Where have we come from?
We have not so much left behind buildings, meetings and services. We have not so much left behind false teaching, false teachers and the clergy/laity divide.
What we have left behind is the religious system known as "church".
The system is easily recognised, it looks like this:
- People at the top, who tell others what to do but don't listen.
- People in the middle, where there is division between those who want to maintain the system and those who see the need for change.
- People at the bottom, where many have given up all hope of seeing their spiritual lives change for the better.
The system is easily recognised, it works like this:
- Formal use of power and authority.
- Routine and mechanistic ways of working.
- Predominance of one-way communication.
Most all of us "out" of the system have had time "in the wilderness" this is so that we learn to rely on the Lord for our walk and not on the system (and not on any other person). Having connections is good, but if we rely on them for our walk with the Lord, that's not.
The ekklesia have been brought through a process of learning to rely on the Lord again for everything. The Lord first, then people, not the other way around. What I have noticed is the church system wants people reliant on it and so they are afraid to leave. Paul would say, "who has bewitched you?".
Where are we now?
I have in mind now the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These are the books that got me started on this journey, although I did not realise it at the time.
When the captives returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, the altar was broken, the temple dismantled and the city walls lay in ruins with the stones burned with fire; the gates had been smashed from their hinges.
These images from the Old Testament help us to "see", to perceive, to understand the spiritual reality we are faced with today. The church system, spiritual Babylon, has done more than a great deal of damage, it has systematically brought to ruins the work of God in the earth.
Here's some pictures to meditate on:
- Repairing the altar - true worship - individuals relating to God on His terms.
- Rebuilding the temple - restoration of the body of Christ.
- Repairing the city walls - individuals expressing (showing) life in Christ again.
- Gates put back in place - the elders sat in the gates - restoration of the spiritual wisdom, power and authority of the ekklesia.
Where we are now is the Lord repairing and restoring the lives of his people, individually and then collectively.
We are still very much "individual" at the moment, much like the dry bones scattered across the wilderness. But we are in the process of being brought back to life as a body again (and a spiritual army that cannot be defeated).
Where are we going?
The eternal purposes of God include:
- A wife for the Son.
- Sons for the Father.
- A house for the Holy Spirit to live in.
- A city the ekklesia can call their own.
It's the city that has my focus at this time, repairing the broken lives of the saints and restoring the ekklesia.
Enough of this broken down city wall. It's about time the Lord had a full return on His investment in us.
How will we get there?
The cost of the church system's behaviour has been very high on the members of the body of Christ. We have been subject to spiritual chaos and confusion at least and spiritual abuse at worst.
The environment of the church system has been fatally toxic to the ekklesia, I think that's a big part of why we have been called out. The wounds of the church system's spiritual beating are taking time to heal.
The question I have often been asked is how can we see a fully functioning ekklesia if:
- We can't get people to physically meet up?
- We can't get people to agree on how to move forward?
- People have promised themselves they will never commit to anything like "church" again?
Up to now, I've not had much of an answer, not one that is clear and concise. But that is now changing.
What I'm going to say now may come across as totally humanistic. However, I want you to bear with me for a while.
I think the answer may be to:
- Set a stretch goal.
- Form autonomous work groups.
A stretch goal.
A stretch goal is an objective that on the one had seems so impossible yet on the other has to be achieved in order to transform our circumstances.
For me, one of the best examples of setting a stretch goal was JFK's "Man On The Moon" speech; "to send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade".
A stretch goal has four main characteristics:
- It is beyond our existing capabilities.
- It cannot be reached by incremental changes.
- It requires a collective and unified effort.
- It provides laser focus and generates energy.
So here's my proposal for the ekklesia.
We should make it our objective, that before the end of this decade, we see a fully functioning ekklesia in every major city across North America.
Autonomous work groups.
Ants have no leader, ruler or overseer. Yet each ant knows exactly what to do for the best of the colony at any given time and in any given situation. Ants are said to be one of the most successful species on the planet. From comments I have received from my LinkedIn connections, we can perhaps attribute the ant's success to two main qualities:
- No ego.
- An absence of non-aligned motives.
In many respects I think God created ants to give us a picture of what it looks like when the Lord works among His people by the power of the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ does not need organising with leaders giving instructions on what to do and how to do it. The body of Christ is a living, breathing being with Christ as the head.
Another example we can look at here is the pit crew. When a pit crew is in training mode each member of the team learns from the others. When a pit crew goes to work, each member must perform their task as an integral part of the larger whole; no one member is more or less important than another, they are all equally vital.
A practical way to get people working together.
In my experience, a group tends to function well with no less than eight and no more that twelve members. This size of group ensures enough differing points of view (perspectives) without being too difficult to communicate effectively.
This size group can then embark on a process of building an autonomous work group. The first step is to establish a common set of core values (say three). This is a practical task that gets people engaged in purposeful dialogue.
The "core values" project begins with each member of the group answering the questions:
- What is a core value?
- What do core values do?
- How do core values work?
- When are core values useful (what makes them valuable)?
Each member of the group works individually to answer these questions and then they work together to share and discuss their findings.
The group can then work on their own definition of a core value.
The next step is then for each member of the group to think of the kinds of core values (say three or four) they would like to see in place for the group. At the next group session, all the suggestions can be discussed and a list of eight or ten potential core values developed.
The group can then "vote" for the three core values they want to adopt. In my experience, out of say ten potential values, there will usually be two clear "winners" with perhaps two or three close runners up.
Again, this provides opportunity for more discussion and perhaps another round of voting.
The final stages of the core values project is for the group to rate themselves of "where are we now" for each core value, then set objectives for the future and make plans how to get there.
The idea here is to discuss current behaviours of the group and describe desired future behaviours for the group.
Rebuilding the ekklesia.
How motivated are you to rebuild the ekklesia?
Having left the chaos, confusion and toxicity of the church system, the ekklesia has returned to the Lord and found their city in ruins. The painful experiences of the church system has left many Christians feeling they would rather not "get involved" with others in the body of Christ.
Now it's time to rebuild. The objective is to see a fully functioning ekklesia in ever major city across North America before the end of this decade.
The ekklesia can begin working together in groups of between eight and twelve people by developing their own set of core values.
Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem.