Adullams Cave

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Law versus (W)holiness

To me the problem with the OT, NT law and any spiritual law system is not in the particular code itself but rather it is in me. I have within me this thing that Paul talks about as the sinful nature, the old nature or the flesh. It derives its ability to operate from the law - any law. Most of Romans and Galatians are devoted to this and most of Pauls letters talk of it to one degree or another. It was the theme he continually strived to enable others to understand. “The strength of sin is in the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56).

Of course this is not Paul's idea - it did not originate from man. God has always known that at the heart of our seperation from him we have a nature that demands its own terms, its own determination, its own control. The law, any type of law, offers this. It offers us our own confidence and a sense of self that is of our own making because spiritual law (as the sin nature sees it) depends upon our own ability to obey it. However subtle a form it may come in, however disguised it may be, our sin nature wants to perform and will use any percieved system (moral or otherwise) to attempt to do so, but unfortunately it will always leaves us in bondage.

The thing is, I believe, is that this problem existed a long time before the law came from Moses. It was their from the fall when our consciences became seared and we corruptly inherited the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of good and evil is in its most fundamental form a system of law that varies greatly or slightly from person to person. It is our own code of right and wrong, good and evil, shoulds and should'nts, musts and must'nts, righteousness and unrighteousness, do this and don't do that. It is the origins of the yin and yang in every man and woman. Up until the fall, at various points of creation in Genesis we see that it was God who was deciding what was good and the phrase was often used “and He (God) saw that it was good.” After the fall man began deciding what was good for himself. The first and most obvious example of this is when Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves because they knew (through the knowing of good and evil) that they were naked. Later on in Genesis we read that “every man was doing what was right in his own eyes.” A system of good and evil existed in every man and still does today.

With Christians this state is accentuated because we have externalised our knowing of good and evil and given names to the things that are good and those we consider bad. This varies from sect to sect, group to group and movement to movement. We have christianised the knowledge of good and evil collectively and made a religion out of it.. This has served as a very poor substitute to living out of and sharing from the reality that Christ came to DESTROY RELIGION and seeking constantly to undo the law and the knowing of good and evil within us. We now have a “form of Godliness” (a form means a formation or a FORMULA) but the greater substance and power of Christ in us is sacraficed so we can hang onto the form we have created to satisfy our flesh. This is where the Pharisees were at when Jesus came. They had the form but rejected the substance because it/He was apposed to their form - their religion. They tried to bring Christ into their own 'form of Godliness', into their own religion, but when they couldnt they killed him. We do the same today whenever something or someone appears who is outside our own box (whether within the IC or outside of it). We try and fit them into our own form, creed, belief system and code and if they don't fit they are rejected - killed. It doesnt mattter how enlightened we are, we still all have a sinful nature that demands a code or system for our selves/flesh to be recognised and unless we are continually on the guard against it we will succumb. This is why we need to constantly share and talk about these things so our flesh does not make the move of God we are currently flowing in into another "form of Godliness."

In the world every adult individual has their own code or knowing of good and evil even if it is more subtle or even if it is more terribly corrupted - like that of a serial killer or a dictator who committs genocide. On apparent study of all these types of people, they always have a reason (however warped) for believing that what they did was RIGHT. For them, darkly twisted though it may be, they were seeking to obey some moral imperative within themselves. For average folks this code may be more or less obvious but it is there. It is plainly seen if looked for because every person as they grow into adolescence experiences a change whereby they began to feel a tension between what they think they should be like and how they really are. It happens as a child grows into the knowledge of good and evil. This tension is at the heart of every pshycological disorder. It is a seperation of ourselves from ourselves and from the way God made us as children. It cuts two people from one. It gives us an added voice within ourselves that constantly either accuses or condemns (accepts or rejects) who we are versus who we think we should be. This is the same voice that makes constant commentary on all our actions.

