I wanted to have a place to start posting my thoughts of the vision God is giving me so that it can be refined. I guess I think out loud. Please be kind as these are just that, thoughts…
1. The Word of God – All knowledge and understanding of God comes from God through His living Word by means of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, scripture becomes the only source that we can truly build our theology from. Church history, our personal experiences, our culture and our ability to reason hold no candle in going against what God reveals through the Bible.
2. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things. Pastors should not be forced to suppress the knowledge that they feel God is revealing to them because it is different from what others have taught in the past. Who are we to put God in a box? For the day that we lose our flexibility in learning about God is the day we fall to the traps of bringing division into the body of Christ by creating doctrines of men that separate us. We serve a living God. We have to be able to hear what he wants to say to us today.
3. Accountability. Anyone teaching a new perspective on the revelation of God should remain humble as it is tested by those that they love. If what has been said cannot be refuted through the scriptures, then it is to be accepted until the fruit of the teaching can be measured. If a teaching is found to go against scripture, the pastor will submit to the wisdom of those who hold to the unity of the body of Christ as they loving share why the teaching may go against the Word of God. These mistakes should not be held against a pastor if he is humbly seeking God’s revelation, but the pastor should be transparent about what he or she has learned throughout the process.
4. Proportional Revelation – The most important ideas about God are the things scripture talks about the most. Therefore, when teaching about aspects of God that have little to no disclosure in scripture, much variance should be allowed within the fellowship as to the application of those ideas. Proportional Revelation would say, every preacher should teach that God wants us to love each other, for loving others is found all throughout scripture. However, defining the exact process of sanctification is not so confidently revealed. Could it be that God decided “the how” was not as important for us to understand? Therefore, we can maintain unity and fellowship in the local church even through variance on how we feel God has revealed these types of things in our hearts. Basically, we can agree to disagree on things that are not covered directly in the Word of God.
5. Pastoral Authority. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. There is one King and many subjects. However, this side of heaven, God has chosen humble men and women to lead His sheep. As long as a pastor is serving in love and humility, a fully surrendered shepherd of God should be submitted to by those in the flock. For how can we have more authority than the messenger God has chosen to lead us? The lead pastor of any fellowship shall never function as an employee (or be subservient) of those he or she serves. For authority flows downhill from God who Has given His authority to individuals to complete His work on earth. Therefore, we are called to be bond-servants or slaves to God. Our pastors (to the best of their ability) reveal the will of the Father for each individual fellowship. Just because Jesus washed feet and provided our example of love does not mean believers took up authority over Him. Therefore, if someone cannot submit to the teachings of a specific pastor, they should with council, seek another fellowship in love.
6. Earthly Treasures. The kingdom of God is not built with bricks and mortar, for we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Neodenominational fellowships should fight the temptation to store up for themselves things that can enslave them and hinder their ministries in the future. Building ownership is no longer an effective way to grow the kingdom of God. For it hinders the ability to start new churches because no one really can afford to send supporters off when costs are so high. Furthermore, the moment the congregation starts to shrink, the building tends to take priority over the people in the decisions of ministry as all resources are diverted to maintenance and upkeep. The saddest thing to see is a group of seasoned Christians is watching them holding onto their earthly treasures as they pour the end of their ministry years into keeping what God once used operational. Would it not be better to have flexibility as our fellowships grow and shrink organically in size? Moreover, the hearts of people tend to change when there is something of value to claim or protect.
7. Let our yes be yes – If we take away the monetary things we fight over in the church, why would we need worldly organizations, contracts, and governing boards to bind us together in fellowship? If we are truly one in the body of Christ, can we not have fellowship with others who hold to similar beliefs without creating legal ties? For what can the world offer to support the unity and fellowship of spiritual things? Therefore, pastors should be able to have flexibility in seeking likeminded pastors who can support each other in love. In time, if those relationships change, there should be no effect on the local fellowship.
