When you look at “being and doing” church, the first characteristic you find flying off the pages of the New Testament is just how relational the Early Church was during the first three centuries of the church age. Throughout the centuries there were and there continues to be those counter-cultural movements that exude the DNA of relationship, and community expressed through the relational life of people in community and missional life. As they gather around the person of Christ and one another, expressing the love and grace of God and all the other traits and virtues of the Godhead, they become transformed and energized by the Spirit, which compels them and leads them to advance the Kingdom of God in the nations.
Being redemptive as the church is the basic DNA that flows from the Godhead, to those whom the Lord has redeemed and added to His body, the Bride of Christ. Just as the Father sent Jesus, the Incarnate One, and as Jesus sent the Spirit, we in turn have been sent by Jesus into the world to act as redemptive agents of grace that will advance the Kingdom of God with the Gospel of peace, healing, miracles and signs and wonders. This is the mandate of the church, to make disciples of all nations. This is why the church universal exists.
There is indeed a revolution taking place. The mantra is:
- No agenda!
- No titles!
- No personal glory!
There is a true spiritual revolution taking place where millions of Christians a year in N. America are leaving the institutional church. There is a rejection of religion, and a rejection of the status quo as far as how church has been constituted the last 1700 years. This is a good thing. The Lord is being embraced and the human institution of the “Christian religion” is being rejected. People are looking for authentic communities where they can share their life and calling with other kindred souls who desire the fullness of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom, but not the religious systems and politics and manipulation that exudes the vices of quest for power and control and wealth. It is a good revolution and it is expanding, even across society at large.
Can the church truly be the church without reproducing? No, I think not! To be the church, by its definition and New Testament D.N.A., a church must follow it’s mandate, which is to make disciples of all nations. In that sense then as we plant new churches, we are planting them in cultures that are in a state of change and upheaval. The culture at large is a Post-Modern one where the supernatural is now up front and centre, and the Kingdom of God can and is expected to confront the demonic in open display, much like Elijah on Mount Carmel, or Jesus when he came to a town and did visible signs and wonders, miracles and healings. This is a good time to be alive as we see the Kingdom of God breaking forth, as the church advances by reproducing itself through proclaiming the Gospel in power! I am thrilled with the timeframe we are in in this millenium.
RETHINKING CHURCH PLANTING
So when it comes to church planting, and realizing how relational, redemptive, revolutionary and reproducible we must become to truly be effective, I have concluded that one of the key elements missing in the journey I have walked in preparing to plant new churches, has been the dire lack of any true inner healing ministry, in preparing the core group and leadership team to be on the front lines in establishing a New Testament church that is moving forward calling people to faith through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom with signs and wonders following. Doing this, having deep inner healing to deal with the heart issues of life and the wounds from broken and fracture relationships will foster and assist the disciple making relational ministries that bring people to maturity in their faith, and bring them the healing they need in order to have lives that are whole and healed up, so that when they are equipped, and in turn become released to be effective agents of God’s grace in the world.
INNER HEALING: USING SOZO MINISTRY TO BUILD OUR TEAM
Over the years I have been exposed to many seminars, conferences, and schools of healing and ministry, as well as the exposure to video and audio teachings, which revealed just how unprepared I was for life and ministry. When I was in bible college and seminary, the schools were not Pentecostal or Charismatic, and never touched the supernatural realm divine healing, miracles, signs and wonders, and especially inner healing and deliverance. I was always left with many gnawing questions and feeling inadequate to meet the needs of the Lord’s people. I could aways pray and had grace for prayer, and knew and heard the Lord’s voice, and prayed prophetically over people’s lives, but I knew there was more, but was unsure if I even wanted to explore it. So inner healing is a big deal, and in fact the biggest deal there is, when it comes in bringing wholeness, wellness, healing and restoration to those who will be on the front line in planting, building new churches and avance the Kingdom of God.
FATHERING AND MOTHERING
Where are all the spiritual fathers and mothers in the body of Christ? There are millions of people out there hemorrhaging and all their heart issues and wounds are causing them pain, and causing them to injure themselves and others, and some like Lonnie Frisbee, the charismatic hippie who was a leader among the Jesus People, and got involved with the rapid growth of the Calvary Chapel movement with Chuck Smith, and later, the founding and growth of the Vineyard movement with John Wimber, ended up messing up his life because he was unable to deal with all his inner wounds from childhood which ended up affecting his entire life and ministry. Lonnie’s marriage suffered when church leadership said that winning souls was more important than Lonnie’s marriage (where have I heard that before 😉 ).
