Category Archives: Apostles

Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 8)

 

Fifty percent of American Evangelical Christians attend a church with 300 or more members. So, unless you live in a rural area of our country, the odds are high that you attend a church of this size or larger.

Okay, here’s something for you to consider the next time you attend a service:

After you sit down, look at the people in the row ahead of you, to the left and right of you and also behind you. What are their names? What are their children’s names? Do they have problems or needs? Are you willing to share your life, home and finances to help them with their needs? Are you willing to die for them?

Do you really believe that these same people would be willing to answer “yes” to the above questions for you and your family?

If your answers to the above questions are “I don’t know” or “No,” then you attend a church that falls far short of the New Testament model in the Book of Acts.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need(Acts 4:32-35 NLT)

Maybe you’re thinking the traditional American church has outgrown the blueprint of the early church in the Book of Acts. If that’s your thinking and your comfort zone right now, then you need to read the next few articles in this series.

(Continued in Part 9…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships without Fellowship (Part 7)

 

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

13. From Denominations to city-wide celebrations

Jesus called for a universal movement, and what came was a series of religious companies with global chains marketing their special brands of Christianity and competing with each other. Through this branding of Christianity most of Protestantism has, therefore, become politically insignificant and often more concerned with traditional specialties and religious infighting than with developing a collective testimony before the world. Jesus never asked people to organize themselves into denominations.

In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house-churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of the Church of the city or region.

Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church

14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit

They crucified Jesus, the Boss of all the Christians. Today, his followers are often more into titles, medals and social respectability, or, worst of all, they remain silent and are not worth being noticed at all. “Blessed are you when you are persecuted”, says Jesus.

Biblical Christianity is a healthy threat to pagan godlessness and sinfulness, a world overcome by greed, materialism, jealousy and any amount of demonic standards of ethics, sex, money and power. Contemporary Christianity in many countries is simply too harmless and polite to be worth persecuting.

But as Christians again live out New Testament standards of life and, for example, call sin as sin, conversion or persecution has been, is and will be the natural reaction of the world. Instead of nesting comfortably in temporary zones of religious liberty, Christians will have to prepare to be again discovered as the main culprits against global humanism, the modern slavery of having to have fun and the outright worship of Self, the wrong centre of the universe.

That is why Christians will and must feel the “repressive tolerance” of a world which has lost any absolutes and therefore refuses to recognize and obey its creator God with His absolute standards. Coupled with the growing ideologisation, privatization and spiritualisation of politics and economics, Christians will, sooner than most think, have their chance to stand happily accused in the company of Jesus. They need to prepare now for the future by developing a persecution-proof spirit and an even more persecution-proof structure.

15. The Church comes home

Where is the easiest place, say, for a man to be spiritual? Is it hiding behind a big pulpit, dressed up in holy robes, preaching holy words to a faceless crowd and then disappearing into an office?

And what is the most difficult, and therefore most meaningful, place for a man to be spiritual? At home, in the presence of his wife and children, where everything he does and says is automatically put through a spiritual litmus test against reality, where hypocrisy can be effectively weeded out and authenticity can grow.

Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots, back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history.

As Christians of all walks of life, from all denominations and backgrounds, feel a clear echo in their spirit to what God’s Spirit is saying to the Church, and start to hear globally in order to act locally, they begin to function again as one body. They organize themselves into neighborhood house-churches and meet in regional or city-celebrations. You are invited to become part of this movement and make your own contribution. Maybe your home, too, will become a house that changes the world.

(Continued in Part 8…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 5)

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

5. The church has to become small in order to grow large.

Most churches today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not by forming big congregations of 300 people to fill cathedrals and lose fellowship. Instead, it multiplied “sideways,” dividing like organic cells, once these groups reached 15 to 20 people. This then made it possible for all the Christians to get together in city-wide celebrations, as in Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is by comparison, a sad compromise, neither big nor beautiful, an overgrown house church and an undergrown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both

6. No church is led by a pastor alone.

The local church is not led by a pastor, but fathered by an elder, a man of wisdom and engaged with reality. The local house churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), circulating from “house to house,” like the circulation of blood. Here there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-12). A pastor (shepherd) is an important member of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and he has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way.