God sent the law as an external form that we can measure ourselves up against so that we can as a result, see and hear this voice more clearly for what it is. And what it is is the knowledge of good and evil and it came as a curse. It IS the CURSE from the FALL and it is that which Christ came to redeem us from. That is why we must be “born again” and “become as children to enter the kingdom.” Paul found this out too personally for himself. This is why he said “By the grace of God I am what I am” and also why he said “I no longer judge myself.” He had learned to accept himself the way he was as a direct antidote to the curse of the law and the knowing of good and evil. Paul also said in regards to himself and the law that "all things are lawful". He learned how to dismantle the accusers voice by disposing of the law itself. It is this complete acceptance of one's total being that brings us back into wholeness and ends the seperation of self and the seperation between us and God. It is this childlikeness of faith alone in Christ that restores our purity of heart and causes the knowledge of good and evil to die. It robs the sin nature (the flesh) and the accuser of its/his power to accuse or defend us or to try and define us by some external list, code, morality or obligatory expectation etc.

This is why in both Colossians chapter 2 and Ephesians chapter 2, Paul says that Christ abolished not just the law but all the “handwriting of requirements contained in ordinances (this word means dogma)” and “created in himself one new man from the two.”

I believe as more and more believers come to understand these things that our discussions with one another will take on a new light and a new language as we realise the emptiness of trying to define ourselves by some collective FORM of what we consider acceptable and what we do not. Instead we will talk continually of the cross and the power and acceptance and wholeness and completeness that we have found there. Questions of controversy may very well become obsolete. (I do not say this as a challenge to anyone who wants and needs to talk about certain things because I think all such discussions will help us to arrive at this place (the cross) of full acceptance of ourselves and eachother.)

From a personal perspective I, having come to a deeper and ever growing understanding of the totality of Christs work on the cross, now try not to think in terms of wrong or right, good and evil but instead I think about the prize of full acceptance and righteousness in Jesus Christ that is the only true reality. If there is striving within me now it is to undo all my preconcieved ideas of what good and evil is and to let go completely of my socially and cultural and church infused form of Godliness. This at times has been messy (and appeared that way to others) but I am convinced that it is the only road for me as a believer. In essence, even though it may seem and sound like an unholy path it is actually, paradoxically, the only true path to holiness (or my new word; WHOLINESS) . Paul found out the same truth and expresses it in his own language in Philippians when he said that he considered his own moral code, that which he had been in-breathed with since birth and that which as an adult he had become an expert in, to be no more than a loss (Chapter 3: 5-7). About the law and his blameless form of Judaism and his being chosen into an elite spiritual heritage he says “...But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”

Actually this word “loss” in Philippians means the type of loss resulting from damage or violence. Paul, now entranced like a lover by Christ, considered his birthright into the Holy Law to be a loss equal to a form of personal damage that was inflicted by violence. In the next verse, (verse 8) he calls it 'rubbish.' Rubbish is a word that meant 'dung' or that which was thrown to the dogs. The law and the system of morality that was intricately entwined into Paul's shaping and character was now (in Christ) considered by him to be a loss to himself and only worthy of being thrown to the dogs. It did nothing for him except gave power to this knowledge of good and evil and he wanted above all else to dismantle and lose it utterly so that he might find Christ and be found in him with no righteousness of his own.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter's Cross...

The truth is that the more I see the cross the more I want to stay with it and have it and have the guy who was on it to stay by me. There on that little hill we have called calvary, outside the walls of the city and in the place were thieves and murderers and losers died, I have found an end to my life sorrows and the struggles that crippled me for so many years.

