October 30, 2009

The Ideal Church...

Might not look just like this, but this might be pretty close. TC challenged me to describe it. Ideal being ideal, remember this is something to shoot for. It also happens to be what I see consistently modeled in the NT, from John the Baptist and Jesus to Timothy and Titus. The first aspect you might want to notice, which people tend to leave out of their church models, is the passage of TIME. Life is not static. Anyway...

***********************

Pick a town in the world. Any culture. Two or more gifted believers, called and sent by God, gather a group of believers and train them to function as the church.

Over a period of perhaps 1 to 8 years, the planters teach brothers and sisters how to provide ALL the needs of the body. At the same time, these instigators are working for the day when they will no longer be there. The instigators must gradually decrease so that Christ in the body may increase.

In the initial phases, different members of the group will naturally and gradually begin to display certain aptitudes, including teaching and oversight. With the workers' help, the body will learn to recognize, appreciate and share these gifts for the good of the church. However, the most gifted individuals do not necessarily become overseers/elders/shepherds. Also, as the o/e/s's gain experience, they do not necessarily "lead" more often than anyone else. Elders are not necessarily teachers and teachers are not necessarily leaders. The body learns how to provide for its own needs, and everyone's contribution is considered a part of God's building-up process.

The elders, in a way, eventually become the most necessary, but also the least visibly active. These "supervisors" are servants, like everyone else, offering their giftedness when called upon moreso than at their own discretion. A chief role of the church workers (planters, trainers) is to coach the group into interdependency. Settling into ruts will be avoided by openness to fresh suggestions. We are not here to be comfortable. We are here to challenge each other to love and to good works in Him.

Meeting styles will vary. Everyone is free to suggest and provide direction for group activities, including meetings. The body decides, with patient oversight, what activities to pursue more often than others, but reserves times for other ways of gathering as well. Trial and error ensues, but some reliable standards emerge. All the while, learning continues. Our main goal is not to set things in stone that will stand for a thousand years like Solomon's Temple. The Lord's house on Earth is a Tent that can Move! (That's what he said to Moses, anyway.)

Remember, during these years, the original workers are still with the group, guiding, directing and training... but also pulling back as appropriate, and as possible. After the training wheels are completely off, the 'apostles' continue meeting with the church for a year or so, without functioning in any leadership or decision making capacities whatsoever. Their passive presence encourages the church to shed its last vestige of 'adolescence'. The 'apostles' themselves might rest during this phasing-out period or they might use the time to plan and prepare their next 'mission' field (not too close to this one). In this final year, the planters also keep a sharper eye than ever on the church, which finally stands on the verge of being left alone.

In years to come, after the planters depart, the church has two (or more) outside resources to call upon who can visit, provide long distance encouragement. A young adult leaving home still needs help from "mom and dad", but not so often and not so much. On occasion, the church planters might return if the church and its elders are stymied by some difficult matter. An outside perspective can be helpful, especially if the 'apostles' aren't compromised by salary, because - I forgot to mention - they've been supporting themselves with careers all this time!

The brothers and sisters have learned how to keep one another fixed on Jesus Christ, and to lean on, wait on, and stand in Him during all seasons of life. This is what they've been trained for. They have top-down oversight, bottom-up leadership, they've been trained to listen for God's voice to potentially come from any member of Christ's body, and they still have recourse to their founders, when necessary.

That, in a nutshell, is my ideal church. That's what I see in Ephesians 4.

************

On top of that, if I could really daydream for a minute, everyone in the church ought to be less than 3 minutes from each others' houses by car, if not bike, if not foot. Ancient cities were less than one mile square, and urban sprawl is incredibly recent, historically speaking.

Remember, Ideal being Ideal... we should take what we can get. But I think this is what we should shoot for. Scratch that. Work towards and prepare for. Most of us aren't ready to go for it yet, but I believe we can get there.

Any Questions?

27 comments:

Chris said...

I believe Yahshua himself living in us and through us can get us there.

The most fundamental quality we will need on the journey is love for one another - not our love for one another but his love in us.

Yes! Together, bound together by his love and with him as the head - it is achievable.

HalleluYah!

T.C. R said...

Bill,

Go start to a difficult issue. A few questions, however:

1. What of administering the Lord's Supper and Baptism?

2. Why is your ideal church based on Eph. 4 and not the Acts narrative?

3. What of the special functions of elders and servants (trad. deacons), who are to so serve?

4. What of the Great Commission?

T.C. R

Kevin Sam said...

