Consumerism or Christ?

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” Gal. 6:14.

In Galatia, Paul had to deal with the problem of a different gospel. The Judaizers had come into the churches after he and Barnabas had left and brought in the gospel of legalism. His gospel was only Christ (Gal. 1:11,12; 15, 16). Yet the radically religious Jewish believers added something to the gospel. They tried to add something to Christ.

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” Gal. 6:14.

In Galatia, Paul had to deal with the problem of a different gospel. The Judaizers had come into the churches after he and Barnabas had left and brought in the gospel of legalism. His gospel was only Christ (Gal. 1:11,12; 15, 16). Yet the radically religious Jewish believers added something to the gospel. They tried to add something to Christ.

This was because some of the Galatians never really received the revelation of the cross. They didn’t realize that they had been crucified on that tree (Ro. 6:8; Col. 3:3). They actually thought that they still had their own lives! But a dead man doesn’t try to obey the Law of Moses. Why would he want to be circumcised? He’s dead to himself and only alive to God (Ro. 6:11).

For Paul, to live was Christ (Phil. 2:21), there was nothing else. Nothing else could be added because nothing else existed. Paul got it. Christ was his All. He lived to express Christ, preach Christ, and fulfill God’s eternal purpose in Christ. However, we find ourselves in a different situation today.

Our Modern Dilemma

It’s very clear from the scriptures that God has an eternal purpose (Eph. 1 & 3). This purpose is something that God had desired since before creation, hence the term eternal purpose. This purpose is centered in his beloved Son:

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his kind intention which he purposed in him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ. Things in the heavens and things on the earth” Eph. 1:9, 10.

If you continue to read the letter to the Ephesians, this eternal purpose and will of God should become clear. God wants to increase or expand the sphere of his Son by having a Body for his expression, a Family for his community life, and a Bride with whom to share his love.

But herein lies our problem. We neither see nor understand this eternal passion within the heart of our God because we have been blinded by another gospel. This gospel is predominantly preached to us by our western culture and we have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. It colors everything we do and tints our spectacles to only see that which it wants us to see. This gospel has tightly fit us into its own mold and now everything we do is influenced by it.

We are not free to live by Christ, for Christ, and to Christ, nor are we free to live for God’s eternal purpose and passion. The tentacles of this monstrous mindset have their grips on our every thought and action. It’s like a wet blanket that is suffocating us from experiencing and displaying the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I am referring to the “gospel,” mindset, and culture of western consumerism.

We are a consumerist society and it pervades every area of our lives. Human need is god, and everything revolves around us getting our needs and desires fulfilled. The cry is, “Hey! I have needs you know. These needs must be met at whatever the cost!”

Needs by the Dozens

This becomes the most telling when we look at organized Christianity. Our “churches” are built upon fulfilling human needs. When Christians go “church shopping” what do they look for? A good preacher so I can be fed the Word. A good youth program so my kids can be taught. A good worship team so I can feel good during the service on Sunday morning. I want a closer location and a schedule of programs that fits my lifestyle. A good discipleship program so that I will mature in my walk with God.

All of these things we look for are no more than features and benefits. These are things that we feel we need. We have wants. We have needs. The church is here to fulfill those needs.

But then there are the needs of the world. What about the lost? They have a need for salvation. What about the poor? They have a need for food. And what about those in prison, or the sick, abused, exploited, neglected, abandoned, etc.? Isn’t the church here to take care of all of them?

We have Missed the Whole Point

We have been so “consumed” with human need. Could it be that we have totally missed the whole reason that the church of Jesus Christ even exists?

Our God has a Need!

Now I know that all you theologian types out there just reacted to that statement. However, I do realize that God is all sufficient within his own nature. But in a sense, he does have a need in relationship to his eternal purpose. He has an urgent desire and passion to accomplish something. And he needs certain things to take place to accomplish his goal.

My point is that we are so consumed with human need that we have forgotten that the church exists for one purpose and one purpose only. And that is to satisfy the longing within the heart of God! And that longing is that his dear Son would become the sum, the center, the head, the fulfillment, the expression, and the source of all things (Eph. 1); that he would fill all things with himself (Eph. 4:10); that this glorious Christ would have an expression that would freely express him in all his fullness (Eph. 1:22, 23); and that this expression would put all of his enemies to shame (Eph. 3: 8-12). As you can tell, this is a much higher calling than that of human need!

What about those who have left institutional Christianity? What about we who are involved in the house/simple/missional/emergent church movements? If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will admit that much of what is happening among these movements is driven by the same exact engine as the institutional church – human need!

As I see it, many of our house churches are setup to meet the needs of those in the group and/or to meet the needs of those in the world. But I propose to you that this is the wrong premise. The only reason that any group calling itself a “church” should exist is to fulfill the eternal purpose of God in Christ. Everything else will flow out from that foundation.

If the eternal purpose of God in Christ is the vision and foundation for a church, then the life of Christ will flow out of that group to both meet the needs of the believers and the needs of the world around it.

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Ps. 11:3

Brothers and sisters, may we all abandon foundations which are other than Christ and his glorious purpose and go for the gold of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!

Read more articles at:  The Rebuilders

The Holistic Church

It is the same way with the Body of Christ. We are to express (visibly) the invisible Person who lives within us. We do this individually and corporately. Each part expresses Christ but the fullness of Christ can only be expressed by the Body (Eph. 1:23). Individually we can only express a small part of this wonderful Person. But together, corporately, we can express the fullness or the whole Christ. And now this gets down to my point.

‘holistic’ – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. The organic or functional relation between parts and whole.

