generation of Christians has witnessed the vast and accelerated alteration of
the structure of the church that this current generation is now undergoing.
Surely, we are that generation upon whom the ends of the world are come (1
Current Structure of the Church will not accommodate what I am about to do.
statements are not based purely on my own subjective observation. Some of my
understanding has come from what I believe was direct revelation by the Spirit
of God. In May of 1996 I was flying to Pasadena, California to attend the
National Symposium on the Post-denominational Church when God suddenly
interrupted me with these words: The current structure of the church will not
accommodate what I am about to do.
I was uncertain then what God meant by
those words, but in the months and now seven years since then, Ive come to
recognize that much of what we Christians had for all our lives called
church had very little to do with the concept of church Jesus had in mind
when He promised, I will build My church (Mt. 16:18).
If you are a church member or church
attendee, ask yourself: What really is the spiritual condition of my
church? How effective are we at winning the lost to Jesus? How are we
penetrating our society with the claims of Jesus, with the fruit of converts
and disciples? If your church is like the majority of churches around the
world, your answers are not encouraging.
Oh, most of us can point to a convert
here and a disciple there. We can look at finances and building programs and
musical extravaganzas and evangelistic crusades and slick programs and by these criteria claim
some level of success as churches. But if we are honest, we must admit
that we are far from the original pattern of the church weve read about in
the Book of Acts, and the church which existed during times of world-wide
have majored on programs and committee-spawned ideas for growth which have
little to do with the blind seeing, the deaf hearing and the lame leaping.
musicals, our choir robes, our carefully crafted sermons have done little if
anything to stem the growing tide of evil all around us.
Because of our ineffectiveness, we build
a theology to accommodate our failure.
point out that evil must increase in the end times
in order to explain decreasing interest in the things of God.
dogmatically state that darkness will increase until theres almost no light left
in the earth. to rationalize losing the battle
against a rising tide of iniquity.
How do these
statements square with biblical mandates that declare...... the whole earth is filled with Gods glory?
about the promise that..... the glory of the latter house will be greater than the glory of the former ?
finally, what about Jesus' own promises that "greater works than these shall you do because I
go to the Father" and
I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
somewhere, we lost something essential in the church. Somehow, we must
retrieve the things weve lost if we are to fulfill the promises of God for
our generation. And while we retrieve the essentials, we must leave behind the
non-essentials: The things contained in the word religion.
Somehow, we must retrieve what we
lost if we are to fulfill the promises of God for our generation.
the pitiful preaching of some, God is not going to send Jesus to rescue a
defeated, discouraged, desolate and disintegrating Bride. The church Jesus is
looking for is a church of power, of purity and of purpose: A church that is
transforming the earth, destroying evil, and conquering societies with His
grace, mercy and love.
But the big
question is How? How can we change anything of significance? How can we become
truly effective for God?
How can we reach billions of lives with the love of Jesus?
So here are
some questions to ponder and perhaps to answer
What is the
Should we tear
down existing structures and build new structures?
do we go from here?
As friend and prophet Dave Bodine is fond of saying, Were
not smarter than those whove gone before us.
is a sobering truth, and one that must be continually kept in mind as we
pursue what some have called an emerging church.
If we read the literature produced by various
denominations, and follow the time-line of their history, a common denominator
emerges: Most denominations exist because God began to visit a group of people
who received revelation, revival, renewal....call it what you will, and in
receiving a precious truth, touch or testimony from God, recognized two
things: First was the need to come together with those of like experience and
revelation to share in the thing that God was doing. Second was the desire to
develop a distinctive subset among Christianity, commonly called a
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines denomination as
a general name
for a category. A religious organization uniting local congregations in a
single legal and administrative body.
denominations have been greatly used of God over the centuries: Consider the
value of the Lutheran tradition that brought Christians out of the Holy Roman
Catholic Church. Among the contributions of the Lutherans exist the truth that
The just shall live by faith. The doctrine of Justification by Faith did not
exist as a known reality until Martin Luthers revelation and experience with
The Baptists emphasized both
the necessity of being born again and water baptism by immersion. The
Methodists gave us organized and intentional discipleship. The Pentecostal
denominations, especially the Assemblies of God, the Church of the Foursquare
Gospel, the Open Bible Church and others rallied around a definite,
experience of the Holy Spirit known as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with
the evidence of speaking in other tongues.
