Who Wants To Start A Church?
John 13,16-17: "In very truth I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor a messenger than the one who sent him. If you know this, happy are you if you act on it."
You get some strange and alert reactions to the phrase "start a church."
Arn't There Enough Churches Already?
There sure are, already!
As for starting another one, why don't you raise that concern with God rather than to the folks with their ears pinned to God.
The Church Of The Called Out Ones
The Apostle Peter, "Rocky", had the solid revelation, and then confessed, that Jesus was the Son of God and Messiah of Israel. So Jesus knew he was ready to start a church and said to him "And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." KJ Matthew 16,18
What we call "church" the Greek langauge calls "ecclesia" and the Hebrew "qahal"- the called out ones.
With this faith in Jesus we too are called out from the powers and principalities of the world, the devil, and the flesh:
"You once were dead because of your sins and wickedness; you followed the ways of the present world order, obeying the commander of the spiritual powers of the air, the spirit now at work among God's rebel subjects. We too were once of their number: we were ruled by our physical desires, and did what instinct and evil imagination suggested. In our natural condition we lay under the condemnation of God like the rest of mankind." Ephesians 2,1-3.
If we live by faith, we remain among the called out ones (Hebrews 6).
The prophet Nehemiah (Hebrew: Yahweh comforts), famous in the Hebrew Scriptures, comes to mind.
In 586 BC the king of Judah (Jeremiah 39,7; 2Kings 25,1-7) was led off to Babylon in chains, as were the elites of Jerusalem and the temple priesthood so to speak, all for their unified disobedience to God.
The magnificent temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the vaulted priesthood never quite the same again, and the promised land lost for seventy years, all this at the destructive hands of the powers and principalities of the world-Babylon.
Nehemiah Not Too Shabby
And yet God first inspired the Persian King Cyrus to let the Jewish exiles come back and rebuild the temple (Isaiah44,27-45; Jeremiah25,8-13; 2Chronicles36,22-23) then a later Persian King, Artaxerxes I in 444BC, to let his trusted cupbearer Nehemiah, return and become "governor" of Judah.
Who had ever heard of a mere "governor" leading Judah, the place of promised Davidic kings and High Priests?
So this ordinary mensch comes back and rebuilds the indestructable things of "qahal"- the word of God (no mixed marriages, no business on sabbath, forgiveness of debts of the poor, proper monetary support of temple, see Nehemiah10), the wall around Jerusalem and the gates in the wall, the repopulation of Zion (7,4;11,1-2), and the nation's now dormant hope for a messiah, the unlikely sacrificial lamb Jesus, who by his sacrificial cross and resurrection fulfilled the rebuilt sheep gate image of Nehemiah 3,1:
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel."
Knowing this verse Jesus said:
"I am the door: by me if any man enter he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find passage." John 10,9.
This ever peaceful pasture is a messianic image that we the faithful, even now enjoy.
Nehemiah wasn't a king, a priest, the messiah, or even high born. He was just ordinary folk.
Yet, he comes down to us as a "prophet" because of his active obedience in rebuilding the everlasting things of faith, for his rousing and effective challenge to all stakeholders in Jerusalem, for his speaking up, for his willingness to use whatever resources available, based soley on God's command.
Was Nehemiah likely to succeed after almost 100 years of drift after the return from Babylonian exile?
Was he especially "smart" or experienced or qualified?
Did he always know what was coming next, or how it was all going to work out?
No, not at all.
But he served with the grace which is sufficient enough for each of us and all of us (cf 2Corinthians12,9-10).
This pattern of obediently serving was also demonstrated by Jesus (even before the Apostle Paul) when he washed his apostles feet and summed up their future service with a beautitude "If ye know these things [that church is about service, that the student is not above the master] happy are ye if ye do them." John 13,17
Do What You Know Now To Do And Then You'll Know More About What's Next, And Be Happy Too
The august Scottish commentator Oswald Chambers, about one hundred years ago, plumbed John 13,17 and reflects that often the next step of knowing (and the joyful beatitude of service) doesn't come until after the particular obedient service at hand is done:
"When you know you should do a thing, and do it, immediately you know more. Revise where you have become stodgy spiritually, and you will find it goes back to a point where there was something you knew you should do, but you didn't you did not because there seemed no immediate call to, and now you have no perception, no discernment; at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self possessed. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to go on knowing.