I have a recurring and ever growing vision that swims around my heart and mind becoming clearer and clearer whenever I close my eyes to soak in his presence and think of him. I am in a garden as a boy just looking around under rocks and playing make believe and I am alone, like I mostly felt I was as a kid, and I'm trying to make my own fun and to forget some stuff that went on regularly in the home of my boyhood. I look up and I see at the edge of the garden, where it is barren and lifeless, an old dry and dead tree sticking out of the ground with red rivulets of blood running down its base. It is the red that attracts me to it because it is the only thing giving it some colour. As I lift my head I see the vague form of a man with his feet immovably fixed parallel to the tree, one on each side, with thick nails going sideways through the heels. As I move a bit closer and my sight becomes clearer I follow the line of the man's body upwards and notice through the red map of fresh bright blood that his skin is almost as dark as the tree and the dying sun at his back is turning him into a silhouette. Again I move closer, having to squint my eyes a little because of the angle of the sun. But as I get nearer, I realise the dark skinned man is breathing still. Though still a few feet away from him, I hear each loud breath is incredibly strained and desperate. I notice that with every new attempt at breathing he has to lift his whole body upwards from his feet, using the nails that pierce his heels to push up from. Every breath he manages also pumps a new stream of blood from the nail holes in his heels. I sense the man's terrible pain as well as his desire to let go and die, and yet I can tell also that his human instinct to live is contstantly willing his body towards yet another and then another agonizing breath. I am frightened. I look around but no-one is there to help. I hesitate before moving closer to the man as I realise that tears are forming in my eyes, not so much in empathy for the man but more because of the fear and powerlessness I feel. Fear and powerlessness being two emotions I was acutely aquainted with as a young child and here, with this man who hangs before me so helplessly, the sense of them is incredibly heightened.

I stop within arms distance of the dying man. He is still laboring with all his strength for every breath. Breaths that are becoming so loud and disturbing for me that I wish in my heart he would hurry and die. The man is not aware of my presence and tentatively, in my fear, I reach out with just one small finger and touch him once lightly on his bloodied foot - somehow thinking in a childlike way that it may comfort him. Amazingly, in the immense trial of pain that the dark skinned man is experiencing, I know his body has registered my tiny touch. His eyes open and he looks at me. There is nothing striking about his features except his eyes. Within his eyes is an ancient knowing. As he looks at me and I at him, I know somehow that I have known him and that he also knows me, though never having ever seen him before. It is a difficult moment to put words to. The look he gives me is such a sudden and profound one of recognition that I feel embarressed and I have to look away. It is similar in the way I might encounter a stranger on a train and our eyes get inexplicably drawn together for a brief second just like we recognise some long, forgotten part of ourselves but cannot put a name to it. The moment passes. The man dropps his eyes shut again and attempts another breath but can barely lift himself up this time. I hear the blood gurgle and the wheeze gets louder and more strained and suddenly, for reasons I do not understand I no longer want him to die.

I move more quickly this time, ignoring the blood that covers his legs and feet, and I reach out with my little hands to try and push his body up so he can breathe. My hands slip frantically up his feet with the blood as I try to push and I know the effort is futile. New tears began to well in my eyes. The man lifts his eyelids once again and looks at me with a single acquiescent movement of his eyes that tells me it is okay. I feel forlorn and overwhelmed with such a sense of loss as if somehow, unexplainably, this man dying will mean the end of all hope for me. I am overcome with grief and began to cry openly with huge sobs that come from someplace deep within me. Then through my grief and despair I hear the man wheeze out my name softly, "Simon". It sounds like the last call of a dying father for whom the love of his young child is the only thing that matters to him. I look up again and the man holds my stare in compassion for a brief moment then glances sideways as if pointing with his eyes. I follow his eyes that turn towards one of his outstretched arms that are pinned to a cross-bar by thick nails in his wrists. I can see him straining to move his hand and then his finger slowly extends outward. I look to where his finger is pointing and see an old wooden ladder leaning against a tree only a few feet away.

Inwardly my hope rises. As I rush to get the ladder I think in my childish madness that he wants me to use it to help him down from the cross. "Maybe I can still save him!", I think.

I return with the ladder and with one downward movement of his eyes he motions for me to lean the ladder against his left-arm side of the cross bar. I do so and begin to climb hurriedly up the steps, the weight of my small body against his arm not enough to add to the pain he is already in. By the time I am at eye level with him I know instinctively that my thoughts of saving him are folly. He is not coming down from the cross alive. He stops trying to lift himself up to breathe and I know he has but a few moments before he will expel his last breath. Yet with those last few moments of his life he holds my gaze with a penetrating look and a love that seems to see into the places of my life and soul - some parts that not even I could see. And with that one look this man unveils my life to me.