To do a jigsaw puzzle, we have to put the pieces together according to the original pattern, otherwise the final product, the whole picture turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make any sense. In the Christian world we have all of the right pieces, but we have fitted them together in the wrong way, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy, and a power and control mentality, just as water is found in three forms – ice, water and steam – so too the five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – are found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places. They are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no one.

Just as it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new – and at the same time age-old – forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return to the Maker’s original blueprint for the Church.

8. Out of the hands of bureaucratic clergy and on towards the priesthood of all believers.

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive, religious consumers, Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament.

The heavy professionalization of the church since Constantine has been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into an infantilized laity and a professional clergy, and developing power-based mentalities and pyramid structures. According to the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in between Himself and His people. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way.

To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems because it basically only asks two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity; no room for real life. This may be all right in politics and business, but not the church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, putting it into the hands of ordinary people who God has made extraordinary and who, as in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume or revelation.

(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Conclusion)

praying

The internationally known prophet asked for prayer after his meeting at the church, which I attended at the time. Some of us gathered around him and began praying. After a few minutes, a prophetic word crossed my mind.

“The calling of apostle will come upon you in the near future, but first, I see you pastoring a small church,” I said. “The Lord wants you to really understand people before he moves you into the apostolic calling. From the small church, you will walk into a world-wide apostolic ministry.”

Most believers would have been happy to receive an encouraging word like this, but not that particular man. This same prophet, who had taught us earlier in the evening about the love of God and about the importance of humility, rebuked me sharply.

“I spend lots of time in prayer,” he said with angry eyes glaring at me. “So, don’t you think the Lord could speak prophetic words like that to me in my prayer time?”

To be honest, I was shocked by his reaction. “Uh, well, uh, I guess so,” I answered.

“Then why do I need a prophetic word from you?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I answered, not knowing what else to say.

This eye-opening incident really happened to me twenty-three years ago.  It’s as alive in my memory banks today as if it just happened yesterday.

The crux of the matter was not whether the prophetic words were accurate or not, but rather, it was that I was not at the prophet’s spiritual level. I was a nobody. If I had been a Billy Graham, Rick Warren, David Yonggi Cho, or some other well-known international minister, he never would have spoken those words to me. Instead he would have said, “Thanks for the prophetic words. I’ll pray about them.”

Now, if you think this is a unique and seldom occurring event, I have news for you: it’s not! For most of the tradition church system, there is a hierarchy system set in place where only certain people are allowed to speak words of direction or correction to the ministers who lead (usually called the clergy) and the pew sitters (known as the lay people) have little voice in these matters.

But yet, when one of the original apostles, Peter, became a hypocrite in Antioch, the young apostle Paul had no problem handling the situation:

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had, to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-13)

Do you think Peter was embarrassed? Probably. Do you think Peter wanted to lash out at Paul? Probably. This is usually how our flesh reacts to being rebuked, or at least, this is how mine reacts.  Then, what do you think Peter felt when he saw the above letter sent to the churches in Galatia and his name mentioned as a hypocrite? Once again, he was probably a little miffed, but did he hold a grudge against Paul?

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 NLT)

Peter, the man who had the revelation that Jesus was the Christ and who was chosen to accompany Jesus on the mountain when He was transfigured and talked to Moses and Elijah, was a humble man of God. He stayed small in his own eyes and was a seeker of truth.

The end-time apostles will not be a part of the church’s hierarchical system, but rather will blow it apart. Will the apostles rebuke the leaders of the traditional church system? Probably very little. But instead, the humility displayed by these end-time apostles will attract the long suffering pew sitters out of the traditional churches and into their royal priesthood callings. The captives will finally be set free.

