Monday, December 29, 2003

i'm back from the FCBC retreat. back at work! woohoo!
i just need to share a bit and get things off my chest before
I head into the rest of the week.

I met some awesome, awesome, youth at FCBC...geez so many.
Jeff (getting out of gang and getting into Jesus), Justin (17 year
old missionary & future church planter), Anita (future missions
mobilizer, preacher, prophetess), Aaron & Leanna (two incredible
lead-worshippers with hearts of gold) Kevin & David (who were
touched by the Holy Spirits abounding love and power) and bunch
of way cool "counselors" who really loved the kids. haha..finally
got to meet spencer (great hilarious dood man)...wendy, clarissa,
melissa, john, little dylan and his momma who cooked & served
me dinner every night. It was a great time to hang out w/ so many
youth..there were soooo many more awesome young people..
but yeah...

honestly, I think my preaching and messages didn't go as well
as I would have liked. I guess the Lord's is breaking me and teaching
me more in how to approach and relate to "churched kids" geeez..
its soooo tough sometimes. The last night, I felt i had to change
my message the last minute. So I whipped up a message in like
20 minutes..and.. didnt make much sense...but hopefully
the Holy Spirit moved and touched each youths heart. I'm only
the messenger to give the message, its up to the Holy Spirit to
convict and bring about change. I need to be less self conscious
and realize that I can't please everyone. God is teaching me
to stick to my gunz, stay focused, simple and as always
"share from my heart." I really do pray the FCBC youth came out
of this retreat with something "practical" and "eternal" they can
take home. Overall, I'm thankful to God each time He gives me
the opportunity to share His Word. Although, sometimes I still
struggle w/ feeling like an utter failure & I begin to think
"Lord I don't want to speak at another camp or youth event
because my message is so non-encouraging & I'm not that
great of a communicator" But, hey I just want to be obedient.
I just want to do what God is telling me to do. I just want to
do my best, even if my best in a sense "fails"~yet in God's eyes
trying my best always means He's proud of me, He still likes me,
He still believes in me & I shouldn't always be that hard on myself.
And wake up Jaeson "not everyone in the world is going to like you!"
& Jaeson you need to start liking yourself.....

well...back in the office. God is good! We just opened up 2 meetings
in Texas w/ CompUSA and Radio Shack to demo our product. Oh
Lord .....give us double favor with these accounts. Also give me grace
and wisdom to breakthrough with Target, Good Guys, Amazon & Kmart.
I trust You and know You will guide me and give me great success.

Lastly, I realize as I come into 2004 I need to make some serious
New Year commitments. More time with God, more time to exercise,
more time with family/friends, more focus in my life. Everyone seems to
think i'm NutZ.... full time school, full time work, full time church planting,
monthly speaking engagements, hosting a TV show, building a Youth Center,
networking youth pastors in the city, media projects w/ Hammer, auditioning
for TV/film, sorta working on my rap album, soooooooooooooooooo yeah..
this is bad. I really need to cut down. Lord teach me, discipline me, guide me,
cut things out if You have to so that I can focus more time on the things that
matter. I guess I'm the byproduct of an MTV generation who loves multi-tasking
and doing everything at the same time...good and not good. I need focus.

Sometimes I wonder if I was just born to multi-task? Well, I did draw a picture
for my dad when I was 6 years old with me Monday-Friday (Business man),
Saturday (Artist), Sunday (Preacher) haha..i just realized at this last retreat
I'm doing all of that in a weird way. What am I going to do when I graduate
in March? haha...I know...DISNEYLAND...or maybe I'll get married..YEAH RIGHT!!!!
don't know what to think of the future....I like being single...but then I don't.
I wish things wouldn't have to be so complicated w/ relationships..I dunno.
Well the journey (process) to maturity continues and daily death continues.
It hurts, but its part of the journey, so jaeson learn to embrace it with gladness.

Lord You're all I want, You're all I need, You're everything, EVERYTHING.
(Jason Wade- Lifehouse)

ps..LOTR RETURN OF THE KING: 1 word~ MASTERPIECE got to watch it w/
Erica n' Serg...we came out of the theater in disbelief of how beautiful
the movie was filmed. Then on Christmas night...haha..I watched
"Last Samurai" by was incredibly magnificent in it's own right.
I would describe it in the words of "honor, loyalty & courageous" ...i dunno
what it is with me and these war hero movies...i guess they all put fuel
in my heart.... ><>

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Jesus~be my only satisfaction
Jesus~be the only thing I look for
Jesus~be my success
Jesus~fill my heart with Your delight
Jesus~may I feel Your pleasure
Jesus~be thou my vision
Jesus~keep my eyes on You
Jesus~keep me from temptation
Jesus~may You be all that I want
Jesus~may You be all that I need
Jesus~purify me heart
Jesus~let me see through Your eyes
Jesus~be my passion
Jesus~return unto me the joy of my salvation
Jesus~heal my heart
Jesus~make me whole
Jesus~grace me through the desert
Jesus~see me through till the end
Jesus~let us fall in love all over again
Jesus~You are my one true friend

thank You ><>

Tuesday, December 23, 2003 again. This weekend I'll be speaking to the youth
at FCBC in LA for their winter retreat. Then the following Friday
I'll be flying down to meet with a Pastor from Singapore at
the SOP conference in Anaheim. What I'm really praying and
hoping is that I get to visit a Third Day House Church in San Diego
on this trip....I caught wind of this house church movement in SD
check it out...

It's is going to look alot different in the next
10 years... aw yeah.

Housechurching is Biblical
Many important biblical events took place in homes.
• Pentecost took place in a house. (Acts 2:1-2)
• The Last Supper took place in a house. (Luke 22:7-13)

Most of the miracles took place in homes.
• The wedding at Cana took place in a house.
• Jesus and Paul taught in many homes.
• "Greet the church in your house" was a common greeting of Saint Paul to various house churches started by him (1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2, Romans 16:5 and so on). He visited house to house and taught them everything. (Acts 20:20)

The House Church is the original New Testament church.
• The disciples went to the temple regularly and taught the people, bringing the seekers to their homes. They gave them food and discipled them (Acts 2:42). Soon they were jailed and punished by the temple authorities and banned entry into the temple but by then they had reaped a large harvest and many house churches had been established. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved." (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4).

• The intimate, friendly environment of a home provided the ideal stage for interaction, resulting in the rapid conversion and maturing of believers into disciplers. Multiplication of disciplers led to explosive growth of the church (Acts 6:1).

• The informal environment of the house churches gave opportunity for rapid maturing of "lay leaders" like Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr and Philip, who was the first evangelist to evangelize Samaria. The net result of handing over the baton to the seven Greek speaking ordinary men resulted in the conversion of priests, which in turn caused exponential growth in the church. (Acts 6:7)

• The rapid growth of house churches (Acts 8:3) resulted in severe persecution of the believers and Peter ended up behind bars. The church gathered in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, for an all night prayer meeting which led to the dramatic release of Peter from jail. (Acts 12:5; 12)

• There was no formal Sunday service. The meetings could last all day and all night. Believers therefore came equipped with lamps for such an eventuality. (Acts 20:7)
• Signs and wonders, including raising the dead Dorcas, took place in homes. Baptism of the household of Cornelius and the Philippian jailer took place in their homes.

History of the House Church.

• It is significant that other than teaching and confrontation with the temple authorities by Jesus and the disciples, no noteworthy activity, not even worship or prayer, took place in the temple precincts.

• In the church's first three hundred years the entire Roman empire was Christianized.

• The church was severely persecuted until 310 AD when King Constantine became Christian and built the first Cathedral. Paid clergy were employed, one of whom later became the Pope. Constantine converted "Daily Christians" into "Sunday Christians" by declaring Sunday a holiday. He also gave Christmas and Easter festivals to Christians. Constantine was only a nominal Christian as he built other pagan temples as well. Later a spate of cathedral building took place in Europe with domination of the professional priesthood, resulting in the demise of the house church movement. The church then went into the dark ages for more than a thousand years,
looting and killing ordinary believers. It is estimated that the established church killed 25 million people calling them "heretics." The church today is truly founded on the blood of the martyrs. No well-meaning man has done more damage to Christianity than Constantine. But for him the world would have been evangelized a long time ago.

• If our Lord is willing to be born in a cow shed then where is the problem with the humble house church? The first worship of Jesus took place in a cow shed church.

• Today, we need hundreds of thousands of pastors/elders for the church who cannot be produced in seminaries but can easily be equipped in the house churches.

• Finance is also not as big a problem as most house churches and house church networks can run on much "lower” budgets. There are fewer maintenance bills and mortgage payments, so the leaders can focus more on completing the task of the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:18-20)

• A house church does not produce lukewarm Christians but quality Christians who quickly learn to be fruitful (Acts 16:5). People of other faiths usually find it easier to go to a friendly home than a formal Sunday church service, which in most cases does not cater to them. (Mark 11:17)

• We all know that the congregational model has failed and the denominational model creates division within the Body of Christ. The empty cathedrals in Europe are silent witnesses to the barrenness of the church. Why continue to imitate a failed model?

• Seminaries equip pastors for a single congregation while house churches follow the 222 formula (2 Timothy 2:2). They equip disciples to plant multiplying churches by multiplying leadership.

• The house churches are fulfilling the mandate of our Lord and reaching the "ends of the earth". Therefore, God is blessing them. Barrenness is a curse in the Bible. Therefore, the Bride of Christ must reproduce, multiply and fill the earth. The house church is by nature an immensely fertile model.

Housechurching is Functional
A house church is a group of Christians who meet regularly in someone’s home in order to be the church. A key component of this group is the way its members perceive themselves. In a house church the members see themselves as a kind of family. They feel connected to one another. They understand their responsibilities and commitments to one another. They don’t see their time together as extra-curricular but instead as crucial to their spiritual development. They are “owners” within the group and know that if the church is ever to realize its potential, it can’t rely on religious professionals to do its work for the rest.

An Inclusive Church
House churches make a place for Christians of both genders, all ages, all races, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all educational backgrounds. There is no discrimination along the lines mentioned above in order to have a more homogenous group. People are welcomed because Christ welcomes us. Because the church is inclusive, not exclusive, age, gender, education, level of spiritual development - none of these things matter. The church, by its very nature, is a family whose existence is based on a common faith in Christ. One can make a case for temporary, smaller-sized groups that serve a special purpose, but if this is the rule rather than the exception, we lose the family and mission aspect of the church. The young people lose the wisdom of their elders. The elders lose the energy of their youth. The men lose the special female perspective and the women lose the male view. The poor need the rich but we forget that the rich also need the poor.
So... a house church can’t be just for people in their 20’s or just for guys. It can’t be just for people trying to work through a particular personal issue or for people without kids. It can’t just include people with good manners or those who are white. A house church can’t make distinctions along these lines because it perceives itself as a real church. The people of Jesus
welcome and include all others who are attempting to follow Him.

A Functional Church
Because a house church usually meets in someone’s home, its size is naturally limited. But, the members of the house church see this natural limitation as a good thing because it provides a setting in which intimacy and care can flourish. The smaller size (typically 8 - 20) and the home or non-institutional setting of these churches translates into a functional church.

Members of a house church perceive themselves collectively as a true, functional church. Most traditional churches see the smaller gatherings of people as important but extra- curricular, maybe like vitamin supplements to a larger, primary event (usually the Sunday meeting). Numbers confirm this view. Most American churches have only a tiny percentage of their members involved in small groups. Even the churches with with the most successful small group ministries rarely have more than 50% participation in small groups. If actions really do speak louder than words, then what’s being spoken here seems clear: “The larger-sized meeting is more important than the smaller meeting.”

Although this situation is unfortunate, it’s also to be expected. The big meeting is what American churches have sunk most of their time and energy and money into. They build big, impressive buildings for it. They hold it weekly rain or shine. The pastor prepares hours and hours per week on the message for that day. It’s the only venue where money is collected. It’s where the professional musicians play and are the most visible. When people talk about “going to church,” they typically think of this time and place.
We would like to see this trend change and turned around, and in a day when “bigger is better” say that the smaller-sized groups are important and even critical to one’s spiritual welfare. And that when push comes to shove and you have to make a choice, go to the smaller group as a priority. Go to the place where you can know and be known. Be among people who
care enough to know the details of your life.

“House Churches” are simple, organic, relationship-based, biblical, flat-structured, networked, and round-the-clock radical discipleship centers. They are God´s solution to father the fatherless and His provision of a spiritual home for the billions of people who are spiritually homeless. “House Churches” neither need to happen in church buildings or in real houses, but will emerge as spiritual families wherever the “center of gravity” of life happens to be. House Churches can, therefore, happen in hotels, bars, discos, McDonald’s, the street, under a tree, schools, offices, businesses, and yes, even in real houses, villas, apartments, nursing homes, a slum hut or a Mongolian tent. Wherever people live and spend most of their time, God wants to move in and live amongst them, change their lives, and make them part of his mission and send them out to disciple the nations.
Church, in reality, is meant to be a collection of house churches. It is clear that the vibrancy of church life is directly tied to your connections with other people. In other words, if you don't really know others, church life is nothing more than another form of social isolation (and American church life already has way too much of that), or even as one brother called it, “A Rotary Club with tongues.”

The church is supposed to be a connected body of people, not just in name but in reality. We must try harder to let our actions demonstrate how we feel by structuring a church where the Small Groups (or House Churches) take precedence over the larger groups or celebrations. The small gathering of a house church is like a family and the large gathering on the weekends like a family reunion. As important and as fun as real-life family reunions can be, they are not even possible without first having the family relationship that precedes the reunion. Here we have to think small, not big! First, small groups (House Churches), then all groups (Larger city-
wide apostolic meetings).

The house church is where you can get to know people, get questions answered, grow spiritually, serve alongside others, share meals, eating with each other and with God and express your faith face-to-face in real time with actual people. It's true hands-on church. It's not an antiseptic, sterile, and lifeless form of church life where you punch your card in some religious time-clock on your way in and out of a building. Rather, it's an attempt to express faith in the truest of all places: in daily life and among broken people.

A Comprehensive Church
Because our lives are different, our gifts are unique and our personalities are diverse, when we spend time together in the house church, it becomes very quickly a comprehensive way of being the church. When house churches meet, they’re not together just to have a Bible Study. Nor are they together as a social group just to eat and hang out. They don’t come together simply to take care of one another’s needs. And they’re not together just to do some task beyond themselves, like helping the poor. In other words a house church is not a specialty group.

It’s more than a Bible Study, a Worship Group, a Social Group, a Care Group, a Prayer Group, or a special Task Group. It’s a hybrid of all these things because all of them are features of the church. When the church gathers, people worship, study Scripture, pray for one another, take care of needs, eat together, reach out to others together. Not all of these things have to happen in the same meeting or in every meeting, but all of them are regular features of house church gatherings over time because of the comprehensive nature of the church.

We obviously think the house church falls more in line with the nature of church life as described on the pages of the New Testament. But house churches are not just an old, worn out paradigm that no longer makes sense in the modern world. With the estimated two million house churches in China, and the renewed interest in house churches in Europe and Great Britain, America stands ready for a return to vital, virtual church. Inclusive, Functional and Comprehensive church in our homes.

- Excerpts from House Church Guidebook by Dave Nixon

Housechurching is Practical
What should we do when we get together? One of the important things to realize is that church as a small group is not like anything else you may have experienced as church. We get asked, Is it like a prayer meeting? We pray, but no, it is not like a prayer meeting. Is it a Bible study? No, it is not like a Bible study, although we will usually spend some time over the Word.

Perhaps the greatest temptation we have is to make it a mini version of a larger meeting, where someone has been delegated to prepare some worship songs, another has a teaching, etc. If we do that , we have not gained much from meeting in a smaller group. Small group dynamics are totally different from those of a larger group.

Church is family. A normal family, gathered around the dinner table, does not have, for example, the mother say to the children, Now let’s all listen to what Dad has to say, and then the father talks for 40 minutes explaining something that is not of much relevance to the kids. No. Normal family is interactive, participatory and intensely relevant to the people there. And church should be the same way.

I Corinthians 11-14 talks about what we should do when we come together. Chapter 12 spends much time explaining how vital every part of the body is, and how each part has a different function. This needs to be expressed in our times together. I Corinthians 14:26 is the key verse for our meetings. It says that when we come together, each one has a contribution to make. Whether a song, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation--everything must build up and edify the body.

According to Acts 2:42, when the believers came together, they devoted themselves to the apostle s teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers. These are the four elements that we try to include in the times that we spend together.

Study of the Word
If our house churches are going to multiply rapidly, we will no longer have the luxury of taking several years to train a Bible teacher. Often, a new Christian will be leading something after only a short period. Paul faced this too--in some instances he moved on very quickly. For example, in Philippi he only stayed for several days. Therefore, we need to use an approach that allows the Bible to teach itself, where even the youngest Christian is able to lead.
We evangelical Christians tend to emphasize the importance of good teaching. This is missing the point. The essential is that people are genuinely learning and applying Scripture to their everyday lives. Statistics show that we learn far more by actively participating than by hearing alone. Scientists tell us that we remember 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear and 70% of what we hear and see and then say ourselves. In house church, we have the opportunity to involve everyone. In New Testament times, teaching was far more interactive; for instance, the word used for Paul s lengthy teaching in Ephesus is the word dialegomai, from which we get our word dialogue (Acts 20:7). Jesus tells us that we are to teach new disciples to obey His commands. In a small group, there can be some kind of accountability built in. More than once, we have had people say to us that they learned more in just months of home church than they had in years of sitting listening to good sermons!

We try to spend little, if any, time in teaching in a formal fashion, but rather elect to have interactive discussion of a Bible passage. Over the years, we have come back repeatedly to three different methods of Bible study that are discussed below. The method is not important, but the fact that the method leads to a participatory discussion is important. Each of the three methods requires a facilitator, who s responsibility is to make sure the study keeps moving, that everyone is taking part and that no one person (particularly the facilitator!) dominates. It is not the facilitator s job to answer questions that come up. Rather he should direct questions back to the group.

In this type of Bible study, everyone s opinions are valued and there is no such thing as a wrong answer. But what if someone starts teaching heresy? (Christians always seem worried by this possibility!) In dozens of these groups over the years, we have never seen one sidetracked by wrong teaching. Even with the youngest Christians someone always says, That doesn’t seem right, if anything too outlandish comes up. The facilitator is trained to require some kind of scriptural backing for any opinion voiced.

Usually our churches study their way through a book. Sometimes as much as a whole chapter will be covered in a session; more frequently, just a few verses. Because literacy may be a problem in some groups, we usually read only a couple of verses before stopping to discuss what we are learning. Then we will cover a few more verses.

A few verses are read, and then the group answers three questions.
· What does it say?
· What does it mean?
· What difference does it make in my life?
You may wonder if there is any difference between questions one and two. But take the phrase from John 1 where it says, In the beginning was the Word. There is a huge amount of meaning in there that could get missed if the second question were not included.
We use this method in our churches that meet in retirement homes. It is very simple and easy.

This is a modified Navigator s method. A couple of verses are read, and we look for things that correspond to three different symbols. The first is a question mark, which obviously symbolizes something a person does not understand. The second symbol is a candlestick and is used to represent something that sheds light, either on another passage of Scripture, or else something that is going on in a person s life. The third symbol is an arrow, and stands for where God is piercing a person s heart--they know that they have heard from God and need to do something about it. So a person might say, I have a candlestick on this verse. This describes a situation that happened to me at work last week...

We used this method to start our present group of churches. We pulled together a dozen non-Christian business people and studied the book of Proverbs, looking at principles relating to business and wealth. Over the course of the study, every person became a Christian!

The third method we learned from Robert Fitts.
In discussion Bible Study we simply read the Scripture, each taking turns reading a few verses, depending on how many people are present. While it is being read, everyone is invited to interrupt at any time and make a comment or ask a question.
If it seems that too much is being read, then the facilitator will stop the person reading and ask, Does anyone have a comment? It is unusual for more than a few verses to be read before a discussion develops.
Our churches that meet in the housing projects use this kind of study.
The method used is not important. It is just a tool to accomplish the goal of a participatory Bible study. Here the Bible itself is the teacher, and everyone in the group is involved in both the teaching and learning process and the application of what is learned to daily life.
Are we saying there is no place for traditional teaching? Our experience is that the small meetings in homes are not the best place for extended lesson-type messages. If God has revealed some helpful or exciting truth, do share it--in a brief form. But the cold fact is that listening to long discourses does not turn people into teachers!
Our larger monthly meetings, where several house churches come together, have two main differences from the smaller meetings: First, the chances of getting to say something are definitely smaller. Over time, everyone can speak, but not in every large meeting. Second, the larger numbers often justify inviting in a gifted believer who has a powerful message or anointing.

Studies of early church history show that it was as much the love that Christians had for each other, as the actual message itself, that won so many to their cause. That this love went across culture, religion, ethnic differences and even the slave/free barrier was a great testimony to all.

Just a casual reading of the New Testament forces one to the conclusion that the early disciples shared their lives together in a deep and meaningful way. In this country, and at this period in time, fellowship has tended to be superficial at best, and at times downright absent! How can we change this?

Jesus taught that the world would know we are Christians by our love for one another. The apostle John, described as the disciple whom Jesus loved, shared deeply on the nature of fellowship in his first letter. If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other... An old song we used to sing in England went like this:
Let us open up ourselves to one another,
Without fear of being hurt or turned away,
For we need to confess our weaknesses
To be covered by our brothers love,
To be real and learn our true identity.

True fellowship is like this. It is being real with one another, loving and caring for one another, genuinely and without hypocrisy. It is knowing if someone is having difficulties because we are familiar with them enough to recognize the signs. It is being willing to let down the masks we all put up (Yes, I 'm fine, thanks with a bright smile when inside we are barely under control) and risking letting people know us as we really are. True fellowship takes time and commitment.

John's conclusion in his letter: It is hard to believe that you love God who you cannot see, if this is not being matched by love for your brothers and sister who you can see.

Breaking of Bread
We have been involved in home style meetings now for most of the last 30 years, and we have come to the conclusion that there is one factor more important than any other in determining whether a group will be successful or not. Do they share meals when they get together? Those that eat together invariably do better than those that do not.
Eating obviously played an important part in early church life, as it did in Jesus life. Some of Jesus most effective times with unbelievers included food, e.g. Zaccheus, Matthew s friends, etc. Many of the occasions described with His disciples involved a meal, e.g. The last supper, and His times with the disciples after His resurrection. Acts 2:46 reveals that the early church shared their meals daily with great joy. I Corinthians 11 tells of the problems that arose when some people failed to share the common meal, during which they remembered the Lord s death in the communion, appropriately.
Eating food together does something to the way that people relate with each other. We have found that it produces an informal atmosphere that makes it much easier for people to share their lives together.

However, there are some guidelines that we use. As in everything else, we try to make it easy to duplicate. If a host family produces a gourmet meal, that makes it very intimidating for others who think they have to live up to that standard. In general, we have a simple potluck meal together. Everybody brings a contribution. If it is in the evening, we may have those who work just bring something that they can pick up at a store, such as sodas or a dessert. Occasionally there are drawbacks to not organizing it more, such as the time when every single family brought some kind of pasta dish. But in general this approach works very well. We try to make sure that people help with the clean up, and if we know there are families who are struggling to make ends meet, the leftovers provide a sensitive way of helping them out. (We will sometimes produce extra large amounts of food so that we can do that!) Our celebrations, when all of the local home churches come together, includes a meal, as do our leadership times. We love our meetings!

Our God is a creative God, and when we learn to follow the Holy Spirit in our times together, it is amazing what happens. Once in His presence, He shares His heart with us, and as we listen to Him, He draws us closer to Himself, and leads us in the direction that He has planned for us. It is as though we are the instruments of the orchestra, the Holy Spirit is the conductor, and as we each play the melody that He has given us individually, He produces a symphony.
I Corinthians 14:26 says that when you come together, each person has a contribution to make. An open time together when everyone can bring what is on their heart is one of the most characteristic things about church in the home. Perhaps a typical meeting (is there such a thing?) might include some worship including songs, scriptures, praise, then maybe a prophecy or picture that someone has with some accompanying discussion, ministry to the needs of those there, prayer over an area of the city where we are wanting to start a new church... The possibilities are endless.

Prayer for an individual is precious. Frequently, we have them sit in the center and some come and lay hands on them, to identify with them. Then we pray around the area of whatever has prompted the prayer. Often people have prophecies or pictures for them or are impressed with a verse of Scripture for them. This kind of prayer can be life-changing! For us, the teaching of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Church movement has been so helpful. He taught us, You spell faith: R-I-S-K. It can be a risk to boldly pray for specific answers for a person, but God wonderfully responds when we step out in faith.
Following the Holy Spirit in our times together is an adventure!
Dr. Felicity Dale

Housechurching and Children
How do we integrate our children into this fresh move to house churches? This, of course, happens first at home. Your first question is how? Children learn what they see. If they see parents with faith, they have faith. If they see parents with adoration of all God has created, they get adoration of God’s creation. If they see parents who truly believe God will provide what they need, they believe God provides.
What we’re saying is this: include your children in your faith. If you’ve run into a particularly difficult time financially let them in. Not into your concern, your worry, but into your trust in God’s provision. This same principle works if someone is sick. Let them into your prayers of faith for healing. When you are in nature point out where you see the majesty of the Lord. The ocean is an orchestra of worship. Can you hear it? Share your gifting with them. Whatever your gifting is. Teaching, prophesy, healing, mercy, intercessory prayer, hospitality. Let them know that it is God who has given this to you and that you are being obedient to his call when you operate in it. Invite them in with you.

Pay attention to their gifting. Give opportunity for their gifting even, or especially, if it is different than yours. Explain that the Father gave gifts to men. Not earned. That all the gifts are important for the whole body of Christ. They are a part of that body and are counted on to give their part. Help them understand that when we all come together at church that is a time of celebration of our faith in Jesus. Help them find a way to celebrate being a part of God’s family. God doesn’t have any grandchildren. We are all children of God. Let them know that you care what they see or hear during the celebration and that you will help them understand or if appropriate share with the rest of the church.

We know that parents are concerned that their children will be bored in large, medium or small gatherings of Christians. There has been, for years, a program to avoid boredom in children. It is called Sunday School. There is no Sunday School in the Bible. It was not needed. We often think of the time Jesus went to the temple when he was a boy and stayed behind. It was three days before his earthly parents found him after looking in each family member’s tent. Children were a part of each event. They were included in every aspect of Church life. There never was an entertainment option. This will be a huge shift for some. A needed shift. We don’t read anywhere in the Bible where we’re told to entertain our children. We are told over and over to share our faith. It isn’t the job of someone else. It is clearly the parents’ job.
So, what do I do if my children get bored? First, you prepare them for the changes you are making. Let them know what to expect. What kind of behavior is appropriate, and what kind of behavior is inappropriate. Let them know that they will be active participants in the Family of Jesus and that everyone is staying together like a whole family. Tell them to pay attention to anything God shows them or tells them and to let you know. Invite them into whatever is happening. Dancing, singing, praying, eating, sharing.

Since children see from the Lord, it would be good to have paper and crayons available to let them draw what they see and hopefully share it with the group. On the way home let them share with you what they thought about the meeting and help them understand and make any adjustments they need. Pray together for each meeting especially that God would minister to and use your child.

Ways to Incorporate Children into the House Church Meetings.

• Expect children to be children. By this we don’t mean disruptive behavior. We mean that children have short attention spans and will be wiggly. They might even talk to their neighbor.

• At the meal include them as adults. However you are seating the adults, include the children in that seating. As opposed to a separate table for the children.

• Set up a place in the room with art supplies. Have the children draw what the Lord is showing them during any time of the meeting.

• When the children realize that you are not going to entertain them but include them, they will find a way to participate.
At times of prayer don’t pray "down" to children. Pray as you would to any one in the room. Have the children pray. Give them opportunity to share what the Lord is telling them about any prayer. Children see and hear from the Lord.

If you have been used to having children separate from adults ask the Lord to enlarge your view of this integration.

