The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part LIX
I have been reading about early Church history of the first three centuries and the writings of the early Church Fathers. I can only imagine the second century Church’s challenge of facing change. The believers are several generations away from the original apostles and believers who actually saw Jesus on the earth. They could not go back to the Paul’s, Luke’s, Peter’s actual face-to-face encounters with Christ unless they were written down. “Faith”, the believing in the unseen, now became stronger because the Church was removed from first hand accounts of Jesus.
Now was the time for change; now began theological debates about the person and divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. The “experience” of “walking with Jesus” was being replaced by reason, thus theology (Theo = God. -ology = study; thus study of God). Doing theological exegesis on doctrine became the norm by prominent church leaders. The “walking experience” with God became the sitting on one’s butt “studying” about God. Wars have been fought over theology, major schisms developed, heresies born, challenged, then crushed, and historically, fragmentation of the Body of Christ, the Church, became its fruit. “Power” over who runs the church, alias church politics, over came the inverted pyramid of service that the kingdom of God appropriates. Several centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the major split between the Eastern Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople and the Western Church centered in Rome became prevalent.
What happened to the personal walk of each believer? What happened to the Road to Emmaus experience several disciples experienced shortly after the resurrection? What happened to the daily walk by faith? Matters of the mind, reason, took over matters of the heart, the Jewish Lamad way of perceiving things? Intellect and reason now superseded experience and faith. We, the Church, still face this battle even today. People with earned intellectual religious degrees lead the church over older Christians who have spend a lifetime faithfully experiencing Jesus in their lives. At least in the Western world, knowledge still supersedes faith in church structure and leadership.
How can the Church return to the teaching of “service”, the inverted pyramid of one carrying a lot of people on their shoulders than ruling over a lot of people? Historically, the most effective form of evangelism is when there is one-on-one sharing of one’s “experience” of Jesus Christ in one’s life. Even though Jesus had to question his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”, he still chose to “walk” with them for the last three years of his life so that they could “experience” him. Even though he did a lot of “teaching” to them those three years, it was still the “walking out of their experiences” with him that would prepare them for apostleship,
They saw and experienced the one-on-one evangelism of Jesus talking to the women at the well and the revival it created in her hometown. The feeding of the 5,000 and the raising of the dead of the women's only son, and "Jesus wept" when hearing of Lazarus's death displayed the pastoral spirit in Jesus. They sat under Jesus’ teaching, though they had trouble understanding it until the Holy Spirit had been released to become their instructor. They met and walked with the prophetic living Word, the living Son of God, the fulfillment of scriptures where again they did not realize its truths until the Holy Spirit later revealed it to them. Finally their three-year “walk” with Jesus and later their Emmaus “walks” with the Holy Spirit would prepare them for apostleship.
God had established the five fold, the passions of servanthood, through service, to prepare His Church. The passion of spiritual birth was born through evangelism, the passion of nurturing and caring was fulfilled in “walking” and providing for His disciples, the passion of teaching was released through Jesus, the Living Word, as he attempted to instruct his disciples how to “walk” out their faith through daily experiences, the passion of the prophetic was released in the fulfillment of the Messiah, the Living active Word in mankind, right before their eyes, and the passion of the apostolic was birthed through these “walks” with Jesus and fulfillments through the Holy Spirit. I propose that this is the pattern the Church should seek if it is to “equip” or “prepare” the “saints for the work of the service.”
Unlike the early Church fathers, two centuries removed from Jesus’ appearance on earth, we, the twenty-first century Church are two millennium removed. We should have learned that a walk of faith through “reason” and “knowledge” only brought on a long period called The Dark Ages which had its grips only broken by the Reformation when God’s spirit was again released on God’s people for the works of “service” to the kingdom of God rather than the religious kingdom of the church.
History has proven the Church needs change, yet is slow and reluctant to embrace it. The Church was birthed and built on principles of the kingdom of God, sacrifice and service. Power and might produced by the Holy Spirit were replaced by political power and might. The church changed from an agent of “serving” to an institution “to be served.”
“In the last days, I will pour out my spirit on your sons and daughters,” boasts the book of Acts of the Apostles. That pouring has begun at the closing of the last century. Now it is time to allow the Holy Spirit to take that “new birth”, that evangelistic out pouring of the Holy Spirit, and begin to develop it pastorally, through nurture and care, while teaching its believers through day to day experiences, grounded on the Word of God, the Bible, and released into a living work known as the Church, through the reestablished apostolic over sight. The five fold is about to be developed no matter if you believe it or not! Are you willing to embrace it?