8. Sending over Suppressing – Denominationalism had a place and function in the Kingdom of God. But one of the downfalls of denominationalism is that anyone who would not fall into line theologically was suppressed or pushed outside. Neodenominationalism allows the freedom to empower those who hold to different views to not be suppressed, but allows the freedom to send them out in love. We will never all hold to the same opinions of every idea we have about God. Therefore, rather than destroying the calls of our children who find new methods to share an unchanging gospel, in love we support them and send them off to serve the Lord. This does not include ideas that go against the Word of God.
9. False Teaching – No pastor is infallible. If a pastor teaches what is felt to be against the Word of God, the benefit of the doubt will be given during the service and he or she should be allowed to speak. Afterwards, a group of elders or laity should pray and construct why they feel the pastor was in error. In love, the pastor and the group of believers should sit down and test the teachings against the Word of God. If a pastor has made a mistake, he should humbly disclose what was taught in error to the flock. If the pastor’s teachings did not go against scripture, the people or persons offended should be humble and thank the pastor for reveling Truth. And sometimes, there is no right answer outside of folk theology. Therefore, know that it is OK to agree to disagree on nonimportant areas of theology. In that case, the authority of the pastor who God has been called should always trump the opinions of those in the flock. If this begins to create disunity, then steps should be taken to send that family or group to another likeminded fellowship.
10. Make Disciples – Making disciples should be the primary function of the assembly. Churches should focus on teaching how to study the Word of God, teaching who God is, the plan of redemption, the identity we have in Christ, and how to recognize and serve in the individual gifts the Holy Spirit has given to each person. Neodenominationalism stands against the need to overeducate believers who are called to serve God by forcing them to retain post-secondary education in order to serve in their call. Instead, those who feel called into ministry should be identified and placed under a pastor as a ministry apprentice. When the time is right, the pastor with the help of others will be able to know when that apprentice is ready to be sent off to serve in their call. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the home fellowship to assist that new pastor in beginning his or her ministry. If while the apprentice should very on theology in such a way that would hinder the mentoring relationship to the lead pastor, attempts should be made to seek a better fit for mentorship.
11. Empowering Others to Serve – The pastor is not lazy or weak just because he is not the center of ministry life in every service. The pastor should train and allow others to preach and grow in their giftings. Furthermore, pastors should have the freedom to preach in other fellowships without fear of stealing sheep or climbing a ladder. God has given each of us something great to share with the body of Christ. One pastor may focus on New Testament theology while another spends time in the Word linking the Old Testament prophecies to Christ. Therefore, we should be encouraged to allow other pastors to speak and share what Christ is revealing to them as they saturate on different parts of scripture. Are we not to test everything and hold onto the good? Therefore, a pastor is not only called to serve his primary body of local fellowship; he is called to serve the Bride as well. Some pastors may even be called to take on a more rotational approach to ministry. If this is the case, he or she should work to find a replacement pastor for the original flock he or she was shepherding.
12. Supporting the Pastor – Should a pastor receive a living from supporters of his ministry? Absolutely! Yet, this may take time. For if you serve the poor and the needy as you start a fellowship, what burden should you really place on them? Yet as the need of your ministry grows, a time will come where the people being loved will want to give you more time to love others. In this case, pastors should not demand salaries or benefits for their service to God. But God, knowing our needs will take care of those who are loving others as their profession. All pastors should start out bi-vocationally and should first develop a skill or career that will offset the needs of funding. Those who believe in the pastor or have benefited from His love and sacrifice should help that pastor to balance service, family, and rest so that they can continue to serve in joy in the future. No pastor should receive more than he or she needs to live at a normal comfortable level. Moreover, people whom God has blessed should try and support pastors with no support after supporting their own. How many pastors could we fully support in our communities if the wealthy among us stopped only supporting their local fellowships and started supporting more pastors to serve in their calls? Take away the buildings and the chaff, each community should be able to fully support many pastors.
