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Totally Rethinking Church

Part 1

Stepping "Out of the Box"

(Note: The purpose of these articles on Totally Rethinking Church is not to incite a rebellious attitude against the established church or encourage an elitist attitude; but to stimulate your thinking to look at the Scriptures and evaluate the church, so that you can help make the church more like Christ would have us to be.)


Millions of Christians in the last several years have been totally rethinking what "church" is and are looking for a deeper relationship with Christ. A spiritual revolution and revival is quietly sweeping across America led by the Spirit of God, not human leadership. For a rapidly growing number of Christians, a local church building is no longer the place to go for their primary church meeting place. Since 2000, millions of believers are leaving local congregations and are meeting in house churches according to a poll from the Barna Group (www.barna.org). In 2000, most of the organized religious activity took place at or through a local church. By 2005, more than 50 million people practiced their faith through a variety of different faith models. On any given week in 2005, 9% of all adults in America participated in a house church!

Most of the people now meeting in house churches are doing so because they have a desire to have a deeper relationship with Christ, and have had to leave the congregational, building based church to satisfy that need. These people have a heart's desire to be the church, rather than merely go to church, according to the Barna Group poll.

In stepping "out of the box" of the traditional building based church, we have the opportunity to totally rethink how the church should be. Many of the aspects that Christians have come to assume to be a normal part of what a church is, and what a church should be like, don't have a specific basis in Scripture. In fact, some aspects are the exact opposite of Scriptural direction. Often when people leave a church and start another, they create another church with much the same same format as the one they left. The leadership is different, and some of the "issues" are practiced differently, but many of the humanly designed aspects of the church usually remain unchanged. True spiritual revival does not occur, and the new church soon becomes another "average" congregation. It was only after our family got "out of the box" of the traditional church structure for several years, that God was able to help us begin to see His design for the church.

There is much more to be learned and understood about God's design for the Church and for people being fed spiritually. It is important that we do not go back in history and pick out a group of people who appear to have had the results that we desire and follow their example. That is an error of conservatism. Even the New Testament Church was made up of human beings like ourselves who also lacked complete understanding of what God's complete design is for the Church. Instead we need to look at the Scriptures and find out exactly what God's design is and follow that. We can look at history and other groups and learn from the things that they did in following God's design in a particular area and learn from their success and mistakes, but our primary focus needs to be on looking at God's design.

The church-building-based church most commonly found in the United States is not based on God's design for the church or on instruction given to us in Scripture. The local church has evolved over the last almost 2000 years from the house churches of the New Testament to a design, format, and money consuming facility that for many aspects of what the church is and its activities, does not have a basis in Scripture. The following are some of the things found in many building-based churches that don't have directives in the Bible. Some of these items are not sin and are not particularly wrong, but are included to show how much of what we associate as being an expected part of the church is man's design and is not found in the Bible.

  1. A special building called a "church" which is the center of spiritual life for the congregation.
  2. Denominational affiliation
  3. Church membership
  4. Connecting baptism with church and denominational membership
  5. The pastor hired as an employee of the congregation
  6. An elevated pulpit
  7. The pastor having a title such as Doctor, Reverend, and Pastor
  8. Bible School or Seminary education for pastors
  9. The arrangement of benches or chairs in rows facing the elevated pulpit
  10. Special seating, parking, and or dress giving honor to the pastor
  11. Sunday School - age graded classes for children
  12. Age segregated adult groups
  13. Youth Groups
  14. Children's Church
  15. A nursery
  16. A Christian School
  17. Entertainment - music, drama, videos, etc.
  18. Music styles borrowed from the world and used for worshipping God
  19. Sports - a gym, organized ball teams, etc.
  20. Church Growth emphasis
  21. Feedlot-style spiritual feeding

You could probably add a few more items to this list. In looking over this list, much of what defines what the conventional church is, how people are fed spiritually, and how money is spent by the church, is not found in Scripture. It is man's design for the church, not God's design.

This discussion about totally rethinking church is not to aid those who are reactionary, or those who are rebelling against the traditional church. It is an endeavor to identify those areas of the church that are not instructed in God's Word so that we can make changes that make the church as much like God would have us to be as we can. Our desire is to follow Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Let's look at each of these areas in more detail:

A special building called a "church" which is the center of spiritual life for the congregation.

God does not dwell in temples made with handsWe as Christians are the church. The real church is not church buildings, programs, and activities that take place in a building called a "church". However, with the focus on church buildings today, church for many is attending the meetings in the church building. The view by many is if a person does not attend some of the meetings in the church building, they are viewed as beginning to grow cold spiritually.