A chief role of the church workers (planters, trainers) is to coach the group into interdependency. Settling into ruts will be avoided by openness to fresh suggestions.

Bill, I like the idea of interdependency. Your model of the ideal church is good. Retraining people to think in different ways is hard. But starting from scratch in planting a new church is easier. I'm in an established traditional type of church. Ouch!!

Bill said...

Amen, Chris. Let's keep learning together.

TC - may I assume you meant "good start" instead of "go start"?

1) We should do that. See "Meeting styles will vary..."

2) It's based on both. Eph. 4 describes what Paul, the apostle, did in each city he went to.

3) could you rephrase, please?

4) Making disciples is the great commission, right? In my model, the workers fulfilled it. But if you're asking me if the ideal church should evangelize? Sure. Why not? :-)

Bill said...

Brother Kevin, whatever you do, do it to God's glory. You're good with me, brother. Just keep on following the Lord...

Kevin Sam said...

Thanks Bill. You're good with me too brother.

A. Amos Love said...

Awesome!!!

T.C. R said...

Bill,

Yes, "good start," I meant.

You did not address question #1.

#3 - Paul recognized the function of elders/pastors/overseers and deacons/servants in the local church (Phil. 1:1). How do they fit in your ideal church?

Bill said...

Amos - awesome comment! ;-)

TC - (1) my post did not address the eucharist or baptism because those are not structural issues. Who doesn't baptize? Who doesn't take the Lord's supper? My reply to your comment is still merely "Yes, we should do those things." If you want details on HOW those things should be done, ask somebody else. The details of how we express our death and resurrection in Christ are not fundamental issues, imho.

TC - (3) Good rephrase, but I think I covered that. Oversight is not the same as leadership. Service, likewise, is not a euphemism for "leading". We need oversight, we need ministry, and we need leadership. We do not need to lump all those together and receive them from the same group of 'specials'. So - to put this in positive terms - some members of the body should oversee, some should serve, some should provide direction. Each of these roles should be rotated as much as feasible depending on the capacities of the group members. Part of the 'apostles' job is helping the members stretch themselves to provide all they can, and content themselves to appreciate those who can provide more. But we do not officialize designated super-christians. That would give us a de-facto clergy/laity system once again.

Those are my thoughts. If you still want more specifics, ask a more specific question. :-)

A. Amos Love said...

Bill

Really, a wonderful description of believers working together under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Have a friend who lives in Malasia,
born of Hindu parents from India.
He travels and ministers to people,
mostly muslims, who live in Indonesia.
He has been toutured and beaten
for his faith and actions.

He goes from island to island,
(there are 17,000 islands),
He lives with and makes friends
with the different villagers.
He prays for healings, casts out demons.
(they often know and worship demonic powers)
develops their trust and gives them Jesus.

These small primitive communities are started,
and look like, you have described.
Often there is no electricity, no running water,
or comforts as we know them.
He stays with them for awhile, couple of months, and then leaves them to figure it out.
No elders, no leaders, a few Bibles or tracts,
just Jesus and open hearts.

He trusts that the Holy Spirit will keep them,
teach them and guide them into all truth.
Now that's faith.

When he returns most times there is still fruit.
Not always but often.
When it’s discovered that some, or a village,
is claiming Christ there is much persecution.
Real persecution, torture and death.
There's a price to pay for being a disciple of Christ.
It's not always pretty.
He’s been doing this for over 10 years.

Once again, a wonderful,
well thoughtout presentation.
Thanks.

I think I'll copy it. ;-)

A. Amos Love said...

Now

What "Name" will you give your new ideal church?

Bill said...

I know this is radical, Amos, but I call this church... church.

:-)

Thank you so much for the story about your Indian friend. If it were safe to tell more, I think we'd all love to hear more about his work there.

By the way, when are you going to start a blog, Amos?

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

The model you have described is very similar to the format laid out by Frontiers (a mission organization that plants churches among Muslim people groups). They have developed (and used) such a model very effectively for many years now. Perhaps you should check on their material about this (you might be pleasantly surprised to see it being applied in many different contexts even as we speak).