If there are very little children, have a designated area in the room with some toys or books. Children of this age will absorb all that is going on in the room while building a block castle.

Things Not to Do.

• Always put kids in another room with a video.

• Let children run around the house in a destructive manner.

• Allow children to argue with one another.

• Play only children’s songs during worship.

• If there is a child in the host home the tendency is to take all the children or just a few to their room to play. This isolates the children from the group and from each other. It also can create quite a mess for the host family to clean up. When children are viewed as part of the group, part of the family, they will make the necessary adjustments to be a part. Children will adapt. The adults are the one’s who need to check their view on including children in their church life. Parents should be helping their children make the adjustments but the whole group participates in their attitude toward children. Be prepared to see and hear some wonderful things from the kids.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

wow..what a beautiful night this was. Tonight I had an early Christmas
with mom, joyce and nancy. we were driving to my sister joyce's
house in mountain view & we joked how this was probably our most "broke"
christmas. we didn't even have enough money to buy each other presents.
tonight was also my sister joyce's birthday. my mom thought we would
take her out to eat, but instead she prepared an 8 dish, gourmet dinner
with thai, chinese, malay, food ~ and she even cooked each of our favorite
dishes (mine is bitter melon stir fried with beef!) what an awesome sister!

as we laughed around the table (something that hasn't happened for years)
my sister joyce prepared special christmas gifts for each of us (totally unexpected).
you see, she's heading for medical school the next 4 years and will be basically
broke the entire duration, so she decided to get us some really awesome gifts
since she won't be able to buy us any the next 4 years (how sweet).

well, instead of being our most "broke" christmas it became the "richest" not just
because God gave me 3 gifts that I wanted so bad, but most of all the love and
bond of my family for the very first time in a long while. I can't talk about my
dad's situation, but in the last month the Lord has restored each one of us
from bitter, resentment and unforgiveness to reconciliation and uncondiational love.

We went up to my sisters room with the lil christmas tree and man...i was going to
cry. My sister got my this waaaaay cool trendy "guess watch" the kind with the thick
leather band (funny thing was as I was walking through the mall today I said to God..
Lord i haven't had a watch in such a long time since my last one was stolen, i'd really
like one of those cool leather banded ones....but too bad i'm too poor right now). He
gave me the exact one I desired in my heart through my big sis. :oD i wanted to cry.
Does God love me or whut? :oP

Then my sis hands me another present! It was a late birthday gift. Well, I open it up
and its a "abercrombie and fitch" box (no way!) I open it and its this awesome knitted
orange sweather A/F. (funny thing was two nights ago i was walking through valley
fair mall christmas shopping when i passed by A/F and told myself not to walk in the
store because I would be tempted to buy clothes i couldn't afford). Does God love me
or whut? :oP

Well, my other big sis nancy got me a present too. She could only buy me a present
because she didn't have $ for my other sis and mom. I open it up and its a "slick"
dark satin red dress shirt and kenneth cole tie "perfect for my new job" (funny thing
was yesterday at work I wore a one of my only dress shirts/ties with a suit jacket and
everyone in our company complimented how sharp I looked and encouraged me to
keep dressing the same. I thought to myself, "too bad this is my only shirt/tie combo,
I don't have $ to buy another shirt/tie right now.") well, now I do. Does God love me
or whut? ;oD

Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart"

It amazes me over and over again how God pays attention to the minute details of our
desires. I can't count how many times I wanted something, didn't have the means to
get it and God got the exact thing I desired (i mean exactly) to make me happy and
show me He loved me. wow..Daddy You are soooooo AWESOME!!!!

Its not the gifts that amaze me, its the "attention" God gives to the little things.
Its the blessing of smiling, laughing and just hanging with my mom and two sisters.
Yeah, we don't have much, we are pretty poor when it comes to the average household
in the Silicon Valley, but dang it we are pretty darn rich when compared to the homeless
child in North Africa. Now that is a physical evaluation, but spiritually we are MORE rich
than you could ever imagine. Riches don't come from the gifts, it comes from the heart
and joy from the giver of the gifts. I AM BLESSED! STRAIGHT UP BLESSED!

soooo much has happened these past few weeks. I can't explain. Its been a struggle,
yet it has been a blessing just living day by day. Trying my best to live out each day
to its fullest potential by loving those God has put into my path. Like when I went
down to LA last Monday and got to hang out with my old "acting buddy" Kathy Nguyen.
Wow! i am soooo proud of her! She is doing movies, commericials, most of all she
is living out her dream that she was afraid to explore in high school. Yet, it was incredible
as we ate IHOP during one of the video shoot breaks and the Lord opened a door
for me to share with her the true meaning of life "is not being famous" or chasing one
success after another, but rather finding our success and definition of worth in Christ.
Knowing that we are first and foremost "beloved of God" and from there our giftings
and passion flow. She started crying while we were eating pancakes and told me
how empty she has been feeling and how she needed to hear what i shared....that
God loves her & that is all that matters. We got to pray, it was awesome.

Then during Hammer's music video shoot I got to connect back again with my old friend
Karin Anna Cheung (lead actress of Better Luck Tomorrow). It's funny how you know
you get connected back with someone for a God reason. She called me the day after
the video shoot & shared with me her triumphs and struggles and an up and coming
asian american actress in hollywood. IT WAS SO INPIRING. Karin told me how she had
to turn down a major Spike Lee TV series because the role would require her to be
nude and make out. It was so convicting as she shared with me how even though
right now she is living on mac n' cheese, eventhough it is sooo hard to find work in Hollywood,
that when her agent called her and told her she would have to give Spike Lee
an answer in 5 minutes, she went with her gut feeling and turned down the major
opportunity. She turned down fame in order to preserve her DIGNITY and RESPECT
as a women of God. WOW! YOU GO KARIN! All her friends have been ridiculing, condemning,
and calling her a fool to turn down the big break. I was the first one to tell her, GOD IS
PROUD OF YOU KARIN! I told her how her chidren would praise her and thank her
as a mother in the future for respecting herself and not selling herself to the warped,
degrading mindset of hollywood. She responded, "you know all i had was 5 minutes
to make the decision and all I could think about was what happens when my own
children go into the arts and are asked to do a sexually immoral scene, if I took this
role i would have no right or authority to tell them not to do so, because of this reason,
because of the future implications, I could not help but to say no to the role." How many
women in hollywood right now have enough respect for themself to do what Karin did?
Certainly not Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. I am so proud of Karin, what a role
model she is and will be to the thousands of aspiring young actresses in the world.
What a testimony she was and is for Jesus Christ. wow...she left me in awe...what
a powerful statement she made with her decision to love herself as God does.

ok....i better get going..... so much more to write about....but gotta get to bed...
love you Jesus...thank you for loving me in my weakness. jaeson

Thursday, December 18, 2003 has been a lil nutz the past two months..
argentina...texas...LA....detroit...LA again after
Christmas =P just want to say thank you God
for bringing me over to Detroit, Michigan yesterday
to experience some incredible, beautiful, Christmas SNOW! who wants to go watch Lord of the Rings? can watch it this weekend..
neone else? call me yo. wooHOOooo CHRIST here!
life is challenging...but just gotta take it day by day..
full time job, full time school, full time ministry, full time
everything in between.....God is with me in all things.
pray I'll get to enjoy dis Christmas n' hang w/ sum famiy
n' friendz... SMILE =D

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I have decided to follow Jesus
The world behind me, the cross before me
Though none go with me, I still will follow
No turning back, no turning back

I have decided to follow Jesus

Mark 1: 17-18 - “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him.

The world behind me the cross before me

I John 2:17 – The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Though none go with me, I still will follow

1 Samuel 3:10 – the Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”

I have decided to follow Jesus - No turning back

Luke 14:26-27 –If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Below is an introduction and 1st chaper to Frank Viola's "Rethinking the Wineskin"
As I continue to seek the Lord in God's reestablishment of the church in North America
I can't help but to think..."I can't go back to doing church the way we have been
doing it." It's been a tough 8 months venturing to "do church" in the New Testament
way, I still don't totally have a grasp on it beause I'm still reprogramming my
religious mindset. In the institutionalized church's terms I guess I totally failed
in planting a church, but I am beginning to question whether I've failed or
am getting closer to have just begun? Father I only want to be that which you have
called Your glorious bride to be. Let it be so, I'm not giving up!

read on.....


Frank Viola's Rethinking the Wineskin is part of a long, distinguished line of expositions portraying the way of life that characterized the New Testament church and its effect on us today. Voices like Frank's express the distinctiveness of the New Testament church--the church is a body, a family, and a bride. In effect, the New Testament church is relational.

That the New Testament church is relational is itself uncontroversial. Yet for many people, books like Frank's come as a shock. The churches most of us inhabit have little or nothing in common with the way of life that marked the New Testament church. Far from being a body or a family, the church for most of us is an organization or an institution. The contrast between the institutional shape of the contemporary church and the relational shape of the New Testament church could hardly be more striking.

The institutional church often knows, at least vaguely, that the New Testament church was a very different kind of beast, yet it goes on its way, in blithe disregard of the way the early believers were church. It may even claim that the Bible is its sole authority in "faith and practice" and still virtually ignore its practical authority with respect to the practice of the church. Maybe that's by choice. But most often the ignorance is due to momentum, for institutional churches are a lot like trains. They are going in a certain direction, and they will continue in that direction for a good long time even if all hands try to make them stop.

As with trains, the options for turning the direction of institutional churches are limited at best. If a switch or siding is available, the train could turn; otherwise, it just follows its tracks. Therefore, everyone aboard had best hope that he is on the right train headed in the right direction.

