Starting Organic Churches – New Ebook!

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Starting Organic Churches  (FREE Ebook!)

A Short and Simple Guide for the Newbie

By Milt Rodriguez

It’s now very documented that over 60 million American Christians have left the institutional/traditional churches over the last ten years! What is going on? Are these folks dropping out of everything? Have they fallen away from the faith? On the contrary, they are looking for MORE! That is, they are looking for much more than they received from the institutions. They are looking for more of the life of Jesus Christ in His people. They are looking for more freedom to live by and serve this Christ. They are looking for a Family, a group of believers who share their lives together. In other words, they are longing for the authentic expression of Christ in and through His Body, Bride, House, Kingdom, and Community!

Milt Rodriguez and his wife Mary have been starting and planting organic expressions of this community since 1990. They have learned much through trial and error, making a ton of mistakes, and yet never giving up. In this ebook, Milt will share with you how to start such groups of Christians. Written both as a spiritual and a practical guide, Milt will share with you his knowledge and experience. If you have longing to experience this kind of life and want to help start new groups that have a much better chance of making it towards that goal, then this is the book for you!

In this ebook you will learn the following:

    • Contacting some believers (and/or unbelievers) who may be interested
    • Opening up your home (or someone else’s) for some initial gatherings
    • Sharing your vision and purpose for starting such a community
    • Meeting together on a regular basis to get to know one another (in and out of meetings)
    • Gaining more of a revelation of Christ
    • Calling for an experienced church planter to help lay the foundation of Christ
    • Practical guidelines and steps to follow through which each of these!
    • Many resources to use and apply (and edit) for your own use!

Special bonuses!

      Future revisions and additions sent directly to your email!

Plus there is a very special offer that Milt is presenting at the very end of the book!

Help is on the way!  The book is NOW released.

Click Here to Download Your FREE Copy!

Laying a Foundation of Christ Alone

Since we have covered The Sending of God and how he calls, prepares, and sends out workers; and have discussed in a podcast “How God Makes a Worker”, I thought it only fitting to also end this series of posts with the idea of “planting” or laying a foundation for the church.

This, along with the sending, has almost been totally lost in our modern day thinking and application of how we start churches. Yet the foundation is everything! The beginning of a church will greatly determine the far reaching future of that church.

First, let’s look at the scriptural meaning of the word “planting”.

I realize that this term has been misused and misapplied by many organizations in the past. It’s usually used by missionaries or missionary agencies to denote the beginning of a “church” in the field. However, the apostle Paul never went on any “missionary journeys”. The idea of missions, missionaries, and missionary organizations and agencies are an invention of the institutional modern day church. The only thing we see in the story of the New Testament is the Work and the Church. The Work is those who are called, prepared, and sent out to preach Christ and plant churches. The Church is the universal term used by Christ in Matt. 16 to denote all believers in Christ. The churches (local) are the groups of believers that were planted by the workers in different localities. Christ referred to the churches (local) in Matt. 18. 

1.) “Planting” is a scriptural term and is even defined by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:6-17. Here, Paul uses two images or types of “planting”.  One is agricultural (planting and watering), and the other is architectural (foundation and building).  In the context of this passage it is quite clear that he is using both images to say the same thing.  In other words, planting is the same as laying a foundation.  Watering is the same as building upon the foundation.  But it’s very clear that the foundation (in both natural life and in the church) comes first!  You can’t have a very good building without a foundation.  Also, you will not have a very healthy tree if you don’t first plant it into the ground!

Also, it’s very important that in this passage Paul tells us what (or who) the foundation actually is: Jesus Christ! This is not referring to doctrines, teaching, theological systems and so forth. The foundation is actually the Person of Jesus Christ, that is, his very life! There can be no other foundation if we are going to have a church according to the mind of God. Also, as a quick sidenote, Paul stated clearly elsewhere that not only was the foundation he laid Christ, but the gospel he announced was also Christ (He Himself).

