THE FUTURE CHURCH
Lions in the Pews
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child; but when I become a man, I put away such things." -I Cor. 13:11
Scientists tell us that every cell in our body carries in it two DNA codes; one code
to bring the cell to maturity and reproduction, and another code to bring the cell
into harmony and integration with the entire organism. It's part of God's natural
So it is in the spiritual realm. God has placed within every member of the body of
Christ an individual destiny of maturity and reproduction and a corporate destiny to
integrate with the whole body. This organism, the body of Christ, is called to
conform to the head, King Jesus Christ, and then to transform the world into the
image of His Kingdom.
Today, a growing number of church leaders in America are talking about
decentralizing, de-professionalizing and de-institutionalizing the church. The rise
of the house-church, cell-church, meta-church, open-church and church-planting
movements are just an indication of the growing level of discontent with the
traditional CEO-business-as-usual, gospel-enterprise church structure among both
clergy and laity. Thank God! The era of spectator Christianity is now ending because
the urgency of our present cultural crisis in America and abroad simply won't permit
But what is the next step?
This is a historic time in which we live; America is now on the verge of entering a
post-Christian era. The level of ungodliness in our culture is now triggering an
alarm in the church - which is slowly awakening from a multigenerational slumber!
Most leaders that I've spoken with agree that the crisis of our time requires swift
action, but we must be careful to maintain our equilibrium as we accelerate the
deconstruction of the American churchianity.
The Kingdom of God is built with "some things old and some things new," (Matt.
13:52). The implications of our first commission given to Adam in the Garden (Gen.
1:28), to reproduce and subdue the earth, was never revoked, only expanded and
re-empowered by Christ. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus recommissioned each believer to
evangelize and disciple the nations. As we strive to recover a more biblical
ecclesiology (a New Testament patterned church), let us keep in mind that although
the "latter shall exceed the former," we must build on the firm foundation of
historic, orthodox Christianity. If not we risk falling into the trap of
existentialism and pride - a snare that has befallen the last move of God, namely
Pentecostals and Charismatics, of which I am a child. Let's not limit ourselves by
isolating the next move of God to our subjective experience. As the late Ern Baxter
told me, "Divine emphasis does not come by way of a spigot, rather it comes by way of
Remember: the New Testament love and grace of God is built upon the Old Testament
righteousness and law of God, and we are commanded to walk in both. This process of
rebuilding the ancient foundations always begins with self-government, family
government and church government. With this foundation in place, the stage is set for
a reformation in all of society, the marketplace and civil government.
During the past 20 years the home-school movement has helped the church to take a
quantum leap, restoring the proper role of the man and woman of God as the primary
educators in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, the house-church movement is restoring the
proper role of the man and woman of God as the primary reproducers of the Kingdom of
God. That explains why the house-church and cell-church movements are where the
sustainable growth is now occurring worldwide. They are in synchronization with God's
stated goal of growing His Kingdom horizontally rather than vertically. The emphasis
on relationship, covenant and accountability are the hallmarks of a healthy family
both in the natural and the spiritual realm.
Consider a few "big picture" observations that are the result of a recent, intensive
survey of hundreds of Christian leaders regarding the emerging characteristics of the
next move of God in our country;
1. Crises will produce character - (Is. 26:9 states that, "When judgement comes it
teaches people righteousness." Memorize it!). As the intensity of spiritual,
ideological, governmental and economic warfare accelerates, it is going to require
more Christians that can pray, think and steward God's resources strategically,
without collapsing under the pressure. This means that we will be forced to learn
interdependence upon our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ as perhaps never
before. It will no longer be an option - God is requiring it! As Tommy Barnett of
Phoenix First Assembly often has said, "We can either listen to God's voice in
mercy... or listen in judgement." It is this critical mass of prepared saints who are
now rediscovering the dynamics of house church life and sense that "part-time"
Christianity will not empower them for the days that lie ahead.
2. Right thinking precedes right action (Ro. 12:2 "Be not conformed to this world's
thinking, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"). Perhaps Oswald Chambers
said it best, "Most of Christian learning is to un-learn what thought we knew."