The term “holistic” is mostly used in the field of alternative medicine. In this context it is usually defined as treating the whole person, not just the physical body.

In conventional medicine, it is usually only the specific body part that has the symptoms which is treated. The body itself is not viewed as only “part” of a bigger picture, the whole person. I believe that this is a mistake, but that is not the reason I have written this article. I believe that we, as believers, have made a similar mistake with our viewpoint and approach to the Body of Christ.

The Expression of the Whole Christ

And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all. Eph. 1: 22, 23

The letter to the Ephesians probably shows us more than any other letter how the church is the Body of Christ. And that Body is to express the fullness of the Head, Jesus Christ.

Just think about your own physical body. What purpose does it serve? Does it not express in a physical, visible way the invisible person who lives within it? Your body communicates with the outside world. Your body expresses what you are thinking and feeling on the inside. When you speak you move your hands around to express your thoughts. I’m sure you have heard the term “body language.” It simply means that you can express your thoughts and feelings with your physical body.

It is the same way with the Body of Christ. We are to express (visibly) the invisible Person who lives within us. We do this individually and corporately. Each part expresses Christ but the fullness of Christ can only be expressed by the Body (Eph. 1:23). Individually we can only express a small part of this wonderful Person. But together, corporately, we can express the fullness or the whole Christ. And now this gets down to my point.

As the church, are we expressing the fullness of Christ or only a part? Could it be that we have taken and chosen certain aspects of His nature, character, and mission and only chosen to express those specific aspects? I strongly believe that we have done this. In fact, I hope to prove it to you in this article. I have termed this process as “selective expression.”

What is Selective Expression?

It is the process whereby we see, speak, teach, and consequentially express only a small part of Christ, and not the “Whole” Christ.

At the core of this problem is a very weak and limited revelation of Jesus Christ. We have a revelation of Him, but only in one small area. We have a small and limited Christ. We have only seen Him with limited vision. And that’s okay because we are all growing in our revelation and understanding of this unlimited Christ. Revelation is progressive and eternally growing and expanding.

However, the problem comes in when we stop the process along the way. We become satisfied with what we have already seen of Him and stop pursuing and pressing into Christ. Now, our experience of Christ settles and crystallizes like hardened concrete. This is when we form “filters” over our vision of Christ. We only see Him a certain way because we are looking through the “spectacles” of our past revelation and experience.

Here is an example. There was a time in my life when the Lord was revealing to me His heart for the lost. He showed me how much He loved them and wanted to reach them. This crystallized for me and became a filter over my eyes. Then, everything I saw in the scriptures was about evangelism. It didn’t matter where I went in the bible, all I saw was evangelism. I had put on the “spectacles” of evangelicalism. And now I was out to convert the non-believer and recruit the believer into becoming as evangelistic as me. Partial vision can sometimes be worse than total blindness!

The real problem came in when I went out to find others who had on the same spectacles as me. I only wanted to fellowship with Christians who were as evangelistic as me. Now we are talking corporate expression here. What I saw effected how I expressed. And now there was a group of us expressing together. The problem was that we were only expressing a very small part of Christ! He is much bigger than evangelism, miracles, healing, deliverance, feeding the poor, helping widows, spiritual gifts or spiritual warfare.

He is the All!

And His desire is to be expressed as such by His church.

First Things First – the Chicken or the Egg?

One of the first things that God had the children of Israel do after they left Egypt was to build the tabernacle (Ex. 25 – 30). When the new generation entered the Canaan land, the whole point was for God to have two things: a house (temple), and a city (Jerusalem). There was a certain piece of property that God had in mind for his house and the children of Israel would have to fight their way into the land to obtain it. The reason God wanted the land was to have a building site for his house and his city. The theme of the house and the city runs all throughout scripture. You can even see the raw materials for this building project in the garden (Gen. 2:12). Throughout all of scripture we see “the house” and “the city.” Here are just a few: Ezra 6:3; 2 Sam. 6:17; Ps. 132: 3-5; Heb. 4:16; Luke 9:58; Matt. 21:13; Matt. 16: 13-18; Heb. 11:10; Rev. 21 & 22.

The House and the City

It’s important that we realize that the city grows out of the house. The house must come first. Who ever heard of a city without a house? The city is the expansion of the house. But what is all of this figurative language about?

The House – a place for the Lord to rest his head.

The “house” is the dwelling place of God. It is the place where he can relax, where he can be himself. It is the place where he can freely express himself. Just like we design and decorate our homes to suit and express who we are, so does the Lord with his house. It’s all about the place of rest, comfort, and expression (Acts 7:44-50; Is. 66:1). The house is always the center of the city. In Old Covenant language, the temple is the center of Jerusalem. The temple was the focal point for all Jewish worship and culture. This is but a shadow or picture of the true house of God, the church (I Pet. 2_5; I pet. 4:17; I Tim. 3:15; I Cor. 3:9-16). And this house expresses who he is. This house is Jesus Christ in corporate form.

The City – all throughout scripture the city represents authority and power.

The establishment of a city always depicts the establishment of conquest and authority. God has always wanted a city. In Revelation 21 and 22 we see that he gets it. The New Jerusalem is the culmination of all of God’s purposes and dreams in one place. It’s a heavenly city that comes down to earth (Rev. 21:10). And God gets his desire fulfilled to dwell with and in man (Rev. 21:3). The Father and the Son are the Temple (Rev. 21:22). And this city is the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9).