… to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.“ (Col 1:27-28) 

Now, I’m sure that you agree with what I have said so far.  However, notice with me that both the planting and the watering were associated with certain individuals.  “I (Paul) planted and Apollos watered.”  Notice that individuals plant and water the church, not the church itself!  Of course, these individuals are specifically called, prepared and sent by God to perform this task.  This pattern holds true throughout the whole New Testament beginning with Jesus Christ Himself. 

2.)  We know that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  It’s very important that our minds are renewed to function with His thoughts and His ways.  If not, then we will make the same mistakes that Christianity has made in the past that have resulted in the man-made institutions. 

God sends people to plant and water the church.  There is no record of a church planting or watering itself.  Even the new groups in Judea and Samaria (as a result of Saul’s persecution) were visited by apostolic workers for the purpose of laying a foundation of Christ alone (see Acts 8:14 and Acts 8-10). Now, of course, if there has been someone who has planted (laid a foundation) of Christ in that group then we definitely have no business coming to plant since Paul said that he never built upon another man’s foundation (Rom. 15:20).  If the group has already been planted then I would ask the question: who was the person who planted it? 

3.) Starting a group is not the same thing as planting a church.  Not even close!  People start Christian groups all over the place all the time.  But do these groups have the true foundation of Jesus Christ (and only Christ)?  According to the New Testament this can only happen if someone has been called, prepared, and sent to do that work.  Unfortunately, this is very rare and that is (in a large part) why we are in the mess that we are in.

* However, we see in the New Testament story that there were some that were used to help “pre-plant” a church, that is, these folks would open their home, invited people to meet with them, and then call for the help of an experienced apostolic worker to actually plant the church. An example of this is the couple Priscilla and Aquila. 

(Please understand that we do not use any of these words carelessly or lightly.  They have been tested and proven in the scriptures and throughout history.) 

So, what I have written above, in conjunction with those blog posts that I referenced, should give enough explanation.  But if it doesn’t, then I also recommend the following books that cover this topic much more in depth: 

The Church and the Work by Watchman Nee

The Stewardship of the Mystery by T. Austin-Sparks

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

 

The Sending – Part 4

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The Sending – Part 4

Since there is so much to say about this topic I have decided to add another part!

In the previous three posts I have shown how God calls, prepares, and sends people out for the work of building his Church. This has been shown through the history and examples we have in the New Testament scriptures. In this post I would like to draw from history to show that this “pattern” of his life has continued with groups of believers who have stood outside the religious system of “Christianity”.

Many believers have no idea that what some are calling “simple church” “house church” “organic church” has actually been happening throughout the centuries. In fact, God has always preserved a testimony to his true church. Of course, just because we call a group of Christians an organic church doesn’t mean it IS one! This needs to be made really clear because these labels are being thrown around all over the place and it’s causing lots of confusion among those seeking true organic body life. In this series of posts I am drawing from three sources:

  • The testimony of the written scriptures (mainly the New Testament)

  • The testimony of saints who have lived this way throughout the centuries

  • The testimony of saints who are currently living this way

In this post I will take short excerpts from various writings describing groups of believers throughout the centuries who have experienced the organic expression of the church in some way.

The Waldensians

Also referred to as Waldenses.

Around A.D. 59 the apostle Paul visited Italy (Syracuse, Sicily, Naples, and Rome). About five years later (64AD) when Nero began his persecution in Rome, some of the believers fled to the Italian alps. Mostly to the areas near Lyons and Turin in the western alps between Italy and France. They settled in the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, one of the most inaccessible areas around. It was very steep, lots of snow, and 12-15,000 foot peaks.

In the quiet seclusion of the mountains they had remained unaffected by the development of the man-made church systems including the Roman church. It was said of them that their whole manner of thought and life was an endeavor to hold fast to the character of original Christianity.

Their churches would send out believers in teams of two to preach Christ and establish churches. These had been called, prepared, and sent to do the Lord’s work. They were called “barbas” which means uncles in contrast to the papacy and the idea of calling other believers “father”. These “sent ones” would receive food and lodging where they went to plant new expressions of Christ (churches) according to the pattern they saw in the New Testament. The barbas chose poverty but it was considered a principal duty of each church to provide for its poor.

These Waldensians (a name used only by their enemies) called one another “brethren”.

These saints were persecuted by the Roman church for over 800 years!