Childhood issues were rarely discussed in those days, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and if they were, there was no inner healing paradigm or ministry to deal with the traumas of childhood that shaped our adult lives. With Lonnie it was being sexually abused, and his own eventual problem of his sexual identity that were never addressed within the church culture of the day. People like Lonnie, gifted and and anointed people, with a lot of personal baggage, were not understood or accepted, and in Lonnie’s case, he died in his brokenness and pain with limited healing and restoration of relationship, while many Christian leaders, just turned away because they did not know how to deal with the pain and wounds which plagued Lonnie’s personal life.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv3O8SseOio%5D
THIS is why INNER HEALING ministries are important. They equip you to help others become healed and restored. Lets stop all the hemorrhaging. Lets let the Spirit lead us and equip us to help others by using ministries like Sozo.
Many churches are planted with people eager to serve the Lord, advance the Kingdom, win souls to Christ, and make disciples. All well and good. But many do so without inner healing and deliverance being a vital part of their core Christian community. How can a group of people go into the war zone of life, and not be healed and ministered to their own inner wounds of the soul and brokenness, to themeasure that they can be effective for the Lord and be made whole to the degree that they can overcome in their personal lives? This is why I believe many church plants fail and implode. When that inner healing takes place in the core, THEN you can go forth with the mantle of “As you go…” as shown in Matthew 10:
7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
OUR JOURNEY AT YESHUA’S HOUSE
At Yeshua’s House, we are having all of our core group, that is walking and meeting with us, go through Sozo, and THEN we will be able to move forth and embrace and bring others into the fellowship, because we will have dealt with heart issues, and inner healing will flow, so that we can effectively make disciples and advance the Kingdom of God.[youtube:http://youtu.be/kdymEKt3kCg%5D
THE IMPORTANCE THE HEALING PROCESS
First, in ALL the healing, it is Jesus healing by His Spirit.
Secondly, I believe that one should begin seeking the heart of the Lord for them, and open their hearts to the Lord to reveal and expose those areas that need healing. We are often blind to our own heart issues, and the Spirit often exposes those issues as “hot buttons” that other people often reflect like a mirror, our own heart and mindsets and issues. There are also issues that many of us know that need healed, and the root of it exposed and dealt with through inner healing, but we often suppress or diminish the importance of dealing with it, often dismissing it entirely as “no big deal, everyone has issues”, and this cavalier attitude opens the door further to demonic activity and strongholds in our lives.
Thirdly, we can in fact receive more healing “as we go” and heal others. By that I mean, none of us will ever be completely healed, or healed up enough, to go and minister to others, “completely healed up” ourselves. We should however, be aware, that with the healing we have received already, that we ourselves will need to do periodic check ups of our own souls and inner heart, as you well know, “search me O God”, by God centred introspection on a regular basis. This is why we encourage people to walk lives of accountability with others, to allow others to speak into our lives and to confess to one another those areas that we are struggling with. We need to be in safe relationships where we can live this out, so that we can continue to express our brokenness and receive the healing we need on an ongoing basis. So, to make a long story short, we need to get some inner healing, and have good relationships where others interact with us regularly, and then “as we go” and minister to others, be ready to receive more healing along the way.
SPIRITUAL WAKE-UP CALL
For some time I have worked and co-laboured within the various churches, ministries, across the body of Christ, here in our Region and in other national and international ministries. I have worked within my understanding of John 17 and other passages of Scripture that exhort the body of Christ to:
1) Be One as Jesus and the Father are One; and
2) To co-labour in the Lord’s Vineyard with all who proclaim to belong to the wider body of Christ (other churches that proclaim Jesus as Lord and Redeemer and advance the Kingdom of God by calling others to repentance and life transformation in Christ Jesus).
JUST WHO CAN I ALIGN MYSELF WITH?
These two criteria define and restrict who I can as a Christian, both as a servant leader of a Christian church community, and as an individual Christian, can in good conscience co-labour for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom.
I began to reflect on the Book of Acts, and on the Pastoral Epistles and other letters of Paul, Peter, James and John, and again was warmed by how relational, and familial these letters were, when they were penned and sent out and given to the wider Christian family (churches) around the known world in the first century. Some theologians may use grand definitions and theological terms, such as “relational ethics” to categorize them, but at the core, NT servant leaders did not operate under a CEO type hierarchal system as most Western church communities have since the time of Constantine in the fourth century.