Even the so-called Oneness
movement the folks who dont accept the teachings of Trinitarians brought
to the church a renewed emphasis upon Jesus Person and a close, personal
relationship with Him.
has used these and more denominations to carry important truths to the Body of
Christ over time. We do not deny in any shape, manner or form the value and
the significance of any of the denominations that are now existent in
twenty-first century Christianity.
So if God has used these
groups to carry His truth to the world, whats wrong with leaving things as
Bible is a Journal of Journeys
First, God is a moving Thing.
He is not static. Represented by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night,
Israel discovered that the cloud and the pillar were constantly in motion.
The Bible is a journal of
journeys. It is a document of continual change: Literally, of Revolution!
Revolution: A fundamental change in
the way of thinking about or visualizing something
: a change of paradigm
In the first teachings
of Gods word, the nation of His choosing is told,
Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One God. Other
nations practiced the worship of many gods, and in the midst of these nations,
Israel is told, there is only One God. Later, God begins to reveal that
there are other members of the Godhead. By the time of the writing of the New
Testament, we discover that there is Father, Word (Son) and Spirit.
A progressive revelation leads us from simple trust and faith into the deeper truths of God and of His
So when we discuss the church
we must always remember that God moves, and while He Himself never changes, He
The Temple form of worship
that the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus day had come to know and love was
surpassed by the appearance of Jesus Himself. Consider this: On the day Jesus
stood in Jerusalem near the Temple and declared, Destroy this temple and in
three days I will raise it up, to what was He referring?
Pharisees wanted to insinuate He was fomenting rebellion against the Law of
Moses and the destruction of the very symbol of the worship of Jehovah God.
But Jesus was actually referring to Himself and was further prophesying concerning
what He was about to do at Calvary to destroy the power of sin over the lives
of men. Beyond these obvious realities, Jesus was on that day announcing a
paradigm shift . A paradigm is in its most simple form merely a pattern; an
example; a framework.
Jesus was announcing that the
framework of Gods revelation was expanding, intensifying He was literally
revealing Himself to be the very embodiment of what church, worship,
relationship with God, redemption, worth and value was to be all about. He was
literally saying I am the church.
The following may sound revolutionary
to you radical and dangerous - perhaps youve never considered this truth,
but follow me to the gathering of disciples with their Rabbi on the day He
said, "Let not your
heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's
house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to
prepare a place for you And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come
again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And
where I go you know, and the way you know." John
told His followers that the Father has a house, and that within that house
are mansions. Have you ever wondered what kind of house could contain
mansions? Have you considered what this "house" might be?
The House, literally, is Jesus!
He is the House. Remember, He has just spoken of Himself when He said,
"Destroy this temple...." Now He talks about a house containing mansions. He
says He will go and prepare a place for us. That place is "in Him." (In Him
we live and move and have our being...") When we speak of The House of the Lord we should not
refer to a building made by man.
Recall Davids dilemma upon
gazing out the window of his opulent Palace at the worn and ragged tent of the
congregation the tabernacle of God. Davids reaction was one of horror. This
is vital, so please forgive the use of so much Scripture:
Ill emphasize certain
phrases here for the sake of clarity:
Now it came to pass when the
king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his
enemies all around,that the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See
now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent
Then Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD
is with you."
But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying,"Go and tell My servant David, "Thus says the LORD: "Would you build
a house for Me to dwell in?For I have not dwelt in a house
since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even
to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have
I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to
shepherd My people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built Me a house of
"Now therefore, thus shall
you say to My servant David, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I took you
from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over
Israel.And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have
cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like
the name of the great men who are on the earth.Moreover I will
appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell
in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness
oppress them anymore, as previously,since the time that I
commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from
all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house.
Look at it again: The
Lord tells you that He will make you a house. Dont lose sight of our
focus were talking about the church. Were trying to answer the question
posed earlier, What is the church?
God later declared
through the prophet Haggai, The glory of the latter
house shall be greater than of the former, says the Lord of hosts.
Some scholars have
interpreted this latter house and the house God promised David to be
Solomons Temple. But the Temple of Solomon was destroyed by Babylonians five
hundred years before Jesus was born! The reconstructed temple, begun in about
19 B.C. known as Herods Temple was an attempt to replace Solomons.
(Interestingly, the Herodian Temple is known as The Second Temple in
Israel. That there is to be a Third Temple is yet another example of the
intricate and positive design of God).