Their history is one of non-stop arrests, torture, imprisonment, beatings, hangings, and burnings!

Brothers and sisters, we stand on their shoulders!

The Anabaptists

In 1522, in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, a young man named Conrad Grebel gave his life to Jesus Christ. His life radically changed and he became an avid supporter of the new reformation and the teachings and reforms of Ulrich Zwingli. Conrad quickly rose to leadership among Zwingli’s followers. However, over time it became apparent that Zwingli and Grebel had different approaches to church reform. Zwingli wanted reform but was unwilling to completely break with the control of the government to achieve them. Grebel didn’t care about what the government wanted, but only cared about God getting what He wanted.

Soon Conrad Grebel, along with his friends Felix Manz and George Blaurock, broke all ties with Zwingli and the state supported reformation in Switzerland. The city of Zurich outlawed all Christian meetings except those of Zwingli. Grebel and his young radical friends soon became the enemies of Zwingli and the state.

The new group of “radicals” grew like wild fire! After a time, Grebel left the work in Zurich to others and traveled with co-workers to surrounding cities to preach Christ and establish new communities of believers under the spiritual principles of the New Testament. They were persecuted by both the Roman church and the Reformers! Grebel, along with thousands of others, lost their lives while still in their early twenties.

These young radicals believed in a total return to the experience and practice of the New Testament church. They believed in the scriptures but did not worship them like their protestant counterparts. The Word of God for the Anabaptists was a Man! And this Man speaks through the writings of the scriptures. They were not a people of the book, but a people of the Man! They also believed in knowing Christ by an inward fellowship and abiding with Him. They also strongly believed in the centrality of Christ and had a strong sense and practice of community life.

Sisters and brothers, we stand on their shoulders!

The Little Flock in China

In the early 1900s God moved sovereignly throughout China.

He apprehended a young man by the name of Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee). Watchman grew quickly in the Lord and began sharing Christ with many in his city and other surrounding villages. Soon, there were new groups of believers raised up by Nee and his young co-workers. This work spread throughout all of the coastal cities then eventually went inward when the Japanese began attacking the coastal cities. Some called them the “Little Flock” though they never adopted any name. They were heavily influenced by the Brethren in England during the 1880s with such men as John Nelson Darby, Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, and many others. Also, T. Austin-Sparks in England was a contemporary and considered a mentor by Nee.

They believed strongly in the organic expression of the church in Body life, functioning of all the members, the centrality of Christ, knowing Christ deeply and inwardly, and apostolic work in the sending out of workers to equip and establish churches. They also believed strongly in learning from the legacy of those who had gone before them throughout history.

In the 1960s several workers left China and came to the United States. These co-workers of Nee planted churches throughout the States and eventually throughout the world.

Saints, we stand on their shoulders!

Note: there have been many other groups throughout history that attempted to hold true to the apostolic pattern as seen in the New Testament scriptures. These resources will help you find out more if you are interested:

  • The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent
  • The Torch of the Testimony by John Kennedy
  • The Secret of the Strength by Peter Hoover
  • The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin

 

Stay Tuned! Next week we will present our first podcast ever on this blog!

It will include ten workers having a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?”

The Sending – Part 3

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Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to part three!

In this final contribution to this extremely important and yet ignored and misunderstood topic, I hope to share some final thoughts on the more practical end of being called, prepared, and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ for His work.

The Goal and Purpose of the Sending

First of all, let me explain what I see as the goal of all sending. The goal is for the Lord’s work. But what IS the Lord’s work? Here again, this is an extremely misunderstood topic. This gross misunderstanding comes from a foundational lack of vision and revelation of God’s eternal purpose. It only stands to reason that if you do not understand the purpose of something, then you will end up abusing it. I have written quite extensively on this vast topic here. In a nutshell, God’s purpose is to have an expression of the fullness of His Son. To have an image or living expression of this gloriously full and rich Christ. This image or expression is referred to in the N.T. with many different pictures such as the Body, the Bride, the House, the City, the Vine, the New Humanity, the Community of God (or household), and many more. In other words the Church! Of course, when I use that word it is definitely not in the sense of any man-made or conceived of organization or institutional system.