The city, since it represents God’s authority, also represents the kingdom of God. The throne of God is there and his people rule with him (Rev. 22:3-5). The city expresses who he is and what he does. The city is the fullness and expansion of the house. Christ is fully expressed through his church and this brings forth the kingdom. The kingdom is the expression of his mission to the world. It includes evangelism, feeding the poor, reaching the lost, healing of all sorts, deliverance — basically Isaiah 61:1, 2. The kingdom is the city set on a hill (Matt. 5:14-16).

The Present Dichotomy

I see that there has been a polarization happening among believers involving this issue of the house and the city. Many have created a dichotomy out of the church and the kingdom. There are those who say that the kingdom is what Jesus preached, so we should be into that. Then, there are others who say that Paul wrote mostly about the church, so we should be into that.

The truth is that this is not an either/or situation. The church and the kingdom are not diametrically opposed to one another. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. They are both aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The church brings the kingdom to earth because it is through the church that the nature, life, and works of God are displayed (Eph. 3:10, 11; Eph. 2:10).

Therefore, we will never see the kingdom come to this earth in any significant way until we see the church displaying the fullness of Christ. She is all about expressing her Lord. And the kingdom (his authority and works) are part of that expression.

We must remember that God has a divine order to things. The house comes before the city. Communal comes before missional. Relationship comes before good works. Identity comes before action. Being comes before doing. Who God is determines what he does. Jesus healed the sick because he is compassion. He raised the dead because he is resurrection. He fed the multitudes because he is the bread of life.

The Source and Origins of Church Life

Before anything else existed there was the fellowship and community of the Godhead (John 17). Before there was ministry, outreach, or mission, there was a divine community flowing with life. This is the model and foundation for all church life. If there is community life, and it is healthy, then the divine life of the Godhead will flow out to the world as well. Why? Because that is part of who God is. And the community of believers is all about expressing that life to one another and to the world. In other words, the community of the Godhead, in all of its fullness and glory, is to be expressed by the community of believers.

Sisters and brothers, we must begin there!

From Eternity to Here – Frank Viola

Frank Viola has written a much needed comprehensive look at God’s eternal purpose. There are other books out there that touch upon this subject but this is the most comprehensive work I have seen to date.

 Frank beautifully covers the topic by using a story-telling form in three parts. God’s eternal purpose is one of the least understood of all biblical doctrines, and yet it is the foundation for everything that He wants to do with mankind.

I strongly believe that this is one of the most important books of our time. Every believer needs to get their hands on a copy!

Conforming to His Image

But where in the scriptures does it talk about becoming like Christ? Where did we get this idea from? The only things I can see are the passages that deal with being conformed to His image. Perhaps we have paraphrased that to be “becoming like Christ”. If that is so, and I believe it is, then we must look at the context of each of those passages. In what context are we to be conformed to His image?

Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers.” Rom. 8:29


To Be Like Jesus


Today, we hear a lot about being like Jesus.  There’s even a song written by Rich Mullins called “It’s Hard to be Like Jesus”.  Preachers, and consequently believers, talk about Christ-likeness.  As individual believers we are told that this is our goal; to be like Christ.


Actually, this is what most “discipleship” programs are all about.  We are here to “make disciples” whatever that means.  After all, part of the “great commission” (Matt. 28:19, 20) is to make disciples.  We have interpreted this to mean that we are supposed to take individual believers and help them to be like Christ.  Usually we do this by teaching them doctrine, how to study the bible, how to “pray”, how to server God and others on the mission field, and basically how to be good Christians.


But where in the scriptures does it talk about becoming like Christ?  Where did we get this idea from?  The only things I can see are the passages that deal with being conformed to His image.  Perhaps we have paraphrased that to be “becoming like Christ”.  If that is so, and I believe it is, then we must look at the context of each of those passages.  In what context are we to be conformed to His image?


If you read the passages that have to do with being conformed to His image, you will quickly see that the context is always corporate (Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 12:1-5; II Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10, 11).  It is we who are being conformed to His image.  It is us together, the body, that is to look like Him.  You can never be like Jesus.  But She can!  I am referring to that beautiful woman, the bride of Christ, who is destined to be His wife (Rev.21:9).


If you will read the scriptures carefully especially the New Testament, from this perspective, it will become a new book to you.  You will begin to see the proper perspective for the testimony.  Things will make more sense when you read it with the “corporate view”.  That’s because God’s image is community.  So, of course, the process of being confirmed to that image must be communal.


Spiritual Reality and Practical Expression


The fact is that we are already one.  We are in Christ and He is in us.  This makes us one (John 17:22, 23).  How could we all be “in Christ” and not be one?  The problem is not our oneness, the problem is the practical expression of that oneness.  That comes through us walking it out together day by day.  That comes through us developing a “body consciousness” as Watchman Nee called it.  It comes through a revelation of the corporate nature of the Church.  It comes through developing a lifestyle of community and not one of individualism and independence.  And it comes by us sharing our lives



with one another and taking care of one another.  In a word, this is family, but family in the true sense of the word.  Not family as we have seen it in this world, but family as a genuine expression of the community life of God.


True Discipleship


Being conformed to His image (or becoming like Christ) is a corporate matter.  We are transformed together by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-5).  This renewal happens because we are learning to think as a body instead of just a bunch of individuals.  We are “learning” Christ.  We are learning and experiencing the oneness of the head and body.  We are learning to think and function as the One New Man (see Col. 3:9-11).


This is true discipleship.  It’s not a matter of being placed into a program of individual training of bible study, prayer, evangelism, and character development.  Rather, it is the life transformation process of being practically conformed into His image.  This is the out flowing of His community life.  It is the fleshing out of the fellowship of the Godhead.