I do however wonder about the possibility of traditional 'clergy' serving in humility and working as a part of their service within the wider service of the local body? Do you then not see any place for receiving intensive discipleship and training for helping in the leadership of the local church? Also, what is the relationship of your 'ideal' congregation within the wider Church? Should the original planter/apostle maintain a relationship beyond simply showing up when there are problems (without it becoming simply a power structure)? Just some preliminary questions I have...

Blessings to you Brother!

Bill said...

The question is not - What can clergy do if they "try hard" or "do it right" or "act with humility"?

The question is - What do clergy do automatically? What is the natural effect of their specialized function and position apart from ('over') the rest of the body.

That said, bloom where you're planted. Do good for the body so far as you can. What I'm saying is that those who are eager for something better need to go out and start fresh.

On big C Church - the truth is there's only one church in any city, even though she doesn't get together very often. I'm all for interaction, but there's no ideal way to work out ecumenicism. "Local" is increasingly fuzzy in modern life.

Bill said...

Rick asked about: intensive discipleship and training for helping in the leadership of the local church

What do you mean - seminary? Not as its currently situated and strategized. Seminary is geared towards equipping "pastors", primarily for homiletics. The growing emphasis on 'pastoral care' is a welcome change, but it's still beside the point because one person can't do all that.

In the NT, Paul trained men (and possibly a woman or two) to do what Paul himself was doing. Timothy, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus, Aristarchus - and probably a few others we could name - moved around planting new churches and visiting old ones. Elders were appointed. Were they trained? Yes and no.

I don't see any specialized training program for some christians and not others - unless we're talking about the lifestyle of traveling discipleship shared by Jesus & Paul with their respective apostles-in-training. However, if it's fair to say the apostles "trained" the church in how to be the church (Eph.4), then the brothers and sisters who developed particular gifts must have done so by receiving the same training as everyone else. There are always 'stand outs' in any 'class'.

Again, the fundamental issue is that we do not isolate 'special people' and teach them how to contain the peons. The kingdoms of the world depend on overlords. We have overseers. They watch, serve and sometimes even direct. Their primary function must NOT be to establish and maintain control.

You know. Ideally. ;-)

A. Amos Love said...

Bill

You might check out this site.

http://jesusparadigm.com/?p=203

It's an Essay Contest answering the question;

"What should a congregation following Jesus Christ in ministry look like?"

You could probably submit "The ideal Church" post as is
and be in the running. Or a few modifications.

Deadline is this Mon. Nov. 2nd.

Free books and Barnes and Noble gift cards.

brotherjohnny said...

In this ideal church, would there be titles for those acting as elders, pastors, teachers, etc?
If or if not-why?

Bill said...

Amos - thanks for the compliment, but my post is only about what kind of setup ideally allows a church to follow the Lord. This post didn't describe what that following itself would actually "look like".

Johnny - "ideally", it wouldn't matter if such people had titles or not. Titles themselves are not necessarily worse than public recognition of giftings among the body. The important thing would be not to think that a title (or public recognition of giftedness) means any more than it should.

brotherjohnny said...

While I like your answer, and have looked at it that way for several years, I also realize that Paul didn't have a problem with titles. In fact, it would seem as if they were important to him.
I think that they can be abused and misplaced just like *anything* else, but they seem to serve a purpose in scripture.
Otherwise, I don't think that they would have been used.

If someone simply IS and elder, then I surely do not have a problem referring to them as such (...or pastor, or teacher, or what have you).

A. Amos Love said...

brotherjohnny

Some questions you can ask as you study pastors.

Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
Any congregations led by a “pastor” in the Bible?

And every pastor I’ve met
also had the “Title” “Reverend.”

Does anyone have the “Title” reverend in the Bible?

Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles;
in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
Job 32:21

Don’t “titles” become idols?

What if the problem for the person with the"Title"
and the person submitting to that "Title" is?

Titles become idols and
Pastors become masters.

Then what will you think about , Titles = idols?

What are we supposed to do with "our idols?"

Oh, and if someone says their "title" is not an idol
just ask them to get rid of it. Forsake all.

Just ask

His Holiness, the most Holy Reverend,
Apostle, Prophet, Pastor - father Amos
to forsake and walk away from that "Title."

And see what happens - I dare you.

Wouldn't that be a simple test
to see how powerful that idol really is?

To lay down that idol you also have to lay down the
power, profit, prestige, pride, and reputation
that comes with todays "Title" pastor.