In the mind of God, all roads lead to His Church!

This is the central thought of all of the scriptures. Christ and the Church.

You can easily see this if you (without religious bias) read the first two chapters of the bible (Gen. 1 & 2) and the last two chapters of the bible (Rev. 21 & 22). In Genesis you see the original purpose and intention of God for creating mankind (see Gen.1:26-28). In Revelation you see the fulfillment of that eternal purpose as typified in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21 & 22).

So, considering this (and much more) we are definitely not stretching things at all when we make this statement: God’s work is to build His Church!

There is no other work of God. All “works” of God will lead to (in some way) the building and edification of His Church.

If you read the narrative story of the New Testament carefully (with spiritual eyes) you will see that this is true. God’s goal is that the all things would be summed up or headed up in Christ and this takes place in and through the Church (Eph 1: 9,10,22,23).

I know that some of you may be saying, well Milt, what about evangelism, and missions, and healing, and miracles, and helping the poor? Well, I would say that these are all good works but that they are to take place in and through the authentic expression of the Life of Christ on earth. In other words, the Church! Read the book of Acts people! It is the story of the early Church moving in and through the Spirit. It is the flow of the life of Christ out through His Body to the people caught up in the world system.

It is not the story of independent people doing independent things in an individualistic way!

It is the story of the corporate Christ (the Body) living and moving by His glorious life!

Wow! What a difference from most of what we have seen!

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Co 3:6-11)

Here, we see that Paul very nicely breaks things down for us concerning the Lord’s work. There are those who plant and there are those who water. First of all, what are they planting and watering? The Church! That’s very obvious from the context. So, in general, we now can see that there are two aspects of the Lord’s work; planting and watering.

Planting and Watering

Paul tells us that he planted and Apollos watered. By looking at the ministries of these two brothers we can understand what that means.

  • Paul, a planter, a wise master builder: Paul and his companions basically did two things. They preached Christ and planted churches. Of course, it was a different situation they had then from what we have here in the United States and the western world. But in some ways it is very similar. Paul was sent (in the beginning) to the Jews. Or, we could say, the religious folks. This caused problems because these people had a mindset and filters filled with religious baggage that hindered them from beholding the living Christ (see 2 Cor. 3). So, in that sense, he had a similar situation that we face in modern America. However, later he did go almost exclusively to the Gentiles and that was more like a situation we have in some of the present third world nations that are “heathen”. However, the goal was always to bring about the Church of the living God in different localities. Evangelism, healing, miracles, etc. had a purpose… that purpose was always to bring about the Body of Christ!
  • Apollos, a waterer, a teacher: This brother had a real gifting in the area of teaching the Body of Christ (see Acts 18:22). Paul would send him places where he had planted churches so that he could encourage the saints through teaching the scriptures (see 1 Cor 16:12). Sometimes, this “watering” is simply for others to come and encourage the saints in a new or struggling church. We have seen this many times in our own experience. It is very powerful and very much needed! Some believers from one church can go and encourage (water) those in another church.

So we can see clearly that there are two general areas of the work; planting and watering. Notice with me that these “pictures” all have to do with Life!

Now, we will see that there are three areas (or stages) of the Lord’s preparation for a worker.

  • The wilderness

  • The community life

  • The training

We can clearly see all three of these in the life of Jesus and in the life of Paul of Tarsus.

Of course, in the life of Jesus as the eternal Son of God he had already experienced “community life” and “training” before eternity. He received this experience by living in the community life of the Godhead. However, he still needed to have the “wilderness experience”. As a man he had never experienced an emptying of himself and a lowering of himself. He had never experienced the dryness of the desert before. He had also never experienced community life with humans before. Of course, he had much rich experience living community inside of the Triune God, but now he needed to share and live that same life, that divine life, with other humans! This, he lived out for over three years with the twelve and others. And then, as he had been trained by the Father, so he trained these others to go out into the world and do his work.