God does not command or instruct in the New Testament that a congregation should have a special building called a church, where the church meets. Even in the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to build the Tabernacle (and later when they built the temple), there was only one building for millions of people. All the people did not gather to worship at the Temple every Sabbath. Those gathered for worship at the Temple, worshipped outside the Temple under the open sky, not inside. For many, the Temple was a day's journey or more away. One example is Jesus and his parents when He went to the temple at age 12. It took them three days to get there. The Jews developed the local synagogue, but it was man's design. God did not command or instruct them to build synagogues.

The use of the word "church" for the building where a congregation meets is unfortunate because it subconsciously confuses the building with the real Church, the body of believers. Many emphasize "going to church" rather than on being the Church and being a part of the Kingdom of Christ. Attending meetings in the church building is often equated with a person's spiritual commitment. You often hear things like "Is he still going to church?" or "they are no longer going to church". The implication of those comments or questions is on whether the person is faithful in their Christian life or not. For many congregations, the majority of the spiritual life of the congregation centers around attending meetings in that building.

The term used today, "unchurched", does not refer to unbelievers per se, but to those who do not attend meetings in a church building.

In looking at the Church through history, the Church was vibrant and grew rapidly when the believers met in homes. For example: The New Testament Church, the Anabaptists of the 1500's, the underground church in communist Russia, and today in China. Even today one of the fastest growing denominations, the Amish, meets in homes. The cell group concept, used for church growth by large congregations, owed much of its success to people meeting in homes.



Denominational affiliation

God does not command denominational affiliation. We have seen several different statistics showing between 27,000 and 33,000 Christian denominations as of 2001. The proliferation of denominations and the multitude of splits and divisions within denominations are in direct disobedience to God's command that we all speak the same thing and have the same doctrine and judgment. Participation in denominational affiliation and practices is unwise and is destructive to Christ's Kingdom, as God clearly tells us in the following passages:

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Today we hear: I'm a Baptist, I'm a Methodist, I'm a Presbyterian, or I'm an Anabaptist, etc. However, we are not baptized in the name of a denomination, but in the name of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 3:4-15 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (5) Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (6) I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (8) Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. (9) For we are laborers together with God, ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. (10) According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (11) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (13) Every man's work shall be made manifest for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (14) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Insights:

Denominational affiliation or conference affiliation is often viewed as wise because it provides accountability to a larger group. However, accountability is often more of a theoretical ideal then an actual safety net. In modern times, rather than accountability, it is more likely for the leadership of a denomination or conference to lead a large group of churches down the wrong path in disobedience to God's Word in a particular area.

Church membership

Congregational membership, as practiced in most building-based churches today is not instructed in Scripture. Church membership usually means joining an organization in addition to the Kingdom of Christ. Often church membership includes accepting certain practices, applications, and beliefs that are not specifically stated that way in Scripture. For example: a specific mode of baptism; requirment of speaking in tongues; specific styles of dress; adherance to doctrines named after men such as Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.

Church membership is not sin in that it is not disobedience to Scripture. It is just something that has come to exist and to be expected as part of the church that has not been instructed in the Bible.

The pastor hired as an employee of the congregation

God has instructed the church to support pastors financially. However, God did not say to make the pastor a hireling or an employee. Making the pastor an employee, has resulted in many pastors subconsciously or intentionally being concerned that what they say from the pulpit doesn't make someone mad or offended. The result is a watered down teaching of the Bible that is less "offensive" to those who want to sin or continue in their sin. The pastor knows that if the congregation doesn't like what he says, or he does not bring the money or people in, he loses his job.

John 10:12-13 But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

God's design is that the pastor be supported by the congregation through gifts.

The pastor having a title such as Doctor, Reverend, and Pastor.

Titles of honor and authority for the pastor are not directed by God. Instead, God commands the opposite.

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. (26) But it shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.



Matthew 23:8-11 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (9) And call no man your father upon the earth'. for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (10) Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (11) But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.



Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (43) But so shall it not be among you but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; (44) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. (45) For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.



Luke 22:24-30 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. (25) And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (26) But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (27) For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (28) Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. (29) And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (30) That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.



I Corinthians 15:9-11 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (11) Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.



Bible School or Seminary education for pastors

God does not instruct that being educated is one of the qualifications for a pastor.

We do not find the example of education in the life of Jesus

We do not find the example of education in the life of the disciples

God tells us education is worthless

Paul rejected his education as worthless for preaching the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:17-29 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise , and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence.

1 Corinthians 2:1-8 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (6) Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught. (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

An elevated pulpit.