Be blessed in your search for truth... Jesus

Why isn't Jesus enough?

A. Amos Love said...

Bill

Sart a blg?

I'll have to lern how to spel. Oy vey?

And I might have to actually research and study
what I write about.

And still have a bunch of pagan heathens
jumping on every word I write.

On second thought,
maybe your suggestion wasn't a compliment,
but a punishment. Hmmm?

He who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet.

maybe I was thinking higher of myself then I ought.

Hmmm? Trust no man?
Take heed lest any man deceive you?

Guard your heart with all diligence...
Glory, Gold, and Gals...
If one don't get you the other will...



Oh, and thanks for *not* entering the essay contest
I might have a chance to win now. ;-)

Be blessed...

Chris said...

I like your blg a lot, Bill. I really do :-)

Hi Johnny, hope you don't mind me jumping in here.

You mention that Paul had no problem with titles. But that might be because he didn't use these words as titles. Mostly, it seems to me, he wrote in generic terms about apostles, prophets, elders, and the rest as functions in the church, not as titled appointments. There's a subtle but significant difference between starting a letter, 'Paul, an apostle...to Timothy' and starting it, 'Apostle Paul...to Timothy'.

How should we see Matthew 23:8 in relation to this? What did Jesus really mean here?

Now this is just my opinion and I could write pages about it. But we are called to agree in love. I doubt if that means we should all think alike, instead it means we should see that differences about such things should never get in the way of our love for one another.

Let's go on examining these things in our hearts for none of us has all of the truth worked out pat. And meanwhile, lets work for unity in the body (and that's not the same thing as uniformity).

I have a hunch the Lord values love more highly than doctrine.

brotherjohnny said...

brotherjohnny

Some questions you can ask as you study pastors.

Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
Any congregations led by a “pastor” in the Bible?

And every pastor I’ve met
also had the “Title” “Reverend.”

Does anyone have the “Title” reverend in the Bible?
A. Amos,
Thanks for your response.

I am a "maintenance technician". That is what I am, and that is what I am called.

The function gives meaning to the 'title', in other words, the title is descriptive of the function.

The function includes certain responsibilities and even a certain degree of authority.

If my heart is wrong, I could abuse my title and function which would be irresponsible of me as a maintenance technician (as that is what I am).

I would not want the title "Most High Maintenance Man" as that would be rather 'flattering' and presumptuous, but 'maintenance man' works perfectly because it expresses who and what I am.

It is when we ascribe high and lofty (flattering) ideas to what these 'labels' mean that we have trouble.

A title does not have to become an "idol".
It certainly is not so with me.

Thank you for your blessing. I pray the same for you as well.

Chris,
I agree with you on 'love over doctrine' and hope that I haven't come across as 'un-loving' here.

I may have used the wrong word. Maybe 'title' isn't the most descriptive word for what I mean and for what is found in scripture.

Perhaps you could suggest a better one (?)

Either way I think that you know what I mean....

A word which is used to describe what someone does.

Gotta run for now, but I look forward to more dialog.

Chris said...

Bless you Johnny! When I wrote 'I have a hunch the Lord values love more highly than doctrine' it was not intended as a lethal weapon.

Your points are well argued and your heart is in the right place - definitely not 'unloving'. You are my brother, we just have different perspectives. And that is not a problem!

brotherjohnny said...

Thanks, Chris....and I didn't mean to leave A. Amos' quote pasted in my reply.

This much I know:

Whatever elders, pastors, teachers, deacons, etc... were in the first century, they were good things; GOD things.
It is a shame that people have misused and misplaced those...words. It has done some serious damage in the body of Christ.

A. Amos Love said...

brotherjohnny

"Whatever elders, pastors, teachers, deacons, etc... were in the first century, they were good things;
GOD things."

Amen.

I think you're correct when you say people have misused them.

Do we have any idea today how to recognize them,
and what these words really mean?

I can see nothing today that fits.

brotherjohnny said...

AAL,
Yes, I think that we do have some guidance in scripture concerning what these functions/titles mean and should look like.

If go down the trail of assuming that we can't understand what scripture says about them, then how can we honestly say that we know what scripture says about anything else...including Christ?

That is a trail that I spent a lot of time on, personally, and I believe that the Lord knew that I needed to go that route.
In fact, He led, and is leading me through it (and beyond it) even now.

Grace to you, brother.

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