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Today 104 YWAM communities and groups around the world signed online to participate in a global meeting. One of the locations was in Nigeria. Loren Cunningham, co-founder of Youth With A Mission, gave a testimony of a woman in Nigeria who fell and died in the middle of a church service. Paul Dongtungda, the YWAM leader there, was encouraged to pray for her. The community was afraid and would not enter the church. Paul entered and immediately prayed and bound the spirit of death in the church. The woman rose from the dead, Loren said. And then, at that moment, we saw and heard that very woman on our screen. The woman spoke quickly in a thick accent. Her testimony confirmed that she was raised from the dead. We were extraordinarily encouraged!
This message of resurrection became a theme for the remainder of the global gathering. John Dawson shared how the elders of YWAM, our Global Leadership Forum, met in Mexico recently. They focused on several things, including Eldership.
Our elders asked many questions, which John Dawson shared with us during the global online meeting today.
What are your circles of covenantal love? What kind of agreement does that produce? How should we appoint what is lacking in our groupings?
What is the principle of Eldership?
Is it merely gathering in prayer and “covering” people? Is it merely older, more mature people? Or is it also walking in agreement and standing in the gap on behalf of others and on behalf of the future.
Is it not also to receive words from the Lord and declare His thoughts? Is it not releasing into the heavens the intents God has for a group through the power of agreement?
Do you really know one another personally? Do you meet together and pray? If you are praying, can you really cover one another if you don’t know each other? Can you protect one another from the spirit of contention? When you meet with love, John Dawson suggests, ask each other personal questions with affection and kindness. By doing so, you will be creating an altar of agreement so that the “work” of the ministry can be accomplished with God’s blessing.
John shared much of the word from the Lord given by Loren Cunningham during the Global Leadership Forum meetings. Loren encourages us all to follow the biblical injunction to make altars of worship.
An altar was made of stones, each of which is unique. They are an example of unity in diversity. Each altar is different, as each individual contributes to its creation in unity. Paraphrasing the apostle Peter, “We are like living stones built together as a holy priesthood.”
This eldership is not something we delegate to others. This is something we do in the grace of God with an authority that comes through unity in the place of prayer.
To overcome the spirit of fear in our communities, we need unity in eldership. Most of us face fears, not as triumphalists, but with a complete dependence on the grace of God. In that dependence and in the unity of the Spirit, we have powerful authority to bind the spirits of darkness that would attack our communities and those to whom we serve.
To close the global online gathering, John Dawson exhorted us and led to pray in the power of agreement over the things that are broken, the dreams and hopes, that have been broken. We prayed together and took up each others causes in love.
Though some may have been tramatized by loss, we declared together in the Spirit and we appealed to the Lord to heal and restore and resurrect those things. We released over the global YWAM family, a new day of beginnings in the grace of God.
At first I feel Christmas pressure, a negative reaction to the appearance of Santa in shopping malls. Have you noticed he’s earlier every year? What are they going to do, have him sit on pumpkins next year? I react to the World’s Way trying to press me into it’s mold. That first wave of pressure makes me resist shopping. So I put off shopping to the last week or so, until after a careful look at my budget. It’s not that I don’t want to give gifts; I just want to give freely, and without all the commercial expectation.
The Appearing of Christ at Christmas
That early phase of unholy pressure begins to fade as the date draws near. My heart warms to a different expectation. I begin to hope for the appearing of the Christ of Christmas. But then I notice the World’s reaction. Here in Madison, the Freedom from Religion foundation objects to a Christmas tree on public property and so they protest by placing a fake crèche and a baby girl doll and Thomas Jefferson figurine in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Sadly, those who reject Christ are stuck in a world without hope, a Darwinian world where survival of the fittest remains the ultimate value. The hopelessness of a purely materialist worldview will drive people to seek significance and happiness in material things, including saving the planet.
Then, the deep hope of Christ’s appearing takes new root again in my heart. Slowly, subtly, I find the grace to celebrate the birth of Christ. I realize that the expectation of his appearing is not complete in merely remembering that manger scene, where the Son of God was born 2000 years ago. He has come. He is Emanuel, God with us.
The expectation of Christmas, the Advent season, is his appearing AGAIN. He is coming. And all creation is longing for his appearing. That same longing is for the appearance of the sons of God, the Body of Christ. Not only will Christ Jesus come, he will set all things right.