Relational churches, like those in the New Testament, are different. They are not trains, but groups of people out for a walk. These groups move much more slowly than trains--only several miles per hour at the fastest, but they can turn at a moment's notice. More importantly, they can be genuinely attentive to their world, to their Lord, and to each other.

Like trains, institutional churches are easy to find. The smoke and noise are unmistakable. Relational churches are a bit more subtle. Because they don't announce their presence with flashing lights at every intersection, some believe that churches like those in the New Testament died out long ago. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Relational churches are everywhere. I personally have been meeting with one for more than twenty years. Still, groups like ours are quietly walking together, not bothering to call undue attention to ourselves, because we are simply pilgrims together.

Yet once you learn how to spot a relational church, you will soon discover groups of people everywhere meeting just like the New Testament church--as bodies, families, and brides rather than as institutions. I personally know of scores of them; those groups collectively know of hundreds or thousands more. They are simply groups of people walking with God. The trains pass them by all the time. Sometimes the people on board wave; sometimes they can't because the train is moving so fast that people going several miles per hour just look like a blur.

But all this is within Frank's book. His approach is his own--didactic and spiritual at the same time. This allows him to unfold the New Testament church and its effect on us in a distinctive fashion. And by avoiding conventional publishing mechanisms, he has been able to make it available free of charge.

If you are in one of the groups of people now walking around as a relational church, Rethinking the Wineskin will give you a new appreciation of your roots in the New Testament assembly. If you are on one of the trains whizzing by, it may be a bit surprising to find out that some of those blurred patches of color outside your window are groups of people walking with God. That thing you just passed was another relational church.

Hal Miller
Salem, Massachusetts



In the following pages I have sought to revisit the provocative question of how we do church in the 20th century. My intention in doing so is two-fold: 1) to introduce the Biblical teaching regarding New Testament church life to those who are unfamiliar with it, and 2) to cultivate a deeper understanding of how the practice of the church relates to God's ultimate intention in Christ.

Throughout this book, I will be referring to those churches that most people are familiar with as "institutional churches." I could have just as easily called them "establishment churches," "basilica churches," "traditional churches," "organized churches," "clergy-dominated churches," "contemporary churches," "program-based churches," and so on. Despite the fact that this phrase is an inadequate linguistic tool, it seems to best capture the essence of most modern assemblies today.

Before a sociologist objects to my use of the word "institutional," I readily admit that all churches, even the ones I endorse as "New Testament churches," assume some institutions. Sociologically speaking, an institution is any patterned human activity or organization designed to accomplish a given end. (Thus, observing the Lord's Supper every week would technically qualify as an institution.) However, in this book I am using the phrase "institutional church" in a much narrower sense. Namely, I am referring to those churches that operate primarily as institutions that exist above, beyond, and independent of their individual members; are organizationally centered on professional pastors and staff; are constructed through programs more than relationships; and are unified on the basis of special doctrines or practices.

By contrast, in this book I wish to promote a vision of the church that is organic in its construction, relational in its functioning, Scriptural in its form, Christ-centered in its operation, and Body-oriented in its unification. Stated simply, the purpose of this book is to discover anew and afresh what it means to be the church from the Divine standpoint.

For those who have never read anything which challenged their notion of "church," this book may explode like a bombshell. To those who are not yet ready to make an honest and rigorous appraisal of the contemporary church, this explosion will prove potentially offensive. Yet for those who are daring enough to bring every practice under the scrutiny of Biblical revelation, to step out of the safe limits of traditional religion, and to spurn compromise, the explosive truths presented in this book may well liberate them into a new dimension of spiritual reality.

Given the plethora of books written on the New Testament church which already crowd the shelves of seminary libraries and used-book stores, some may wonder why I see the need to add another one to the lot. Quite simply, I believe the value of this book lies chiefly in its approach. That is, it seeks to combine both the heavenly and the spiritual nature of God's purpose in Christ with the practical and earthly dimensions of church life. While a few books have sought to discuss the former in the light of the latter (many of which have sadly gone out of print), this book seeks to present the latter through the lens of the former. In other words, it seeks to thoroughly explore the practice of the New Testament church within the context of the eternal purpose of God. It also attempts to preserve a healthy balance between the theological aspect of the church and its practical dimensions. Stated simply, this book is a modest attempt to present old truths from fresh angles.

While I am in no sense an expert in ecclesiology (the theological study of the church), what I have written has come out of my own Biblical search as well as my experience in meeting with many churches around the country that gather in the manner that this book describes. Thus, the major concepts in the book have not remained in the realm of theory. They have been birthed by spiritual vision and walked out in Christian shoe leather. What I offer in these pages, therefore, is not the polished work of a professional scholar, but the roughly-hewn labor of an ordinary believer who has both rethought and re-practiced the church for years. In addition, because this is not a scholarly treatise, I have chosen to cite my sources informally (albeit, the major publications I have quoted from are listed in an extensive bibliography at the end of the book).

Finally, I am indebted to a countless number of precious brethren and trusted friends who have had a positive influence on this work, the chief ones being Hal Miller, Russell Lipton, Stephen Kaung, Robert Banks, Christian Smith, Jon Zens, George Moreshead, Russ O'Connor, Howard Snyder, Dan Mayhew, Robert Long, Chris Kirk, and David Hebden of the present, as well as T. Austin-Sparks, Watchman Nee, and G.H. Lang of the past. Special thanks go to my wife, Susan, along with, Dan Barth, JoAnne Gordon, Paul Hodges, Carey Kinsolving, Mark Mattison, Peggy Osborn, James Rutz, Maranatha Spicer, and Frank Valdez for their technical comments on the manuscript.

I offer this book as part of the ongoing work of the Master Builder, the Lord Jesus Christ, who even now continues to build His church with the living stones of the redeemed.

Frank A. Viola
Brandon, Florida
January 1997




No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matt. 9:16-17, NIV)

The theme of "church renewal" sits lavishly upon the tongues of countless Christians today. You can't go very far in the Christian world without hearing an exhortation on the necessity for greater unity in the Body of Christ, the importance of the priesthood of all believers, the urgent need for destroying all man-made barriers, the increasing demand for fuller spiritual power, and the radical call to world-wide evangelism. While none of these themes is new or original, they are now capturing the attention of many modern Christians.

These modern currents of spiritual renewal are not exclusively flowing from any one stream of the Body of Christ. Rather, they are being heralded across denominational and traditional lines. In effect, these Biblical accents of church renewal reflect the genuine stirring of God's Spirit through His people. They are channels of the wine, even the new wine, which represents the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

Yet the testimony of the Spirit is also registering something else--something which touches a deeper note. Through a quieter, yet no less fervent voice, God is challenging His beloved Bride to freshly examine the very context in which she assumes spiritual renewal to take place. Thus, surfacing on the religious horizon, there can be detected a largely hidden, yet growing stream of ordinary Christians whom God is using to summon His church back to the simplicity and vitality of New Testament practices.

The present burden of the Spirit, therefore, is fastened upon securing a people who will shed their man-made, encrusted traditions concerning church polity, church practice, and church organization, and who will hand the church back over to the complete mastery of the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it another way, the Spirit of God is not only speaking about the wine; He is also speaking about the wineskin.

To be sure, the present stream which stresses spiritual renewal and apostolic power is indeed genuine and preserves a Biblical insight. Yet this other river of life, whose distinct chord is the recovery of apostolic practice and life, is cutting deeper channels toward the eternal purpose of God. Although the latter is less extensive and obtrusive than the former, it nevertheless reflects the deepest yearnings of the blessed Savior for His Bride. There can be no full recovery of apostolic power if there is not first a recovery of apostolic practice and life.

Church history is rife with examples demonstrating how virtually every past renewal has been hampered because the new wine has been routinely repackaged into old wineskins. By the old wineskin, I mean those traditional church structures that are patterned after the old Judaic religious system--a system which separated God's people into two separate classes, required the presence of human mediators, erected sacred buildings, and laid stress on outward forms. The facets of the old wineskin are many: the clergy/laity distinction, the spectator-performer styled church meeting, the single-pastor system, the program-driven worship service, the passive priesthood, the edifice complex, etc. All of these facets represent Old Covenant forms in New Testament garb.

Accordingly, the present cry of the Spirit for genuine renewal will never become a reality to those who ignore His concurrent voice regarding the call for a new wineskin--one that represents the fresh wineskin that was fashioned and formed by those who had been directly entrusted by the Lord Jesus with the new wine of His Spirit.

While not a few have presumed that God has largely left the wineskin of church practice to the pragmatic whims of well-intentioned men, the Lord has not left us to ourselves concerning the practice of His church. We so often forget that the church belongs to Christ and not to us! As in the Old Testament type, no peg of the tabernacle was left to the imagination of man. Rather, the house was to be built "according to the pattern" given from above.

This is not to suggest that the New Testament supplies us with an ironclad, meticulous blueprint for church practice. In fact, it is a gross mistake to try and tease out of the apostolic letters an inflexible written code of rules for church order that is as unalterable as the law of the Medes and Persians (such a written code belongs to the other side of the cross). On the other hand, the New Testament does provide us with a number of clearly defined principles and practices that are to govern God's spiritual house. And it is these principles and practices that comprise the "Divine pattern" for the ekklesia (church).

Herein lies the aim of this book: it is an attempt to furnish us with a portrait of the wineskin that God has ordained to contain His new wine. Each chapter paints a picture of the local assembly as it is depicted on the canvas of the New Testament. And undergirding each brush stroke is a solemn plea for the sovereign rights of the Holy Spirit in His church today.