Paul also went through a similar experience. First, he had his “desert” experience when he departed to Arabia (Gal. 1:15-18). Apparently, he received his revelation of the gospel in Arabia and Damascus. Then, he received his community life experience in Damascus and in Antioch. Scholars don’t totally agree as to the length of time Paul spent as a brother in the churches but they mostly agree that it was around 11-14 years. The main point here is that he was not a new believer or a novice in the things of the Lord when he was sent out! The same is true of Barnabas, Silas, and all of the others. It appears that Paul was mostly trained by the twelve in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:17) and by Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 13:1). Barnabas had many years experience in the Jerusalem church and then some in Antioch.

The life of the local church being a “training ground” for workers before they are sent out is an almost completely forgotten and abandoned practice. Of course, the work itself (as we are describing it here) is also almost a completely abandoned practice! It is usually deemed that if someone feels called to “the work” of the Lord they must go into another institutional situation called a bible college. Of course, there may be some value to that, but in reality there is absolutely no substitution for the authentic community life of the organic Body of Christ! How can you impart an experience that you yourself have never had? Believe me, I am speaking from years of experience when I say that it simply doesn’t work.

Training

Then, we see both Jesus and Paul training new workers. Of course, Jesus trained the twelve for over three years. But notice how he trained them. He sat down with them and taught them how to study the bible! Right? NOT!!!

He simply lived by the life of his Father right in front of them!

They got to see how divine life is lived out in and through a human vessel. They got to see how divine life responds to all kinds of situations in the human experience such as: popularity, notoriety, misunderstanding, rejection, opposition, persecution, scorn, ridicule, and ultimately crucifixion. They got to see Him plant the first Church in and among themselves!

Paul also trained new workers. This happened while he was planting the church in Ephesus. He brought several brothers to Ephesus who were in the churches that he had already planted.

  • Titus from Antioch

  • Timothy from Lystra

  • Gaius from Derbe

  • Sopater from Berea

  • Aristarchus from Thessalonica

  • Secundus from Thessalonica

  • Two others added later from Ephesus: Tychicus and Trophimus

Of course, he had taken Timothy with him on his travels after his third visit to Galatia. It is also believed by many scholars that these men went on to plant churches throughout Asia Minor. Some of these churches are listed in the book of Revelation chapters 1-3 and Colossians.

The Sending

As we have already seen, the actual sending out of workers into his harvest is not solely an individual matter. It is something that is done by the Holy Spirit AND the Church! When these believers were sent out it was because they were not loner, independent individualists! They were loved, supported, and prayed for by the saints in the churches.

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.” (Act 13:1-4)

Some Resources on This Topic:

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola

The Church and the Work by Watchman Nee

The Glorious Church by Watchman Nee

The Acts of the Apostles by F.F. Bruce

Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz

The Stewardship of the Mystery by T. Austin-Sparks

The Community Life of God by Milt Rodriguez

What is Organic Church?

475948121_e6217d6afd_oAgain, the folks over at 3rdRace.org have produced an excellent podcast concerning the definition and nature of what some are calling the organic expression of the church.

I highly recommend that you go over there and listen to this new podcast and all future podcasts as well.  By the way, if you don’t know, these are the people that Mary and I are training to be future church planters.  They have years of experience in the organic expression of the church and I also recommend that you subscribe to their blog.  You won’t be sorry!

Click below to listen to the latest podcast:

http://3rdrace.org/the-deuce/

Two New Books You Won't Want to Miss!

James with Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is our good brother and friend James in Australia. James is very happy because he has read our two newest books called New Day and The Gathering. If you are interested in knowing Christ in a deeper way and experiencing the organic expression of the Church you will definitely want to check out these two books!

Click here to find out more!

He Himself – The Dissolution of Christ

Dissolution of Christ

dis·so·lu·tion
[dis-uh-loo-shuhn]
noun
1.) the act or process of resolving or
dissolving into parts or elements.
2.) the resulting state.
3.) the undoing or breaking of a bond,
tie, union, partnership, etc.
4.) the breaking up of an assembly or
organization; dismissal; dispersal.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we see before us in the current state of the Christian religion referred to as ‘Christianity’ is the dissolution of Christ.

