I have been leading churches for 27 years. For around the same amount of time, I have been involved with church planting, church replanting, church closures, church mistakes, church growth, church discipline. The list goes on. This is an intoxicating journey to see what the Father loves, what the Son does, what the Spirit empowers. The full weight of heaven is behind the scriptures, as "The Lord said to me, 'You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.'" Jer 1:12. We do not have the prerogative nor the privilege to determine which part of the text we choose to apply and which part we choose to neglect. Nor can any of us have the audacity to suggest we have "the model or the pattern". There is a vast amount of humility required to journey within the understanding that our revelation is progressive but our obedience needs to be immediate. As the Spirit reveals truth to us, we have the obligation to a full and complete response.
This series is about moving churches through the challenge of the 150 mark. There is no fixed formula nor a one size fits all. However there are some clear biblical road signs that can be very helpful indeed. One of the major "Forgotten Ways" [to quote my friend Alan Hirsch] is the partnership between apostles and the local churches. All to easily, we have used non-biblical alternatives to explore this deeply desired role. We have used words and concepts like coaches, mentors, teams, team leaders, superintendents, regional coordinators, mother churches when the scripture is very clear on who the key players are and what their roles are to be. I am certainly not wanting to be pedantic here. I simply want to take us back to the text to have the right conversation, ask the right questions, take the right actions.
"I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now..." Phil 1:3 - 5.
Our hierarchical minds mixed with some poor experiences, invariably leave us very wary and wounded by a possible opportunity for control, dictatorship, excesses — and rightfully so. However we are not to throw out the baby with the bath water. God has no plan B. From the sublime moments when Jesus chose 12 men and designated them apostles, to his last few moments on the planet when he handed his apo authority on to these men, to the picture painted by the Book of Acts, his intention was clear — he gave his gifts to men, to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God... grow up in every way... held together by every joint..." Eph 4:11 - 16.
In my next blog we will look at how this partnership can catapult the church through the ceilings that surround them. We will also look at the other parts of the Eph 4 giftings to empower planters to push through these limitations. In nearly three decades I have seen the Father seek to reintroduce these gifts to the church. As they have been abused and misused, the Father has seemingly withdrawn them, to reintroduce them to the next generation to see if they can be a wondrous partnership one more time. Can we do it right this time around?