The larger the church building, the more of a perceived necessity there appears for an elevated pulpit. But an elevated pulpit is not instructed in Scripture. Pulpits are usually elevated above the people and it puts the pastor at the center of attention and importance center stage. The pastor is not the one to be elevated in the church, but rather Jesus Christ. In addition, when a pastor stands in a pulpit or podium, he "shuts up" the congregation, in the sense that he speaks and they listen and don't ask questions or make comments.

While Jesus most likely did not sit down every time He taught, it is interesting how often it mentions that Jesus sat down to speak to a group of people. In a house church, there is not a need for an elevated pulpit. The pastor can sit to deliver the message like Jesus did.

Matthew 5:1-2 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Matthew 13:1-2 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Mark 9:33-37 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? (34) But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. (35) And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (36)And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, (37) Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Luke 4:20-21 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.

John 8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

The arrangement of benches or chairs in rows facing the elevated pulpit

This is not found in the Bible.

Special seating, parking, and or dress giving honor to the pastor

This is not found in the Bible.

Sunday School - age graded classes for children

The conventional Sunday school is not found in Scripture. Sunday School instead, has been patterned after the public school system of graded education, the same system of education that home school students have proved to be an inferior method of education. God's command for the spiritual training of the children is not Sunday School but for each father to train his own children in the way of the Lord.

Sunday Schools became popular because fathers were not training their children, and the children were Biblically illiterate. Instead of giving the fathers the tools and training that they needed to train their children, the Church took over the fathers' God-given responsibility. Men, by their very nature, if they allow others to take some of their responsibility, tend to turn the entire responsibility over to others. The Sunday school appeared to be the answer. Children learned more about the Bible. But as the years have passed, the Church as a whole has moved further away from the Bible, and become more like the world. We are now at a point where a survey from the Barna Research Group has found that the beliefs and practices among born again Christians are basically no different from non-Christians. We have come full circle with the Sunday school and the children in the Sunday school are little different than those who do not attend Sunday school. The answer is not to reform the Sunday school which is based on the wrong method of spiritual education of children, but to return the responsibility of the spiritual education of the children to their father.

Age segregated adult groups

God does not instruct the church to put people in the congregation into groups according to their age. Instead of age segregation, there needs to be interaction between the age groups. God instructs older men to teach the younger men and the older women to teach the younger women.

Youth Groups

Youth groups are not instructed in Scripture, yet almost every church has a youth group. The youth group, by separating the young people from their parents, and placing them with their peers causes them to have their hearts drawn toward those their own age rather than toword their parents. There are serious spiritual consequences when young people's hearts are taken away from their parents. God tells us in Malachi 4:5-6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

Children's Church

God has not instructed that the children be separated from the rest of the church. Church programs usually separate children into their own group so the adults can have the important part without distraction. The children grow up not being included in the rest of the church. In many churches the children's growing up years are spent in children's church, Sunday school, and later the youth group. When they become adults they do not really feel a part of the church and many leave.

Luke 9:46-48 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. (47) And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, (48) And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me, and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me, for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.



Mark 10:13-14 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

A nursery

There is no instruction in Scripture to remove babies and small children from their parents during the worship service.

A Christian School

The closest example in the Bible of a Christian School for children, is the Jewish school system in Jesus' day that produced the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus called hypocrites. That school produced men who did not know who God was. When God came in person (Jesus), they rejected what God had to say to them and ridiculed Him. They killed Jesus because their spiritual understanding was so destroyed and made foolish by their religious education.

It is interesting to note that neither Jesus nor John the Baptist were educated in the Jewish school system. If Jesus had been educated in the Jewish schools, He would have provided an example for us to use that method of education today.

Entertainment - music, drama, videos, etc.

God has not instructed us to use entertainment in the church. Much of the entertainment in churches today is music and art forms borrowed from the world and brought into the church building. The purpose of the Church, as believers, is to worship and give glory and honor to Jesus. When the focus is put on "going tochurch" (the building and the activities of the building), entertainment is often used to attract people into the building to increase and keep attendance.

Music Styles Borrowed from the World and used to Worship God

God's instruction in Scripture about the music used to worship Him, is to sing a new song to Him, not to borrow music styles that have been used to worship Satan or that have been used for worldly entertainment. Many have brought the world's music, rock, rap, new age, ethnic music, etc. into the church in an attempt to win people to Christ. God tells us to do the opposite to win people to Christ; we are to sing a new song. Psalms 40:3: "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD." We are not to use worship music borrowed from the world in the church to worship God. That includes hymn tunes borrowed from the world.