Because we received the free Christmas gift
Meanwhile, the sons of God, those of us who have received the free Christmas gift of faith, are urged to “appear” with Christmas gifts. We’re called to make things right, reconciling relationships of all sorts, in his Name. We’re called to reconcile all relationships, beginning with our relationship with Him.
We “appear” as “Sons” when we love God and our neighbors. The Christmas season is the time to be reconciled with family, with our community, and with our nation (despite political differences), It is the time to be reconciled with our world. It is wrong to reject the world, the world to which Jesus was sent, because he loves the world.
Receive and Give the Free Gifts of Christmas
This Christmas, we can receive again the free gift of our world and we can choose to love it. We can love the amazing creative structure of our world, and we can help reconcile the mis-direction, the way of the World.
This Christmas, may you enjoy the wondrous appearing of Christ again in your family, in your world. Have a blessed Christmas!
So then, as creatures of desire, created to love and be loved, we have an intent, a direction and purpose in life. We seek a vision of the good life. All our choices, actions, and habits emerge as we are pulled by our hearts toward a picture of that good life, the city, or that kingdom.
Such a vision will always include implicit assumptions, which may include some kind of answer to the following questions:
What is a good relationship?
What is a just economy?
What play or recreation do we value?
How do we relate to nature and our environment?
What is good work?
What is flourishing family?
What, therefore, does it mean to be “saved”?
Everyone has answers of some kind tucked away in our hearts. Possessing a vision of a future is implicit in the fact that we are created in God’s image. Our hopes and dreams are what get us up out of bed in the morning. Our desire for a kingdom may or may not be the same desire, or the same kingdom, for which Jesus of Nazareth went to the cross. However blurred or distorted our vision may be, the fact that we have a vision is testament to God’s creative impulse within us.
The question we must ask ourselves in the quiet place is this: Does my heart pull me toward the One who created me for good?
Your answer will lead you to live a life worthy of such a calling.
“If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid a foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last.” (Luke 6:48 Message)
Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not merely additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.” (Luke 6:47 Message)
Sounds pretty important to me
But what was Jesus referring to exactly? What are we building and why?
Jesus was wrapping up his Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, the DNA of the Kingdom of God, and the Lord’s Prayer, instruction on how to appeal to God for his help in fulfilling his mission in the earth. Jesus was a carpenter by trade; he used the metaphor of building to get his point across. His sermon was kind of like a builder’s “shop-talk” for the large crowd that gathered to listen to him in Galilee.
Do you find it interesting that the crowds that gathered around Jesus were often too big for the buildings of his day? On one occasion when Jesus did gather people in a house, a few determined men who sought healing for their paralytic friend “removed some tiles” from the roof, and “let him down in the middle of everyone.” (Luke 5:18 Message) Of course, Jesus healed the man because he and his friends had great faith.
The Building Process: Internal and External
Imagine walking through the trailer on the site of a major new building project. On the wall is a chart showing all the various tasks for each of the contractors. Jesus sermon was about all the tasks and tools used to build our lives, our families, our communities, and our nations. He was speaking of how to build a community which would soon be called the “Church.”
Jesus was teaching his audience about the tools of the kingdom, how to love enemies, how to be merciful, giving, forgiving, and not-judging. He said, “Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (v.42) He spoke of the organic nature of the kingdom when he spoke about fruit-bearing, “your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (v.45) It appears the “building” Jesus is referring to is NOT a place of worship; it’s a people of worship.
Who is doing the building?
Neil Cole, in his book “Organic Church” asks: “Do you trust laymen on their own?”
Look again at what Jesus said: “If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter …” Sounds like Jesus intends for “you” to be the builder.
Unfortunately down through the ages spiritual authorities, whether they are Pharisees or modern ministers, have too often failed to trust God’s people to “build”.
Roland Allen‘s important book focuses on the fact that Paul’s missionary activity was church planting and that he quickly turned over leadership to the “builders.” Without exception, all the churches that Paul planted in the gentile world were left alone; and, in every case, God’s people managed to survive and express Christ and His church. Certainly, Paul’s missionary work produced what we call “New Testament churches.”