Therefore, I can only conclude from this that all true “discipleship” happens in a corporate context.  We learn together how to live by Christ.  This is something that we all learn in the daily fires of organic church life.  This idea is not something new.  This “torch” burned brightly over five hundred years ago when the Anabaptists discovered true discipleship.


“The Anabaptists spoke of corporate discipleship, but they emphasized Christ.  Christ was the centerpiece.  The Anabaptists were loyal only to Christ, and out of that naturally grew corporate discipleship and loyalty to one another.  The Anabaptists did not write about loyalty to the church, loyalty to the brotherhood, or loyalty to God-ordained leaders.  They did not make two commitments, one to the head and one to the body.  Their unconditional commitment to Christ made all other commitments conditional.”*


“Christ was the centerpiece.”


They kept Him as the center.  This is extremely important.  It’s not enough just to have close relationships and a close knit group.  The one factor binding us together must be Christ Himself.  We should not be together because we all get along and have the same interests.  This is a social group, not the organic church of Jesus Christ.


What transforms us is the internal life of Christ within us all.* This is a together thing.  His image is corporate.  So, doesn’t it make sense that the process of conforming us to that image would also be corporate?



Paul tells us in II Cor. 3:18 that we are transformed into His image by beholding and reflecting the glory of the Lord as in a mirror.  We do this together with one unveiled face!  Notice how this verse begins.  “But we all with unveiled face.”  It begins plural (we all) but ends singular (face).  We all behold Him with one face.  When we look into the faces of our brothers and sisters and see the one face of Jesus Christ, then we are transformed into His corporate image.


“Because the God who said, ‘Out of darkness light shall shine’, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  II Cor. 4:6


This is very difficult to reconcile with our individualistic culture and lifestyles.  Even the nuclear family unit has broken down to the point where younger generations have no concept of community.  Either that or their only concept of community is one of dysfunction, abuse, and violence and hence the increase of street gangs.


The answer is found within the Godhead.  The Father, Son, and Spirit have this incredible fellowship that is flowing continuously like a river (see John chapters 14-17).  The way that They relate to one another is the model for all church life and discipleship.  We are being conformed to that image.  The community life and love that are shared inside of the Triune God are the exact same life and love to be shared inside the church (see John 17).


When we begin learning to see and hear Christ in our brothers and sisters, then real transformation (discipleship) will flow.  Let’s get this straight.  The image of God is Christ (Col. 1:15).  This Christ is corporate.  He is the Head and the Body (I Cor. 12:12).  He is the Vine and the Branches (John 15:5).  He is the Bridegroom and the Bride (John 3:29, 20).  He is the foundation and the stones of the house (I Pet. 2:4-7).  This corporate Christ is the perfect visible image of the invisible Godhead.  We are being transformed into that image from one degree of glory to another!



*footnote #1 – “The Secret of the Strength” by Peter Hoover page 129


*footnote #2 – See the author’s book, “The Butterfly Within”

Organic Church Growth – Forced or Free?

There have been many church growth movements, models, ministries, and mentors over the last fifty years or so. They all have their differences and yet most are remarkably similar.

In my opinion, most of these “systems” have been setup from within the institutional mindset and geared toward helping pastors fill their pews.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.  And which is smaller than all the seeds; but when it has grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree so that the birds of heaven come and roost in its branches.  Matt. 13: 31, 32


There have been many church growth movements, models, ministries, and mentors over the last fifty years or so.  They all have their differences and yet most are remarkably similar.


In my opinion, most of these “systems” have been setup from within the institutional mindset and geared toward helping pastors fill their pews.


I guess you could say that I was technically an institutional pastor for two years.  During that time, the pastors of the group I was in would get together monthly for a prayer breakfast.  There were only two topics of discussion at that meeting.  How many people do you have in your church; and how much money are you bringing in?  There was one pastor who had been very “successful” and had a large church.  Some of the other guys thought that if they preached his sermons (word for word!) they would have the same kind of success!


This is typical of the kind of thinking that permeates leadership in institutional churches.  Church growth “specialists” have come up with all kinds of whacky ideas to help multiply congregations in the western world.  Many of these are the manipulative, forced, and contained methods of Madison Avenue style marketing.  They may get people in the pews, but what is going on here, spiritually?


What is the Goal?


The majority of evangelical Christians today believe the purpose and goal of the Church is to evangelize the world.  This is why God saved us and this is the reason we are here.  In other words, we are here to multiply, so we had better get to it.


Now I understand that when God created man He told him to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  But what did God say before that?  First, he created man in His image and used plural pronouns (Gen. 1:26).  He said, “let Us make man in Our image.”  This shows us two things: He wanted an expression of Himself (image), and He wanted that expression to be corporate.  This is why He spoke in the plural pronouns.


God is a community of three persons.  Father, Son, and Spirit make up the one God.  He wanted a community that would express or display His own corporate life.


Then He said He wanted this corporate image of Himself to have dominion or rule over the earth.  So we see a God here who wants an expression of His communal nature that rules for Him on the earth.  And He wants that community (or race) to be fruitful and multiply.  As you can see, multiplication is only one third of the equation here and it is the last part.  This is very significant as we will see.


This all happens in Genesis chapter one before the fall.  This is God’s original intention and purpose before and beyond the fall.  Of course, God knew the fall was going to happen and so He had an “emergency plan.”  This is the plan of redemption in Christ.  But that did not change His original intention.  He still wanted something for Himself above and beyond human need.  He still wanted that visible expression of His divine life and love.  But here is the problem:


We have made human need the focus of everything and have forgotten that God wants something for Himself!


We got stuck in the “emergency plan” and have abandoned the original plan.  God still wants His house, His body, His bride, His family, and His one new man that can express His divine attributes in a shared-life community.  And this is His goal!