Christians are now hungering to develop a more integrated, biblical world view. We've
choked on humanism, declined under (democratic) socialism, atrophied under
ultra-dispensationalism, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. In the
context of the house church these and other "ism's" can be systematically dismantled
and replaced by a proper, biblical foundation for advancing the Kingdom of God. This
will take time.
The process of coming to maturity requires: 1) a period of deliverance for the new
believer, then 2) discipleship, including mentoring and apprenticeship, only then are
we ready for 3) commissioning and deployment, being sent back into our confused and
Reread John 17:14-18 carefully for a restatement of this strategy by our Lord Jesus
himself in His prayer for us. Note that maturity, in Jesus' mind, involves a dynamic
tension of recognizing: A) God's sovereignty to "Take us out of the world system,"
and B) our progressive, obedient yielding to the Holy Spirit, taking the world's
system of thinking out of us. It then culminates in C) our responsive action to His
mandate to go back into the world system to represent the Kingdom of God. (Trust me,
this kind of "full" gospel will challenge even a Fortune 500 executive.)
3. This growing army of delivered, discipled and deployed Christians are now prepared
to become active participants in the cosmic battle for every area of God's
terra-firma. They are ready to bring their spiritual gifting and ministries into the
citywide or congregational celebration - to see I Cor. 14:26 actually functioning
again! The future church releases believers to bring forth spiritual songs, hymns,
teachings, exhortations and prophecies into the corporate gatherings and are given
the opportunity to share them openly with the whole body.
4. The rise of team ministry and plurality of leadership is already beginning to
replace the "one-man-band" approach. This requires a new level of humility, faith and
servitude by church leadership, characteristics that God is requiring of pastors who
have a healthy self-image, not linked with their title. We need leaders with ample
trust in God, so that the "order of worship" need not be inscribed in stone. The open
church of the future may at first seem risky, but the result will be the edification
of the whole body, drawing the focus to the head, Jesus Christ.
5. As leaders and congregations begin to discern their unity of purpose - to advance
Christ's Kingdom - they will begin to discover one another. Periodic inter-church
celebrations will be the forerunner of citywide corporate gatherings, concerts of
prayer, praise and worship that will further unite God's army and rattle the gates of
hell. The early signs of this can be seen in the Prayer Summit movement which is
bringing pastors together for weekends of prayer, repentance and healing. This
dynamic is also growing among Christian businessmen and professionals who are
awakening to the key role that God has given them in advancing God's Kingdom in the
marketplace. Another indication is the growing number of grassroots Christian
political leaders who feel called to mobilize the church to impact our society in the
public policy arena.
Add it all up and you can see that the house church movement is the foundation for
the next move of God. Yes, as the kingdoms of this world are maturing in
unrighteousness, the Kingdom of God is maturing in righteousness, a process that
Jesus explained in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13: 37-43). Notice
that they both grow side by side until the end, and it's not our job to pull weeds,
but rather to sow and grow wheat! Praise God that he builds from the inside out and
the bottom up.
Don't worry about the so-called "New World Order," but rather focus on finding your
place of service in God's world order. Rejoice! You are right in the middle of the
action, but let's press on to the goal of finding our individual and corporate
destiny. As sons and daughters of the Most High God who are called, equipped and
empowered to model the superiority of Christ's Kingdom on earth, while we wait for
our soon coming King with His heavenly Kingdom descending back to earth. And that is
the shape of things to come.
"And I [John] saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Rev. 21:2.
David Bradshaw serves as a public relations consultant for Swiss America and Open
Church Ministries and producer of The Future Church, a 12-hour audio-print resource.
Here is a quick overview:
If you could step into the future and visit your church ten years from
now, you'd be shocked!
Instead of the usual routine, you'd see things like:
This is not a vision of an exceptional church, nor an idea promoted by a small circle of Christian leaders. This is a picture of what the Spirit of God is doing around the world in our day, right now.
- Dozens of people eager to stand and share something they've learned from God this week.