Paul’s “New Testament churches” seem to be different than ours. Our concept of New Testament Church keeps coming up with a “senior” pastor and a passive and mute laity. Paul’s method was to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” which is to proclaim Jesus is Lord in every family, every community, sphere of society and every nation.
A Changing World
Today’s world is very different than the Paul’s world, but let’s look at the similarities. The first century was dominated by a single world power, Rome. Today’s world also has a single world power. At the same time, the Roman world was culturally diverse, pluralist. And today, when you visit any major city, university, or shopping mall, you will see and hear people from many cultures. In fact, there has never been a time in history like the first century quite like there is today.
And yet, the world is vastly different from the first century and any other time in history. Within the past few years, the demographic center of the Christian world has shifted from the North and West to the South and East. The new Majority Church is in the Global South. The accessibility to information technologies is rapidly changing the world, including the Arab world and China. It appears the pressures caused by the flow of information among the people in the Arab world will effectively change Middle Eastern nations and their primary business models. OPEC will likely face pressures and break up, releasing a more market-based system. Those nations will likely shift from economies based on a single product, crude oil, to a market-based economy. That change will likely also open the way for alternative energy sources; a change that is too restrictive now due to our dependence on foreign oil.
The emerging generation has more access to information and connection with “friends” than any previous generation. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat helped frame the significance of these changes. Friedman’s book was out before the emergence of FaceBook. If Facebook were a country, the number of people on that one social media tool would be one of the five most populated nations on earth. It is second nature for most people today to collaborate for social change. This change alone will affect every modern institution including churches. The effect of these major socio-political, economic, and demographic shifts is “like a flood.”
Like no other time in history is it necessary to build on a solid foundation in obedience to Jesus. Building the people of God to do the work of God everywhere. We must trust God’s people to be the priesthood to proclaim the good news by every means, inside the domain of church ministries and outside that domain. If we do follow Jesus’ instruction and Paul’s method, what is built will be “build to last.”
The noise of the one hundred students moving their metal chairs into circles was deafening. The Nairobi Church auditorium echoed with loud screeching as students from nearby University of Nairobi shuffled to form their groups according to the spheres or domains of society; arts, media, business, education, family, government, etc.
The room was buzzing with excitement. The intensive seminar, “Calling Quest 2001 – Transforming Your Nation Through Your God-given Vocation” is one of a series of seminars I have presented around the world for Youth With A Mission‘s Student Mobilization Centre. At this event, I had the help of three of our YWAM Madison School of the Bible interns. After the first of several presentations, the students were anxious to discuss and search the Scriptures for answers to the hard questions.
Accompanying us was a team of thirteen students from Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, UC San Bernadino, and UVA, all of whom had been prepared to lead the Domains Small Group discussions during our week-long Field Ministry Internships orientation in Switzerland. When we arrived in Kenya, they came with questions too. Ju Rhyu, one of the Brown students, brought these questions:
How can I bring transformation in a world of injustice? What is my place in this world? Though I yearn to see justice in a world with nations rejoicing, the burdens and problems that stand before me seem too daunting, too massive. AIDS, poverty, corruption – how do I even begin to think about these things?
It was the week of July 24-27, 2001. Yes, only a few weeks later the world would be shocked at the events of September 11, 2001. (Several American colleagues and I were still in Nairobi on that day. We were attending an international conference for the University of the Nations. We were stranded in Kenya and then Europe, waiting for the airports to unclog so we could return to our families and friends in the USA, and a very different world.)
Ju’s questions loom even larger in the face of a world terrorized by a few radicals. What could a few Christ followers do in the face of such evil? How could they help end the injustices of the poor? What is God’s good purpose for humankind? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? And are we called to serve the needs of the world?
Actually, we have two calls from God. Enjoying friendship with God, not merely right relationship, is our first call. Adam and Eve, the first inhabitants of the world in our God Story, enjoyed friendship with God. They were called twice. First, they were called to serve in the garden with the words “dress it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). God made human beings in His image to rule and to be fruitful under His reign with full dependence on Him. Second, after Adam and Eve disobeyed and sin entered the world, God’s call became a cry seeking his lost friends. “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).
However, calling changed after the tragic Fall of humankind. Because of the Fall, our first call is not to service, but to restored relationship. St. Augustine expressed the call to restored relationship to God in his Confessions,
“Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
When we are lost and outside relationship with God, our first call is to restored relationship through faith.