He Himself, the Person of Christ has been broken down into many pieces and everyone takes the piece or pieces that they like the most.  The problem with this is that what you end up with is not Christ at all!  But rather, different works, teachings, or aspects of the Person which no longer accurately represent Him when taken out of context.  The parts do not equal the whole because the whole is actually a living Person, not some kind of cornucopia of different (separate) items.  Syn-er-gy – noun – the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.

Let me give you a few examples of how we have done this.  It basically breaks down into the character, power, and works of Christ.

His Character

We have taken different aspects of the character of Christ and broken them into pieces or slices and then blown them way up out of proportion as if we are no longer even referring to an actual integrated Person.  One of the best examples is love. Now we know that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8) and that love is a part of his character.  However, if we take love as a thing in and of itself then we do a great disservice to the whole Person of Christ.

I know many believers who only ever talk and write about love.  Of course, they are referring to God’s love, which is Christ.  But they only mention the word “love”.  Pretty soon, after hearing and reading this time and time again you forget that love and Christ are synonymous.  You actually begin thinking (and believing) that love is actually something separate from God in Christ and not part of who He is.  Everything, for these folks, is about love.  Love this and love that.  If we can only love one another won’t everything be wonderful?  The main thing is love, it says that in I Cor 13 doesn’t it?  But what you hardly ever hear is that I Cor. 13 is a description of the character of Jesus Christ!  Go back and read that passage again and you will see what I mean.  No one could live that way except God Himself – yes folks, He Himself!

And what about the new commandment?  You know, “love one another”?  Most believers see that as another mandate that somehow we need to live by.  But the Lord Jesus dashes all hopes of that when he includes this little statement: “as I have loved you!”  Wow!  Now what are we going to do with our dissolution tendency?  Do you actually believe that you, yourself are able to love someone as Christ does?  No way, dude!  Only He Himself can love this way.  Read John 15 again and you will see that abiding comes before loving!  Why?  Because it is actually the indwelling Christ Himself who does the loving in and through you as you abide in HIM – the WHOLE Person!

Also, if you read the “sermon on the mount” again with a view of seeing the eternal purpose of God it will totally change your outlook.  This is not a collection of commands, but rather a description of the King and His Kingdom!  It’s not about you as an individual believer apart from Christ and His Church.  It is a corporate context (a kingdom) of a people who express the character, nature, power, and works of their indwelling King!

His Power

Notice how Christians love to dissolve Christ?  This tendency is totally of the self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-obsessed flesh of the fallen race.  Believers (especially Charismatics) love to separate the power of Christ into categories, compartments, and “giftings”.  “I have this gift.”  “I have that gift.” “I have that ‘ministry'”.  “You have that ministry.”  I love how Paul cut through all of this nonsense in his correctional letter to the Corinthian church.  In I Corinthians chapter 12 he puts the power exactly where it belongs; in Christ.  But notice how he does it, he writes to the church (that is obviously dissolving Christ by making it all about gifts) and he puts all of the gifts into the context of the Body of Christ.  In essence, he just tells them that the gifts are simply functions of the Body!  But you may be asking, “yes Milt, but how does that make it about Christ directly”?  Well folks, Paul makes it all very clear with this one statement:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  (1Co 12:12)

Wow!  What a Christ!  What an all inclusive Christ.  The body is Christ.  There is no other way to translate this verse.  So, if the body is Christ then that must mean that all of the members (and gifts of power) are all a part of Christ.  The problem is that we modern day believers have even dissolved Christ into being separate from His own Body!  But how can the Head and the Body be separate from one another?  Together (as one) they make up the one New Humanity.

His Works

We have also dissolved Christ to the point of separating He Himself from his works.  His finished work on the cross and his work of salvation are two good examples of this.

But is the cross simply something he did, or is it the very heart of God?  In other words, was there a Lamb of God even before creation and the fall of man?

And bow before it shall all who are dwelling upon the land, whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;  (Rev 13:8)

This Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world!  This gives us a little hint at the nature of our Lord.  He is one who is more than willing to lay down his life for others (also see Jn. 15:13).  The work of the cross came out of his divine nature which is always laying down his life for God and others.

