ONE: CHURCH Known by function not structure
It must have been a special moment for Jesus in Caesarea Philippi when Peter responded to the question abouthis Messianic identity. The exciting part for Jesus was not just the answer but how he got the answer. In the moment of exclaiming, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”
he was owning up to a transaction between himself andthe Father. Based on such a response, Jesus announced his intention to build a brand new human relationship collectivethat would be unique in history. He announced that this collective would be the power base for a work that would carryHis presence and therefore the message of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. He was speaking about“church.
” He went on to say that “church” would have both authority and responsibility for destroying the portals of dark kingdoms; its authority would come from the fact that it would possess keys that would enable the advancement of the kingdom of God. “Church” would be shaped by the experience of the cross and therefore by self-sacrificial risk-taking discipleship. In this way the “church” would be the last tangible form of the presence of Jesus Christ on the earth.
Wow! That was some big idea.We are now on the end of nearly two thousand years of the church era. This Messiah built, cross based,discipleship driven, strategic strike force weapon was what Jesus had in mindwhen he talked about church has often failed to live up to its calling. Wenow have approximately 40,000 world franchises
of various kinds and mostof them are defined by buildings and institutional structures and programsthat have far too little to do with what was mandated by Jesus. Not only sobut every city or region in our nations finds numbers of these franchises arerepresented. Their presence is so unlike heaven, their governance comesfrom outside the city, their shape and style is imported and it is hard to seeanything that represents the headship of Jesus Christ or the immanent powerof the Holy Spirit. In counties like Australia theses local franchises compete with each other for a decreasing proportionof the overall population. The fact is that the church in western nations (and maybe more broadly) has a number of serious heart problems. They are probably not terminal, but unless we see some major cardio-vascular surgery, theintentions of Jesus will not be reaized.What we have seen in recent years are all kinds of responses to the situation. In most cases they represent aseries of head solutions trying to solve heart problems. It is as if we have invited a team of neurosurgeons to performcardiovascular operations. Head solutions always sound and feel better. Head solutions provide a flood of ideas andtherefore words. They will generally produce new structures, programs and methods,
none of which will deal with theheart problems. Even when we search the Word and the Spirit for solutions we need to fight against our culturalpredisposition toward structure solutions and steel ourselves for the greater rigour of heart surgery. Only then will webuy the chance to see lasting transformation rather than transitory turbulence masquerading as transformation.Such is the testimony of Biblical and subsequent experience. We find ample evidence of the grace of Godvisiting undeserving people similar to us. Unfortunately most examples of divine visitation we know about speak muchmore of the desperation of God’s mercy and favour than of the capability of the human vessels to handle it. Historydeclares our consistent misappropriation of divine favour. The aura of God’s presence is so quickly usurped by pride orfear and is quickly crushed under the weight of human flaw.
On the other hand, history also testifies to glimpses of great glory. History also carries some of the records of humble, faithful, persistent men and women of God who have sown in the soil of hardship and often ignominy. Likemany artists and musicians, their greatness has often been appreciated only after their passing, their greatness beingseen in their legacy. Because of these, we can learn much of the ways of Holy Spirit restoration
I would like to offer a very basic working definition of church that satisfies the Biblical testimony but does not presume a particularstructure.
A church is a group of believers, joined and empowered by the Holy Spirit to represent the work of the kingdom of God in agiven sphere.
According to the latest figures provided by David Barrett, World Christian Database
And will generally involve significant financial outlays that give semblance of legitimacy and make us feel like we are gettingsomewhere.