Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm a dreamer

I harp a lot on how church as we know it with it's sermon centered gathering doesn't measure up to the body life we see in scripture.  It's not because I don't like sermons or because I have something against preachers.  Rather it is due to God's glorious design for His house that we see displayed in the text of the New Testament as a result of the outworking life of Christ in believers.  A body of Christ that builds itself up in love when they are gathered together is a forgotten paradigm of church practice.  I want you to imagine this dream with me.

A brother and I have been studying the letter to the Phillipians together.  At our most recent meeting we began working our way through chapter 2 which begins as follows:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
In two hours of discussion we couldn't move past these verses.  We were locked in to sharing all the riches that are ours in Christ and how those riches empower us to follow Paul's exhortation to the church in Phillipi.   For the first time ever when reading this passage I could see God's purpose in building the church very clearly.  That purpose is for all of the redeemed to be built up into Christ. So we are to have the same mind, same passion, and with the same goal to build others up into Christ.  Can you imagine how buff Christ's body would be if every member had this mind and goal?  We cannot even begin to imagine the impact God's  kingdom would have if every believer everywhere was devoted to building others up in Christ.  As I got lost in these meditations and fantasies I was reminded of Eph 4
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV emphasis obviously mine)
I used to think of this verse as a sort of proof-text for having certain church officers and positions of authority.  Then one day I saw the word "until" and it completely changed my understanding of these verses.  That word "until" is one of the most overlooked and ignored words in all the Bible in my opinion.  When we overlook the "until" we ignore the goal of God's purpose in building the church and fail to move on into the resulting blessings of a multi-member functioning body that meets to edify one another.  Notice the wonderful results of a body that builds itself up:

  • the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, 
  • to mature manhood, 
  • to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 
  • we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine
  • we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
Isn't that completely glorious??!!

That is why I am so adamant about throwing out our present church practices, traditions and liturgies and having gatherings where every member is expected, encouraged and equipped to minister to the body.  Its because I've been consumed with this same passion to see Christ clearly manifested in a corporate body.   I'm not talking about reforming practices by adding or tweaking existing programs like Sunday school or small groups.  I'm talking about a gathering that could not be scheduled and orchestrated because each member brings what the Lord desires for them to share as they have abided in His indwelling life throughout the recent days.  I'm talking about sharing that small piece of Christ you discovered with the rest of the body to build them up and receiving the other pieces that are brought as we are all built up into Him.

You might think that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.


  1. I think to have hit on something with this post. I agree with you that it would be great to have a gathering of believers that all bring their piece of Christ and share it with all. I think this visionary and it is something that I am trying to do with my youth group. We have taken up several different topics and while I prepare some intro questions I let them bring their piece of te pie and share it. At first it was difficult to get them o open up but after a bit of coaxing we now have great discussions during our discipleship. We took that model and rolled it out to our whole church on certain Saturday's and called it coffee and conversation. We have had two now and both worked great. We provide some direction on the topic but only very basic such as regarding Jesus. We then just let everyone share. It has been a wonderful experience.

  2. K,

    that sounds great! It is really amazing to see Christ living through the various members when we are all able to share Him. This is how each gathering of the church is described in the NT because it is the natural outworking of a community living by and sharing His life. Im encouraged to hear you all are moving in this direction. Hopefully you will all eventually be of the same mind that building one another up is the goal of every gathering, not just the extra added on ones.

    Thank you for sharing. I love to hear how the Lord is working to bring about His purpose among those whom He has placed within established organizations.

    What do you think the reaction would be if the body of believers there began wanting open participatory meetings in place of the current Sunday schedule?

    Would you consider that a good thing or a bad thing?

  3. When people study the church, they start from many different perspectives. The most common "starting point" is to begin with the particular beliefs and practices of whatever denomination or background the person belongs to, and then justify those beliefs and practices from Scripture. Unfortunately, when this happens today, many of the passages of Scripture related to the interactions between children of God are left out.

    However, if we begin with Scripture as our guide - not with our own beliefs and practices - it is impossible to read Scripture and ignore the mountain of evidence that indicates the importance of our relationships and interaction with one another as the church. So many passages - including but not limited to the ones you mentioned - indicated that the growth and maturity of believers DEPEND upon all brothers and sisters working together to help one another.

    I believe that we can only understand other aspects of the church (i.e., elders) once we understand how the whole church must work together for our mutual benefit.

    I think your post is a great push in that direction. So, thank you!


  4. Bobby,

    Hold on to the dream, which,in reality is what the Scriptures tell us that Jesus is doing.

    That has been my dream for several decades. The reality is that very few, who claim to be Christians, want to lose their individuality by being, " living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".

    Of course, that means losing ones identity and becoming absorbed into the whole Body of Christ.

    The majority seem to want to be seen, as individuals, as important in their own right, and receive recognition and kudos for their part.

    I recently spent some time with a couple who are very busy being benevolent, and asked the husband why they do what they do. His reply was,"I want people to give us some recognition, and for God to take notice of us".

    They both had spent a large part of their life on the mission field.

    That is a house built on sand! I have spent a a large part of my lifetime patching up the old building, but the foundations are rotten.

    That's why I agree with your last paragraph

  5. Yes, the Church is absolutely beautiful! She's a radiant bride

    Great post, brother.

  6. I'm coming late to this dicussion, but I want to say keep up your hopes and expectations.

    Meetings like you describe have been happening here and there in the UK since the 1970s and there's some discussion internationally about what is needed to start the ball rolling more widely.

    Take a look at 'The light in the middle' on my blog and follow some of the links in the first paragraph 'At first we talked...'

    Meetings like those in the early church are possible and happening and, I think, about to spread rapidly. Be encouraged.

  7. "I'm talking about sharing that small piece of Christ you discovered with the rest of the body to build them up and receiving the other pieces that are brought as we are all built up into Him"....You have aptly put into words what I long to see.

  8. That was great. I never, ever noticed the "until" until (ha!) you pointed it out. It makes me think also about the end of 1 Cor 13 where everything but love will pass away.

  9. This is God's heart as well, Bobby.

    Another part of the passage that is overlooked or misinterpreted, partly because of the punctuation is, 'for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry.' (comma omitted to bring the meaning out) They had no scripture for this new way and God gave them gifted men, like Paul, with special understanding until some maturity could be reached. Some will use that 'UNTIL' to say that perfection hasn't been attained, but the word is speaking of maturity, rather than 'sinless perfection.'

    Eph. 4:15,16, 'But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.'

    It is truly a very satisfying place to be! And Jesus said that all we need for Him to be totally involved is two or three.


As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.