As this dying man's gaze holds me for what was in reality the briefest of moments, I see myself walk through my life and into all the places where only the very broken go. I see the path where my rejected self took me. I, the boy Simon, who now is mesmerised by the eyes of the man on the cross, re-live my existence. All the dark haunts I found myself in, the places where bitter and lonely people go to use every type of device in an effort to fill their love starved lives. I sailed from one useless and vain moment to another, from alcoholism, crime and addictions, to sexual degradation and social humiliation in just about every possible form. I travelled through my life creating one crisis upon another. Arrogantly abusing women with infidelity, misogynistic control, manipulation and violent cruelty. Using every relationship and human being who crossed my path for my own ends and unable to stop the cycle of deceit, selfishness and empty fulfillment that had all begun as a little boy. A boy who at the age of six had once, on bended knees and with tears, asked God to make him good because he was sure that he was bad.

All this I was seeing through his eyes that held me like love to his cross.

Then I realise, on that lonely tree with a man about to breathe his last breath, that I am seeing my life for the first time as the sad, terrible, self centered and vain journey that it truly was. Not only that but, by way of revelation, I understand that it is just not this man's power and love that is showing me the true nature of my life. It is because at that moment as I am seeing my life unfold from beginning to end, this man is living it also, with me, even as he himself is dying. He too is breathing in each tobacco stained, drug induced and curse-laden breath. Every dark and wandering step, every hand laid upon me in anger or lust and every one I dealt out to another, every shameful act, every thrust of my yearning and corrupted loins, every sad, bitter, resentful, vile and meaningless thought and word that ever passes through me, he experiences himself - just as if he is the one doing it. Just as if he were the one who did it all. He drinks down the cup of my life lovingly like it were his very own. A cup that to a righteous man must taste like poison being poured into a pure soul. He becomes my corruption. Here, the holy one, in the final Genesis, re-makes himself in my dark and twisted image. He becomes my broken me so that I can be his whole Him.

In stark and humble awareness I see that it was not just the weight of his crucified body that was causing him to gasp so desperately for air, nor is it the blood seeping from the nail holes that is killing him. But rather, it is the sin of the ages, the billions of cups he drank just like mine, drowning this man of light in a universe of black Godlessness. Transforming him into something unrecognisable, so hideously deformed and ugly that the sky becomes black and heaven shuts its eyes as his form is "disfigured beyond that of any man."

And I, the little boy Simon, can do nothing but hold onto him around his neck and kiss his cheek gently, smearing the blood from his face over my lips and tasting the gift he gave me, listening to his last exhalation, as his spirit leaves his body like a breeze, carrying the words that I have waited to hear all my life, softly to my ear like a whisper, "It is finished, it is finished, it is finished..."


Oh, dear, dearest one of God
Your highest and utmost
exchanged
For my lowest and my least
This cross, this cross, this wonderful cross
Where the ancient Most High became one with us
On a filthy, bloodied and accursed tree
Upon a hill that was barren but for thee
The Son's lasts breath
Beneath a blackened sky
and darkened heaven
As Father hid himself to weep
For that which he could not bare to see
Thank you, oh thank you, oh thank you....

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Culinary Perfection (One for the Ladies - and the creative men)

As we have been speaking of perfect things I have to tell you something that to many of you may seem trivial but to me is very exciting. Before I tell you though and with tongue formly tucked into my cheek, I feel a need to also announce quite clearly that I am not gay (only of heart). Infact if anything I am extra-hetro but that is a whole other confessional, except to say, that when God was dishing out hetrosexuality I thought he called out 'icecream' and I asked for a double serving. Having stated that, I do inexplicably enjoy the peculiar comfort of pottering around my house in a tastefully colored Moo Moo and believe it or not, 'Simon The Rejected' also gets off big time in the kitchen.

