Chapter 12, 13-
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WHAT MODEL OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT DO I ESPOUSE?
Over the years when dealing with these types of issues I have found it difficult to break through the ‘normal’ way and pattern of thinking that most Christians have. For instance some times people will ask me the question ‘what type of church government do you believe in’? Most Times in their minds they’re really asking me ‘what type of order, or pattern of Sunday church do you espouse’. While I also understand that they are including the concept of government that applies to the broader association of the various denominations, to me they are still ‘seeing’ church government as a particular order imposed by the ‘separate entity’ of their denomination. Let me try to make this a little clearer [hopefully].
If I were to explain to someone the reality of natural human life, I would go through the process of showing how life starts between a healthy relationship of 2 people coming together by Gods design [I hope I don’t have to get to detailed here!]. As children are born they will go through various stages of development and life. They will encounter many different situations as they proceed along this thing called life. One of the many things that most children will have [though sad to say, not all] is a home environment. This home environment is just one of the many things that make up their lives. In this home/house they will at different times and in different settings be taught all types of things, both by example and through actual instruction [I thought I told you to clean up your room! 2 days ago!].
In this home environment you might have a special day where you all come together in the family room for devotional time [this day varies with my younger girls but I try to do this on a weekly basis]. While this devotional time is important, it is only one small aspect of their entire lives. If you were to refer to this one day of teaching as ‘the life/the church’ I would correct your thinking and say this small area of Christian activity, though important, is only one aspect of their lives. Life itself is the actual organic reality of them being human beings who were birthed and grew up as real human beings. The sum total of all their experiences have shaped them, but they themselves, by virtue of the fact that they were born and actually [really] exist as human beings, is life. Life does not describe the home/house environment only. Or just one specific way in which we do our devotion time. It consists of the fact that they are truly alive!
So getting back to the question of ‘what type of church govt. do I believe in’ I often answer ‘none’, to the surprise of the person asking the question. I then go on to explain that I view ‘church’ as the actual living/organic entity of Gods people. God’s people are Gods people by virtue of the fact that they were born into his family; they are children of God, really! They are ‘church’ because of this fact. They will experience many good [and sometimes bad] things along the way. Most of them will find a ‘home/house’ environment to go to in order to associate with other believers [what we often describe as church] during these times of fellowship there will be certain days in which instruction is given [normally Sunday]. And they will experience many other types of situations throughout their Christian experience. So when someone asks me what type of church govt. do I believe in, I usually see the question to mean ‘what type, or style of Sunday church meeting do you espouse’. I try to make an effort to explain that I believe in the ‘actual church govt.’ that is I believe that all the people of God, all the time make up the church everywhere they are [remember Jesus answer to the Samaritan woman].
As God is daily communicating and interacting with his people by his Spirit this is an actual real existence that we share both with our creator and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This type of ‘church govt.’ is what I espouse. The ‘ordaining’ of elders in the New Testament was simply the recognition of more mature/grounded spiritual leaders who the early Christian communities could look to for guidance and direction [or correction] as they experience and live out ‘church life’. We have such a legalistic mind that as Christians we have changed church govt. to describe a certain form, or way of doing religious meeting while it originally referred to God ‘governing’ His people through the ‘govt.’ of Jesus being at the right hand of glory!
THE CAT CHAPTER [I DID THIS FOR MY KIDS!]
Whenever I have this type of discussion I usually receive different responses from well meaning Christians in defense of the old way of seeing church. Some feel it is total rebellion to even dare question the system [my pastor knows how to spot wolves mentality, which usually means me!] sometimes people try to devalue this message by saying ‘oh, that brothers one of those theologian types’ which I assure you I’m not! [never been to bible school, never been ordained [by men]]. Some feel that this way of seeing ‘church’ is impractical. I believe that seeing all of Gods people as the actual entity in earth that God has ordained to advance his kingdom is the most practical thing you can do. I personally have been active and involved as a believer in all sorts of practical charitable outreach. I do this by virtue of the fact that I’ve been ordained by God to go into all the world and make disciples. Whether you realize it or not, so are you!
