Tuesday, January 3, 2012
If we could step back in time and experience a New Testament fellowship of believers, I am persuade that what went on there would look VERY MUCH like what Neil describes in "Christ In Y'all."
Jesus never prayed that we would be known by our doctrine, or what denomination we belonged to, or how many sermons we listened to. There is so much hair-splitting over fine-points of doctrine that the Protestants are divided up into thousands of splinter groups.
As believers, we tend to have a very individualistic, self-centered, mindset. We come to Christ and accept HIM as our "personal" Savior and we typically do this in a very private fashion, "With all heads bowed and eyes closed." We read scripture with the same "personal" frame of mind in looking in it for "What's in it for me." But, all of the epistles that are written to the churches have a radically differnt frame of referance in that they are written to a body of believers who are not individual "Christians" but "members one of another." These believers fellowshiped together around an indwelling LORD who was enthroned in their hearts and in their meetings together.
Darell L. Bock writes in "A Biblical Theology of the New Testament" writes:
"...a major focus of this letter (Ephesians) and of the Prison Epistles in general is the corporate nature of those who are in the body of Christ. Believers do not have a private faith; they have a corporate relationship and responsibility to each other. God has taken the initiative to form a new people through Jesus..."
Neil describes, from the inside out, what form such a community of believers can experience as they lay down their religious baggage and settle down with one another in Christ-centered fellowships that are not pew to pulpit focused but are in fact face-to-face fellwships that are seeking intimacy with the LORD as a corporate pursuit.
Our GOD is truly doing a new thing in the earth today. Believers are discovering authentic fellowship and encounter with their indwelling LORD and they are discovering this together in community. "Christ in Y'all" is highly recommended as an invitation to this life in Christ that is much bigger and greater than three songs and a sermon each Sunday.
"By the Father y'all were called into companionship and participation with HIS Son, Jesus Christ our LORD." I Cor. 1:9
Read Neil's book and then read
Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities by Frank Viola (Paperback - Sep 1, 2009)
The Temple Within: Fellowship with an Indwelling Christ by Milt Rodriguez (Paperback - Sep 22, 2004)
Posted by Clark Wade at 7:10 PM
"Church is the sphere of the rule of Christ who dells in the midst of His people. Where subservience and devotion to Him remain the basic factors and rule of the church's life, His rule reaches down into the spirit and soul of a man which are the source of all his actions...the true, spiritual history of the church often takes its course through the generations of those who were despised by organized Christendom and not through the edifice of traditional Christianity." John W. Kennedy, The Torch of the Testimony
It has been stated that the "Acts of the Apostles" should be more correctly titled, the "Acts of the Holy Spirit." It has also been stated that the book of Acts is an open-ended book without a clear "ending" because the Acts of the Holy Spirit were just getting started. In my opinion, this book gives us a slice of the Acts of the Holy Spirit throughout the last 2000 years of church history outside of religious church structures that had hardned into dry forms, rituals, and ceremony.
This book deserves a wider audience among believers, not only those who are seeking more organic expressions of meeting together as the early church did, in simplicity, in devotion to apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer, but of those who are in institutional churches as well. The reason I say this is that both groups need to understand and appreciate the ultimate price that our brothers and sisters have paid in order to pursue the Lord with singularity of heart in their attempt to return to scriptural principles of meeting together without the benefit of ecclesiastical hierarchies, orders of service, or ritual and ceremony.
In all of my years, I have never understood why so many devoted believers were exiled, jailed, tortured, beheaded, burned at the stake, and hung by religious authorities, both Catholic and Protestant, that claimed to be churches of Jesus Christ. I never understood why those who translated the bible into the common language of the people were also hung and burned at the stake. This book explains the inexplicable and the threat these simple believers presented to the church authorities.
I learned as well why God moved revival to Antioch even as the Jerusalem revival that took place at Pentecost began to harden into form and ritual and ceremony. Indeed, this is the pattern that emerges throughout the spiritual history of the church. First revival breaks out in an organic fashion, then tenants and doctrines are set up to solidify the fresh move of God into set forms, and then the forms harden into apathy and ceremonialisms void of spiritual vitality. As Kennedy writes about God's move from Jerusalem to Antioch in this way:
"The Spirit of God had to move elsewhere to start on fresh and more free ground. We see here but the beginning of a pattern of events which is repeated over and over again throughout the history of the church. When that which is revealed of God is crystallized into a tradition, rigidly held and propagated with purely human energy, it becomes an impenetrable barrier to the truth. The life of the Spirit can never be confined within the framework of religious tradition. God is much greater than man's thoughts concerning Him, and the plan of the church grows best in a soil uncluttered by the pretty hedgerows of man's limited understanding."