Yeppers...I am, or at least up until recently, I was, a frustrated chef. I say frustrated because as some of you know I've had for what seems like forever a nasty gastritis in my tum tum that has made anything except really bland foods not so yum yum. Anyway these last couple of weeks my tum tum has healed... thank you jesus....and I am back on chilli, coffee (that explains the increased blogging of late), chinese food and all manner of other exotic and spicy foods that titillate my taste buds.

This has been and continues to be a great joy for me because, Jesus knows, I really like my food. This makes perfect sense for anyone who like me once ate drugs for a living, downgraded gradually to steady alcohol intake, dropped further under the sanctifying work of the spirit to a staple diet of inhaled tobacco and an occasional immoral act, until finally by his grace there was nothing left except FOOD!!!! (Well okay, maybe the odd {and I DO mean odd - but not gay odd. Got that!?} illicit movie running through my brain).

So food is it for me people. Its all I got left basically and I'm gonna milk (pun intended) it for all I can while I can. Who knows? He may take it away one day and I'll end up sucking beef puree through a straw and reminiscing of the good old days when I could eat pizza, Thai food and hetrosexual ice cream half an hour before going to bed and still experience an uninterupted 8 hours of pleasant dreams...... Ahhhhh....the good life.

Now, I know I am taking a long time to get there folks but the wait will be worth it if you have love for all things digestable. You see I have over the past couple of years had, from time to time, spiritual culinary secrets dowloaded from my friend Goddy, the master of all masters when it comes to cooking. It started with simple curries and how to make them. He showed me how to make hot and wonderful Nothern Indian curries, side plates of fruit accompaniments included. Then came the Thai green curry which I humbly admit to making superbly. Then joyful exploration into lively salads, middle eastern foods like hummous with falafel and pita breads and pasta sauces with vegetarian bases etc.

I have to say that my growth into cooking has happened quite miraculously. It was not an inclination that was passed down from my either of my parents although my dad knew how to make a mammoth full English sunday breakfast as well as a damn good Yorkshire pudding. But there it ended. As for my mum if she had any inclination towards cooking she hid it from us kids almost as well as she hid her purse. I am not joking; her meat loaf (God bless her) was once patented as a new eatable building material ( the patent was dropped after the company that was interested in it discovered that it was not infact eatable after all). Even our family dog, the German Sheperd learnt how to dial for take out.

Nope, my cooking ability has been supernatural. I only rarely use cook books and traditional recipes. What happens is I usually just get a spur of the moment instinctive compulsion to throw certain foods together and somehow the creation comes out right. Either the Holy Spirit is talking to me at the time or the Iron Chef has astro-travelled all the way from Asia to Australia, into my brain and somehow found a way to translate from Japanese into English these amazing culinary delights. I think the former is more likely dont you? I mean if it were the Iron Chef the big question going begging would be, "Why would he do it?!"

So, this brings me to the reason for this post (apart from the all the coffee I mean) because last night it happened and then again today and I am so excited because it has been so long since I got something new! Last night I planned to have grilled fish and vegetables. Sounds ok huh? Sure it is nice but at the last moment, as I am putting the fish under the grill, I get one of my downloaded flashes from either God or the Iron Chef. It came to me in one split second and it was really quite simple:

"Why don't you put a half cup of canned, diced tomatoes over the fish and then smear a teaspoon of mashed ginger across the top of that and then douse the whole thing in a quarter of a cup of coconut milk and then grill it all together on the foil. Turn it once at the end for a few minutes and you got something that is fish but so much more interesting."

Wow. Sounds simple right? Yep, it took me two minutes and then 10 minutes grilling time and it was Alleluia! It was beautiful. I want you to try it next time you have fish. If you want an even better marinated taste then fry it all together in a pan with the coconut milk. You won't be sorry.

Then today I get another one even better while grabbing some stuff at the store. Again within a moment I see a list of ingredients and I buy them and take them home ready to have lunch!