All the ‘ministry’ stuff I do is not some higher calling that I have in which others need to recognize and support in order for them to get some type of reward simply because they support me [by the way we do not accept financial support]. This mindset creates a false barrier that causes Christians to see ministry as something separate from themselves, that somehow relieves them from their own personal responsibility to spread the kingdom. We sort of give the attitude that if the ‘average Christian’ simply supports the pro’s that he’s fulfilled his obligation. I often tell people that I am no different than them. God requires all believers to reach out and touch society around them in real practical ways.
No one is to simply be a book writer, or radio speaker or any other ‘thing’ we see as ministry. But we are all responsible to reach out in real practical ways, touching the lost world around us. Our real message as Christians is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. The message that the world needs to hear from us is that God is not mad at them, or trying to make them conform to some church standard. But God has already embraced and accepted them through Jesus Christ. Our message is one of total reconciliation and forgiveness. We all bare a responsibility to give our lives away for the sake of others. This whole book is to emphasize the reality and responsibility we all share in the great commission. The great truth of God ‘legitimizing’ all of us bares with it a great responsibility to touch the world. Jesus said to whom much is given much will be required.
This book hopefully opened your eyes to some degree to how much has been given to you. Much is now required. All the ‘ministry’ things that I personally do, working with homeless people, ex-cons [or present ones!], doing radio, personal outreach/evangelism, all of these areas are a natural function of trying to hear God and respond. I’m not saying I do everything right, I’m sure I don’t [really sure!] but I try to view ministry as simply hearing and doing the works of Jesus. If the verse in Mark says to ‘make no special appeals for funds, travel light because you are the equipment’ then my first reaction to God calling me to do something in ministry is to simply act. This is a forgotten doctrine of the old traditional church; I think they used to call it ‘obedience’. So my response to God should be ‘Lets go’.
Now I realize practically there are many contemporary building based churches that are hearing and responding to God, and that many of these pastors are obviously not going to personally fund everything they do. But I’m trying to show how we often respond to God’s call on us by perceiving that ‘God wants me to start a ministry’, once again falling into the trap of seeing ministry as some type of entity [usually a 501c3] that God wants us to start. God isn’t telling the ‘entity’ to do it, He’s telling you! [Or me] do you see this? So all the ministry stuff I do is without a board, no 501c3, and no separate entity at all. Just do it! [I should make a note here, in the early days I did incorporate and had a name, Corpus Christi outreach ministries, but this now is simply the name of our radio program. It’s more humble to leave it like this then to tell everyone ‘you’re listening today to John Chiarello’]. Now the principle of team work is important, after all this book is about the Church, Gods corporate people, but what I want you to see is you are free to do kingdom works without starting some ‘thing’.
I have also sensed at times that when I share this simple approach I take concerning ministry, that it will offend others who have gone the more traditional route. Sort of like a feeling of ‘how dare you think that you can just do these things on your own, who is your covering!’. This attitude is what I was trying to express earlier when I shared how the mindset of the 1st century Pharisee was offended at both Jesus and his disciples simply doing kingdom works because they were sent by God. There seems to be a lack of understanding of the true nature of our sonship in Christ. While God doesn’t want Christians to be rebellious or out of order, we often use this type of language in order to challenge true believers who are walking in the will of God.
If you think about it all of the commands in the New Testament are given to believers in order for us to actively participate in kingdom works. Jesus says when he returns that all nations will be judged on whether they fed him when he was hungry, or visited him when he was in prison [actual things that Christians should do]. He gives instructions on when we invite people for a meal to invite the down and out because they cant repay us [no political lobbying here!] but how many times have we actually done these things? We seem to read the new testament and confer the responsibility of these things on ‘the church’ as in if she were some type of separate institution that if we just give money to that we will be relieved of our responsibility to act!