- Lives being changed before your eyes as people ask for prayer and others pray for them.
- Heads turning this way and that, as one person's praise or teaching builds on another's.
- Four or five speakers giving clear, impassioned messages from the Bible-because the pastor has passed on to them his gift of preaching.
- Occasional cheering or clapping as the congregation praises God for something He's done in the past week. Even children understand and take part!
- Songs and hymns are chosen spontaneously to respond to a particular contribution. (You share how the Lord was merciful to you recently, and the whole congregation breaks out with, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!...")
- Even fraidy cats who never spoke before find the courage to speak from their hearts.
- A city councilman rises to announce his longtime dream, a project that could change the whole moral atmosphere of the town.
- Eleven others jump to their feet to offer support. And in the midst of it all, you plainly feel the overwhelming presence of the Lord Jesus Christ as He leads and directs the order of worship.
- Time disappears as everyone gets caught up in the excitement of lives being transformed and hearts being healed, and after two hours, no one wants to leave....
And what is happening to bring it all about? That's the subject of The Future Church, a fast-paced journey through the hearts and minds of over 60 pastors, authors, historians, professors, musicians, church reformers and pioneer leaders.
Until you hear The Future Church, you'll never quite understand how God is revolutionizing His church today. It's a breath-taking tour of the near future, a future in which every layman counts and no pastor is overworked or frustrated.
At its base, the church of twenty years from now is an open church, with pure worship, true sharing, and free ministry. It's your church. And most of all, it creates the WORKING unity Christ prayed for in John 17; it's God's church, the explosive First Century church come back to life again!
Opening Day in the House of God 65 Leaders Cut the Ribbon to the Church of Tomorrow
When you listen to the enclosed interviews, you will want to hear more. So we have printed up for you every word of the full 65 interviews excerpted live in The Future Church. This 250-page compendium marks the end of superstar Christianity and the opening day of the laity-driven church where "the priesthood of all believers" is a reality, not just a doctrine.
Opening Day in the House of God stands on its own as a major survey of Western Christianity's clearest thinkers on church reform. The church is reopening to full participation by laymen. Whether you seek a model that is completely open, or simply a metachurch, cell church, house church, or traditional church with various open features, you will find a wealth of encouragement here.
Producer -David Bradshaw,
To order e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is God Introducing a New Chapter in Church History?
By Wolfgang Simson, Author, Houses That Change the World
Imagine Christians meeting in your area in two places just like in New Testament days: from house to house - decentralized in many housechurches; and at a large, central place - a modern version of Solomons colonnades - a big hall or stadium. In the houses they would authentically share their lives, live organic fellowship and thus be a true shopping window of God for the neighborhood.
In the large citywide celebrations they would mark their unity in Christ, express the fact that they belong together, have a festival together and allow as many housechurches as possible to get together for the greater vision. This regional trans-denominational gospel movement would, just like it did before, truly transform whole cities and regions through the gospel of the Kingdom of God. And nobody could deny that "you have filled Jerusalem with this teaching." (Acts 5:28).
In many areas of the world this twofold model of church - the very small combined with the very large - is stirring again, especially at in this dawning of a new millenium. The synergy of housechurch and citychurch means this: on the small level, extended family-type communities meet in houses and on the large citywide level, huge meetings of Christians who have overcome all small-minded barriers and understand that they are one in Christ.
It is as if Christians start to rearrange themselves according to an invisible magnetic field with two magnetic poles. What is God doing here?
The Corporate Identity of Church
Where is the true home of the Christian church? Where does its identity lie? I would like to point out the four levels on which Christianity expresses itself today: the cell, Level 1 - the house; Level 2 - the one-pastor-church (the traditional congregation); Level 3 - the citywide or regional dimension of church (citychurch, celebration); Level 4 - trans-regional networks of churches, (the denominations). I assume everyone is in agreement about the existence of the universal church, the Body of Christ on earth, which technically would be Level 5. Here I want to briefly highlight each of these four levels:
Level 1. The cell (housechurch, "small group") is typically the church in the house, usually between three and 15 adults. Here people can live in close relationships and therefore disciple each other. Most housechurches function organically - their members are in direct natural contact and share lives with each other.