Jesus stood near the temple
and declared, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up
again. To what was He referring? Obviously, He was declaring that He is
the Temple He is the House of John 14. And He is the embodiment of the
Consider this: Webster uses
the following to describe church Etymology: Middle English chirche, from
Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon,
from Greek, neuter of kyriakos of the lord, from kyrios
lord, master; akin to Sanskrit sura hero, warrior
master, hero, warrior Jesus!
Nothing about buildings;
choir robes or pipe organs; governmental systems; political agendas;
hierarchical organizations; dogmas and requirements of membership; rummage
sales and pecking orders and a hundred other things absent from both the
definition of the dictionary and Gods very word. (While there is nothing
intrinsically wrong with buildings or choirs or other church commodities, the
point is these are not essentials for "church" to exist!)
Now we are beginning to
understand a deeper reality: Paul wrote; Or do you not know that your body
is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and
you are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19).
When we put on Christ, when
we become believers in and followers of Jesus through the dynamic infiltration
and permeation of Gods Holy Spirit into our lives, we become carriers of,
vehicles, hosts, transmitters and the very personification of Christ, and thus
the church in the earth!
Unimpressed with our liturgy
and our architecture and our flowing gowns and extravagant ventures, God
chooses to fill simple and plain human beings with Himself and send these
agents of heaven into the world to preach good news: Jesus is knocking at
your hearts door, seeking entrance into your life to make you, also another
agent of heaven.
Acts God that
made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven
and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands
So, very simply, we answer the first question
asked: What is the church?
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a
building from God, a house
notmadewithhands, eternal in the
heavens. 2 Cor. 5:1
The church is literally The body of Christ. It is
first, Jesus Himself, and then by extension, every human being who has
experienced the New Birth and has become a follower of Jesus.
Please, forget the brick or
wood or metal or plastic or whatever materials make up the place you attend or
attended on Sunday mornings. That house, no matter how beautiful or
expensive is at best a poor imitation of the church and a weak and pitiful pretender of the
house of the Lord.
In what is described as The
perfect Revelation of the Lord, Psalm 19, we find:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
What poor simulations for His
church are our paltry buildings compared with The Perfect Revelation of the
Lord - His very Creation.
Gods church has for a
ceiling the galaxies and constellations; planets and moons, stars, comets, meteors
and asteroids arcing and shooting across the backdrop of space; that endless,
limitless, borderless picture of eternity.
Displays of lightening, the
sound of rolling thunder, the roar and the whisper of the wind, the crashing
of the ocean's waves, the cry of the eagle and the symphony of geese in flight, all join
together to declare, to shout the glory of God!
And God carpeted His church with
meadows and deserts, mountains and valleys, streams and rivers and oceans. He
populated His church with choruses of birds, with the thundering hooves of
bison and gazelles and the chatter of apes and the opus of insects,
singing in the night hours.
Did you know that the church
the true embodiment of Jesus the Vehicle of Gods revelation and grace in
the earth the church of the living God functioned and thrived and grew for
nearly four hundred years after Jesus ascension into heaven without ever
owning one, solitary church building?
Its true! The church
experienced incredible growth, vitality and life without ever possessing the
property of a building!
In fact, until the
interventions of the Emperor Constantine that melded Christianity together
with the religion of Ishtar, a pagan religion, the church neither owned or
held any real property. It is from the name Ishtar
that we derive Easter. Ishtar was the Springtime pagan festival of
fertility, and replaced Passover. Although the word Easter is in the Bible
(Acts-12:4), the word Easter is NOT in the Greek texts. The word is "Pascha",
which in Greek means "Passover". Easter is a heathen term derived from Ishtar.
Ishtar was the Saxon goddess "Eastre", the same as "Astarte" the Syrian Venus,
also called "Ashtoreth" in the OT. And the worship of Isis, Queen of Heaven,
would be replaced with the Worship of Mary, Mother of God, the new Queen of
Much later, Martin Luther dealt the symbolic
blow that began the Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the
door of the Wittenberg Church. That document contained an attack upon papal
abuses and the sale of indulgences by church officials.
But Luther himself saw the Reformation as
something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He
believed it was a fight for the gospel. Luther even stated that he would have
happily yielded every point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope had
affirmed the gospel.
