With the ongoing mudslide of many mega churches and the grassroots attempt to rebrand Christianity, many believers are focusing on Biblically external corrective measures for the church.
However, the survival of the Christian faith and believers living a society-impacting church life, historically, has not depended on professional marketing or hip adaptations of Christ’s teachings to make them more relevant. These have hurt more than helped.
God’s word has prevailed during the last 2,000 years because of its essence- spirit (John 6:63). God doesn’t need us to breathe fresh life into a failing institutional system. He wants us to breathe God in as the Spirit through His word. God gives the Spirit without measure.
“…receive the Holy Spirit” -John 20:22
John 20:19-22 describes ever so succinctly the first meeting of the church, in its infancy, before Pentecost. This was a small group of believers, without professional qualification or religious training, meeting in a non-religious building. When Jesus appeared He didn’t give an inspirational speech or hand out mission assignments. He simply breathed the Holy Spirit into them. God breathed out and they breathed in. This revolutionized them.
“…sent out by the Holy Spirit” -Acts 13:4
Fast forward to Acts 13. The church had been rooted and growing in the Jewish community for at least a decade but the Lord wanted the church to spread to the Gentile lands where Christ had not yet been named (Acts 1:8, Romans 15:19-20). Acts 13 marks a decisive turn in the spread of the church and is the initiation of Paul’s ministry journeys to the Gentiles. Those interested (which should be all of us, eh?) in the so-called missional church should take note here- the Holy Spirit is central in the spread of the church.
The note on Acts 13:2 in the Recovery Version of the Bible is insightful:
This was a great step taken by the Lord for the spread of the gospel of His kingdom to the Gentile world. It was begun from Antioch, a Gentile center in Syria, without the organizing of a mission, without the raising of funds, without human ordination, and without any human plan or method… It was absolutely a move by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and with the Spirit…
“…the manifestation of the Spirit for what is profitable” – 1 Cor. 12:7
Once the church is established in a city it needs to be built up. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 are two indispensable chapters on the building up of the church as the Body of Christ and how every Christian can and should play a role in this. Chapter 12 emphasizes the role of the Spirit in giving gifts for what is profitable (v.7). Chapter 14 follows to reveal what is the most profitable spiritual gift for the building up of the church- prophesying.
The Spirit is vital in producing, spreading, and building up the church.
Since the Spirit is the essence and reality of the Body of Christ, if all the members of the Body of Christ are daily being filled with the Spirit then they will spontaneously live Christ who died for the church and be one with God’s heart who’s masterpiece the church is. If our Christian life and practice of church is apart from the Spirit, then we will only succeed at producing a human organization that we attend once a week called church. Focusing on experiencing Christ as life through the Spirit will produce the organic Body of Christ.
Pingback: 7 digital realities Christians can’t afford to ignore any longer | @stickyJesus
excellent word!!! to the degree the house of God returns to the preferred pattern, is to the degree the nations will return to the Lord.
Kyle, I’ve wanted to comment on this for a while, but I’ve just got around to it. In your title, you reference Frank Viola’s series on reimagining church. I just had a question I’ve been considering that maybe you could help me conclude:
For those who have never seen and experienced a genuine expression of the church with all the members functioning in their measure, is there still a need for them to do a little bit of reimagination?
Does one need a model of the church life to follow in addition to the moving of the Spirit, or will the genuine church life emerge with only the Spirit’s moving?
Good questions. First off, I think it’s important to differentiate between the church and our practice of the church. For the reality of the church as the Body of Christ, which is what I was trying to emphasize, the Spirit is all that we need. The Spirit is the essence of the Body. Without the Spirit there is no Body of Christ because there is no way for God to become one with man. The Body is organic with the divine life not organized by man, so it’s survival and spread have never depended on marketing strategies but on the believers’ living interaction and experience of Him.
As far as the practice, the Bible definitely gives some prescriptives and consistent models. For sure, the book of Acts and 1 Corinthians 14 are key. If we don’t follow the Biblical revelation of how to practice the church, it will end up just a theory or there will be endless debates based on differing concepts.
Initially, it seems that the first New Testament church life did emerge with only with the Spirit’s moving. This was something brand new that the disciples had no reference point for. In fact much of what was carried over from Judaism became a problem, i.e. circumcision, diet, the Mosaic law. Somehow those uneducated followers of Jesus new what to do. Church life for them was very simple and in a sense ordinary. They met together where they lived, they broke bread like the Lord told them to do, they continued in the Lord’s teaching, and they prayed together for His move. To me, this is church life.
I appreciate that Frank Viola is calling Christianity out on some of the traditional but non-Biblical practices, but personally I don’t like the use of “reimagine” with church. That implies that man imagined church in the first place. But this isn’t so. The church is God’s imagination and heart’s desire. All the imagining men did throughout history caused the problems that Frank speaks out against today.
The indwelling Spirit and the external record of the Bible are both needed for a balanced practice of the church. And since the model is already there in the divine record, one just needs to be enlightened to see what the Spirit already established.
“These freshly revealed truths are not God’s new inventions. Rather, they are man’s new discoveries. There is no need for invention, but there is the need for discovery.”
Hope this helps!
Pingback: “If the Church is one…” | Enjoying Christ with Christians on Campus