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!

Christ in the Story

This blog post is actually a podcast!  The message is taken from the Infusion SoCal 2014 conference in which I spoke with Jon Zens and some other new co-workers in southern California.  What I attempted to do in this message is tell the story of the New Testament church.  However, I added some things.  Not to the story, but to my presentation of it.  One thing I did was to preach the gospel (which is Christ!) from Paul’s letter to the Colossians chapter one.  I did this throughout the telling of the story.  The other thing I did was to compare our popular messages preached and written today to that original message of the first century.

I hope that you will enjoy this message.  Please let me know your responses by commenting.  Thanks!

 

 

 

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 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

He Himself – Being and Seeing

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Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Here, in the Lord’s prayer to the Father, Jesus reveals the very heart of God for his Church.  This is definitely the key to the Son’s glory, which was given to Him by the Father. First of all, we need to understand:

This glory is the goal of his prayer.

So, I think that we would do well to discover the essence of this “glory”.

What is the Glory of the Father and the Son?

If we look closely at this chapter of this gospel of John we will see some major points that are made throughout the prayer:

– mutual glorification (verse 1)
– authority (verse 2)
– eternal life (verse 2)
– knowing the Father and the Son (this is eternal life) (verse 3)
– accomplishing God’s work brings him glory (verse 4)
– glory is something that happens with the Father and the Son before creation (verse 5)
– God’s communication comes from the Father, through the Son to us (verse 8)
– everything is mutual within the Godhead (Trinity) (verse 10)
– the glory happens when there is oneness, which happens in the Name (verses 11-12)
– protection from the world and sending dependent upon oneness (verses 16-21)
– the glory has already been given to us for the oneness (verse 22)
– the oneness, which is based upon the love between the Father and Son, will be seen in the world (verse 23)

Now, we can combine these thoughts and get a birds-eye view of what God wants. There is a lot here, of course, but I am going to juice it down into one simple paragraph. (Tip – to see this more clearly, I suggest that you read John chapters 14-17 all the way through without stopping. This will give you a much clearer picture of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.)

The glory of God is the mutual fellowship (community life) that all three of the members of the Godhead share. This involves their mutual love, communication, attention, knowing one another, union, passion, dependency, giving and receiving, and much much more. All things within this community are mutual. They share all things, all content, all life, all love, all goals and vision, and all of the uniqueness that each one has. They share all things in common, you could say. Being three distinct Persons, they are completely one. This oneness of their life together is their glory. It is the source of their power, strength, and authority. Their goal is to share and express this glory with us! Yes, us, mere mortals! And the goal would include the expression (manifestation) of this incredible life to all realms; visible and invisible.

Wow!!!  What a goal!  What a purpose!  What a vision and dream!  Paul puts it this way:

“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 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.” (Col 1:25-27)

Do you see from this passage that the “mystery” is Christ in you, the hope of glory?

Do you also see from this passage the fact that Christ now lives in you (plural)?

This fact (reality) is the key to God getting what He wants.  He cannot have the expression of His Son without this LIFE of the community of God being in us and being lived out in us and from us.

Being and Seeing

So now we come to the critical part of this prayer of Jesus to the Father.  It’s the “how to” of him getting his glory revealed:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Being with Christ is the key to it all!  Without the being there will be no seeing of the glory!  Yes, that means being with and seeing He, Himself!  And yet, all this time we have thought it was all about our prayer life and our bible study and our witness, and our church attendance, and our devotion to God!

Wow! How could we have missed the main point?  Maybe because it is so simple and so basic that it actually insults our intelligence!  We have to somehow figure it all out and then we will have something to boast about.  But God has made it so simple.  He just wants us to BE with Him!

It may be simple but it’s certainly not easy in this hyper actively complex world we live in.  It’s not easy to simply get together with God and just BE with him.  There are many obstacles and distractions that get in the way.  It’s not easy to simply “be still and know that He is God” in a noisy and intrusive world system.  But notice with me that your Lord deliberately hides himself away to be with the Father.  He was very intentional about it.  He knew that He could do nothing apart from the Father (John 5:19) and therefore He needed to be with Him.  Do we realize this as well?

Where Do We Fellowship?

Isn’t it odd that Jesus prayed to the Father that his disciples would be with Me where I am?  Wasn’t he right there standing (and praying) in front of them?  Why would he pray that they would be where he is (present tense)?  Have you ever wondered this?

I believe it’s because even though Jesus was with them in the flesh and in the natural world, he was also in another place simultaneously.  That place was inside of the Father!  I mean that quite literally, spiritually, but literally.  He was both in the natural world AND in the heavenly places at the same time!  How is this possible?  It’s possible because Jesus (just like you and I) is made up of a spirit, a soul, and a body (1 Thess. 5:23).  With his body and soul he functions on the earth, but with his spirit he functions in the heavenlies.  In fact, he is The Door (ladder) between heaven and earth! See Genesis 28:12-17 and John 1:50,51 for further insight.

Paul tells us that we believers are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places:

“… even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  (Eph 2:5-7)

Sisters and brothers, do you see that this declaration is in the present tense?  We are right now, currently, at this time, seated with Him in the heavenly places!  This means that we (the Church) are also now in two places at the same time.  Even though we are on the earth, he wants to be with us right now in the heavenly realms.  He wants us to be with him and see him in that place that is not bound by space, time, measurement or anything else.  You can turn to He, Himself who lives inside your spirit right now and see his glory.

May we all take this as our glorious occupation!

“… but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  (2Co 3:16-18)

 

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!