Level 2. The congregation (one-pastor church) is medium-size and typically has between 16 and 300 members. The congregation functions more formally and planned then an organic housechurch, is more organized and usually has a pastor, staff, common worship services and different programs. This type of church often works parochially and serves members of a specific geographical area, and nearly always uses special church facilities - a sanctuary or church building serving special religious purposes. The members usually do not have a direct and natural contact with all other members; they are simply too big for that, and the structures of a church with a Sunday morning worship service does not allow for much organic fellowship among its members.
Level 3. The celebration is a large gathering of Christians, as many as 300 or more, who gather within their city or region to demonstrate their unity in Christ and celebrate what God has done for them. These celebrations are often facilitated by Christians with apostolic and prophetic ministries. Such celebrations may happen outdoors, in stadiums, at conference centers or other large halls. For those attending these meetings it is impossible to be in touch with all others, and most bask in the presence of the God's extended family.
Level 4. The Denomination is usually a national or international group of churches with a common bond, the network of all Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Mennonite or Pentecostal churches.
The New Testament "Two-Track Model" of Church
In the New Testament we find only two of these four levels (or tracks) of church: the housechurch (level 1) and the celebration (level 3). The latter is referred to as both the church in Antioch (Acts 14:27) and the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4), which met for a while in the colonnades of Solomon in the temple. The "Church of Antioch" was nothing more than the sum total of all housechurches throughout Antiochia - not the sum total of all denominational congregations, because there simply were no denominations or congregations at that time.
The housechurch offers healthy family dynamics, a private home and nest for each person. It is an organic space in the community, where Christians can share their lives and be accountable to one another. They can focus on the church at the place where they spend most of their time - in their homes.
The citychurch is the public dimension of church, where all Christians of the city or the region come together for large celebrations, a grandiose occasion. This is the place where the housechurches come together to connect with the Body of Christ, see and become part of the big picture, and experience apostolic teaching and prophetic vision. This dynamic gathering facilitates large sections of the society to witness the spiritual convergence. Such a gathering of the citychurch could reach a whole city or region.
If God looks at your city, what does He see? The church in Houston, Hamburg, Taipei, Beunos Aires and Johannesburg. Do you see what He sees?
The churches in the New Testament were named after their geographical locations, rather than the label of a denomination. The church of the region or city was the sum total of all the housechurches in a city or region. The Church of Ephesus, Antiochia, Jerusalem or Corinth consisted of all reborn believers in the city. Paul wrote his letters to "the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Corinthians," the corporate identity of the Body of Christ in the various areas.
It is true that some cults have picked out that element of truth, isolated it from the rest of the gospel of the Kingdom, therefore distorting it and preach it as a law. It does not devalue the principle of the Citychurch if a few marginal groups have made it their special flavor.
In the course of church history the congregations (level two) formed associations of churches called denominations, meaning they have a common "denominator." They trace themselves back to a certain teaching (the Anabaptists, the Baptists, Pentecostals); a method (Methodists, Presbyterians); a founding person (Lutherans, Calvinists, Mennonites); a place (Moravians, Anglicans); or carry a confessionalist statement in their name (Catholic, Orthodox, Independent).
Today there are around 30,000 denominations in the world. What would Paul say to that? Paul heard from the Corinthians that they said, "I follow Paul, another I follow Apollos, another I follow Cephas, another I follow Christ." In modern day language this would read: "I am a reformed Christian; I am a Baptist; a Pentecostal; a Methodist." Paul's reply, "Is Christ divided?" (1. Cor. 1:12-13).
The obvious answer is no. Paul does not mince words for denominationally oriented Corinthians. "I follow Paul, and another I follow Apollos - are you not mere men?" (1. Cor. 3:4) "Are you acting according to the spirit, or according to the flesh?" Paul goes on to say that this mentality of fragmentized thinking leads Christians to stand still, drink only milk and not digest solid food, because they are "mere infants in Christ." Then he goes on to point out the only solution for this dilemma: the cross of Christ.
