Chapter 2: A Different Church
Each Church should be attached to a particular locality and there can be as many Churches as there are different localities. Ideally, there should only be one Church in each location and each location should have just one Church. If I live in Smith Street I am part of the Church that meets in Smith Street; I am part of the body there. I do not have the option of belonging to the body somewhere else. To have a number of different kinds of church in the same locality is inconsistent with the New Testament.
Chapter 3: Relationships and Community
In recent years, many Christians have heard the call to start meeting in their homes. This is good, but it may not be enough. The full benefit of meeting in houses will only come, if Church members live close to each other. If we have to travel by car to get to our home meetings, strong Christian fellowship will still be very difficult to achieve.
God is calling us to be more radical than just meeting in houses. If Christians are living close to each other, it will be logical to meet in homes, but this should not be the goal. God is more concerned about how we live, than where we meet. Meeting in a house is pointless, if we no impact on the locality where we live.
Chapter 4: Leadership by Elders
The hard truth is that the modern pastor/leader does not exist in the Bible. The apostles never left one person to run a Church or singled out one elder to be a senior elder or pastor. In Antioch there were "prophets and teachers", not one pastor. The biblical model is always plural eldership (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim 5:17, 1 Tim 4:14, Titus 1:5, James 5:14). Even the apostle Paul, a mature and experienced leader, never worked on his own. He always had other elders like Barnabas and Silas with him.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave any of the disciples as "leader". He had carefully discipled them, and taught them to expect the Holy Spirit, but he deliberately avoided choosing one person to take charge. An attempt by two of the disciples to obtain a position of precedence was strongly challenged by Jesus (Mark 10:35-45). The Acts of the Apostles show that they did very well without a single leader, when The Holy Spirit was able to have his way.
The professional leadership model places the Christian leader under a tremendous pressure to perform that can leave them feeling insecure. This insecurity is often manifested in a need to control everything in the church. This produces a vicious cycle in which pressure to perform feeds insecurity, that leads to control, that impairs performance.
A common cry in the modern church is "We need one person as leader", but this idea does not exist in the Bible. The only example is where Samuel warned the children of Israel not to appoint a king like the other nations (1 Sam 8). He saw their cry for a leader as an expression of distrust in God and warned that it would lead them into bondage.
The desire for one man to lead is a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency towards slavery and domination, but those who have been redeemed should not have the same mindset. The church will not be victorious while it relies on a leadership model borrowed from the world.
The heroic leadership model comes from the Old Testament, where ministry was limited to a priestly class. Only a few people had the anointing of the Spirit, so God had to use on a few great heroes. The purpose of Pentecost was to pour the Holy Spirit out on all believers. The priesthood of all believers means that everyone has access to God and can exercise a ministry for Him. We need a Church structure that allows every member to develop into a ministry or service. Rather than having a few heroes, we need millions of small ministries anointed by his Spirit.
Chapter 5: Making Disciples
Jesus commanded us to make disciples (Matt 28:19). He did not tell us to build a church; he will do that. He did not tell us to win people for him; that is only the first step. He told us to make disciples. Discipling is not optional, yet many new Christians are not discipled. They do not grow to maturity or develop into their own ministry. Many church leaders were not discipled themselves, so they do not know how to disciple others. This breakdown of discipleship has seriously weakened the church.
Jesus intends that all Christians grow to maturity (Eph 4:13). This will not happen by apostles directing clusters of churches, or prophets speaking anointed words at conferences, or pastors leading anointed worship services. Christians will only grow up to the fullness of Christ, if they are discipled by elders in the same way that Jesus discipled the twelve.
This changes the nature of Christian commitment. The modern way is to tell new Christians that they should be committed to a church. They are expected to express their commitment by attending weekly meeting and tithing. The New Testament way is different. A new disciple should commit to a couple of mature Christians (elders) and copy their lifestyle.
Chapter 5: Building Relationships
We all know that Jesus called twelve disciples, but we have often missed the fact that he also combined them together in pairs. In Matt 10:2-4 the twelve disciples are listed in pairs. They are also listed in pairs in Acts 1:13 (although the pairs are slightly different). Jesus sent his disciples in a pair, whenever anything significant was being done.
Every Christian should have another Christian who is their partner. When a person becomes a Christian and joins a Church they should be matched up with another person to form a pair. Mature Christians should continue to be in a pair with another Christian. The pair is a basic relationship in a Church.
Matthew 18:20 is quoted frequently, but we have failed to notice what Jesus was really saying.
For where two or three come together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.