May we not be so foolish as to presume that if we retain the old wineskins of our liking that we will be able to preserve the new wine of God's Spirit. As our Lord declared, when men put new wine into old wineskins, "the skins will burst and the wine will run out." May the Lord radically deal with our hearts so that we may humbly receive the new wine that He is seeking to pour out as well as adjust them to the shape of the wineskin that He has prepared. This, in fact, is the only way that we may secure the full Headship of Christ in His church. By contrast, our refusal to part with our old wineskins will continue to limit His sovereign hand and grieve His tender heart.

The Lord help us to seriously rethink the wineskin.




The great Bible expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, "We are living in an age hopelessly below the New Testament pattern--content with a neat little religion." With this thought in view, I would like to begin our discussion on the practice of the New Testament church by examining why the early church gathered together. What was the purpose of the New Testament church meeting?

Note that when I use the term "church meeting," I am using it in a very narrow sense. The Bible portrays a number of different types of meetings in which the early Christians gathered together (prayer meetings, evangelistic meetings, ministry meetings, apostolic meetings, church councils, etc.). By "church meeting," I am referring to the special meeting of the local assembly that is described in 1 Corinthians 11-14. According to the Biblical record (as well as to church history), this meeting seems to have occurred on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

Before we explore the purpose of the New Testament church meeting, let us first examine why most Christians gather together for "church" today. There are basically four reasons: 1) for corporate worship, 2) for evangelism, 3) to hear a sermon, or 4) for fellowship. As strange as it may seem, the New Testament never envisions any of these reasons as being the central purpose of the church meeting.

The Place of Worship, Evangelism,

Sermonizing, and Fellowship

According to the New Testament, worship is something we live. It is the setting forth of the thankfulness, affection, devotion, humility, and sacrificial obedience that God deserves at every moment (Matt. 2:11; Rom. 12:1; Phil. 3:3). Therefore, when we come together as God's people, we should come in a spirit of worship. The temple of Old Testament Israel is the key figure for this aspect of the church meeting. The outstanding feature of the temple was worship. In the minds of many modern Christians, however, worship is restricted to singing choruses, hymns, and praise songs. While worshiping God through song was a very important facet of the early church meeting (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), the Bible never presents it as its chief aim.

In the same way, the Bible never equates the purpose of the church meeting with evangelism. Rather, the New Testament demonstrates clearly that evangelism was commonly engaged in outside of the meetings of the church. Gospel preaching was commonly conducted in those places where unbelievers frequented, e.g. in the synagogues (of the Jews) and in the market places. Contrarily, the New Testament church gathering was primarily a believer's meeting. The context of 1 Corinthians 11-14 makes this quite plain. While the unregenerate were sometimes present, they were not the focus of this gathering. (In 1 Cor. 14:23-25, Paul fleetingly mentions the presence of unbelievers in the meeting, framing his comment in hypothetical language.)

Furthermore, the popular notion that the weekly church meeting was for the sake of hearing a sermon is without Biblical warrant. While the ministry of the Word was certainly present in the early church gathering (1 Cor. 14 speaks of those bringing doctrines, revelations, and prophecies), hearing "a sermon" was never its chief feature. In this regard, the New Testament church meeting was markedly different from the typical Protestant church service wherein the pulpit is the central feature, where everything leads up to and is structured around the sermon, and where the congregation evaluates the meeting by the quality of the message. The notion of a sermon-oriented, pulpit-pew styled church meeting cannot be sustained by the New Testament.

Indeed, the apostles ministered the Word of God at length in certain settings. But such settings were not "church meetings." They were "ministry meetings" designed for evangelistic purposes or for the strengthening of the believers. These meetings would be akin to the special seminars, workshops, and conferences of our day. Such "ministry meetings" should not be confused with "church meetings." In the former, one or two believers share with an interactive audience to equip it for works of service; in the latter, every member freely exercises his gift with no one taking center stage. So while the ministry of the Word was one aspect of the church gathering, it was not its central purpose. Furthermore, the teaching in the church meeting was not delivered by the same person week after week as is the custom in today's institutional church.

Fellowship was not the main purpose of the New Testament gathering either. While fellowship is a demand of Body life, it is never said to be the primary purpose of the church meeting. Fellowship is simply one of the many organic outgrowths that emerge when God's people begin to joyfully enthrone the Lord Jesus and allow His Spirit to direct their gatherings (Acts 2:42). Yet as necessary as fellowship is to the life of the church, it should not be equated with the purpose of the church meeting.

Mutual Exhortation and Edification

If the purpose of the church meeting, as described in the New Testament, was not for corporate worship, evangelism, sermonizing, or fellowship, what then was it for? According to Scripture, the governing purpose of the church meeting was mutual edification and exhortation. 1 Corinthians 14:26 puts it plainly:

How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, EVERY ONE OF YOU hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. LET ALL THINGS BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING.

Hebrews 10:24-25 puts it even plainer:

And let us consider ONE ANOTHER to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (see also Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11; and Heb. 3:13-14).

The meeting of the church envisioned in Scripture was designed to allow every member of the assembly to participate in the building up of the Body as a whole (Eph. 4:16). Mutuality was the hallmark of the New Testament church meeting--"every one of you" was its most outstanding characteristic. While praise and worship songs were sung, they were not confined to the leadership of a special group of "professional" musicians. Rather, the meeting was open to allow for "every one" to minister through singing. In the words of Paul, "every one of you hath a psalm" in the local gathering. Even the songs themselves were marked by an element of mutuality, for Paul exhorts the brethren to be "speaking to yourselves, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). In such an open context, it is reasonable to assume that the early Christians regularly composed their own songs and shared them with the rest of the saints during the meeting.

Each believer who possessed a word from God was given the liberty to supply it through his or her own particular spiritual gift. Hence, a typical New Testament church meeting may have looked like this: a child shares God's word through a drama presentation and a song; a young woman gives her testimony; a young brother shares an exhortation followed by a group discussion; an older brother expounds a portion of Scripture and follows it up with a prayer; an older sister tells a story out of her own spiritual experience; several teenagers discuss their week at school and request prayer; and the whole group experiences table fellowship during a shared meal.

As Paul pulls back the curtain of the New Testament gathering in 1 Corinthians 14, we see a meeting wherein every member is actively involved. Freshness, openness, and spontaneity are the chief marks of this meeting, and mutual edification is its primary goal.

Christ, the Director of the New Testament Gathering

The Biblical injunctions regarding the meeting of the early church outlined in Scripture solidly rest upon the Headship of Christ, which is the focal point of God's eternal purpose (Eph. 1:9-22; Col. 1:16-18). That is to say, Christ was fully preeminent in the New Testament church meeting. He was its center and its circumference. He set the agenda and directed the events. Although His leading was invisible to the naked eye, Christ was clearly the Guiding Agent.

In this connection, the Lord Jesus was free to speak through whomever He chose and in whatever capacity He saw fit. The common practice of a few professional ministers assuming all of the activity of the assembly, while the rest of the saints remain passive, was utterly foreign to the early church. The New Testament meeting was based upon the "round-table" principle, wherein every member is encouraged to function, rather than upon the "pulpit-pew" principle, where the members are divided into the active few and the passive many.

In the New Testament gathering, neither the sermon nor "the preacher" was the center. Instead, congregational participation was the Divine rule. The meeting was non-liturgical, non-ritualistic, and non-sacral. It possessed no sense of sacrosanctity or perfunctoriness. Instead, it reflected a flexible spontaneity wherein the Spirit of God was in utter control, being free to move through any member of the Body as He willed in an orderly fashion. In fact, the early church gathering was so governed by the Holy Spirit that if a person received an insight while another was sharing the Word, he was free to interject his thought. Strikingly, the person speaking would stop and give heed to what was being said by the other (1 Cor. 14:29-30). Moreover, profitable questions and healthy discussions were a common part of the gathering (1 Cor. 14:27-40).

Such a meeting is almost unthinkable in the context of most contemporary churches today. Most Christians fear trusting the leadership of the Spirit to direct and shape their church services. The fact that they cannot envision a corporate gathering without placing themselves under the direct guidance of a human moderator reveals that they are strangers to God's ways. Much of the reason for this has to do with their own unfamiliarity with the Spirit's working in their personal affairs. Simply put, if we don't know the Spirit's control in our own life, how can we know it when we gather together? The truth is that many of us--like Israel of old--still clamor for a king to rule over us and a visible mediator to tell us what God has said (Exod. 20:19; 1 Sam. 8:19).

Undoubtedly, the presence of a human moderator in the church meeting is a cherished tradition to which many Christians are fiercely committed. The problem is, it does not square with Scripture. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find grounds for a meeting that is dominated, directed, and officiated by one person. Neither do we find a gathering that is rooted in a pulpit centrality that is focused upon one man. Probably the most startling characteristic of the New Testament church meeting was the absence of human officiation. Christ led the meetings by the medium of the Holy Spirit through the believing community. Again, the principle that governed the early church meeting was that of "one-anothering;" mutuality was its peculiar feature. It is no wonder that the phrase one another is used nearly sixty times in the New Testament! Watchman Nee observes,

In the church meetings, 'each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation' (1 Cor. 14:26). Here it is not a case of one leading and all others following, but each one contributing his share of spiritual helpfulness...Nothing is determined by man, and each takes part as the Spirit leads. It is not an 'all man' ministry, but a Holy Ghost ministry...An opportunity is given to each member of the church to help others, and an opportunity is given to each one to be helped. One brother may speak at one stage of the gathering and another later on; you may be chosen of the Spirit to help the brethren this time, and I next time...Each individual must bear his share of responsibility and pass on to the others what he himself has received of the Lord. The conduct of the meetings should be the burden of no one individual, but all the members should bear the burden together, and they should seek to help one another depending upon the teaching and leading of the Spirit, and depending upon His empowering too...A church meeting has the stamp of 'one another' upon it (The Normal Christian Church Life).