WHAT IS THE INTENT OF N.T. CHURCH?
Churches were intended and still are intended to be extended families where servant leaders are set apart by the Holy Spirit, and are viewed as “spiritual fathers and mothers”. People are mutually accountable to one another and “elders” and “deacons” act as “trouble shooters” in the sense of intervention and reconciliation agents of grace, that seeks to have peace restored and a return to proper relational harmony, discourse, and cooperation, with the best intentions that people will live out lives of repentance, and reconciliation and wholeness, so that Christ will be honoured and not blasphemed by our personal, communal, and public expression of life and ministry. The Book of Acts and the letters of Paul and the other NT epistles are replete with exhortations, encouragements, corrections, addressing human relations, and behaviour.
CHURCH DESIGNED AND DESTINED TO BRING THE KINGDOM TO EARTH[youtube:http://youtu.be/RULjmyJbQs8%5D
So our Christian church communities, no matter what structure or form they follow, are to be relational, redemptive, revolutionary, and reproducible communities where people come together in Christ’s name, and commune and express the life and mission of Jesus and His Kingdom, to bring upon the earth the rule of God in all its fullness, glory and power, thereby fulfilling the prayer of Jesus, “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
This entails that which I first addressed, both being One with the Father as Jesus is with the Father, in our Christian communities, as well as co-labouring with believers within our fellowships and outside our fellowships that declare their fealty to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the nations. But that raises issues such as who we are connected to and who speaks into our lives with godly authority and counsel, and who has relational authority and a fathering and mothering role to play in our maturing in our walk with Christ, and fulfilling our destinies in Him and through Him.
THE EXAMPLE OF OUR NATURAL FAMILIES AS COMMUNITIES OF BELONGING
In our natural families, we live out our roles as young children, teen aged children, adult children, until we leave and cleave, leave home, to start a life through marriage with our dearly beloved spouse, with the mindset to procreate and have our own children and continue to fullfil replenishing the earth with our own offspring. Our own children, raised and nurtured by us in Christian community and mission, will in turn have a relationship with us, and our kinfolk, and will express our covenantal relationship with the Lord Jesus, find their own place in Him, and continue the expansion of the Kingdom of God, one person at a time. In this manner each person, in their own “circle of influence” advances the Kingdom of God and impacts every facet of life of the people they touch and engage with in relationship.
We find this to be very true, when we connect with and walk with believers from other churches and Christian communities and “denominations.” I believe this fulfills our mandate from Jesus Himself for us to “love one another” so that the world will know we are one with Him in how we conduct ourselves in our relationships and activities together. This is all well and good.
But, even in natural families, which the Lord established in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent mandate given to humankind to take dominion over the earth, has familial order, the development of the concept of family, tribe, and clan, which eventually became nations. Within ancient Judaism, and other ancient peoples, like the Scots and the Irish, as well as N. American and Australian aboriginal communities, there are tribal and clan relational structures still in existence. In the Scottish clans, there is the family name, the tartan of the clan, the badge and motto, and the attachment to a particular geographical region that defines family and clan. In the Irish, have a mixture of family name,and the regional tartan associated with a particular geographical region, such as the historical counties that make up Northern Ireland and the other counties of the Republic of Ireland.
I am a County Antrim man myself, while my wife’s family is from County Armagh. These are two distinct family tribal affiliations connected to the earth, to those two counties in Northern Ireland, just as the tribes of Israel were allocated different parts of the promised land, and were given rule in those areas, to prosper and grow and expand the Kingdom of God at that time in their own history.
THE MANDATE OF ISRAEL RELEASES THE MANDATE OF THE CHURCH
The mandate on Israel in the Old Testament was to be a blessing to the nations. That mandate was fulfilled in bringing forth the redeemer of the nations, of the whole world, the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, in the Gospels went to His own people first, and prophesied in the Book of Acts, that they, the Judeans, were going to go first to Jerusalem, Judea and to the nations of the earth with the message that the Kingdom of God had come through the cross and resurrection.
The NT church was born, to live out, express, and fulfill the mandate to go to the nations with the good news of reconciliation to the Father, and the reign of the Kingdom of God in the hearts and lives of people in all the nations. It was an inclusive message of belonging to our heavenly Father through the atoning work and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it was a message of love and reconciliation, where the words of Jesus are fulfilled each time someone comes to saving faith in Him, that they “may have life and have it abundantly.”