At the cross of Christ there is the only one real answer for the fragmented body of Christ: self-denial. It is the crucifixion of our pride, to let go of selfish interests and repent of the preaching of self, humbly submitting ourselves to each other.
Shall the unity of the Body of Christ remain a romantic dream, a distant vision, a cry or an empty phrase of diplomatic church politics for the next 2000 years? Or are there disciples of Christ somewhere on this planet who fear God more than men, who are radical enough to obey the clear standards of the word of God?
Where is the city on earth that will take the first step?
Sunday morning is probably the most embarassing hour of Christianity, the hour of the week where all of Christianity is blown apart by an invisible wind. Christians leave their homes and hurry off to their different churches and preaching centers, often brushing by each other on their way.
The time for this kind of Christianity is gone, its hours are counted, because it neither glorifies God, nor is it biblical, nor can it truly fulfill the apostolic tasks and mission that God has commissioned the church today.
Changing Tracks: From 2&4 to 1&3
The Church is like a train running on two rails forming one track: rail 1 (the house) and rail 3 (the city or region). This is where Christian loyalty and accountability is expressed most healthily. This can also be seen because money is collected on those levels.
Today most churches have sought their identity on level 2 (the one-pastor congregation) and level 4 (a special denomination). As a result, most Christians are so taken up with the programs and activities within their church (level 2) plus the occasional involvement through denominational agendas, that they are, in practice, effectively isolated from the rest of the body of Christ in a city or region.
Many Christians have no time join together with Christians in their own neighborhood because the church they all belong to runs separate programs creating parallel universes that they feel obliged to stick with. The result is nothing short of institutionalized inefficiency and the death of synergy.
Too many Christians also suffer from spiritual malnutrition through long years focussing on a small fraction or part of the larger church in the city/region. As a result, they develop an unhealthy and tribalistic clan-mentality and potentially form signs of spiritual incest - while developing a similar feeling of superiority like the Corinthians of old. They might feel "privileged" to be watching over a unique spiritual heritage or tradition, or feel outstanding because of specially treasured insights, experiences or special alliances with extraordinary servants of God.
The good news is that God is changing tracks. The younger generation of Christians simply does not accept this as an unchangeable fact of life. They instinctively know that something is very wrong with the denominational system (of levels 2 and 4) and that God never created "church" to be that way. If it is the hand of man that did it, it is legitimate to allow the hand of God to undo it again and let the great Restorer of the Way, Truth and Life also restoring his own body again.
Globalization is driving Christians to look beyond their boxes and to seek fellowship with other Christians in their regions and neighborhoods, who long to share lives locally and celebrate together in citywide celebrations. God's Spirit is doing an extraordinary thing in our time that will bring the church back to life, unity and apostolic efficiency.
Time for Prophetic Fusion
In the coming days, months and years we will see a fusion of Christians, groups and churches who recognize that they have the same spiritual genetic code. People who would like to live and work more closely together in their neighborhoods because they know that is what the Lord has called them to do.
In a growing number of cities and regions of the world many churches will see that what they share is endlessly more than what has divided them in the past. Yes, and it will be not mere technical information, but a life-changing revelation to them that they do have a powerful common denominator, a common vision, similar values and the same heartbeat - because they serve the same Lord.
Many traditional churches, including many of the "new independent" churches planted in the last 20 years also share another phenomenon: they do not sustain healthy, reproductive growth, or do so only sporadically and face formidable growth barriers. Their members are kept busy through myriads of programs and in-house activities, the pastors are in stages of stress or even burnout, the financial liabilities are depressing and everyone knows something is missing, something is wrong. Sound familiar?
Church Buildings vs. "2% Architecture"
Let's say that Church X in Anytown receives a tempting offer to buy a large auditorium with Z seats. Although the project is far too large financially for the budget, this is the beginning of a lively discussion. Some are just convinced that God is offering them the long-awaited revival locality and space to grow for their church. Others are less enthusiastic and warn the leadership not to take on such a crippling financial commitment.