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this type of thinking. Jesus also taught that there would be people who at the judgment would be rejected because they never knew him, these people primarily focused on ministry as being ‘performance’ [have we not prophesied in your name type mentality]. This shows us that true ministry are the works done as a response of the compassion of Christ being expressed through us. Ministry is primarily not a function of religious performance. In American Christianity we often view ministry as a time were someone will be performing in an audience type atmosphere. Either a great sermon or fantastic singer, while there are times where these types of gifts edify, we often view ministry in these ways not realizing that for the most part this is simply ‘performance’. [I don’t want to sound mean here, but I really don’t know how else I could say this!]
A few weeks ago I took a trip to the New York City area, before I left I gave specific instructions to my kids to not bring home any more cats! I told them that they all ready had enough pets and I didn’t want them to have any more. My daughters have been involved with a lot of pet rescues where they find strays and get them fixed and get all their shots and find them homes. The only problem is some times the home they find is mine! To be honest they have done pretty well. I also now have two dogs living with us [it’s a long story]. So when I arrived back from my trip I was greeted by the whole family and I noticed there was a strange looking kitten, I wasn’t really sure if it was new or one that I just didn’t remember. Well as the puppy is playing with the kitten my daughter says ‘oh, daddy did you see the new kitten, she belongs to the puppy’ in essence they were telling me that they really didn’t get any new pets, but that one of the pets got a new pet! This is what you would call living up to the letter of the law while violating the spirit of the law. This is what we do in our understanding of church and ministry. The whole intent is to build and edify people. They are the valuable object to God. In our efforts to ‘build ministry’ we often devalue them [most of the times unconsciously]. As we re-examine our ideas and concepts of church it is my goal to lead us to a place where people are valued again, even if it’s at the expense of the institution!
Let me end this chapter with one more ‘cat’ story. One day one of our cats was killed by a car. My kids were upset so I violated the rule of not bringing any more cats home and went to the local shelter and adopted this real cute kitten. Well being I was the first voice that this kitten would hear [from my family] she became closer to me than normal. After a few more bad experiences with cats getting out my kids took 3 new stray kittens [recently rescued] and put them all in their room for months. The litter box, food and everything they needed was in this little isolated closed environment [watch out], well they stuck my little kitten in there too!
After a few months I told my kids that this isn’t right. I haven’t seen my kitten for so long, she used to play with me and really liked me a lot, being I was the first voice she’d grown accustomed to. Well my kids warned me that she isn’t like that anymore, she’s been with the little scared strays in the room for so long that she’s picked up the scared attitude and is afraid of people. Well I couldn’t believe that she would have forgotten my voice, I know its been a long time since she’s heard it, but after all I am her ‘daddy’ and she was a special kitten to me. Well I finally broke this little secluded environment that they were living in and went into the room. Sure enough all the cats were scared of this type of forced intimacy. I was just to close! They all had this scared look and ran under the bed. I couldn’t believe that even my little kitten was so affected by the natural fear that these strays had, that she too thought it necessary to hide from the face of her father.
Well after a few seconds my little cat came running out from under the bed and into my arms, as if to say ‘yes I remember you, your that first person that rescued me that day a long time ago, Its been so long since I saw you that I had forgotten your voice. I have been living with these unwanted strays for so long that I was afraid to approach you anymore’ well I think this is what happens to Gods kids sometimes. They start out at ‘the day of rescue [salvation]’ with the joy of hearing His voice, but after living our lives out in unnatural environments [closed rooms] for so long we forget what it was like to truly hear his voice and to commune with him. Often times there needs to be an intrusion into our closed environments before we can recognize the voice of our father once again. [NOTE; when I told my girls I was going to put a story about our cats in the book, they said ‘wow, our cats are going to be famous’ we just cant seem to get away from this desire to legacy build!]
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