All of us, in Christian communities around the nations, are agents of grace, agents of the King (Jesus) and His Kingdom of love. We walk in the Father’s love and give it away, and we work with all Christians who call Jesus as their Lord and Redeemer who desire to advance His Kingdom with us.
RELATIONSHIP ISSUES & DYNAMICS OF CHURCH LIFE
So there are issues of relationship and mission that involve the expression of the closed life of the community of faith to which you are knit and belong. Just as you have one set of parents that parent you, and others to take on the role of spiritual parenting and formation in your Christian life, so it is in Christian community. Being open and intimate and vulnerable in a safe environment, recognizing the need to keep and protect personal boundaries, is crucial for Christian churches, and what is the ongoing relationship and mission within that Christian church family is for that family to work out and apply as the Spirit and word lead. That means recognizing that there is one group of servant leaders that are primary for the wellbeing and spiritual care of the people gathered in spiritual family and mission.
It is neither right nor prudent to give authority to others who are not your spiritual family, your church family, the role of pastoral care and ministry to you and your family. This does not imply you cannot have spiritual relationships with other Christians, groups, and ministries, but that these same Christians, who belong to other Christian fellowships and churches and ministries, should not exercise spiritual pastoral care and shepherding over your life.
If you belong to a fellowship, a NT church family, and especially if you say you belong and want to be part of the missional community and life of a church, you need to restrict who has primary pastoral responsibility to care, nurture, equip, mentor, and release you into your calling and destiny. When you get many voice speaking into your life, asking for and demanding your attention and time and energy, and you listen to those voices, you reveal that your heart, your family ties, your belonging, is divided and torn, and you put your spiritual family, your church community in potential turmoil and peril.
Working with other Christians, for the common good of the Kingdom is totally different than belonging to a spiritual family. There are Christian communities who call themselves exactly that, “communities” who abstain from or restrict themselves from calling themselves a “church”. But all their activities when they are together betray the fact that they are in fact being and doing church together. This subverts and deceives others if they claim to be “just a Christian community”.
There is nothing worse than this kind of situation. Wherever your heart belongs, and wherever your are in accountable Christian community, where people speak into your life, give you counsel, and care and nurture, you are already in a church community.
My understanding of NT church life, community, mission and governance is relational and organic, recognizing servant leaders as familial type roles and functions rather than a hierarchal system akin to the CEO mindset. Last night I was struck with a thought as the Lord awoke me to show me the relational authority that Paul had with the churches he planted. Can you be pastored/in a relational covenant with more than one such “pastor/servant leader”? I don’t believe you can. Not if you really believe in covenanting. Who is your “pastor” and who else do you allow to “pastor” you? This explains much in relation to the NT episcopate and the letters to Timothy and Titus and the role of “bishops” and “elders”. More than the various nurturing aspects of pastoral care, is the whole issue of the authority that is given to particular people to speak into your life, and give you direction, teach, confront, admonish and counsel you. That authority is what you give to others as they give direction to your life. You cannot have two such people in your life.
SO, WHO IS PASTORING YOU?
In that sense then you will need to decide who indeed is pastoring you? Is your alternative “church community” and its leadership “pastoring” you? Or is the church family and community of faith you worship with, and are equipped and released in, where you receive ministry and counsel, and where you are recognized for your leadership gifts and your calling and destiny, is that church’s leadership, “pastoring” you? Or is it another?
YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE CHOICES & CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Some will think that I am splitting hairs here, but I am not. I am saying there are serious implications as to where you belong in Christian community, and where you partake in nurture and care, where you are equipped and released into your calling and ministry, and where you are loved as part of the family of saints. Where those things are primary, that is your spiritual family, and it is they, that “pastor” you.
You cannot be part of more than one of these spiritual families. You need to choose and you need to fully commit to the one, while keeping open the other relationships, but not to the degree that they previously had in exercising authority over your life and calling and ministry. Joshua had it right, “Choose you this day, whom you will serve.” Jesus too said, “You cannot serve two masters.” That is to say, you cannot have more than one primary pastoral influence and authority in your life. You have to choose. So choose wisely. Divided hearts will eventually lead to conflict and confrontation, where you will be torn between two allegiances and two communities (or maybe more). Injury and hurt and rejection will be the fruit of you not choosing wisely.