(Conclusion…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 8)

praying

An apostolic moment in a fictional book:

As I listened to Cat and Ike, my spirit roared like a lion within me. Something like this had happened in the past when the Lord used me for healing people, but now, it felt like it had advanced three or four levels higher. So much so, that divine strength overpowered my human weaknesses. I saw nothing but impossibilities earlier, but now I saw only opportunities for us.

I stood up and looked around at everyone. I had no thought of what I was going to say. It just gushed out of me.

“Four lepers sat in the midst of a disaster long ago and said to one another, ‘Why are we sitting here until we die?’ The four had nothing to lose so they marched toward the enemy’s camp. The Lord amplified the sound of their footsteps, causing Israel’s foes to retreat from the battle site. Thus, defeat was turned into triumph. A group cowering behind walls of safety did not accomplish this victory, but instead, it came about because a few people decided to ignore circumstances and their own weaknesses and do something.

“Now like the four lepers in 2 Kings 7, we have decisions to make: sit here until we die or obey God. The spiritual gifts through Bonnie have comforted us. The prophetic words through Cat and Ike have stirred us up. It seems apparent that God has spared our lives so He can use us in the midst of a terrible calamity for His glory and to build His kingdom.”

I paused to allow the Holy Spirit to guide His people.

“For those who agree with me, we will head towards Ground Zero tomorrow morning. We will leave some people behind to take care of the children and to search neighboring areas for injured people.

“Those who are heading out will carry just a few supplies with them. Nothing heavy. As we walk toward Ground Zero, we will start a church wherever there are hurting people. We can use a house or abandoned buildings for the new church. We’ll gather people into that location to serve and pray for them.

“After the church is established at a site, we will leave two people behind. The remainder will continue onward. We will repeat this over and over until we have no more church planters left.”

The anointing for speaking lifted off me just like that. I looked toward Cat.

“Honey, do we have enough blankets and pillows for everyone?”

She stood up.

“I think so. Let’s go see.”

We went upstairs while the others figured out sleeping arrangements for their families.

(The above excerpt is from The Day LA Died by Larry Nevenhoven, ©2015, Amazon eBook)

(Continued in Part 9…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Die (Part 7)

praying

The university auditorium was packed to capacity for the debate between Dr. Hiram Love, author of Gays Are Holy, Too, and Paul Simon, a Christian businessman. The middle-aged businessman was a last-minute replacement for a noted Christian apologist who suffered from the flu.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to tonight’s debate,” said the moderator. “The topic for our debate, Is Homosexuality A Sin, seems to be a hot-button subject in our state right now with the Prop 8 vote and its follow-up lawsuits. The format for our debate is that each debater has thirty minutes to put forth his views on whether or not homosexuality is a sin. Then, in the second hour, the two will go head to head in a point and counterpoint match up. Dr. Love won the coin toss and will go first. Dr. Love, are you ready?”

Dr. Love nodded and walked to the podium. His herringbone sport coat with brown leather elbow patches added a professorial look to his thick frame and bearded face.

“Do you know how many times Jesus mentioned homosexuality was a sin in the four Gospels?” said Dr. Love. He paused as his blue eyes scanned the audience, as if looking for an answer. Then, he added, “Not once!”

A short titter raced through the audience.

“That’s right, not once,” said Dr. Love. “Wouldn’t you think that such a supposed vile and abominable sin as homosexuality would have at least been mentioned once by our Lord? He mentioned divorce as a sin. He mentioned greed and idolatry. But not once did he mention homosexuality.”

Dr. Love spent the half hour laying out the hypothesis that homosexuality was not a sin by what Jesus did and did not mention. He referred to Jesus’ words, the red letter ones of the four Gospels, as the framework for Christianity.

When Dr. Love finished, the audience softly clapped their approval. He backed away from the podium and walked over to his chair on the right side of the stage.

“Mr. Simon,” said the moderator, “are you ready?”

Paul Simon nodded.