I took a whole peeled avocadoe, about 4 real good tablespoons of light philedelphia cream cheese, two tablespoons of margarine, quarter cup of diced canned tomatoes, a half teaspoon of mashed ginger, half teaspoon of salt and a handful of diced shallots and then just mashed it all together into a consistent mix. It took me about five minutes to do the lot. I ended up with a 400 gram tub. Whats it for?! To spread on your bread or crackers! Honestly tis wonderful like. I had it on bread rolls with pastrami ham and lettuce. It was so good I had three of them. You can spread it thick or thin to your own liking. TRY IT!!! Maybe you will get a creative dowload yourself and add some twists! Maybe it has already been created but I sure didn't know about it. It is a bonafide miracle!

Anyway, what all this means is that our Goddy is good and really just loves to love us in real gritty personal ways like showing us how to make food that we really like as well as the big giant type ways like the DEATH of His dear SON and our dear BROTHER JESUS upon the CROSS!

All glory to Goddy! (Or just in case; a bit of glory to the Iron Chef - one never knows).

Be Ye Perfect

This is my post responding to a recent discussion on Jesus's words, "Be ye perfect" of Mathew 5 fame. After I wrote it I liked it so I thought I would post it here too:

How about that Jesus didn't ever mean "You shall be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect" as a command, but rather, as a prophetic utterance. As a formal announcement of his intention, of his purpose, the highest declaration of his plan for his service toward us on earth. "You SHALL be perfect" is how it translates. This makes beautiful heart stopping sense because later on this word "perfect" is used again when Jesus prophetically describes how his very own state will be on the day he arises from the dead (Luke13:32). Here the word "perfected" is a slightly varied form of the same root word, Telos, from which Telios comes from in "Be Ye Perfect." Again the writer of Hebrews also uses the exact same word when describing not only Jesus being "perfected" in his sufferings (Hebrews 5:9) but also you and me having ALREADY BECOME "perfect"by "ONE OFFERING" in Hebrews 10:14. YEEEEEEAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

This means that we are already there. There is no new message. No ifs, musts or buts. We are there! No wars to be won, no tests to complete, no mammoth tasks left undone and no frigging codes left to paralyse us! It is only that we need to truly believe it in order to truly enjoy it. Not believing it doesnt make it any less true or sure. It just makes us insecure....

If you are unsure then do a study on this word "perfect" in the NT.It has various inflections, many deriving from Telos but you will come up with the perfect conclusion that "YE ARE PERFECT." Just as our "father in heaven is perfect" you and I share the same pefection that Jesus achieved on the day he rose from the dead. There isnt another type of perfection. There is not one type of perfection we have by faith and one we strive for. The one by faith IS the one we strive for - except we strive to rest in it, not to do it.

"It is finished" which Jesus breathed out with his last breath incidentally means "perfected" too. It also is from the same word telos. It is even a stronger form of the word "perfect." It is like saying the word "perfect" but with enthusiasm. It is like a common man, like you and me, coming across a job that is done so well it astounds us, so we exclaim, "Man! That is damn perfect!"

So excuse me while I repeat myself;"YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Simon the Rejected

I have not written for a while. Not a good look for someone who thought he would be SuperBlogger....he,he.

Ive been reading another post for quite some time and I was a very active member of that list also for several months. I found myself feeling hurt that no-one asked after me as I stopped posting there. I was still reading but just not sharing because of the personal space I happen to have been in, maybe still am in. I was also quite hurt and dissapointed that those who I had opened my life to through that list also never visited my blog when I started it, never left any comments or encouraged me whatsoever. I think one or maybe two people who I didnt know visited Adullams Cave once or twice.

Wow....As I write this I realise that the above is very real for me. I got hurt by them and stopped sharing. It is the person that I am. I am thin skinned in this area. I have a big heart and since walking into some awesome healing in the last few years by Big Goddy I have become quite a vulnerable person. I thought this healing would make me more like a man of steel with a sheild of exuberated love to protect me as I marched my way through the miry world. But nope - I ended up becoming a soppy, sensitive, easily hurt, woossy little boy. I am soft and squishy on the inside and still display old defensive patterns on the outside to protect me from all you meanies!

