to the Son and embrace forgiveness and restoration. Paul was worth redemption, even though he persecuted the church, and as such his life was not only redeemed, but also his calling to take the relational community of God message to the nations. He became the greatest ambassador of his age, but focusing not on himself, or his gifts, or abilities, or ministries, but upon Jesus. Jesus was his message, and the community of love, relationship and passion, which was the outflow of his salvation, was what motivated him. He yearned to give away freely what he had received. Paul is but one example.
As such, we see that if we are to be anything as believers, it is to be brothers and sisters known for our love for the Lord and one another AND as we love one another in community, we will overflow with the life and message of Jesus. Paul went on that overflow and gave it away. His passion was Jesus and giving His life away to others. As others embraced the redeeming message of Jesus, the NATURAL out flow of salvation, was to create a relational redemptive community of saints.
Evangelism was not a program. Evangelism was the outflow of the redeeming work of the Spirit. The outflow of evangelism was the advancement of the Kingdom in the hearts of people, who began to meet and gather in homes and express the life of Jesus together in community. It was only natural that the ìfamily of Godî express itself in a home, which is where family expresses life with one another.
It is our heartfelt desire to become the full expression of the life of Jesus and to see all people are redeemable and that all situations are redeemable and that the Lord does not waste anything. We count all things lost for the sake of Jesus and the Kingdom. The Lord will use those things that the enemy would use to shame us and place us in bondage, in order to further the Fatherís relational redemptive community.
REVOLUTIONARY: Restoration only attempts to fix things, what we need is a revolution, and transformation by the throwing off of the yoke of religion, the religious system that is one and the same with the world system
Jesus said in John 15:
18 “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. 19 The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A servant is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! 21 The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.23 Anyone who hates me hates my Father, too. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be counted guilty. But as it is, they saw all that I did and yet hated both of us, me and my Father. 25 This has fulfilled what the Scriptures said: ‘They hated me without cause.’
The “system” we speak of, the religious system is the product of the world, and it is very much alive within the confines of Evangelical Christianity, and all we have come to understand as “Christianity” within our culture and society. There are only two choices open to us as believers. And choose we must. There are only two ways to understand the Kingdom.
The way of the New Testament is that of the Spirit. The Kingdom can only be appropriated by faith alone. All the promises of God are appropriate by faith. All things of the Kingdom are unlocked by the key of faith, and it is all based on a trust relationship. That relationship is community based. The Kingdom is a relational community of the saints, of brothers and sisters who gather in the Lordís name, and Jesus is the head of every gathering of believers. It is not centred on men or their gifts or their plans and organizational structures.
Too often out of zeal man has attempted to advance the Kingdom, and the prayer has usually been, “Lord, I am going to do this, please bless the labour of my hands. I am doing this for You. “This is the product of religious system and the bi-product of the “me generation” that has influenced body life with such things as “my ministry” or “my gift” or “my calling and destiny”. The Kingdom of God is not about any of that. It is about Jesus and the Father’s Kingdom, and our being a part of that in “community” and not merely a collection of individuals and personalities and gifts.
THE RELIGIOUS GENETIC CODE: IMBEDDED
This religious system has been imbedded like a genetic code into the psyche of every person in the earth. Be they in a Christian environment, pagan, or atheistic, they have been branded with this deep in their core of who they are. If you survey “unchurched” people, you will discover just how much they know about the institutional forms and structures of church and religion. Through mass media and the advancement of organized religion, people have a thorough grounding of this religious system.
Unfortunately, there are many within the Body of Christ who are also part of the system, and many who know no
thing else other than the system and its religious and cultural trappings. Many have a passion for Jesus, but are encumbered by the yoke and bondage of this religious system. The filter for the vast majority of the Body of Christ is this system. MANY EQUATE THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH OF JESUS AS ONE ANDTHE SAME AS THIS SYSTEM. It is the furthest thing from the truth.
* The system is bondage and slavery. The church of Jesus is neither of those.
* The system taxes you economically, and church of Jesus just give Jesus away and releases the Kingdom and sows freely into the lives of others.
* The system wants your time, your spouse, your kids, your paycheck and anything else it can take, where the church of Jesus seeks only to give Jesus and His abundance and grace and all His gifts to all who desire relationship and community.
* The system is driven by those with titles, deeds and power, and who have much to profit from the system, a system in existence since Constantine. The church of Jesus declares that all participates freely in community where there are NO TITLES!
* The system is constantly dividing the Body of Christ due to human agenda and human plans. The church of Jesus declares that there is only the leading of the Spirit and NO AGENDA!
* The system is filled with entertainment, and self-centeredness in its values and ìministriesî, and always giving praise to men and their ministries. The church of Jesus is concerned with only Jesus and gathering around Him and expressing His life together, where there is NO GLORY for the self!
This is why it will take a REVOLUTION!
There is a restoration going on in the Body of Christ, but too much of it is being channeled by human wisdom into existing wineskins and structures. Jesus said that you cannot mix the new wine with the old. There is a new wineskin coming. There is a REVOLUTION in the works. The restoration will not suffice. That which is coming is radical, so radical, that there will be many within the religious system who will hate us just as the world hates us, and that is because the religious system is of the world, and not of Christ.
Attempts at changing existing structures, even how the church gathers and meets, are mere cosmetic surgery when a transplant is needed. Just getting rid of religious buildings and meeting in homes with the same religious system in place is simply “moving the cathedral into the bungalow”! The problem is that the system places people in positions to rule over others and destroys the priesthood of believers, and the whole biblical idea of brotherhood and sisterhood. Changing buildings and moving into houses, and keeping eldership to rule and have authority in homes is no different than the traditional church with cell groups. It bears no resemblance to true biblical relational, redemptive, revolutionary community.
COMMUNITY: A fellowship of brothers and sisters guided by the Holy Spirit
In John 15 Jesus declared:
26 “ButI will send you the Counselor the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will tell you all about me. 27 And you must also tell others about me because you have been with me from the beginning.
Jesus has not left us alone. We simply do not have just the Word of God, but we have the indwelling Christ and the witness of the Spirit. We have available to us all the grace we will need for every circumstance. We have all the gifts we will need for every challenge and task. More than this we have the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit who will guide us in all truth and who will give us the wisdom and direction we need in order to truly have a fully participatory community of faith.
Through the Spirit we will be able to embrace the Kingdom and give the Kingdom away, one person at a time through relational, redemptive, revolutionary community. Won’t you consider being a part of this kind of fellowship?