Today's popular one-man orientation, which rivals the functional Headship of Christ, was completely unknown in the early assembly. Instead, all of the brethren came to the meeting feeling that they had the privilege and the responsibility to contribute something. The early church gathering was marked by an open freedom and informality that was the requisite atmosphere for Christ to function freely through each member of His Body.

In essence, going to church in the first century meant giving more than receiving. That is, you did not attend the church meeting to receive from a class of religious specialists called "the clergy." Instead, you met to serve your brethren through your individual gifts so that the whole Body could be edified (Rom. 12:1-8). In God's thought, it is the unified-diversity of Spirit-endowed gifts that is essential to the building up of the local assembly. Robert Banks describes the function of the New Testament gathering saying,

Each member of the community is granted a ministry to other members in the community. This means that no person, or group of persons, can discount on the basis of their particular gifts other contributions of the 'Body' or impose a uniformity upon everyone else. The community contains a great diversity of ministries, and it is precisely in the differences of function that the wholeness and unity of the Body resides. God has so designed things that the involvement of every person with his special contribution is necessary for the proper functioning of the community. This means that each member has a unique role to play, yet is also dependent upon everyone else (Paul's Idea of Community).

It is important to stress at this point that the concept of mutual ministry that is envisioned in the New Testament is far different from the pinched definition of "lay-ministry" that is promoted in the modern institutional church. Granted, most established churches offer a plethora of volunteer positions for "laypeople" to fill such as cutting the lawn of the parsonage, ushering the aisles, washing the pastor's car, shaking hands at the sanctuary door, passing out bulletins, teaching Sunday school classes, singing in the choir or worship team, and flipping transparencies. But these restricted ministry positions are a far cry from the free-and-open exercise of spiritual gifts that was afforded to each believer in the early church gathering.

The Necessity of a Functioning Priesthood

In light of all that has been said, consider these telling questions: Why did the early church meet in this way? Was it just a passing cultural tradition? Did it represent the early church's infancy, ignorance, and immaturity? I think not, for the practice of the early church meeting is deeply rooted in Biblical theology. It made real and practical the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers--a doctrine that all evangelicals affirm with their lips.

And what is that doctrine? In the words of Peter, it is the notion that all believers are spiritual priests who are called to offer up "spiritual sacrifices" unto the Lord and toward their brethren. In Paul's language, it is the idea that all Christians are functioning members of the Body of Christ. From a pragmatic standpoint, then, the New Testament church meeting is the Biblical dynamic that produces spiritual increase--both corporately and individually (Eph. 4:11-16); for if we do not function, we do not grow--and this is a kingdom law (Mark 4:24-25). Granted, believers can and should function outside of the church meetings; but the gatherings of the church are especially designed for every Christian to exercise his or her gifts (1 Cor. 11-14; Heb. 10:24-25). Thus, the common practice of pushing "one anothering" outside of the modern church service cannot help but retard the growth of the believing community.

In this regard, the institutional church is essentially a nursery for overgrown spiritual babes. Because it has habituated God's people into being passive receivers, it has stunted their spiritual development and kept them in spiritual infancy. (The incessant need for predigested, dished out spiritual food is a mark of spiritual immaturity--1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14.)

While the Reformation recovered the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, it failed to restore the necessary practices that embody this teaching. While the church has claimed the ground of a believing priesthood, it has failed to occupy that ground. Consequently, in the typical Protestant church, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is no more than a sterile truth. In this regard, Joseph Higginbotham and Paul Patton pointedly remark,

Every year on 'Reformation Sunday' it is urgently proclaimed that the Reformation won the battle for the priesthood of the believer. The wish is certainly the father of the thought, but we are still talking about wishes, not facts. The very congregations who hear the proclamation deny by their polity, their congregational life, and even by their architecture the truth they claim to embody...Our words betray our Reformation Sunday victory celebrations. The battle is not won; we do not yet occupy the ground where the priesthood of the believers is fact ("The Battle for the Body," Searching Together, Vol. 13:2).

The doctrine of the believing priesthood in modern evangelicalism continues to beg for practical application and implementation in the life of the Lord's people. Thus, God has established open participatory meetings to incarnate the splendid spiritual reality of expressing the Risen Christ through a fully-employed priesthood. In this way, the New Testament church meeting was designed by God to fulfill His eternal purpose, which is centered upon forming Christ in a company of people and bringing them unto His full stature (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:11-16).

There is nothing more conducive to the culture of spiritual life than the open church meeting that is depicted in the New Testament. In this regard, the book of Hebrews amply demonstrates that the mutual supply of the Body is vital for the spiritual increase of the church. Quite simply, mutual ministry is the Divine antidote for preventing apostasy, the Divine requirement for ensuring perseverance, and the Divine means for cultivating individual spiritual life. Consider Hebrews 3:12-14:

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an EVIL HEART OF UNBELIEF, IN DEPARTING FROM THE LIVING GOD. BUT EXHORT ONE ANOTHER DAILY...LEST ANY OF YOU BE HARDENED THROUGH THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.

Here the writer of Hebrews teaches us that mutual edification is the remedy for developing an unbelieving heart and a hardened will due to sin's deceitfulness. Furthermore, in Hebrews 10:25-26, the Bible again presents mutual exhortation as the Divinely-established safeguard against turning away from the Lord. It says,

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; BUT EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER...FOR IF WE SIN WILFULLY after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.

While multitudes of clergy have made common use of the above text to stress the importance of "attending church," they have blissfully ignored the rest of the passage, which furnishes us with the primary purpose and activity of the church meeting, i.e. mutual exhortation and encouragement. Frankly, we ignore the full teaching of this passage to our own peril, for our spiritual prosperity is hinged upon corporate meetings that are marked by mutual ministry.

Manifesting Christ in His Fullness

It is not without significance that the Greek word for church, ekklesia, literally means "assembly." This meshes nicely with the dominant thought in the Pauline corpus that the church is Christ in corporate expression (1 Cor. 12:1-27; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:1-16). Hence, the function of the local assembly is to express the Risen Savior. We gather together so the Lord Jesus can manifest Himself in His fullness unto the building up of His Body. But the only way that this can become a reality is if every member of the assembly is free to supply that aspect of Christ that he or she has received.

If, therefore, the hand does not function in the gathering, then Christ is not manifested in fullness; for the Lord Jesus cannot fully disclose Himself through only one member. Likewise, if the eyes fail to function, Christ will be limited in revealing Himself. On the other hand, when every member of the Body functions according to his peculiar gift, Christ is fully seen--He, as it were, is Assembled in our midst!

Consider the analogy of a puzzle. When each piece of a puzzle is placed in its rightful position in relation to the other pieces, we say that the puzzle is "assembled." As a result, the entire picture is seen and understood. And so it is with Christ and His church. When every member of the ekklesia supplies something of the Risen Head through the free-yet-orderly exercise of Spirit-endowed gifts, God's desire of revealing His blessed Son to our hearts anew and afresh is realized.

Lest someone misunderstand at this point, participatory meetings do not preclude the idea of planning. Nor do they mean that we should scrap any semblance of order or form. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul formulates a number of broad guidelines which are designed to keep the church meeting running in an orderly fashion. These guidelines demonstrate that in Paul's thought there is no tension between an open participatory meeting and an orderly one which results in the edification of every member. With scholarly insight, Robert Banks summarizes the texture of the New Testament church meeting saying,

The Spirit's sovereignty over the gifts results in a stable, though not inflexible, distribution within the community and in their orderly, though not fixed, interplay in the gatherings...So then, provided certain basic principles of the Spirit's operation are kept in view: balance, intelligibility, evaluation, orderliness, and loving exercise, Paul sees no need to lay down any fixed rules for the community's proceedings...Paul therefore has no interest in constructing a fixed liturgy. This would restrict the freedom of God's communications. Each gathering of the community will have a structure, but it will emerge naturally from the particular combination of the gifts exercised (Paul's Idea of Community).

The Question of Sustaining Force

What has been set forth concerning the purpose of the early church meeting touches a vital feature that sets the New Testament assembly apart from the modern institutional church. It involves the searching question of what drives and sustains the church.

In the typical institutional church, the religious machinery of the church "program" is the force that propels and charts the direction of the assembly. If the Spirit of God left an institutional church, His absence would go unnoticed: the 'business-as-usual' process would forge ahead; the worship would be unaffected; the liturgy would be uninterrupted; the announcements would be heard; the offering would be taken up; the sermon would be preached; and the closing song would be offered. Like Samson of old, the congregation would go right along with the religious program, "knowing not that the Lord had departed" (Judges 16:20).

By contrast, the only sustaining factor of the New Testament assembly was the life of the Holy Spirit. The early church relied entirely upon the spiritual life of the individual members to maintain its existence. Hence, if the life of a New Testament meeting was at a low ebb, everyone would know it--the cold chill of death could not be overlooked. What is more, if the Spirit of God left the gathering, the meeting would collapse altogether. In short, the New Testament church knew no other sustaining influence other than the life of the Spirit through the believing community. It did not rely upon a man-programmed, humanly-planned, institutionally-fueled system to preserve its momentum.