When I started on the said list I thought it would be this new and exciting journey as I was embracing and walking with others in the ethernet in ground breaking, cutting edge, revelation of the spirit, vibrant ex-church, reformation style..... Hmmm....bummer it turned out the way it did. I own a lot of it of course. The truth is I stopped being honest with them as I began to sense that some of my thoughts that I expressed made people feel uncomfortable. And some people told me they did. I seem to have been graced with that ability (hear the self pity?...blah!)

Anyway this story is the one of my life thus far. It has happened again and again, ad infinitum, at every church/christian group etc that I have walked in to - then out of. The result of this repetitive exercise has led me to two conclusions that I am convinced of:

1) I, all my life (much longer story), have suffered deeply from rejection and the Lord in his loving and gentle way has seen fit to allow these same circumstances over and over until I can find my whole and full acceptance in Him - as all that TRULY MATTERS. This has been both incredibly painful and incredibly joyful. I have a security now within myself and within him that I did not ever think I would be able to have this side of the New Jerusalem. Still I have further to go. The best is yet to come.

and;

2) That I, together with the rest of the church and all the people who make up the church of Jesus Christ are just playing childrens games until we learn to love in practice. I dont now how yet....partly because of number 1) and partly because I have never been shown (except of course by him).

I wonder what it will look like when we find it and start giving it to one another with the same enthusiasm and quantity that we have shared all the lesser revelations that have amused us like tidliwinks for so long.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Christ came to save!

How can we tell people that God loves them unconditionally and in the same breath tell them they must believe or they are going to eternal torment?

It is the greatest oxy-moron in Christendom: People are condemned to the fiery tortures of hell forever unless they believe in the FREE GIFT of Christ and his death and resurrection. It does not make any sense. That God so freely offers the life of his son as the redemption price for the life of the world but then puts a price tag on the appropriation of that free gift; namely, the person's ability to believe it. It is the same as offering someone a free service but then charging them for the trouble of giving it to them freely. You see the problem don't you? According to the bible, faith to believe unto salvation is also a gift. Therefore it cannot be this God whom we have come to know as one of infinite love has given the gift of eternal life to some and condemned others to suffer excruciating torment forever. The God that I have come to know so dearly is not like this. "God is love." It is not in his character to behave this way. Even if there is a stipulation to believe then surely it is given to all men at the moment of death or even afterward. Otherwise the scripture that speaks of Jesus coming to SAVE the world and that he is the savior of ALL men cannot be true. I wonder too at Pauls message to the Corinthians when he says, "do you not know that you will judge the world?" It may be that we who have received mercy upon mercy for our sins are one day given the opportunity to show that same mercy to all those who have not known it in this life.

Do not think the world is not aware of this stark contradiction that perpetually emanates from the visible church. At every level of the traditional church system the stench of this deception permeates its every word and action because it packages God's unconditional love in a box made of conditions. Conditions that the church itself has wrongfully prescribed and that are impossible for the majority of people to fulfill. The world smells this stench much more clearly than we do and they are kept at a distance because of it. I mean it simply is not logical to say to someone "Jesus loves you and died for you - all you have to do is believe." Such a statement robs the true cross of its saving power. It corrupts the pure good news of the gospel and turns it into just another religion where individuals must earn their way to God and his heaven. Blahhhhhhh!

I mean, when we sow the seeds of the gospel in a manner which is in any way conditional we actually disempower the hearer from being able to believe. It is the same as creating a spiritual law and trying to enforce people to obey it. It always has the opposite effect because the law, according to Paul the Apostle, is what empowers sin in the first place. When we say to others "oh you just have to say the sinners prayer, you just have to put your hand up, you just have to go up to the altar, you just have to repent, you just have to be baptised, you just have to jump through these hoops, you just have to walk over glass and wrestle a bear while reciting psalm 119,"... all we do is enable them to stay in darkness. Many will not hear a false voice, they are waiting for the true voice of Jesus whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, the voice of the Good Shepard who lays down his life for the sheep.