"Two or three" is taken as a quorum, the minimum number needed for Jesus to be present. This is true, but Jesus was saying much more. He was saying that that "two or three" is the best relationship. The Holy Spirit loves working with two or three Christians who are really committed to each other. The full power of God will be with them. Therefore, two or three people coming together in Jesus name is as good as it gets.
We miss Jesus point, because in our hearts, we really believe that Jesus presence is greatest in a really large meeting. One hundred is good, but a thousand is better. However this is not true. The power of the Holy Spirit does not get divided up between Christians, so it is not multiplied if more Christians are present. In fact, because there is likely to be less unity in a large group, his power will often be diminished.
Chapter 6: Pastor-Teacher
We are involved in a spiritual battle, so the Christian life is very dangerous. Life in wartime is very different from life in peacetime. Soldiers on a battlefield must be alert at all times and always ready to defend themselves. Spiritual warfare is not something that we can choose to do; we are engaged in it all the time.
Despite being engaged in a spiritual battle, many Christians do not know how to defend themselves against the evil. Some go over the top and see evil spirits everywhere, and others just ignore evil. The result is that many Christians are weakened or defeated by the forces of evil. We need a more balanced understanding of defence from evil.
A modern army would not send soldiers into battle without teaching them how to defend against attack. In the same way, the pastor-teachers should train Christians how to defend themselves from evil. Their main task is to watch over the Church to ensure that it is protected from evil. Pastor-teachers have a key role in the spiritual protection of the Church (1 Pet 5:1-9).
Chapter 7: The Prophet
Young prophets will not emerge properly in a church that is led by a pastor alone. (The same applies to evangelists). Pastors cannot disciple budding prophets effectively. The young prophet will either start challenging the pastor and become disruptive, or he will be stifled by the pastor and lose his cutting edge. A young prophet will develop best in a church where mature pastors and a prophet are in submission to each other. He will be drawn to the prophet and will learn how to function in the prophetic from him. He will also learn how to relate to pastors.
A young prophet will need frequent and firm correction. This will generally be better received from a mature prophet whom he respects. However, when he is treated harshly by the older prophet or becomes discouraged, as often happens, he will also need and appreciate the comfort and encouragement of a pastor. Young prophets need healthy relationships with both pastors and prophets. If they can grow within these relationships, they will be less likely to wander off into bitterness and isolation.
Chapter 8: The Evangelist
Most modern evangelistic campaigns are held in a church building, so a powerful publicity campaign is required to get people to attend. The evangelistic method is worship, sermon and altar call. These methods do not exist in the New Testament.
New Testament evangelism is healing the sick/casting out demons and preaching to the crowd that gathers. This method was very successful for the early church, so we are unwise to do something different. Sickness is the key vulnerability of the modern world. Our affluent lifestyle has given people almost everything they need, but modern medicine has not been able to conquer sickness and pain. A gospel confirmed by healing of the sick will be well received by the modern world.
Chapter 11: Worship
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost means that every believer is anointed, so God can speak and minister through any Christian. This brought about a radical change in the nature of worship. Christian worship should be marked by spontaneity and participation.
Unfortunately, this is often not the reality. The weekly worship service has become a highly organised and controlled event, with most people sitting passively during the service. They can sing and clap during the worship, but otherwise they remain quiet.
Spiritual needs are ministered to by the pastor and senior leaders at the front of the meeting following the preaching. This ministry at the front often does not fully deal with issues. The service is very much a performance by the pastor/leader or worship leader, while most of the people watch passively.
Chapter 11: The Kingdom of God
The Church is just one sphere of authority within the Kingdom of God. For too long it has been seen as the only one. As a result, work in the church has been seen as the only valid form of full-time Christian service. Many people who are called to work in other areas of the Kingdom of God work full-time in the church. As this is not their true calling and they do not have the appropriate gifts, they usually become very frustrated.
The church should be releasing them to the sphere of authority where they belong. They would be working to establish the Kingdom, so they would still be involved in full-time Christian work.
Most Christians are called to a ministry outside the church in the Kingdom of God. In Israel, the Levites who looked after the temple were only about ten percent of the population. This seems to be about the right proportion. Most Christians will exercise a ministry in the Kingdom of God. Many will serve in the business world.
The modern church has a tendency towards imperialism. Everything has to flow into it, or it is loses interest. The church always takes the best people. When a person becomes a Christian, the pastor immediately tries to find a place to use them in the church. Instead the church should send many of its better people out to work in the Kingdom of God.
A church with an apostolic vision will train people up (many useful skills can be learnt in the church), and send them out to work in the business world. For example, the church has some great musicians. The best of these should be sent out to work in the secular music industry. The direction of the flow should be reversed, so that the church is sending good people out to the business world. Elders should be training most of their disciples for ministry in the Kingdom of God.