13. Elder and Deacons – Just as pastors should be mentors of those God is calling into ministry service, elders and deacons are called to provide mentorship to new believers. When you take away the need to maintain a building or hold to worldly board member functions, you can see that elders were just normal people who were further along the path of holiness than others. As new believers begin to grow in grace, we are called to mentor these seekers by letting them into our lives and showing them the love and joy we have in our daily walks with God. There are times and reasons for the elders to gather and make decisions, but we cannot forget their most important and proper function. Mentorship.
14. The Overseer – There is only one position that God has created to function outside of the authority of pastoral leadership. That is the post of overseer/bishop. As a pastor continues to mentor and send off young pastors, the time will come for that pastor to function more as Christ did as He focused on ministering to those he has mentored. As each pastor is sent off and with each church that holds to fellowship with the sending pastor, each fellowship should try aim to make sure that they support the needs of this mentoring pastor, once they shift into that role, so they can float around and provide wisdom and guidance to all of the ministries they have helped to birth. Therefore, a pastor who has successfully birthed a number of ministries should be considered to be an overseer. With council, the time may come where a replacement from within the original church takes on the leadership of a local fellowship and an official sending or commissioning of the new overseer should take place. The goal of every ministry should be to serve under an overseer that has been instrumental in their growth as a church. Groups of overseers should be encouraged to gather and share their wisdom and knowledge, but there is no other office above that which mentors those who God has called. There is no post to provide ranks above other overseers.
15. Camps rather than Divisions. As pastors and overseers will tend to focus on certain aspects of the faith more than others, we should find ways to celebrate those differences instead of allow them to cause division in the body of Christ. Neodenominationalism allows for overseers and pastors to hold different banners of the Christian faith while maintaining unity in Christ. Some may center their teachings on holiness while others on serving the needs of the poor. Some fellowships may focus on worship while others focus on the purity and meaning of the eucharist. Therefore, we allow the hands of the body of Christ to function separately than the feet. Yet, we can maintain our oneness if we hold to the primary things that God has revealed to us. This type of camp or banner system will provide identity as people seek where God is leading them to serve in the body. Should we be upset if those who function under the holiness banner find someone in their camp who wants to focus more on another part of Christ’s body? Should we not help that person find their place within the body and send them in love to a fellowship that will help them to serve where God is leading? We are called to love those God has called us to serve, not indoctrinate them into agreeing with everything we decide to focus on as we serve the Lord. In Neodenominationalism, the former catholic and the former protestant can fellowship together and teach each other about what God is doing in other parts of the Bride. They can worship with each other and not condemn each other just because they are called to serve in different ways. For the foot and the hand still receive the same goal from the head which is Christ. Therefore, any pastor filled with God’s Spirit should also be able to teach anyone under any banner to provide edification to Christ.
These are just some of the ideas that need to be refined as I seek the council of others in order to take the vision God has placed on my heart for His church to become fulfilled. I am not anyone special in the body of Christ. All I can do is humble all of myself, including my traditions and church history, and place them at the feet of Christ as I remain open to what He wants to do in us. I believe that we are on the cusp of a new reformation in the church. It will give the authority of God’s Word back to His intended messengers while freeing us from the worldly things the Church has taken on to control it. Just as Israel demanded a King, we have demanded control over our denominations through worldly systems and organizations. If we can only have faith to realize that Christ is our King, and He needs no help from the ways of this world to run His church.
Why is this reformational? For what denomination would be willing to give up all that they have to follow in this new way? Therefore, I understand the struggles we will face from those within our established churches. Let us not condemn those who have gotten us to this point. For I am the product of the men who served the Lord before me. Yet, let us have faith to step out into what is truly needed to win this new generation to Christ. For the doctrines of men and the hypocrisy within the church have closed the people’s minds as to how and why Christ is the only way to God. I encourage dialogue on all these things. Holiness unto the Lord…