Don’t get me wrong.  He loves us and cares about our needs.  He sent His Son to redeem us, heal us, deliver us, etc.  But that was all still a part of the “emergency plan.”  The purpose of this “e-plan” was to get us back on track with His eternal purpose.  Please see the following:  Eph. 1:7-14; Eph. 3:3-12; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:24-28; Col. 3:9-11.


His purpose has everything to do with His Son.  Ephesians chapter one makes this very clear.  He wants to sum up all things in His Son (Eph. 1:9, 10).  He wants His body to express the fullness of His Son (Eph. 1:22, 23).  And He wants His Son to fill all things (Eph. 4:10).


Premature Growth


I believe when we have an over emphasis on evangelism and mission we end up with very shallow results.  We may have lots of numbers, but they may be all zeros!  God is looking for quality much more so than quantity.  The Father is looking for the measure of Christ (Eph. 4:13).  This is true fruit.


In my view, we should not be focusing on the fruit (a.k.a. numerical growth).  We should be focusing on the life.  If there is the life of Christ flowing in a group, then the fruit will organically be produced at the right time.  There are seasons in the life of the Church and one of those seasons is the harvest time.  The key is for each believer to learn how to “tap into” the life supply within them so this divine life can flow into the Body (Col. 1:27).  Then, just like a tree, everything will develop in due time. 


Timing is a huge part of the equation.  A tree does not produce fruit right out of the gate.  A seedling is not mature enough to produce fruit.  In the same way, a five year old girl cannot give birth.  She is not yet mature enough.  It is not yet her “season”.


We see this in the early church as well.  The apostles spent three years living with Jesus before they performed any significant amount of ministry or evangelism.  Except for the apostles, there is no record of anyone else preaching or evangelizing in Jerusalem for at least four or five years.  Some scholars believe that it may have been up to eight years before the persecution of Saul of Tarsus and the resulting dispersion.


So let’s be really conservative and say that it was five years between the day of Pentecost and the persecution.  What were the believers doing all this time?  I believe that they were learning Christ.  That is, they were learning how to live by the life of an indwelling Lord.  This was their equipping.  This was their foundation.  So then, when the persecution hit, they went throughout Judea preaching the word and new churches were raised up (Acts 8:4).  This was possible because they had spent those years before learning Christ!


To Everything there is a Season


My co-workers and I see this same truth in the field as we work with different groups in organic church planting.  Most of the folks come out of institutional churches and a new group is not ready to multiply right away.  Of course, it is always encouraged to reach out to others and new people coming to Christ are always a wonderful thing.  But by and large, in the beginning, that group needs a solid foundation of Christ as their everything. They need ever deepening revelation of Christ and His Church.  They need practical help with learning how to live by His life.  And they need time to “detoxify” from the systems and mindsets of religion.


If the life is flowing, then the group will grow when it is ready.  We have seen this happen many times.  But this growth will be “in season” and will be deep and strong.  And the fullness of Christ will be expressed through His Body. (Eph. 1:22-23)

The Lost Elements of the Gospel

Paul tells us here that the gospel (good news) which he preached was based upon a revelation he had of Jesus Christ. So here is my question. Is the gospel you have heard based upon a revelation of Jesus Christ? Or is it based upon the evangelical movements of the nineteenth century lead by such men as Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, and others?


“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”    Gal. 1: 11, 12


Paul tells us here that the gospel (good news) which he preached was based upon a revelation he had of Jesus Christ.  So here is my question.  Is the gospel you have heard based upon a revelation of Jesus Christ?  Or is it based upon the evangelical movements of the nineteenth century led by such men as Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, and others?


This is what I call the gospel of the evangelicals and it is very lopsided.  It basically says that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you could be forgiven and go to heaven.  This is what most born-again evangelical Christians believe the gospel to be.  However, one cannot read the letters of Paul without seeing that there was much more to it than that.


In fact, I believe that we have altogether missed the very heart of the message.  We have missed the center and core of the New Testament proclamation!


My co-workers and I travel all over this country (and others) to speak to groups of believers who are searching for organic church life.  Most of them report to us that they have never heard this part of the message.  So I would like to outline the main points of the ‘gospel’ that Paul preached that are, for the most part, being ignored today.


I.                   Christ in you – an indwelling Lord

Paul said that he received his gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12).  Then, he goes on to tell us that this revelation was of the Son in him and that this Son in him is who he preached (Gal 1: 15, 16).


In other words, Paul preached Christ. (I Cor. 1:23; I Cor. 2:2)  But he preached the Christ who lived within him.  This “Christ in you” revelation was obviously the core of his message (see Gal. 2:20; Gal. 4:6, 19; Eph. 1:22, 23; Eph 2:22; Eph. 3: 16-19; Col. 1:27; Col. 3:11; I Cor 3:16; I Cor. 6:19; I Cor. 12:27; I Cor. 4:7; Rom. 8: 9-11).


This part of the message is actually the essence of the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:33)  In the old covenant everything was external (i.e. – the tablets of stone, an external priesthood, tabernacle, law).  In the New Covenant, everything becomes internal – Christ in you, the law and lawgiver comes to live within you.  And now you learn to live by the life of Another.


Jesus Christ came to initiate and walk out the New Covenant right in front of his disciples.  He lived by the life of his indwelling Father!  This changes everything.  This means no longer living by an external code of behavior but by the life of another Person.  Do you see it?


This is the main element in our following the Lord.  This is true discipleship.  It’s all about learning to follow an indwelling Lord!  But how many books are written about this?  How many people are telling us how to live by an indwelling Christ?  How many people even tell us that we have an indwelling Christ?