Calling to do something in the world was not separated from the call of intimate friendship. Both callings are integral to our relationship with God; both are integral to the imprint of God’s image.
Sadly, most of the students I spoke with in Nairobi that summer were not able to see a valid contribution or calling beyond the domain of the church.Though many were students of architecture, business, and communications, they did not understand the God-given calling to be an architect, or business person, or journalist. They thought the call to be a pastor or evangelist was the highest calling.
What do you think?
Our Domains Small Groups continued to press in diligently with their questions. They began to understand the imprint of God, what it means to be created in God’s image. The student groups searched the daily newspapers to see what was happening in their chosen sphere of society. Then they sought the Scriptures to understand God’s ways of governing the world.
Our team of student leaders prayed together with the Nairobi students for the very real and very current needs in the domains of health care, education, business, family, etc. They began to see past the stigma and blindness to the ills of their own society. For example, though there were already ten million AIDS orphans, it was only that summer that the first newspaper article reported that AIDS was the cause of someone’s death.
After the intensive seminar, the students continued to meet weekly to study and pray in their groups. They even took prayer walks around major centers of business, education, media, etc. They became activated in God’s calling to “dress and keep” the world. One group was ushered into the Deputy Mayor’s Office to present some of their findings and discuss the need for a better sewage system.
The students began to understand the high calling of living according to God’s design, offering their gifts, skills, and natural abilities in service to their neighbors and their world. Much of our ministry to the Poor is in helping our them understand their high calling, that they are created in the image of God. This leads us to Key #4.
Key #4: Defend the Image of God in the Poor.
The Nairobi university students at that CallingQuest and other seminars conducted over the summer of 2001 were among the most privileged of Kenyan society. However, they were missing something. We too are “Poor” if we fail to know our identity and vocation, our calling in God.
Those who know God have responsibility to the Poor. We are called to define and defend the image of God in the Poor. Because we know we are created in His image and we know His voice calling us to intimate friendship and purpose in this world, we must be diligent to defend the image of God in the Poor.
The Poor are not lazy or stupid. Jayakumar Christian writes,
“A people so close to the edge cannot afford laziness or stupidity. They have to work and work hard. Most of the lazy and stupid are dead.”
We too should be diligent. Our church life and worship should celebrate our relationship with Jesus Christ, our reconciliation with God. However, we also have the responsibility to minister to the Poor. We must look for ways in which the Poor have been limited in their access to love, justice, or peace.
Ministry to the Poor is not merely about access to material needs; it’s about removing obstacles and giving access to the cultural, social, spiritual, personal, and biological spheres of community.
Our outreach to the Poor should affect the whole system of poverty, the diabolical web to which they are bound. Our ministry is reconciliation. We are called to restore relationships, including relationship with God (religion, philosophy, theology), Community (political science and economics), the Environment (biology, ecology, engineering), the Wider World (sociology, international relations, justice), and Individuals (psychology, health care).
Ju Rhyu expresses her deepest desire that:
Through our time in Nairobi we would be able to teach that God reigns over and in and through all. He is Lord of government, business, science, technology, education, family, the church, arts and communications. The sacred should not be self-contained and relegated to a position of non-influence, but rather, should extend itself to influence holistically.
“But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.” – Gal 2:18
This phrase penned by the Apostle Paul follows the prophetic impulse of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah:
“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:9-11 (NIV)
For those of us with that same prophetic impulse, I hope that you will be fueled with a passion to “build” what God is wanting to build and “tear down” those systems, beliefs, and practices which God does not approve. The apostolic and the prophetic are essential to the laying of foundations of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The “builder” anointing and impulse of the apostolic and prophetic is coupled with the “destroy and overthrow” anointing. The Spirit of God resists the proud. Anything, temples, kingdoms, or belief systems which resist the gentle flow of the Holy Spirit are marked for destruction.
Isa 57:14 And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
Then, after the destruction, the anointing to build takes the lead. Those whom God has rescued, the poor and the needy, the ones who have humbly sought God for grace, then become the builders.
Isa 61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
The caution Paul offers in the building process is to beware of building systems that will resist the gentle flow of God’s Spirit as He seeks to rescue and restore the poor and needy.