The contrast of singing a new song and music borrowed from the world is given to us in Psalms 144:7-12: "Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children; 8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. 10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword. 11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: 12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:" One of the results that people are discovering as rock music is removed from the lives of young people, and is replaced by good Godly music, is that there is an increased brightness of the young people's eyes and countenance, which is what God tells us will happen in verse 12. The right music is an important part of ensuring the spiritual maturity of the young people in the church.

God is a musical God and enjoys music. Music is a very important part of worshiping God. However, God tells us that not all music is acceptable to Him, and that some music that is used to worship Him; He hates and wants it removed from the church. Amos 5:21-23 "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols." If God hates our music that we have in the church, it is not worship music and is worthless.

Much of the rise of borrowing music from the world has been fostered by the poor quality of music and singing in the church in the past. Hymns sung too slowly and in unison are not enjoyable to listen to. The music in the church should not be poor quality. Instead, we need ask God for new songs and hymns that are even better than the hymns of the past. We need to ask God how to play musical instruments the way He wants us to play them that produces the best music in the world. The music that the church has, the new song, should be such good music that it draws the world to Christ (Ps. 40:3).

Sports - a gym, organized ball teams, etc.

We are not to bring the idols of the world into the Church. It only creats a distraction from a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Church Growth Emphasis - building a large or larger congregation

An emphasis or focus on building a large or larger congregation is not found in Scripture. God tells us that a pastor is not to focus on numbers. Instead he needs to focus on planting the seed and watering it. Then God gets credit for the increase not the pastor.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.

John 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

It is interesting looking at this passage from the perspective as applying to pastors. The last supper was in actuality a ministers meeting, not a meeting of all of Jesus' followers. There is often a lot of competition between pastors today as each pastor tries to build up his own congregation. Each pastor is concerned that people from his congregation will go to a neighboring congregation. Jesus instructs these spiritual leaders that they were to help one another and serve one another (wash each other's feet). We are all working for Christ's Kingdom, not to build our own congregation. We need to help other congregations achieve that purpose.

Imagine how much could be accomplished for Christ's Kingdom if pastors worked together and helped each other (washed the other pastor's feet), rather than each one trying to build their own church.

House churches of the New Testament time period would have helped reduce the competition between pastors because the size of the congregation was limited to the size of the house. That promoted multiplication of congregations. When a congregation meets in a church building, competition becomes more of a factor because the size of the building can be more readily increased.



In Conclusion

Much of what defines what the conventional building-based church in America is, how people are fed spiritually, and how money is spent by the church, is not found in Scripture. It is not God's design for the church, but instead it is man's design. You will notice that we did not address the feedlot-style of spiritual feeding found in most churches, that will be addressed in part two. In part two of "Totally Rethinking Church" we will look at God's design for the church and what we can do to pattern the church after His design.

On to Part Two »




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The Missing Key to Spiritual Maturity

In the fall of 2007, Willow Creek church released the results of their three million dollar research into the effectiveness of their church program and 30 other churches. They were shocked to find that they were not bringing people to spiritual maturity. What they thought would produce spiritual maturity was not. They believed that the more people participated in church programs the greater spiritual maturity it would produce. They found that the amount of involvement in church programs had no correlation with the depth of someone’s spiritual maturity. What makes this mistake so significant is that Willow Creek is a church that has 12,000 churches in their Willow Creek Association, and has taught thousands of pastors how to “do church” to produce church growth. To some degree, Willow Creek Church has influenced how most churches today “do church”. “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)


What is the answer to helping people come to maturity in Christ? Take another look at the Great Commission. The answer is there. We have been focusing on the first part of the commission – evangelism – and have overlooked the second half thinking we know what it is saying. But look again at what Jesus says in giving us the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19) The missing key to spiritual maturity is teaching others Christ’s commands in the New Testament and teaching them to follow the commands. An excellent subject for Bible study is to take each of Christ’s commands and study them. There is a list of Christ’s commands on this website.



Discipleship, Spiritual Maturity, and Christ’s Commands

Jesus defines a disciple as one who follows His commands. A person who is spiritually mature is one who knows Christ’s teachings in the New Testament and who follows them with all his or her heart, soul, mind and strength. The following passages of Scripture over and over stress the importance of doing what Jesus says to do:

 


Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.


Matthew 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.


John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.


John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.


John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.


1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.


2 Corinthians 2:9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.


Galatians 5:7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion [cometh] not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.


Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.


1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.


1 Timothy 6:14 That thou keep [this] commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:


Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.


Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;


James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.


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