The audience checked him out as he walked from his chair to the podium. His short stature, undistinguished features and ill-fitting sport coat were noticed by all. Who let this country yokel in here? The audience collectively wondered.

“Jesus’ main message was about the Kingdom of God,” said Simon, in a stammering voice. “The Apostle Paul further defined the Kingdom when he wrote: ‘Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge themselves in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Simon caught his breath before proceeding, “The apostle Paul also stated that the Kingdom does not consist in words, but in power.”

Next, Simon stepped to the side of the podium and switched on his lapel microphone. Every eye watched him.

“When I was asked to replace the featured Christian debater, I told them I’m not a great speaker so I had two requests. One was for a lapel microphone. And two, I asked to be allowed to demonstrate my position on the Kingdom of God. They agreed to both of my requests,” he said as he walked down the steps of the stage to the audience level.

He walked over to a woman sitting in a wheelchair next to a front row seat.

“Ma’am, would you please stand up?” he asked.

“What?” said the thin lady who looked to be thirty-five years old, “I can’t stand up. I’m totally paralyzed and have been since an auto accident twenty years ago.”

“In Jesus’ name, stand up,” proclaimed the man.

She jumped out of the wheelchair. Then, realizing what happened, she walked and ran and jumped. She screamed, “I’m healed.”

Her parents ran to her and joined the celebration.

Simon turned away from the lady and continued praying for other people. A blind man received his sight. A woman’s lungs were cleared of emphysema. A college football player’s knee was healed. He prophesied over people and prayed for many others.

When his half hour was up, Simon returned to the podium. He turned toward Dr. Love and said, “Let’s see you confirm your teachings with miracles, signs and wonders. If you can’t, then why should anyone listen to you?”

Dr. Love stood up and walked off the stage, not looking back at the apostle of God.

And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest in the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

This is only a glimpse of the near future because the end-time apostles will not back down from fights.

(Continued in Part 8…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 6)

praying

 

“Been there! Done that! Bought the tee-shirt!” should be the slogan printed on shirts worn by apostles.

Why?

Because the phrase aptly describes the apostles’ journeys into their callings and throughout the length of their callings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4)

As a young Christian, I remember another believer saying to me in a hushed, reverent whisper, “You know, that person is called to be an apostle.”

How awesome! I thought at the time.

To be honest, I was flabbergasted at how glamorous the word apostle sounded to my ears. It seemed to be the height of the Christian pyramid. The top hierarchal rung. The creme de la creme of callings.

Of course, I was naive and had no understanding of callings at all, and especially that of an apostle. But since then, I’ve studied and learned a few things.

You see, the apostle is specifically prepared and trained ahead of time by the Lord to help the Body of Christ journey through treacherous, tough times before they take place.

How does the Lord prepare His servants – the apostles?

If your guess is that the training is carried out in nicely lit, air-conditioned rooms while sitting comfortably on soft cushions and listening to qualified lecturers at an ivy-towered university overlooking a quaint village, then I have bad news for you. You’re wrong!

For each apprentice apostle candidate, the Lord has specially designed circumstances which will simulate the treacherous, tough times which awaits the Body sometime in the future. These circumstances come filled to the brim with frustration, stress, and humiliation.

The apostle candidates are sort of like dirty clothes shoved into a gigantic automatic washer, going through one desperate, ruinous cycle after another. The candidates’ heads are held under the water most of the time, with a few short breathing breaks between dunks.

All of this continues until they are finally rinsed and brought out to dry. This may take years, but along the way, many will drop out of the program to sit on the sidelines.

Now, while this divinely orchestrated training is happening, the rest of the Body of Christ looks on and scratches their heads. “What’s wrong with those losers? Why don’t they get with the program? They don’t seem to have a clue about faith,” they murmur to each other.

But when the treacherous, tough times hit a nation, it will be these losers – the apprentice candidates – who will step forth as apostles and confidently proclaim: “I know that our God will bring us through these bad times. Just follow me because I have discovered the correct path for us to walk on.”

(Continued in Part 7…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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