Our table is the center of our home. It’s the place our family comes together, the place we welcome friends, neighbors, and strangers. We invite others into the kitchen where we chop and sauté vegetables, bake bread, stir sauces, pour the fruit of the vine (juice or wine, you choose), and prepare to savor the meal. Rich conversation with others around food is how we live, how we love each other, how we teach our children, and how we learn about others and our world.
We thought everyone enjoyed meals as families. We thought everyone invited people into their homes to share their lives. Sadly, we’ve met a growing number of people who rarely if ever sit at table with their families, let alone anyone else. By sharing our table with international students, young people from various religious and non-religious backgrounds, happy homes and broken homes, we’ve learned how very desperate this generation is for authentic relationships.
But that’s not all. The simplicity of sharing meals and intimate conversation may be more than we thought.
Think about it. Table fellowship was central to early church gatherings. Long before all the complex religious practices, the beautiful sanctuaries and the hierarchy of leaders were added to the simplicity of sharing life in Christ with others, believers shared meals from house to house. Though some gatherings may have been in the synagogue or a rented hall, much of the growth of the church came about in the intimate spaces, especially table fellowship. Without the New Testament scriptures, people gathered to remember the words Jesus spoke. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and spoke the simple gospel message and the church rapidly grew. People opened their homes and others brought their appetites, desiring to grow in their relationship with Jesus, which caused the growth of the “spiritual house”, the new temple of worship. It appears Jesus intends, and the early apostles taught, that we should be priests offering spiritual sacrifices from the altar of table fellowship. Peter writes:
“Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:2-5
There’s more. The New Testament “priesthood” is very different from the Old Testament priesthood and their focus on Temple worship. Before Jesus went to the cross, he prophesied the total destruction of the Temple, which came about before the end of the first century, and which resulted in the end of Temple worship. Jesus instituted a new form of altar worship, table fellowship. He instructed his followers to remember his sacrifice. Paul writes to the Corinthian believers:
“the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor. 11:22-24
Jesus instructed us to “remember” and Peter instructed us to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”. Priests offer intercession, prayer for the people, including all nations. The Old Testament priests were born priests; they were from the tribe of Levites. The Levites offered the blood of bulls, goats, and doves for the remission of sin. Some became corrupt, seeking and maintaining power, and failing to intercede for the nations. Of all the words Jesus spoke, he spoke most harshly to those corrupt leaders that failed to be priests and a light to the Gentiles.
The “tribe” of priests in the New Testament are also born to a priesthood; they are born of the Spirit. They are not individually priests with special callings. The priesthood is all those born of the Spirit. New Testament priests do not shed blood, as the Levites did. Instead, they recall the complete and finished work of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, our high priest:
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” – Heb. 7:23-27
So this priesthood is not for a select few in the Church, not a specialized role that must be earned and not a special class of people within the Church. This priesthood of all believers is the call to intercede, to pray and offer a different kind of “sacrifice” on a different kind of altar.
Table fellowship had become very controversial in the early church. Peter struggled with the issue and Paul confronted him about it:
“But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” – Gal. 2:11-12
Jewish believers needed to learn Christ’s mission. They needed to be free from their cultural and religious systems of power. They needed to recognize how those systems resist Holy Spirit.
Finding freedom in the Spirit will lead us to cooperate with him. He is here to make Jesus known in all the earth. The Holy Spirit is spreading the good news. Our part is to be that priesthood, inviting our neighbors to table fellowship. Preaching is important, but we must not neglect breaking bread with neighbors as part of our intercession for our neighborhood as a kingdom of priests.
Today we celebrate the American holiday, Thanksgiving. Typically our house fills up on Thanksgiving as we host students from far away lands and friends with no immediate family nearby. One year we had 25 people at our elongated dining room table(s). It’s a lot of work, but we count it pure joy, especially when international students experience a bit of our family life, a home away from home, and learn of our national tradition of giving thanks to God for his goodness and mercy.
These past two years we have traveled long distances to gather with family we have not seen for some time. Last year it was Texas; this year, Pennsylvania. It’s another American Thanksgiving tradition. We traverse the congested interstate highways to gather with family, hug, laugh, listen to stories, catch up on all the events of the year, and we eat. We feast with lots of good food. Family joy!
I typically wake early to put the turkey in the oven. This year, with no cooking chores, I woke early anyway. I slept on the sofa at my brother Rob’s place. Not yet fully awake I decided to begin this Thanksgiving by literally giving thanks.
