Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christ Established Reproducible Methods for a Movement

I believe that Jesus established a few things that are simple, reproducible and able to carry a message that expands His kingdom and changes lives. These practices are transferable methods that anyone can do and they are meant to be set lose. Unfortunately, Satan has done everything he can to keep them from accomplishing what Jesus intended. Baptism is one of those transferable practices that carry the message of good news to the world. It was meant to be what every Christian does as they make disciples.

We have hidden our Christian practices, which in the New Testament were carried out in the marketplace for all to see. We have “sanctified” them—our preaching, our baptism, our communion meal—and moved them behind stained-glass windows. We’ve reduced them so that baptism is often just sprinkling some water and the communion meal is a wafer and a thimble of grape juice. We’ve even developed doctrines to keep them reserved for the saints and dispensed by special holy men with collars and robes.

Our true Enemy has been hard at work trying to pull the teeth out of the potent practices that Jesus established. The Enemy’s scheme is to remove them from the context where they are indeed dangerous to his cause. Baptism was meant to be public. Communion was meant to be a shared everyday meal, which can “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). In the New Testament, preaching is always for the purpose of presenting the gospel of God’s kingdom to those who are trapped in the darkness. It was not done from behind a pulpit to an audience of Christians to help inspire them in their own personal growth.

Another transferable practice is the “Lord’s Prayer”. At least, in this case, the institutional-minded church hasn’t taken this practice out of the hands of the ordinary Christian. No, instead, they have taken much of the power out of the practice by making it a superstitious form of penitence… i.e. “say 10 ‘our fathers.’”

In reality, I believe that the Lord meant for it to be a pattern for His people to commune together with God. In fact, I believe it makes for a great pattern of an organic church meeting.

  • Exalt God in worship of who He is: “Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name.”
  • A joint missional accountability and declaration of surrender to His reign in life: “thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • Prayer for daily needs: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
  • A radical relational inventory with accountability for reconciliation with each other: “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • Prayer for guidance and protection while on mission: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
  • Acknowledgement of the Lord as our king and our lives as belonging to Him: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Notice that the prayer is completely in the plural voice, it is not meant to be something done individually, but as a family, all under the headship of the Father. Jesus is not just showing us what to say when we pray, but giving us a pattern for how to exercise our spiritual life as a family with our Father. It is something almost half the world can recite and yet it remains powerless in some regards because it is not followed as Jesus intended.

I think this is really very similar to the way my friend Andrew Jones describes living a missional life that ends in starting churches: “tell stories, throw parties, make friends, and give gifts.” You see, such a description makes the work seem far more possible for regular folk, even fun. Whereas, telling people to start churches (with all that implies in our current world’s experience) sounds awful to most people.

That is what is necessary for the mission to be carried forward by the masses and not stuck in the clergy led mass. Make it both simple and powerful at the same time. Connect God’s infinite complexity and power to simple and ordinary people who are capable of doing something easy and normal. Let God be the complex part that gets all the glory and let us be the simple part that doesn’t deserve any glory. We are the clay pots that carry the glory of divine truth in us. The more complex and important we make our methods and our ceremonies, the less glory God gets because the methods take the center stage.

What would happen if every true follower of Christ began to make disciples and baptize them? What if they then gathered fellow disciples in home for a meal in which they pronounced Jesus sacrifice for them as the basis for their love for one another? And what if they followed the above pattern of worship and prayer (the Lord’s prayer) together on a regular basis? What if it was that simple and everyone could do it without needing permission granted from some human hierarchy? Could it be that half the world has already been trained to facilitate an organic church family meeting and they just don't know it yet? Anyone who has the Lord's prayer committed to memory already knows how to facilitate a spiritual family gathering. Wow, what a thought.

Is there enough of the Good News born in these practices that if given over to the common Christian they could release a potent movement of reproduction that goes way beyond the shadow of an institutional church? I believe so. Why else would Satan work so hard to keep them away form people?


Anonymous said...

This is great stuff. Thanks Neil.
Last night, Tom and I met with a couple who contacted us about simple church. They were the typical average family, with adult children living in the home. They had come out of the Methodist structure years ago, and had been just hanging out wanting "church" but not finding what they were longing for. After an hour or so of hearing what they wanted, we said; "you can do that here in your home." Watching their eyes light up, and their body language of leaning forward in eagerness was all the confirmation Tom and I needed that this couple was "started", and a church would result out of it. What exciting and awesome days we live in to watch the King of the Kingdom release His subjects into their places of service!

Neil Cole said...