II.                The Centrality and Supremacy of Jesus Christ

This is one element that every believer and Christian worker would agree is essential.  We must be Christ-centered.  But what does that mean?  To most, it means that the life (earthly life) and teachings of Jesus must be taught and held in the highest regard.  In other words, being Christ-centered means that you adhere to the correct doctrines.  It’s mostly a matter of proper theology and teachings.


But Christ is not a teaching.  He is a Person.  He is both God and Man.  This divine Person is to be the preeminent one in all things (Col. 1:18).  It is a Person who is to be the Center, the Head, and the Life of all we are, and all we do.  Paul said that he preached Christ (I Cor. 1:23) crucified.  This means that he preached the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.  Have you ever noticed that in Paul’s writings he very rarely refers to the Lord’s earthly life?  That’s because Paul was proclaiming an eternal and glorified Christ.  He preached the all inclusive, full, ascended, and glorified Christ.  He preached a Christ who is the All in all!


III.             The Eternal Purpose of God

“. . . according to the kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”   Eph. 1: 9, 10


This element of the eternal gospel flows right into our last element of the centrality of Christ.


The gospel that is preached today is mostly man-centered and based upon our western culture which is based upon human need.  We live in a society of consumerism.  Everything revolves around our own needs.  This environment has bled into our “churches” and into our message.  The gospel we preached is founded upon the need of humankind.  Jesus came to save us, heal us, deliver us, teach us, etc.  Man has a need – God came to fill that need.  That, in a nutshell, is what most Christians believe is God’s eternal purpose.  But that is not what Paul tells us.


The letter to the Ephesians (especially chapters 1 and 3) tell us another story.  Paul tells us that God’s purpose is centered in His Son, not in human need.  You could even say that God himself has a need.  Oh I know, God is all sufficient within himself and has no need within his nature.  But God (in a sense) does have a need pertaining to his purpose.  Maybe we should call it a passionate desire.  He has a great passion, a will, a purpose, a goal.  And that goal has to do with his Son.  He wants to make his Son the Center of everything!  But he has chosen a unique way to do this.  He will make his Son the center or sum of all things by expanding or increasing the Son until he fills all things with himself.  He increases his Son by making him the firstborn of many brethren (Rom. 8:29) through his death and resurrection.  The Son increases through the growth of the Body, his Church (see John 3:30; Eph. 1:23).  And Christ becomes the All in all.


This is a most glorious purpose!  But how often have we heard this preached in any of its many forms and expressions?  In the last century there were three men who shared this message by spoken and written means.  They were: T. Austin-Sparks, Watchman Nee, and Devern Fromke.  But where are the men and women who will take the baton from these brothers and bring this message today?


The three missing elements of the gospel that I have shared in this article all require two things for understanding.  Revelation and the work of the cross.  These are absolutely necessary for understanding to come.  However, this is costly and therefore not very popular in our consumerism society.  The work of the cross in the life of the believer takes time.  But as consumers, we want things to be done instantly.  Revelation happens slowly as one yields and breaks before God.  But as consumers, we want to read a book and have the message.


Where are the brothers and sisters who are willing and passionate about allowing God to break their soul lives so that his life can flow out of them?  Where, oh where, are the brothers and sisters who are willing to get to know an indwelling Lord, the centrality of Christ, and God’s eternal purpose, and then preach the whole counsel of God? 


My prayer is that God will raise up some of these men and women in our generation and the generations to come so that he may have his house, his bride, and his body.  And that his Son may be increased and expanded to fill all things with himself.

Root Before Fruit

“I am the vine; you are the branches.”
John 15:5a

My wife and I came to Christ in 1973, when we were twenty years old. It was during the Jesus People movement in Southern California when many young people were coming to the Lord.

By the time we were twenty-one, we were the worship leaders at our church. We quickly got involved as cell group leaders and were having weekly meetings in our home. I also volunteered to take care of the tape ministry for the pastor.

I preached my first message in 1975 and it was on John 15; the vine and the branches. I had no idea what I was talking about! (Back then, of course, I believed I was an expert on that text). In the next fifteen or so years, we were very busy doing Christian work. I served as a deacon, an elder, a worship leader, and a preacher.

I did evangelistic work with street preaching, door-to-door, and tract distribution. I worked helping the poor through World Vision, a local rescue mission, and sponsoring Cambodian refugees. We also traveled and shared our music ministry and ran a halfway house for wayward youth.

By the time we turned thirty-eight, we were exhausted! We left the institutional church because we really felt that there had to be something higher that God wanted.

It was then that we made a startling discovery. After all those years, we realized that we didn’t know our Lord very well at all. Oh, we knew a lot about Him. We knew the Scriptures (at least we knew them along certain lines). But what had we been giving those people to whom we had ministered? Had we given them Christ? Or had we given them doctrines, rules, regulations, and systems of self improvement? Since we ourselves had not experienced Christ in a deep way, how could we give Him to others in a deep way? There was no lasting fruit to show for those 17 years of hard work.

So we dropped all “ministry” at this point in our lives. We were determined to know Him and His church in a whole new way. During the next two years we discovered (by revelation) that we had an indwelling Lord. Christ lived in us and we lived in Christ. And we discovered that we could know and experience the Christ who lived within us in a much deeper way than we ever thought possible.

The Lord then began to give us a vision of His Church. One that was much more in line with what we saw in the New Testament. And it didn’t look anything like what we had seen around us. But we only had a vision. We had not actually experienced it yet. That would not come until several years later. But the one thing we did discover by experience was that:

“Root Must Come Before Fruit.”