The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you work up occasions to sacrifice yourself; ardour is mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12,1-2. It is a great deal better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than to peform great acts of self sacrifice. "To obey is better than to sacrifice." Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been. 'If any man will do...he shall know.' "
(My Utmost For His Highest, Barbour, 1991, p. 116)
The only way to know how to start a church is by doing the present obedient service you know to do, and until that's done, who would know the further step, in that I have not met the god that blesses short cuts.
You Don't Have Any Buildings?
This is the first thought of many.
But Nehemiah, Jesus, and Peter had no buildings.
And the first "Nazarenes" or "Christians" met in peoples homes, or wherever it was safe, and even divied themselves up in Jerusalem for safety (Acts 12,17: suggests at least three separate "house" churches, especially to protect the apostles and their leadership).
It's interesting that the apostle Peter was so keenly aware of this 'you have no buildings objection', that he makes it an inspired part of his first letter. There in chapter two he describes the church as a "Spiritual house," a decidedly non physical thing, a faith temple comprised of us faithful, as "living stones" built on the risen cornerstone of Jesus. 1Peter2,5ff.
No buildings in sight, but yet and still like the Bill Monroe song says "I'm working on a building...for my Lord for my Lord."
Our mission as church is not to have a physical building (these come and go with time), but to be a Spiritual house, a faith temple, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, and faithful lives acceptable to God through our risen Lord, to announce his praises and proclaim the miracles of our salvation in him. (1Peter2,9)
These are the things that are most important, that last, against which the opened gates of hell will not prevail.
You Don't Have Any Rites?
How about bible based faith baptism in Jesus Name (Acts 2,37-39) a milestone for everybody, no exceptions, in that Jesus was baptized and all his apostles also baptized. This identifies each of us with the kingdom of God and changes our team uniform from Satan's to the Lord's, cosmically speaking that is (Colossians 2,13-15)
How about the joy of regularly, every week on the 'day of the Lord', going to the table of the Lord to celebrate the Lord's Supper, as the bible says (Acts 20,7; 1Corinthians 11,20).
Here we come hungry and thirsty, tasting and seeing the richness of the Lord, eating the new manna from heaven, recognizing him in the breaking of the bread, eating his resurrected body and drinking his resurrected blood, as prophesied by him at the last supper.
We have all the rites and ordinances of God's holy writ praise God and his mighty Name.
No lasting church lacks anything worthwhile in the worship of God.
The grass is greener right where we are- obeying the Lord.
Are You Saying God Can Use You, Even You!
Well Abraham was too old, and Noah got drunk, and Jacob was a chisler, Issac a dreamer, and Leah was sort of homely, and Moses stuttered and threw temper tantrums, and Samson was a sex addict, and Rahab's only virtue was a little red thread, and Jeremiah and Timothy were young and timid, and David committed adultery and then murder to cover it up, and Elijah sufferred from depression, and Jonah ran the other way, and Ruth was a Moabitess who threw herself at the feet of a rich man named Boaz, and Job went bankrupt, and Peter denied Jesus three times, and Martha was a control freak, and Paul likely killed Christians and burned all his bridges in the third largest city in the empire (Ephesus), and, well, Lazarus was dead.
And God somehow used them.
If God can use folks like this, perhaps He can start a church with anybody he tells to do it.
Holy Ghost Empowered Offices and Holy Ghost Gifts Will Help Start a Church Too
We also take heart that every church that begins and stays obedient to God is going to soon be full of His Holy Spirit empowered offices (Ephesians 4,11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers...) and gifts of the same Spirit (1Corinthians 12, wisdom, knowledge, great faith unto miracles.. and all the rest).
But we'll leave these subjects for another day, and rest in the peace having done what we knew to do today.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...