ALL THAT GUFF
Over fifteen years ago I heard a church- growth guru spruiking the importance of home groups that constantly grew, split up, started anew and multiplied the church. The nabob of church growth railed against the preference of believers to remain where they were, to not want to split, to resist starting again to stubbornly refusal to fracture the bonds of comfort and fellowship they had been enjoying. Instinctively they knew more about the new covenant than he did. But he urged them to embark on the manufacture of another carton of institutionalism formed out of the churning cogs factories that formed the Christian Industry. How does this fit with the kind of community modelled by the trinitarian fellowship of God? It doesn’t. This mechanical conception has everything to do with the notion of salvation by church, a mixture of social science and a conception of the church as the mediator of the life of God.
But in reality every Believer is incarnated with the three-personed God. It is the incarnation of God in His fullness in people who is the power, the glory and the life of the Kingdom in the new testament age. The church, in whatever form it should, take is the manifestation of Jesus as His people. Christ multiplied as you and George and Mabel and Syd and Mary is the church Jesus builds and the Kingdom of God.
Yesterday again, I heard a magnate lamenting, still wailing that church mitosis is not happening and stubborn believers are not amenable to their theories of salvation by church. They are wiser than the gurus think.
Contrary to the notions of some there is one mediator between God and the sons and daughters of God. It is not the church but it is Jesus. The trinity is not a hierarchy. Jesus’ presence does not flow through hierarchy. He flows through all to enable each son and daughter to be who they are.
A wholesale self-education in the vicarious humanity of Jesus and a full understanding of the new covenant would release many from the idol of the church and a certain kind of church planting. I mean the planting of institutions; the multiplication of boxes that are not rooted in Jesus, and the Father; the distribution of cardboard cartons that are empty of spirit and life and the miraculous signs that reveal that there is a God who lives among those who believe.
Let's put it boldly. Plant church and you will harvest more church. Plant Jesus and you will harvest sons of God. There is a Jesus who is a figment of the modern imagination - an impotent Jesus wrapped in cessationist assumptions surrounded by a neutered band of Believers who neither hear from God or multiply Jesus works of power. Here is found a representation of a false Christ and a non-kingdom.
In this life we are privy to the mind of Christ. As sons we have the delight of a life in the spirit of Sonship. This is a life of union with God, of fellowship with the trinity, of being sons in spirit and in truth and having God in His fullness in us and with us. Yet many who could be genuine leaders are boys rather than sons. They and Father are not one. They live according to their hobby-horses, are prisoners of their own understanding and are bereft of the spirit of wisdom and revelation. There is a reason why the following of our own Ishmael's leads to frustration and loss. It is so we will become sons of the free woman and not remain workers and slaves of the flesh.
The substitute for the church Jesus builds without human hands is the church man builds with his own hands. This is the old covenant church of letter and church growth theory; the institutional church created by the Christian industry often as the womb for careers for itself and its managers or by sincere and innocent people who are ignorant of the new covenant and its implications for polity and new creation advance.
The new creation church is simply people meeting not only in Jesus but in his person and presence. It is Christ our life individually and as community. This can be challenging when we have been conditioned to think that doing his stuff, actually our stuff, is living His life. But it is not. It is ours. Institutionalism is the stagnation of what could have been in the Spirit. Paradoxically charismatic churches can be profoundly institutional. Jesus’ Church more than praise and a titillating message.
His church is Christ our life as community and not about some institution we call church - whether this gathering be in a house, a cafe or a cathedral. Christs church is simply Jesus in and with believers by the Spirit. There is no template and no right or wrong way, other than the new and living way of Christ our life.
Making ‘a thing’ out of the church. Stalking about looking for some new and telling configuration of the church is making a Messiah out of something that is a structure and an effect of Christ our life - not the life itself. Father did not plant a church. He planted His Son. The result was the harvest of sons - apostolic people in whom the new creation issued forth in rivers of living water.
YOUR ARE THE PRESENCE
The new testament age is not the age of the church. It is the age of Christ manifest in His people in the world. The incarnation of the trinity in our being means that God is not found in holy places. He is found in holy people who are made holy by His Presence. We are fully equipped. We are indwelt by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The fullness of God is in us as it was in Jesus and we are positioned to multiply their life into the places we inhabit.
Jesus was not glued to the temple. He was out and about. The temple was where He and His disciples happened to be. So it is with us. With Christ as our life we are His church where we are, whether we are three or one hundred and three. Christ’s church is not about venues but it is about Him expressing Himself through our communal identity and uniqueness. Such a notion of church is less ‘the church’ and more the simple fact of Christ in you and me and George and Mabel. Such a church does not multiply through the mitosis of individual institutional cells. What multiplies is Jesus in people.
There is nothing less organic that an institution going about saying it is organic. He is the vine and we are the branches. When the church is the vine the branches are dead and the people are clouds without rain.
CHRIST OUR LIGHT
In the ‘Christ our life’ expression of the church a church is never an institution. The church Jesus began was never an entity with a structure and pattern of the letter that kills. His church is the multiplication of Himself in you and in Heather and Jim. There is no grid here and there is no law. The pattern is the Son of Man writ large and made real by a present and active Holy Spirit in the people. The growth of the church Jesus builds will not happen while we gibber old covenant notions or ignore the baptism of Holy Spirit.
When we have real kingdom authority to minister where people are healed and set free from demonic oppression, we need not congeal ourselves in groups of various sizes in a thing called ‘church.’ There is no need to maintain and multiply institutions rather than multiply what Jesus began. Much of the clobber associated with church is irrelevant to Kingdom expansion. Yet where the Spirit of Jesus is there is liberty, variety and a potential for adventure. A life in Jesus fosters belonging - not its opposite on the altar of the advance of an abstraction called church. And not the multiplication of institutionalism under the label of ‘mission.’ Church growth based on the abuse of belonging and fellowship is abuse. This is not at all the church Jesus is building without human hands but with human hearts.
There is ‘wisdom’ that should be seen as clouds without rain and wind without air. Abstractions are frequently advocated as the Kingdom by those who have never experienced relationship or participated for any length of time in a home group. The multiplication of church as an abstraction is the reason for the abuse of fellowship - an abuse that takes the form of your group must constantly split up and multiply as advised by the church growth guru. The new creation does not advance due to the multiplication of groups and entities called church. The new creation happens with the Christ of God is multiplied in people. This is the yeast that transforms and the seed that grows into a huge tree. It is the rock that falls from heaven, that becomes a mountain and fills the entire earth.