The Current Scene 

There are many groups of Christians today within the house church / simple church / emergent church movement that emphasize the mission of the church. These groups are filled with many people in their 20’s and 30’s. They are hungry for authentic Christianity. They are longing for spiritual reality.

Yet, as I see it, many of them are still putting the proverbial cart before the horse. They have placed mission and social action before a deep inward knowing of the Lord. They have placed the fruit before the root. And I can’t help but wonder if this “fruit” will last.

“Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4, 5

The Tree of Life

What the Lord is talking about here is not missions, evangelism, or social action. He is talking about Life! God’s life. Divine life. Where there is life, there will be fruit (at least eventually). We love to focus on the fruit, but it seems to me that God focuses on the life. That is, the life of His dear Son. He knows that if life is flowing in the tree, fruit will be produced naturally, organically.

There is a very important reason why the Lord used the metaphor of a tree (or vine). He wanted to convey the idea of internal life being expressed. There is life flowing inside of the tree! Please don’t get the idea that there is nothing happening inside of that tree. Where there is life, there is motion. The sap is flowing; the bark and the branches are growing. Leaves and flowers are developing. But the fruit comes last.

What is Fruit?

In a word, you could say that a piece of fruit is a “life-pod.” It is a container (pod) that holds the excess life of the tree. This life-pod is for the benefit of others. It is eaten by other creatures for the purpose of providing energy and nourishment to them. Fruit does not benefit the tree itself.

“I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly.” John 10:10b

The fruit contains the internal life of the tree. The fruit will reflect the quality of the internal life of the tree. But it takes time for the fruit to develop so that it is a true expression of the internal life of the tree. In other words, it takes a mature tree to develop fruit. This doesn’t happen overnight. However, if the tree is in the proper environment, and it is properly nourished and develops a strong root system, it will produce fruit much sooner.

Practical Application

Christianity has manufactured a huge “machine” which we call evangelicalism. This machine pumps out instant preachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. This is the opposite of organic. It is mechanical. But what can be done to turn this tide? I would like to offer a two-fold solution.

1. Learn to know an indwelling Lord. Before you rush out to the mission field or to the inner city to “minister,” get to know the Christ who lives within you, experientially. Learn to touch Him and fellowship with Him in your spirit.

This is not doing nothing. This is not passivity. This is the tree developing a strong root system. The bark, branches, leaves and blossoms will display the life within as the tree matures. You will not be passively sitting around as the life grows because you are part of the Body of Christ.

How do you do this? First, you need some instruction. As an introduction, I would recommend the books on Spiritual Formation at Second, you need to find a body of believers who are learning to live by Christ together. That’s the next point.

2. Learn to know your Lord in a shared-life community of believers. We learn to live by Christ by growing in Him together with a group of Christians who are all functioning under the headship of Christ in an organic way. Learn to be a brother/sister in an organic expression of the church where everyone serves one another. If you don’t know of a such a group where you live, then I would encourage you to fill out the “find an organic church” form at

Everyone who was sent out to work for the Lord in the first century was first trained by being a brother or sister in an organic church. Church life itself was their training ground. They were called, prepared, and then sent. Today, if someone feels called to “the ministry” they are immediately shipped off to Bible College. But God uses His church to prepare people for His work.

Now when I say “church,” it’s important that you understand that I mean a group of believers who are all functioning under the headship of Christ in a shared-life community. That’s the only “church” that the New Testament knows.

Our God strongly desires to have a living expression of His Son in every city in the world. This harvest is great, but the workers are few. Where are the men and women who are willing to actively pursue Him within the context of organic church life? Where are the men and women who are willing to learn Christ as non-leaders in a community of believers who are living and functioning under the vibrant headship of Jesus Christ?

God is raising up such young people in our day who want to know Him first before anything else. May He increase this work!

Lions Set Free

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled with the yoke of slavery again.”    Galatians 5:1

A friend of mine recently told me about a conservation group in Zimbabwe that is taking captive lions and rehabilitating them back into the wild.

This is a difficult, four phase process, but they are having success with it. The rehabilitation process has many snags involved because of the effects of captivity on an African lion. When lions are bred and raised out of their natural habitat, some very abnormal patterns begin to develop. In short, they become domesticated. Yet lions were born to be wild.

In captivity, the lions basically forget that they are lions. The forget how to hunt. They forget how to live in the wild. And they forget how to live in a pride. The “pride” is the name for a community of lions. Lions are by and large social creatures and do not do well as loners.

The Effects of Captivity

You and I were born (again) to be spiritual lions. That’s who we are, but we have forgotten our true nature because of our captivity in the religious system. Captivity has conditioned us to believe things that are just not true. We have become something less than our true calling and destiny because of this conditioning. We have become domesticated.

We have become isolated pew warmers; a mutated race that sits and listens instead of participating and functioning. The clergy/laity system has made us passive and spiritually lazy. In other words, we have sold out our birthrights. Just like Esau we have sold out for the comfort of a bowl of lentil stew, that is, our warm and comfy pews. We no longer wanted to bother with functioning as members of the Body of Christ, so we sold out and instituted the clergy/laity system.

We Have Forgotten How to Hunt

This is definitely one of the most important aspects of a lion’s life. Without the act of hunting, how will you eat?

How will the pride eat?

We have forgotten how to hunt for our own food. Part of our conditioning has been that everyday (or every Sunday!) someone opens our cage and throws us a piece of meat. This bypasses the whole hunting process.

Who is this person that throws in that piece of meat? Where did he get it? Apparently, he went and hunted for it himself. But that is not my prey! And I never had to hunt for it myself.