I also learned what place Augustine, whom I have always admired, played in institutionalizing "violence" within the church as a method of conversion.
As Kennedy writes:
"In Augustine we see the confusion of spiritual life and ideals with ecclesiastical barbarism. Probably no man has made such a great contribution to Christian thinking as Augustine, and probably no man has made such a great contribution to the establishment of the Roman Church and the perpetration of centuries of ruthlessness in the name of Christ."
I cannot recommend this book enough to seekers who desire to know how God has been actively moving throughout the spiritual history of His church outside of "organized Christianity." Here you will find the "torch of the testimony" burning brightly throughout 2000 years of a gospel that speaks of a living Christ who desires direct access to His people without the haze and obfuscations of forms, rituals, or the consent of clerical hierarchies which have ordained themselves as either heads of Christ's church, or as mediators between God and man. There is only one Head of the church, and one mediator between man and God, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems those who really understood this, who practiced such a radical faith, were willing to pay such a radical price, because they knew such a radical Lord.
"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." 2 Cor. 3:17
Posted by Clark Wade at 6:44 PM
COME AND NAIL YOUR HEART TO HIS CROSS
As a Christian of 40+ years, the pilgrimages I have made with others using "Contemplating the Cross" is one of the major highlights of my life.
We live in the "information age." Much of this has crossed over to the Christian church with its obsession with acquiring endless exegesis of scripture, sermonizing, homeletics, etc. Steve Meeks in his book "Relational Christianity" states that contemporary Christianity is "data-based." We are soaked to the bone with biblical information, precept upon biblical precept, principle upon biblical principal, but somewhow we remained unchanged, unchallenged, and unrepentive.
"Contemplating the Cross" sets us on a different path. It jolts us out of our fascination with biblical information and plants our feet, and our hearts, on an interactive journey with Christ from Gethsemane to the Cross. We do not just "read" the story; we "enter" it. And while the disciples slept after Christ asked them to stay up with Him, and while they all fled, we can, in some small measure, rectify this by staying up with Him "one hour" and walking with Him to the Cross.
In "Contemplating the Cross" the prayer pilgrims are introduced to "sacred reading" or lectio divina. In this ancient prayer form, we are invited to cultivate an approach to scripture that doesn't seek to control the content in our typical abstract, linear fashion, but allow the sacred text to spill into our hearts as we learn to "be still and know God."
"Contemplating the Cross" also invites the participants to prayer-journal their responses. And when the little group of pilgrims meet on a weekly basis, their journal entries can be shared with the rest of the group. I say "can" because there is no compulsion. All such deep sharing is a free-will gift for the others, from the heart. But all such sharing brings insights too deep for words, tears of repentence and tears of gratitude. And the group experiences a deep, spiritual connectedness that has nothing to do with how many cars we have in the garage, how big our houses are, or what political party we belong to. In the shadow of His Cross, all of us are reduced to what we all hold in common: our need for grace.
What tends to come out of this 40-day pilgrimage is not only a renewed love of our wonderful Savior, but spiritual gifting as well, and the gift of prayer. Those who have never had a very deep prayer life all of a sudden discover that they can indeed pray, deeply and intimately, using a pin and their journals. And the gifts of prayer-writing that come out of this are awesome! (And it's not often thought about in this fashion, but the book of Psalms are really David's prayer journal).
I currently meet in a house church. This material lends itself beautifully regarding helping to cultivate "spiritual gifts" and "mutual participation" with "every member functioning" as described by Paul in I Corinthians 12 & 14. There is no one person "teaching" the material; the Holy Spirit truly becomes guide and teacher through each member.
"Contemplating the Cross" is designed to be read with the Lent season, with 40 days of prayer and contemplation leading to Easter. I hope you'll meet us at "the Cross".
"If we share in His sufferings, we shall certainly share in His Glory." Romans 8:17
Posted by Clark Wade at 6:29 PM