Next they agree to bring this subject before God and various committees and have it tested. But the result of this testing phase is strangely unclear - the way forward seems blocked and the parties with differing views are more divided than before. No matter how carefully they are drafting financial plans, ends just do not seem to meet, valuable members take their leave over the issue, the building committee moves in circles and it looks like a dead-end road. After six months of indecision, a local businessman buys the auditorium to use for commercial purposes.
Now lets examine how this same process looks if you can see it to from the perspective of the emerging citychurch. God is not offering the auditorium to Church X, but to the citychurch, the collective body of Christians in the city/region. God wants to bless the Body, not an arm or a leg of it and leave out the rest. What God wants is to provide a place for the citychurch and their citywide celebrations, in answer to the many earnest prayers for revival and unity of the local Christians. If any one single congregation does not grasp that God does not see His own Body as divided as man does, they will misinterpret God's intentions completely, and consequently try to direct the lion's share of His blessings to them and through them.
I can see God again and again offering the Christians in a number of regions a big building, auditorium or land - a modern-day version of "Solomon's porch" of the early Church in Jerusalem - a place to convene as the citychurch. My estimate is that the emerging citychurch in many countries will initially attract about 10 percent of the population in their regions. If such an auditorium could be used multiple times, say an average of five times weekly, such a center should offer space for about 2 percent of the population in a region or city.
Through Death to Life
Countless prophecies, warnings, sermons and exhortations have gone out from and to Christian leaders, bishops, pastors and lay leaders for centuries decrying the utter division of the Body of Christ. To what avail? The core issue is: If we continue to avoid the cross of Christ, there will be no true Church. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. This dynamic is not only valid for individual Christians, but for Christianity as a whole.
I see it happening as churches in a region who are spiritual, God-driven and mature enough to leap out of a crippling mentality of congregational independence and autarchy to step across all minor differences and reach out to each other. I see them reconcile, cry, pray, laugh, fall into each other's arms and melt into something new together - a God-sized and God-shaped church. This will be the prophetic start of a new chapter in church history.
How could this happen in the real world?
Traditional churches and housechurches who are ready for this unique movement with geographic, not denominational identity. The citychurch will emerge from...
- As born-again Christians desire to gather for citywide prayer and worship celebrations.
- As a ministry network (including the Ephesians 4:11 five-fold ministries) emerges from a regional pool of godly resources.
- As housechurches emerge in neighborhoods, schools, offices and wherever people spend most of their lives.
Some striking advantages of the emerging citychurch:
- A milestone towards the unity of the Body of Christ will be reached.
- Relief for all pastors and full time workers: everyone works more efticiently and together achieves more.
- We will more fully use our God-given potential: everyone will be able to work within the exact focus of his gifting, calling and anointing (like Eph. 4:11), and does not have to be "everything to everybody."
- Together we will leap across traditional growth barriers.
- A new chapter of local church history starts and might well become a prophetic model for other areas and cities.
- Christianity, which has been divided into ineffective small fractions, would gain a dramatically higher visibility and a voice in the city that would be difficult to ignore.
- Relief for staff workers and volunteers who run programs for the sake of the programs.
- Through the pooling of resources on the city level there will be an immediate increase in the quality of ministry in areas like children's ministry or biblical teaching.
- Far bigger and more permanent events - for example, a yearlong evangelistic rally with neighborhood follow up in local housechurches.
- Common use of city buildings and auditoriums that could be financed together.
- Saving resources: Five medium-sized halls or church buildings might be more costly than one big auditorium.
- This clear expression of Christian reconciliation will lead toward a public image correction of Christianity promoting social and ethnic healing and restoration.
- Constant informal communication and short roads to one another enhance the effectiveness of full-time regional ministers because they can share a common resource pool.
- Discipleship, multiplication and integration of new believers can happen in the housechurches on neighborhood and village level using citywide resources.
- Sunday morning preaching tourism will be reduced greatly, saving money, time and embarrassment.