Hunting is much more than just killing an animal and then eating it. There is the encounter of the hunt itself: finding the right place and time; having the right equipment; getting very quiet; smelling the prey; stalking the prey; taking aim, etc. Sometimes you come up empty handed, but the actual engagement is the thrilling part.

As believers, our food is Jesus Christ Himself! Not just teaching and doctrine about Christ, but the very Person and experience of Christ. You need to hunt for this “food” yourself. Sharing someone else’s food is alright at times. But there is nothing like you going out on your own “hunt” and capturing some new revelation or insight into your Lord. This is exciting. This is discovery. This is how you were born to live!

But then what? What do lions do after they have captured the prey?

They bring it home and share it with the pride.

As I said before, lions are very social creatures and they live in a pride. But in captivity there is no hunt and there is no pride. Lions are thrown their food everyday and they do not live as a pride. They are just individual lions living a mutant life of individualism.

A lion in captivity never has to hunt for his own food. He becomes lazy and complacent. He actually believes that this is normal. He believes that someone else is responsible.

We Have Forgotten How to Live in the Wild

“Because we do not regard the things which are seen but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”    II Cor. 4:18

There are two kinds of realms that exist. There is the unseen realm (or the eternals) and there is the seen realm (or the physicals). Both of these reams exist together at the same time.

One realm is spiritual and unseen. That is, it has no physical substance or what we would call matter. It has no size or dimension, and it exists without time or space. You could say that this spiritual realm is totally “other than” the seen, physical realm.

Of course, we know that the seen physical realm does have matter, energy, space, time, and dimension. Science tells us all about electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules. We seem to know a lot about the seen realm. But the scriptures tell us that this realm is only temporary.

It is the unseen realm which is eternal, and yet, we really don’t know much about that realm at all. How do we live in that realm? How do we live in spirit?

The Creature of Two Realms

As lions, we are called to live in two realms at the same time. But we should live mostly in the unseen realm. This is the “wild” for us. And it is mostly unexplored. It really is the “wild.” It is our natural habitat. And we can never be fulfilled with anything less. And yet, because we have forgotten who we are, we have become comfortable in captivity. We have become comfortable in the seen realm. We actually start believing that the physical realm is everything and then we start investing our lives into it.

Yet we have a Lord who is both Lion and Lamb. He is definitely gentle. But make no mistake about it, He is not tame! He is as wild as they come and the wild realm that is our home is inside of Him (Eph. 1:3).

But our natural habitat is not lived alone. This is a place of community. This is the place of the pride.

We Have Forgotten How to Live as a Pride

The “pride” is the social unit for the wild lion. They do not live alone. They interact in small groups know as prides.

Dear believer, a very important part of your natural habitat is the spiritual “pride.” This has been lost to us as well. Lions in captivity don’t live in prides. That is a special feature only found in the wild. When you discover that you are already free and begin living in the other realm, you will see the need of community life. This wild life is a shared life. Shared with your Lord and shared with His people.

But we are not used to sharing our lives with others. We have been isolated (held captive) for so long that we have forgotten that this is just the normal life for wild lions. In a true pride, you all share your food, share your joys, share your sorrows, and share everything in life with one another.

The big question is: how do we get to this place of freedom? How do we remember how to hunt? How do we remember how to live in the wild? How do we remember how to live in a pride?

Our great God has already provided a solution to this situation. And this solution was in force as early as the first century.

God’s Solution: Walking with Lions

As I told you in the beginning of this article, there is a conservationist group in Zimbabwe that is successfully rehabilitating lions back into the wild. But how do they do it?

They take the young cubs for walks everyday in the wild. An experienced lion “handler” (not trainer) will take a cub on long walks everyday to introduce the young lion to life in the wild. Eventually, the lion’s natural instincts will begin to kick in. They will begin to respond to their natural prey and eventually begin to stalk them. Then, one day, they will learn to hunt for themselves. The lion handlers will also introduce them to a pride in the wild so they can be socially integrated.

God does the same thing with His people. He re-introduces His “lions” back into the wild by the use of “handlers.” These are men and women who are called, prepared, and sent by Him for this difficult task. They do not become caretakers of the believers, but their job is to be re-introducers. Then the believers re-discover their spiritual instincts and habitat that has been long forgotten in captivity.

We can see these people at work in the first century. They were sent out by God as itinerant apostolic workers (or church planters) to lay a foundation of Christ for the assemblies of believers. Their job was to work themselves out of a job. Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy, and others did this work or re-introducing God’s people to the wild. Then they would leave them on their own to live as wild lions! Every one of these workers had already experienced true “pride life” for themselves and knew about the hunt, the wild, and the pride by personal experience.

In the Zimbabwe program, the handlers have less and less contact with the lions. The goal is to completely release them to the wild, not to control them and keep them domesticated.

Christians are leaving the religious institutions in droves. They are seeking more reality, a deeper spirituality, and freedom. They are being set free from the captivity of the religious system and it is a beautiful thing to see. But that creates an altogether different problem.

Now that all of these believers are being set free from captivity, what will happen next? How will they now be re-introduced to the wild? How will they remember how to hunt? How will they be introduced to the “pride” life?

God’s own rehabilitation program must be the answer. We need to pray that God will raise up many “handlers” who have been called, prepared, and sent to walk with the lions.

You are a lion and you have a divine right to be free in the wild with His pride!

If God has been speaking to you about these things and you would like help finding an organic church, click below:

Find an Organic Church

If you are part of a group and would like help discovering your spiritual instincts, go here:

Invite a Church Planter