My blogging journey from the beginning for those who are interested. Each week I will include one of those original blogs from Martin Scott’s Perspective site. February 4th 2010 and the blogging began. Never did this before, but what therapy, what a joy, what a chronicling of a journey that never ends. In many ways things have developed, but it is good to see where we come from to appreciate where we are. All in the healing. Enjoy or endure…
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit.
As you do not know the way of the wind…so you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
It is about six/seven years ago since I was in Kenya sharing at a gathering of people hungry for a new expression of Christianity. This was the first time I had personally come across such desire and hunger outside the Welsh setting. What was even more amazing was that these people were already beginning to walk this expression in such bold ways, far ahead of what was going on in Wales at that time. I met an ex-pastor who was leading one of the biggest churches in Kenya. It was actually the church that the President of Kenya would attend on a regular basis. He shared with me that one day he stood in the pulpit and looked over the crowd and thought to himself, I cannot do this anymore, this is not what it is all about. He immediately resigned his position and began to look for new ways to express his faith. While I was there I attended a prayer gathering of businesspeople on a weekday lunchtime that was kick started by this man. The great thing was he never even led the gathering but just blended into the small group that had gathered to pray for their city, their business, their families etc. True expression of liquid ekklesia. Flowing with the contours of the land.
Solid church vs. liquid ekklesia
While at the larger gathering I shared much on my journey and what God was beginning to show me concerning solid church and liquid expression of faith. In one session I shared on the characteristics of both, and even today what I shared then seems so relevant;
The characteristics of the traditional, solid church
1)-controlled atmosphere. Favourite passage from 1 Corinthians 14, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’ Everything gets controlled from the top down. What the pastor says is gospel!!! Here in Wales at the front of many churches and chapels we have a collection of ‘holy’ untouchables. The organ, the wooden communion table and the deacon’s chairs. It is on these chairs that the deacons would sit to ‘oversee’ what was going on in the service and deal with anything untoward. As a pastor here in Wales they may not have sat on the chairs but the deacons continued to be the church police, trying to guide every movement and decision. Talk about control. No wonder the revival of creativity and spontaneity was so quickly snuffed out by the churches in Wales. These men were challenged in their place of control, and they stood their ground. Looking into the history of Tonyrefail I discovered that these deacons would not always be spiritual men but men of influence, almost trade union type people. Control. The structure may be different elsewhere but control is never far away. People say ‘leader’s lead’. Is that a true Biblical statement? In my Bible leader’s serve and are the least. Leaders by example not position.
2)-gathers not sends. Favourite passage from Hebrews 10, ‘let us consider one another…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.’ Interpreted do not dare miss the meetings or you will be interrogated and made to feel guilty. You should be in God’s house on Sundays. And if you want to grow you must sit under the word on Thursdays and come to the Prayer Meeting on Tuesdays. Then find your ministry of serving my vision by being a Sunday school teacher, youth leader, door-to-door worker, worship team member etc. Come along to every special that would be over every Bank Holiday weekend. No wonder so many marriages were under strain and so many kids rebelled. Their parents were too busy to live. Always in church. When my wife was a pastor’s kid she would go to church three times on Sunday (day of rest Ha ha!!!), prayer meeting Monday, Bible study Wednesday, youth on Friday and around the doors on Friday morning, every week. Come to Christ and be free!!! Who were we kidding? Evangelism then becomes come to my church and make it bigger. The gathering is the focal point, not the world, the workplace, the schools etc.