And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther's
estimation, was the doctrine of justification by faith--the teaching that
Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground
alone, they are accepted by God. Good theology! But the structure, adapted
from pagan practice, continued untouched.
One of Luthers first revelations upon
divorcing himself from the Holy Roman church was that since he was no longer a
Priest, he was not bound by the laws of celibacy. Luther took a wife and other
Catholic Priests, seeing Luthers happiness and continuation of ministry left
the church in part because of Luthers teachings and in part because in
doing so, they too could marry.
These men, now happily wedded, became the
vanguard of Luthers new pastors. And what was the ecclesiastical
understanding of these men? To what schools had they applied themselves to
understand biblical government? They had all attended the same university.
They were all steeped in Roman Catholicism and the practices of Ishtar.
Richard Hooker makes this interesting statement in a document
entitled Martin Luther: Discovery and Reformation Luther
(and all the other reformers) saw themselves as returning Christianity to its
roots, they believed that they were setting the clock back; in reality, their
ideas irreparably changed the world and pushed it kicking and screaming, not
into some ideal past, but into the modern era.
Yet the Reformation, as it is
known, while it changed the focus of theology and abandoned some of the more
vile practices of the Holy Roman Church did little if anything to change the
structure the governmental form, liturgical practice and the hierarchical
form of the clergy. So there was a Reformation of Theology, but a Reformation
of Structure was (and is) still needed.
Dr. James Kennedy, writing
his now-famous Evangelism Explosion in 1962 declared The greatest lie
Satan has foisted on the church is that there is a gulf between clergy and
laity, and that clergy is responsible to do the work of the ministry.
This lie (and it is a lie
and further I do not believe even in the concepts of clergy and laity but
space does not allow that discussion just now) is a carry-over; baggage kept
by the Protestant church after its division from the Holy Roman Catholic
Look at the governmental form
or system of your church or the church you are most familiar with: It may have
a Presbyterian form of government. It may have a congregational or an
Episcopal form of government. Some churches have blended Presbyterian and
congregational forms. In the United States, church government was greatly
influenced by the adoption of the wave of government known as democracy.
The Great Awakening in
America during 1739-1741. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July
4, 1776, twenty-five years after the Great Awakening. As new church groups
were organized as a result of revival, new governmental systems were sought.
The predominant thinking of that time was that of democracy and the church
excitedly adopted this new way of governing from the prevailing thought among
the colonies: Novel; but not Biblical!
Even during powerful,
life-transforming revival, a Reformation of Structure was needed.
Thats enough history for now suffice it to say that the structures that
incorporated into Christianity after the Word of God had been written and
sealed from further addition came not from the counsels of Heaven, but rather
derived from the counsels of man.
The lesson to be learned is this: Whatever man touches with his hand, he
mars from the original intention and perfection of God
Whatever man touches with his hand, he mars. The form of the church that
Jesus left was God's masterpiece. The brush strokes of heaven had created an
image no earthly hand could improve upon. But the inclination of man always is
to enhance and to refine. And touching God's masterpiece, we altered the
original intention and perfection of God. Man the collective all-of-us has
a penchant for rearranging furniture. We dont like where the painting is
placed on the wall and feel a compulsion to move it.
So we rearrange the original template of what the church was intended to be.
Christianity is currently experiencing the most convulsive, unsettled moment
of change since the birth of the Church two thousand years ago. God is wooing
us, calling softly and thundering when necessary, bidding and urging us to
return to Him and to His ways.
We'll continue this
discussion soon, and examine the revelation that
do we mean by emerging church?
emergePronunciation i mrj
Etymology: Latin emergere,
from e- + mergere to plunge
1. To become manifest
2. To rise from or as if from an
enveloping liquid: come out into view
3. To rise from an obscure or
inferior position or condition
4. To come into view through
Etymology: Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice,
ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon, from Greek, neuter of kyriakos
of the lord, from kyrios lord, master
Smiths Bible Dictionary:
The derivation of
the word is generally said to be from the Greek kuriakon (kuriakon) "belonging
to the Lord." But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably
connected with kirk, the Latin circus, circulus, the Greek kuklos
(kuklos) because the congregations were gathered in circles.
gathered in circles, belonging to the Lord and becoming manifest; rising from
the enveloping fluid of the Holy Spirit from an obscure or inferior position