Word of the Day – Covetousness in the Bride – As we prepare to start a new fellowship (church) in Bock, MN, we continue to pray for those whom God will lead our way. This ministry will function very differently than the traditional brick and mortar church model. As it is somewhat difficult to explain what these things will look like, I will be taking some time to look at how Jesus started the church and how it originally functioned.
One of the most thought-provoking aspects of Kingdom thinking is that the Church of Christ is more spiritual than physical in nature. Oh, how we love our buildings and our governmental structures of leadership. We hold tightly to our bylaws and gain our identity through our ecclesiastical traditions. Yet in the spiritual sense, none of these things have value or are found. Rather, in Christ, we are all unified into one Bride. In the spiritual, there are none who are protestant or Catholic, there are only those who love, obey and serve the One who dwells in us and has forgiven us of our sins.
So how is a spiritually natured church meant to function in the physical world? I was always taught that Jesus almost always turned the wisdom of the world upside down. If you want to be first, you have to be last. If you want to find joy, you should mourn. When someone strikes you on the cheek… I could go on… So the true question is. What should an effective Church look like here on earth?
The world’s wisdom would say some of the following: 1. Size… Effective churches have large numbers (people, conversions, baptisms). Numbers numbers, we love our numbers… What pastor doesn’t truly want to stand up in front of 500 people every week? 2. Power… For some reason, the larger and more beautiful the building, the more influence and power a group becomes in the community. 3. Money… Money does seem to make the world go round, so any church that has the most assets through donation or other means must be the most successful. In short, the world would say that the largest church in town with the best buildings and programs would be the church that God would point to and say, “Well done”.
Yet as we read the scriptures, we find no reference to any of these criteria as being needed. What we do find in scripture is a group of people who placed their faith in God alone to provide for their personal and ministry needs. Here is the scripture that shows how Jesus sent out His first church planters. Pay close attention to how the spiritual was way more important than the physical. The gospel of Luke states, 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Luke 9:2-3 NASB
So what was the point? Jesus was saying very clearly, “I will provide for your needs. Do not try and provide for yourselves.” Can you imagine what faith that would have taken to walk from one town to another without any food or provision in the hope that God would take full care of your needs?
You see, the church is the same way. Jesus will always provide for the things that He will need for His will to be accomplished. In reality, it is the weakness in our flesh that fails to rely solely on God for the provisions of His ministry.
We can all see how the most powerful men in Christianity look. They all have thousands of followers, really nice clothes, huge buildings and vast power and influence. Yet is that how God’s wisdom reveals Kingdom power? Looking to our example, Jesus showed us what total reliance on God looked like. He did not dress like a Pharisee or live in a fancy home. Jesus gave up all earthly power and fully relied on the provisions of God to fill His needs. He did this to be an example of how God’s spiritual kingdom should function. Listen to how Jesus responded to the man who wanted to follow Him on the road. 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Luke 9:58 NASB Jesus knew the heart of the man and knew that he could not fully rely on God for his daily provision.
So where did the Church go wrong? Christianity spread very quickly throughout the known world. In simple terms, it got large. And what do you think happens when something gets large? Everyone wants to start controlling it… Controlling and protecting the church was the exact opposite of what God called us to do. Jesus said, “God will provide” yet, we have responded, “We got this”. And what was started with full reliance on God to fill every ministry need began to slowly shift into an organization controlled by the flesh and worldly wisdom. In truth, many churches today have literally stripped away any need for faith in God’s provision. They succeed because the world has taught them how to invest and protect their assets.
Why has the Church lost it’s power? We have exchanged the provision of God for reliance on worldly wisdom. We have created for ourselves physical kingdoms that God never intended for us to form. And worst of all, we have coveted God’s gifts. Instead of giving to others and relying on God to provide more for us to give, we have horded Gods gifts and have coveted them for our own benefit and use.
We all know that earthly Kingdoms fall. One of the saddest things I see in this life is a physical church that has started to shrink. Oh the many hundreds of thousands of Dollars we spend to have the best buildings and the most comfortable seats. We spend thousands paving parking lots and paying all sorts of bills. Yet there is a time in every church where the physical begins to imprison the mission of the church. And once the congregation starts to shrink, the physical literally becomes a millstone around the neck of that congregation until they are utterly drowned.
Oh how God warned us about our unbelief in God’s provision for ministry. Jesus tells us the parable in Luke 12, 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” 22 And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Luke 12:15-23 NASB
Ever since the Church was organized under Constantine, the church has shifted its focus from waiting on God’s provision to providing and protecting the things they have constructed for themselves. And today, as almost every denomination seems to be in decline, those who really understand the trends realize the full weight of the millstone that has now been placed around many of these worldly religious organizations. In the next 20 years, we are going to see a major shift in the Church. And what will that shift be? I believe that the Spirit is moving and working to free fellowships from the bonds that bind them. God is about to discipline the Bride He loves.
As Christina and I begin to start a ministry in Bock, we strive to walk in faith. How can a church really function without being organized? How can it further the Kingdom of God without an earthly Castle and a Keep? Yet, all we are called to do is wait on the Lord and wait for His provision. Not in order to receive worldly power and influence, rather that with nothing to boast about in our flesh, Christ can do the impossible through us. Holiness unto the Lord…