3)-pastoral in nature not apostolic. Favourite passage from 1 Peter 5, ‘Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.’ It always bothered me in church life why there was so much emphasis on the pastoral ministry at the expense of the other gifts. After all in the Bible I had the only time the word pastor was used was in one verse in Ephesians 4. We were taught at Bible college never to build a theology around one verse, but the whole church and it’s ministry seemed to be built around only one verse. I believe in pastoral ministry, although in a different context now, but to build a church around it asks for trouble. It creates a maintenance mentality and not a mind-set of kingdom vision. There is an idyllic picture of a fatherly person looking after everybody and meeting their every need. I am sick, call the pastor and he will pray. I need advise, ring the pastor anytime 24/7 and he will have an answer. I need some money, talk to the pastor and he will sort me out. Feed me a good sermon, not too long, not too short, not too complicated, not too simple, preach what I want to hear. Look after me. Visit me. Love me. For an example while I was a ‘pastor’ (and not a very good one according to this definition.) one of our members was ill. About four members of the church visited her to pray with her. One day I had an angry phone call, ‘no one has been to see me!!!’ I said, that is not true I have spoken to people who have called to pray with you. Then came the shot, ‘you have not been to see me!’ The other visits meant nothing because the pastor had not been to see her. Church built on pastoral life sucks the life out of everybody. It has no impact on community or nations, is part of our me culture. I was paid to do the job of pastor!!! They made me feel guilty for going on the mission field because I was neglecting them!!! Should be looking after my sheep.
The characteristics of liquid ekklesia.
1)-spontaneous and unpredictable. An unsettling and unsafe place to live. Flows with the wind of the Spirit, whatever direction that is taking. It was for freedom we have been set free. Moses was led by the cloud by day and the fire by night, never being able to predict where and when that would take him on. The Spirit cannot be controlled, and neither should those of the Spirit. A flowing with the contours of the land and whatever life brings. Is there risk in here of getting it wrong? Yes, but nothing has ever been achieved without any risk. Look how many times Edison got the light-bulb wrong!!! But now we all benefit from the light a bulb brings. If we do not have the space in Christianity where grace abounds to make mistakes, where will we ever expand ourselves and our faith?
2)-relational and not organisational. Who is part of us? Those who want to be a part of us. Jesus chose those who he wanted to be around. Paul wanted Timothy with him. Luke calls Paul’s gang, his companions. They journeyed together. I love it when the Message version calls the disciples Jesus climbing companions. That is what we are together, we are climbing companions. Some will journey with us for the whole of our lives, others just for a few days or months, but it is relational. Not relational out of gifting but relational out of respect and friendship and partnership. In other words people do not come to me to be their apostle/prophet, they come because they want to walk with me a while, the picture of Jesus on the road to Emmaus when he simply walked with those men. This can be relevant in family life, the workplace, social life etc. We walk the life, we talk the life and maybe one day eye’s will be opened and people will say, were our hearts not burning within us as we walked this way?
3)-always sending and going. Apostolic in nature not in ministry. Going becomes the lifestyle. Remaining a movement of people, not becoming a monument like many movements of the past. I have found as soon as something gets branded with a name it ceases moving and changing. It gets labelled. I will look at this another time. Gatherings are really sending’s. Jesus gathered to send. Antioch was a sending church. The early church at Jerusalem had to be stirred up to send, because it was getting comfortable gathering. Leadership in the new landscape will be an interesting one. Where/how/what do leaders fit into the picture? Equippers of people? Not for their own churches and ministries but for the equipping of people to go into their own spheres of service, wherever that may be. To send. Equipping for life and not to draw a crowd.
4)-involvement of the whosoever not just the select few. Ephesians 4 says ‘every part does it’s share causing growth in the Body.’ The few have always run the show, had the say, done the leading etc. This is so unbiblical. It is the time for the movement of the all. Encouraged, relating, equipped, sharing lives living daily as salt and light in the spheres that God has called them to. No one is a bit part player. No one is the leading man or lady. No one is waiting in the wings to be recognised or waiting for their brief moment. The world is the stage and we are all walking this stage at the same time playing the part that only we can play. Contributing invaluably to the whole picture of the Body of Christ. I’m beginning to think everyone is either a leader or has the potential to be a leader. Because if the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead lives in us all, then we can all flow as he intended us to, as liquid ekklesia in the world in which we live.