Also, Paul makes it very clear that the preaching of the cross of Christ means a fatal blow to our self life!  And that is the culprit in all of this dissolution of Christ.  We try to slice Him up into doctrines, gifts, character traits, agendas and works because we are looking for something for our flesh to glory in!  And yet the cross of Christ, IS Christ!  And that, if received, will put an end to all of this dissolution nonsense.

For indeed Jews ask for signs (power) and Greeks search for wisdom (doctrine); but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  (1Co 1:22-24)

And don’t forget that He Himself is also salvation!

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1Co 1:30)

Sisters and brothers, this Christ is a WHOLE Christ.  This Christ is a complete “package”.  You cannot separate He Himself from His aspects, power, works, or any other thing.  If you take any one of those items and emphasize it you will lose the glory of this one, whole, complete Christ who is so much more than anything or anyone that we can ever imagine!

but Christ is all, and in all.  (Col 3:11c)

 

 

The Gathering – A Novel by Milt & Mary Rodriguez

The Gathering

The American landscape is changing as a radically conservative, right-winged Christian organization called the United Christian Movement is pushing their religious and political agendas on the American people. They succeed in placing a so-called “Christian” in the White House. They have also begun placing many institutional churches under their umbrella of control and initiate a heresy witch hunt. All others are condemned by them as “new age mystics and heretics”. Many true believers are forced to go underground due to penalties of incarceration.

Our story follows the journey of ten of these heretics who dare to place Christ and His church at the center of their lives. God calls these out of different situations and organizations by the use of dreams. He is using these dreams and their interaction with one another to transform their lives. This journey becomes very dangerous as they must elude the powerful U.C.M. to arrive at the goal of their dreams…The Gathering.

Click here to read excerpt from the book (opens window)

What People are Saying about the Book

“The Gathering kept me on the edge of my seat! A Novel Yes, but eerily familiar.”

Vinny Oliveira
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

“The narrative is a good blend of novel and truth without being heavy handed. As the characters grow and learn new things, the reader does as well, even up to the last chapter. Personally I am not a fast reader but the enjoyment and simplicity of the story allowed me to get through it in just over a week. My favorite part of the novel (spoiler alert) is that there isn’t a neat and tidy resolution: the reader is left understanding that these characters lives will continue on and experience ups and downs as the continue to press on towards the prize of knowing God. Read it: its worth your time!”

Thomas Fortson
Gainesville, Florida

“For those who desire to know Christ better, to live by His life together, to fulfill the Father’s eternal purpose through His Son you will see glimpses of what gatherings with Christ as Head could look like in this story. You will see beautiful examples of faith and love and the variety and creativity of Christ in God’s people. After reading The Gathering the dream to truly want to know Christ better, in a deeper way with other brothers and sisters was stirred. The story will quicken His Spirit in your spirit and perhaps help you hear Him better as a result. As you hear Him, by faith follow Him, do what He says, you will be amazed! The story describes how the characters learned to live by their spirit, their conscience and intuition, communing with the Lord. The Gathering is a must read! After reading the last chapter I was hoping for more. The Gathering must have a sequel! Perhaps that’s what Acts in the Bible was meant to do for the brothers and sisters who read it. Hoping for more.”

John S. Wilson III
Houston, Texas

You can order the book now from these sources:

The Rebuilders Website

Amazon

Excellent New Book by Jon Zens

58to0_blog

I was honored to write the foreword for Jon’s new book 58 to 0 How Christ Leads Through the One Anothers.  This book is perfect for anyone who is looking for a more biblical and life giving expression of the church.  If you are satisfied with “business as usual” with your involvement in the conventional church system, then this book is definitely not for you!  If you are satisfied with going to church every week, sitting in a pew, listening to endless sermons, and being mute and inactive as a member of the Body of Christ… then this book is most definitely NOT for you!  And if you have no desire whatsoever for God to have HIS dream, HIS goals, and HIS purpose fulfilled… then this book is seriously definitely NOT for you!

For all of you who have a deep desire and passion for God to have the expression of the fullness of His Beloved Son… get this book TODAY!!!

