Friday, February 4, 2011

From the hill tops VII - Pattern

I have just finished a very fun skype conversation with Steve Timmis. As author, pastor, trainer, futurist, Acts 29 leader for Western Europe, his book "Total Church" and training material at Porterhouse is inspiring. It was fun to probe him on his assessment of the church in the UK particularly. His perspectives were powerful in their humility. Several things he said were very impacting. Not quoting him exactly, he said : "it is not the size of the lighthouse that matters, rather it is the number of lights at street level" [the size of the church is irrelevant, what matters is whether the disciples are bringing light on the street].

However I loved hearing him frame this chapter of his life with the God journey -coming to faith in a non Christian home, pastoring in the mining community during the strikes of the 80's. How did they get to this place and this form of community life? Why not go the route of the known, favored, well worn paths?

"Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain" Ex 26:30

We cannot be administrators of His presence if we have not first been up the hill top to hear his voice! This may seem so obvious, however let us pause for a moment. In humility we all want to learn. But sometimes in desperation we all want to imitate. So churches are planted, replanted or rebooted, but the "pattern" chosen could be:
  • the base we planted out of,
  • the denom or movement we are in,
  • the success of another,
  • a famous book,
  • born from a big idea,
  • in reaction to all of the above - rebellion.
we are obligated to find our own form! Theology cannot be dabbled with. That remains true, orthodox that has stood the tests of time. To mess with that will end up in heresy and cultism. Where the creativity of the Trintarian God is evident, is in the 'pattern' he calls us to build. There is no one pattern. From house churches to mega churches, they are in the text. From intentional apostolic plants to spontaneous persecution enforced plants they are in the text. From meetings in temples, schools, caves, homes, they are in the text. From apostles leading churches to couples leading to elders, they are all in the text. From very informal dining room table styled communities to endless hours of teaching from apostles, they are in the text.

Our loyalty must never be measured by us modeling our communities around others. Whilst sentimentally appealing, these decisions are void of the mountain top moments. God the ultimate architect, sculpts, scripts and sketches our evolving renovation. He never tires. He never builds track homes - three styles over and over. Each community is beautifully unique, reflecting his majesty and artistry. We can learn from each other, but the shadow of the hill top is where we will find our unique blue prints.


  1. Hi Chris, thanks for the input - I appreciate it!
    Does the above statement "There is no one pattern" signal a fundamental departure from your earlier conviction that the local church needs to have a foundation of the biblical pattern?
    Or is the apostolic / prophetic pattern your personal conviction of how you think a local church should be established and you are just recognizing the validity of other patterns?
    Or have I missed the point?
    Greetings, Mark

  2. Great question-every body has a vertebrae-but every body has their own unique beauty, shape and form. This biblical metaphor is still one of the best. I do believe in the vertebrae of elders, deacons, the priesthood with an Eph 4 partnership. How the community lives our their God life and obedience is shaped around that, creatively and individually - when & how they pray, how & where they missionally engage their city... the beauty is in their obedience
    Hope that adds to the conversation