- More effective church accountability and discipline: black sheep can be disciplined on a regional level much more efficiently and will find it increasingly difficult to hop churches without changing their lives.
- The high percentage of Christians hurt or excluded by the existing church structure will discover a revolutionary new concept of church to adopt and promote.
- Each church or ministry has particular strengths that can flow together into a pool toward a citywide synergy and corporate handling of training, evangelism, prayer and public relations.
- Many gifted Christians are divided by their ministries: these denominational glass walls would tumble down, as well as the deadlock that has hindered true cross-fertilization and cooperation for so long.
- The new generation of Christians will have a platform to share their unique gift with the Body of Christ. Most are not interested in denominations, but rather seek both a small, intimate group and to participate in a large regional celebration.
- The constant clash of special interests would be dramatically reduced, because those serving full time will stop living in a microcosm driven only by a personal set of agendas, programs and appointments.
- A true post-modern structure of redeemed diversity is much more adaptable for the future and publicly presentable.
- Christianity takes on a more meaningful shape and becomes not only a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks, but global to global citizens and even becomes the Y and Z to Generation X.
Leap Over Walls
At this point in time, I see four formidable roadblocks which have grown into crippling strongholds and thought patterns in the minds of many. I have expanded on this in my new book, "Houses that Change the World." These are the four walls we need to leap over in faith (Ps 18:29) today before significant change will happen:
1. The institutionalization of fleshly Christianity: "Can't I just be an average Sunday morning Christian just like everybody else?"
2. A denominational mindset: "I am in the world's best church!"
3. The congregational misinterpretation of church: the one-pastor congregation is "the real expression of church."
4. The hierarchical, religious misinterpretation of biblical leadership, and therefore church structure, to be a pyramid.
Practical Steps - Unity in Diversity
God himself is sovereign and true strategy flows out of intimacy with Jesus. Copying spiritual recipes for instant success is out; that is why this process will start in various shapes and forms, following no firm models, patterns or rules in each city. However, there might be similar dynamics and principles. That is why I would like to make a few observations about what I feel are non-negotiable elements that need to be in place before such a major reshaping of Christianity:
- It is never a structure - no matter how biblical - that changes Christianity from the outside in, but a life-changing encounter and relationship with Jesus, the renewing work of the Holy Spirit and a return to biblical standards to change us all from the inside out.
- A significant portion of Christians in a region or city are ready to deal with this proposal with a "Berean mind" (Acts 17:11) and pray with their open Bibles and not hide behind human traditions.
- Those churches, ministries, groups and individuals who can agree with this vision, its values and the common heartbeat, carefully start the process of transformation and fusion. I anticipate between one-third and two-thirds of all born-again Christians of a given area will move toward a citychurch fusion in the coming years. Those churches (ministries, groups, individuals) who prefer to carry on in their traditional ways should be able to do so without losing face. They should have a standing invitation to join the process at any time in the future.
- Christian leaders are ready to stop pushing their own agenda, and in humility consider others higher than themselves and become part of something much bigger than anything they could ever achieve alone.
- "Submit yourself to each other" (Eph.5:21): the end of the worldly "one-man-band" approach of leadership requires a very significant step of humility: The highest ranking members (senior pastors, presidents, directors) of churches and ministries may need to step down and become like everyone else in the priesthood of all believers. If everyone submits to each other, no one would be number one any longer except Jesus Christ. We will have to cease working based on status and organized accountability, but work based on spiritual function and organic, mutual trust. We would have to move away from hierarchical leadership and delegating systems of authority to work with each other; not any more in pyramids of power, but in a togetherness and synergy of gifts and callings.
- We could adopt a common statement of faith, like the Lausanne Declaration or the statement of faith of the Evangelical Alliance, or draft a new statement together in the cities or regions.
- Rather than build up your own church, ministry or empire, "Seek you first the kingdom of God," would have to be a common denominator and foundational value of everyone involved.
- "Seek the welfare of the city" will become more important than, "each of has turned to his own way."
January 2001, Wolfgang Simson, Postfach 212, 8212 Neuhausen 2, Switzerland
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