I’m thankful for everything. Family, friends, health, home, every breath I take. I’m thankful for the gift of an active mind. I’m thankful for the example of men and women who have taught me how to live. I’m thankful for the example of Christians with minds wide awake.
It was November 24, 1654 Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and Christian writer was converted to Christ. I’m thankful for Pascal’s life and example, his passion, and his mind.
Though raised with a general acceptance of the Bible, Pascal had no genuine faith in God. Following the Augustinian tradition, Pascal developed an acute sense of guilt for sin. He once wrote: “If one does not know himself to be full of pride, ambition, concupiscence, weakness, pettiness, injustice, one is very blind. And if, knowing this, a man does not desire to be delivered, what can one say to him?”
After Pascal was nearly killed on the road by an accident with his horses, he experienced a profound Christian conversion. According to his diaries, light flooded his room. He experienced the presence of Jesus, and he became impassioned for the Word of God.
I first read about Blaise Pascal in Os Guinness’ book The Call. Apparently, after this intense conversion experience, Pascal carried around a piece of parchment sewn into his coat with these words:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars…Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…’This is life eternal that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ…May I not fall from him forever…I will not forget your word. Amen.”
I’m thankful for Pascal’s example. I’m thankful that such a brilliant scientist was not ashamed to reorient his life toward God. I’m thankful that I too experience the presence of Jesus in my life.
By the time the Letter to the Ephesians is written, the church has emerged as a social and political force. The author, likely not Paul, has identified problems of the universal significance of God’s act in Christ. This letter shares the theme of Romans (Jew & Gentile conflict), but that conflict is apparently fading. There’s little reference to that conflict in Ephesians. However, a wider conflict in the Greco-Roman world has emerged: The challenge of the pagan worldview of pantheism. In this letter, the author argues that Christ is supreme.
This author is not likely to be Paul. Though clearly dedicated to Paul’s message, the author brilliantly outlines Paul’s gospel of grace. The message is Christ and his supremacy. In this letter we find a “representational Cristology”, which is the revelation that we can determine our future based on Christ’s life and resurrection.
The flow of the the argument is in two parts. First, the “Universal Significance of Christ” (1:3 – 3:21), which includes meditations on the meaning of Christ and the revelation of God’s eternal plan, with the presence of Holy Spirit as guarantee until inheritance. Christ is described as “head” of creation and of the church, but Christians sit with him in heavenly places. Therefore, Christians are free from the prince of the power of the air. God’s mysterious and eternal plan has always been Christ’s death & resurrection.
The purpose of the Church, then, is to make the mystery known, to declare the outcome of Christ’s finished work. That is, the church is to declare the unity of humanity in Christ, that there is no longer any “wall” or distinction between Jew or Gentile. Through the cross, Christ has reconciled all to God. (4:1-6:20)
The author then directs the reader’s attention to behavior, how we should then live, in light of these realities. Believers need to understand how to relate to non-believers and how to make their stand against forces of darkness. We are called to “live worthy”, functioning as members of a family, with good order, and self-sacrificial love.
The first of the nine patterns of emerging churches as outlined in the book, Emerging Churches, by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs, is “Identifying with Jesus.”
Many evangelicals have witnessed the “seeker-sensitive” approach to church. While this approach may have been justified at one time, many today recognize that it was inadequate. A seeker sensitive approach inadvertently teaches “people to be passive spectators, objects, receivers.” (Bolger & Gibbs 2005: 172)
When he spoke to the Samaritan woman, Jesus said the “Seeker” is the Father, implying that “we are His heart’s desire.” (Organic Churches, Cole 2005: 39) Jesus is our model for living and worship. He lived the Father’s mission. His supreme purpose was not measured in the number of his followers. He did not write a book. He did not create an organization or build a building. Jesus’ supreme purpose is to bring glory to his Father. In doing so, he lived in intimacy with his Father, seeking to do that which gives his Father pleasure.
Rather than leading seeker-sensitive churches, emerging churches are seeking to identify with Jesus. This new “seeker-generating” approach is not about a place, but a Person. Rather than ask people to, “Come to us,” emerging church groups emphasize a call to be like Jesus, moving around the neighborhood, engaging the community, and extending his family to the ends of the earth.