In this regard, the institutional church has been perfectly mirrored by the Mosaic tabernacle of old after the ark of God had been taken from it. When the presence of God had left the holy tent, it was reduced to nothing more than a hollow shell accompanied by an impressive exterior. Yet regardless of the fact that the Lord's glory had departed, worshipers continued to offer their sacrifices at the empty tabernacle (1 Chron. 16:39-40; 2 Chron. 1:3-5; Jer. 7:12). To use the Old Testament figure, the institutional church has confused the laying down of the altar with the consuming fire. Resting content with rearranging the pieces of the sacrifice upon the altar, the institutional church no longer sees a need for the heavenly fire (except perhaps to make people feel good).

The tragedy of the institutional church, therefore, lies in its reliance upon a humanly-devised, program-driven religious system that serves to scaffold the "church" structure when the Spirit of God is absent. This moss-laden system betrays the fact that when the spontaneous life of the Spirit has ebbed away from a group of believers, it ceases to be the church in any Biblical sense, even though the outward form may be preserved. John W. Kennedy sums it up well:

Man always tries to conserve what God rejects, as church history adequately demonstrates. The result is seen in the bulk of present-day denominations, much of it a lifeless monument to glories that have long since it possible that God's people, in erecting 'lampstands' of bricks and mortar which have had to be kept up long after the light of the Spirit has gone out, have thwarted God's purpose? (Secret of His Purpose).

The Clerical Objection

While the New Testament abundantly establishes the fact that the early church meetings were open, participatory, and spontaneous, many modern clergymen refuse to approve of such meetings today. Modern clerical thinking on the subject goes something like this: "If I allowed my congregation to exercise their gifts in an open meeting, there would be sheer chaos; therefore, I have no choice but to control the services, lest the people spin out of control." Such an objection is severely flawed on several points and betrays a gross misunderstanding of God's ecclesiology.

First, the mere notion that a clergyman has the authority to "allow" or "forbid" his fellow brethren to exercise their gifts is built upon a skewed understanding of ecclesiastical authority and ministry (more on this later). The bottom line is that no one has the right to permit or prohibit the believing priesthood in the exercise of its Spirit-endowed gifts.

Second, the assumption that chaos would ensue if clerical control were removed betrays a lack of confidence in the Holy Spirit. It also reveals a lack of trust in God's people, something that is utterly non-Pauline (Rom. 15:14; 2 Cor. 2:3; 7:6; 8:22; Gal. 5:10; 2 Thess. 3:4; Phlm. 21; see also Heb. 6:9).

Third, the idea that the church meeting would turn into a tumultuous free-for-all is simply not true. If the saints are properly equipped in their use of spiritual gifts and understand how to submit to the Holy Spirit, then an open participatory meeting is anything but glorious. (By the way, Christians do not become equipped by listening to sermons week after week while being planted in a pew. The resolute fear among professional pulpiteers to open up their church services for spontaneous ministry is sheer proof of this.)

While open participatory meetings may not always be as prim and proper as the traditional church service that runs flawlessly according to the pastor's (unwritten) liturgy, they do reveal much more of the fullness of Christ and the preciousness of His people than any human arrangement could ever manufacture.

Granted, there will be times (especially in the beginning stages of a church's life) that some may bring unprofitable ministry. But the antidote for this is not to put a lid on spontaneous ministry. Rather, those who deliver unedifying ministry should be corrected. And this largely falls on the shoulders of the more mature brethren, namely the elders (more on this later).

Recall that when Paul faced the frenzied morass in Corinth, he did not close the meeting nor introduce human officiation. He rather supplied the brethren with a number of broad guidelines to facilitate order and edification in the gatherings (1 Cor. 14:1ff.). What is more, Paul was confident that the church would adhere to these guidelines. In like manner, if such guidelines are heeded today, there is no need for human officiation, fixed liturgies, or pre-planned services in the gatherings of the church. G.H. Lang explains,

And when they had gathered, no visible leader was in evidence, nor was a pre-arranged programme followed. Two or even three prophets might address the assembly; psalms, prayers, and other exercises were introduced spontaneously (1 Cor. 14). Great emphasis is laid on this as being the Divine intention by the fact that upon gross disorders arising, and the gatherings becoming unseemly and unprofitable (1 Cor. 11,14), the apostle by no means suggests any other form of service, but only lays down general principles, the application of which would prevent disorder and promote edification, the method of worship continuing essentially as before. There was indeed a duty to restrain vain and deceitful talking (1 Tim. 1:3; Titus 1:10-16); but there was no legislative or coercive power; the authority of the elders was purely moral...The control of the assembly by one man was thus unknown. The Lord Himself, by His Spirit, was as really present as if He had been visible. Indeed, to faith He was visible; and He Himself being there, what servant could be so irreverent as to take out of His hands the control of the worship and ministry? But, on the other hand, most certainly it was not the case that anybody had liberty to minister. The liberty was for the Holy Spirit to do His will, not for His people to do as they willed...All rights in the house of God vest solely in the Son of God. The post-apostolic church quickly departed from this pattern (The Churches of God).

At bottom, the tendency to reject the New Testament styled church meeting unearths a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit. Rendle Short puts an even finer point on it saying,

We spoil God's workings, and we starve our souls, if we depart from this principle [open participatory meetings]. Someone may say, 'But will not things get into dreadful confusion if you seek to follow out these patterns? In those days they had the Holy Spirit to guide them, and shall not we go wildly astray, and have dull, confused, unprofitable, perhaps even unseemly meetings, unless we get someone to take charge?' Is that not practically a denial of the Holy Spirit? Do we dare deny that the Holy Spirit is still being given? The Holy Spirit is at work today as much as He was at work in those days...Please do not think that what is sometimes called the 'open meeting' means that the saints are at the mercy of any unprofitable talker who thinks he has something to say, and would like to inflict himself upon them. The open meeting is not a meeting that is open to man. It is a meeting that is open to the Holy Spirit. There are some whose mouths must be stopped (Titus 1:10-14). Sometimes they may be stopped by prayer, and sometimes they have to be stopped by godly admonition...But because there is failure in carrying out the principle, do not let us give up on the principles of God (The Churches of God).

In Numbers 11, we have the first appearance of clericalism in the Bible. Two servants of the Lord, Eldad and Medad, received God's Spirit and prophesied in the camp (vv. 26-27). In hasty response, a young man urged Moses to "restrain them" (v. 28). Moses, however, stopped the mouth of the young suppressor by declaring that it was God's desire that all of His people possess the Spirit and prophesy. This desire was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18) and continues to find fulfillment today (Acts 2:38-39; 1 Cor. 14:1,31). Unfortunately, the modern church does not lack those who wish to again restrain Eldad and Medad from ministering in the Lord's house. May God raise up a multitude of believers who are of the spirit of Moses so that the Father would get what is rightfully His--a kingdom of functioning priests that serve under the Headship of His Son.

Headship vs. Lordship

It may prove useful at this point to note the careful distinction that the Bible draws between Headship and Lordship. Throughout the New Testament, the Headship of Christ virtually always has in view Christ's relationship with His Body (Eph. 1:21; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19), while the Lordship of Christ virtually always has in view His relationship with individuals (Matt. 7:21-22; Luke 6:46; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9,13; 6:17). What Lordship is to the individual, Headship is to the church. Thus, Headship and Lordship are two dimensions of the same thing. Headship is Lordship worked out in the corporate life of God's people.

This distinction is important to grasp, for it throws light on the problem of church practice today. It is all too common for Christians to know Christ's Lordship and yet know little of His Headship. For instance, a believer may truly submit to the Lordship of Jesus in his own personal life. He may obey what he understands in the Bible, pray fervently and regularly, and live a life of self-denial, personal piety, and love for others. Yet simultaneously he may know nothing about shared ministry, mutual accountability, and corporate testimony.

In the final analysis, to be subject to the Headship of Jesus means to obey His will regarding the life and practice of the church. It includes such things as discerning God's mind through mutual ministry and sharing, obeying the Holy Spirit through mutual subjection and servanthood, and testifying to Jesus Christ collectively through mutual outreach and oneness. Submission to the Headship of Christ incarnates the New Testament teaching that Jesus is not only Lord of the lives of men, but that He is Master of the life of the church. And Scripture is plain that when Christ's Headship is established and given concrete expression in the earth, He will become Head over all things in the universe (Col. 1:16-18).

With stirring clarity, Arthur Wallis describes the inseparable connection between Christ's Headship and His Lordship saying,

Christ taught that our commitment to Him must be wholehearted. It means denying oneself, taking up the cross and following Him. But Scripture is equally clear that our attitude toward Christ is reflected in our attitude toward His people. As is our attitude toward the Head, so will our attitude be to His Body. You cannot be wholehearted toward Christ but only halfhearted toward His church (The Radical Christian).

Final Thoughts

I end this chapter with several questions for thought.

Is it possible that modern evangelicalism has only affirmed the doctrine of the believing priesthood intellectually, but has failed to practically apply it due to the subtle entrapment of deeply entrenched traditions? Do our modern church services, which are largely built around the sermon of one man and the worship program of an established music team, reflect the normative gatherings that we find in our Bibles or are they at odds with it? Why would open participatory church meetings be good for the early Christians, but somehow be unworkable or dangerous for us today? Finally, is our practice of the church an expression of the complete Headship of Christ or the headship of man?

May God help us to answer these questions sincerely and in the light of His Word.