Click here to order

Knowing Your Identity – The Cross in the Church

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 

Philippians 2:3-8

This post is actually number three in a series in the power of the cross in the life of the believer and the church.  You can read the other two installments here:

Knowing Your Identity – W.W.D.M.D.

Knowing Your Identity – Zombie or Christ?

I work in the field planting organic churches in the United States and overseas.  Recently, I witnessed something in a group of believers that I have believed in and taught for over 22 years.  The cross of Jesus Christ.  What I am referring to when I say that is not the substitution of the Lamb of God for our sins for redemption.  Instead, what I am referring to is the work of the cross in the life of the believer and in the church.  This is the opportunity that you and I have all the time to lay down our lives for the Lord and His Body.  It means to put the Lord’s interests and others interests before your own.

Paul says in the scripture quote above that this is the mind (or attitude) of Christ Jesus.  He emptied Himself of His rights and privileges of deity in order to become a servant, the lowest kind of servant, a bond-slave.  He did this for us; His body, bride, family, and house.  This is the life of the cross.

Recently, I witnessed an astounding example of this emptying for the sake of His purpose.  Two brothers came to a meeting of the church and lowered themselves by asking the church to forgive them for some unintentional misunderstanding and hurts that had taken place through some things they did and said.  Of course, they had no intention of hurting anyone and causing offense.  They were not even aware that the offenses had occurred.  But once they were made aware, they were more than willing to humble themselves before the body.

First of all let me say that this is not an easy thing to do.  When you are confronted with such a thing, your flesh wants to immediately justify your actions and defend yourself.  To admit that you were wrong (even when you may not have been) does major damage to the power of the flesh.  And what does much more damage is taking the next step and apologizing for what you said or did.

Many believers are into the so called “power of the Holy Spirit” and power gifts with miracles and signs following.  But this humbling of oneself.  This lowering and emptying of oneself brings the most powerful results you will ever see!

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18

Let me tell you, when those two brothers lowered themselves before the body in that meeting it was an incredibly powerful event.  In fact, the whole atmosphere of the meeting changed after that.  It was lighter and the only way I can describe it was that the life of the Lord was released in the group in a whole new way.  Forgiveness flowed that night.  It was definitely a breakthrough meeting for this particular group.  The walls of separation came down and something major happened that night.  The group has not been the same since.  The intensity of the life and love of the Lord has tripled since then!

The Power of the Cross

This shows us the incredible power of the cross in the life of a believer.  This emptying or lowering of ourselves for others is to be the normal way of life for the body of Christ.  We should always be preferring and deferring to others.  Not out of some sense of religious duty, but as an outflow of the indwelling life of Christ.  1 Cor. 13 (the love chapter) is not some prescription for loving one another properly.  It is a description of the very life of Christ!  This life is the actual Person of Christ Himself.  And this Person lives inside of us!

We have no ability whatsoever to lay our lives down for one another.  But the indwelling Christ has been laying his life down for the Father in the Spirit for all of eternity.  If we take the higher road and allow this Christ to express Himself through us, we will see this wonderful self-giving and self-sacrificing life be lived out in human flesh.

The Spirit if Willing But the Flesh is Weak

However, if we resist this work of the cross in our lives we will not see the power and restoration and healing of resurrection.  In order for there to be a resurrection there must be a death first!

On the other hand, I have seen other groups of believers where there was no one, or at least not very many, who were willing to go to the cross, so to speak.  They were not willing to forsake their own interests and lay their own lives down for one another. But rather they wanted to justify and defend themselves when confronted.  And it’s very sad, but these groups don’t make it for very long.  They end up biting one another and devouring one another.

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” 
Galatians 5:15-16

Part of walking by the Spirit is having this same attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus.  I have said it many times and I will continue to say it:

Organic church has never worked and will never work without the embracing of the cross of Christ!

I have found this to be so true in my own life.  There was a time when I was in business for myself and once in a while I would have a customer confront me on something and insist that I had made a mistake and should therefore reimburse him for his payment.  My first impulse was always to defend myself.  But after many years I learned to pause before I did or said anything.  Then, I would apologize and refund his money.  Except for one case, this always completely turned around my customers attitude and my apology softened their heart.  Many of them remained my customers for many years because of my response to them.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13