"Freely you have received, freely give" is both the WAY and the WHAT of the message that our good Shepard speaks.

If we treat others in accordance with the truth as though they have been saved already then we are able to also love them freely. The message given to them through our REAL unconditional love (because we are not trying to "GET them saved.") in word and deed echoes the one truth that Christ has paid the price for the redemption of all. This enables and empowers people to believe because we are simply witnessing to what has already taken place - with no "musts", "ifs" and "buts." Just a simple and beautiful message of love and redemption. Thank you father for the peace and the rest we have now in Christ. Help others to see and understand it too. Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Love and Jesus

It is the fault of the Church that the world is still ignorant to the knowledge of God's saving grace in Christ and that Christianity has become repugnant to so many. How can that be so? It is easily answered. Jesus said "If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me." Was he lifted up? Yes, on his cross and thus, in keeping with his ubreakable word and promise, he has/is and will continue to draw all men to himself. Yet he draws men despite the church rather than because of it. The traditional and historical church has failed to a large degree to lift up Christ at all, but instead has lifted up the things that has divided itself. Baptism, communion, speaking in tongues, the holy spirit, the sabbath, various interpretations of the law and morality etc... These are just a tiny few of the doctrines and codes that various sects and denominations have held up to define themselves. All the while though these are the same things dividing the body and holding up to the world a FALSE GOSPEL. By putting up these walls made from of our pet doctrines and morality codes and hanging up these signs above the prison boxes which we call churches we have alienated ourselves from the rest of the body and the world! We fail the world whenever we get on some moral or doctrinal band wagon other than the simple LIFTING UP of the Cross of Christ.

Jesus didn't say "If you lift up Hetrosexuality, Anti-abortion, Full Water Immersion Baptism, Transsubstantiation, Christian-Judeo Ethical Conservatism, Post-Tribulation Pre-Millenial Pentecostalism, tongue speaking, finger wagging, down the nose looking, bible believing Christian Crazy Charismatics up the Wazooism, I will draw all men unto me."

He said simply "If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me."

What else did he say about tuning the rest of the world onto him:

Well He also said "If you guys love one another they will know you really are my disciples."
And later on he prayed this to the father, "Father make them one, so the WORLD will know that you have sent me."

So here is the THREE KEYS for World Wide Evangelism that Jesus said would actually work:

1) Lift up Jesus on the Cross
2) Love one another
3) Become One.

I am sorry, but employing any other 'evangelistic' and man made programs is just pissing in the wind. Crusades put a hell of a lot more people off Christ then they do on. I don't know how many times I have been sharing with someone about Jesus to have them say "Oh yeah mate...been there, done that blah blah blah, " then listened to how they went up the "altar" on some crusade only to realise soon after that what they got wasn't what they wanted. Most of them didn't encounter Christianity, what they really got was the spiritual equivalent to someone signing up with AMWAY - the next day they regretted it. A person does not truly meet with Jesus Christ and then feel remorseful about it later.

If the world really saw Christ lifted up and a church in love with him and eachother you would need a snow plough to clear the path of people rushing to our doors. True love is what everyone wants. Every song, every book, every frigging movie tells us of our own yearning for real, in your face, unconditional LOVE. If there was somewhere it was truly happening I would be there. Especially if there was no-one there telling me what I needed to believe and how I needed to behave. I'd be there in a New York minute, wouldn't you?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Letter to the Systemised Church

Ok...You have been given fair warning. This post is VERY LONG.

It is a letter I wrote seven or so years ago to the Senior pastor and Eldership of the church I was both a member and leader at. I wrote it a couple of months before I left the church in sad, controversial and spectacular style.

I do not really expect anyone to read the whole thing and nor do I expect anyone to leave comments.

I am putting it up because I have already become too lazy to create something new. Also because it highlites (with love) some of the stark problems with the contemporary and traditional form of institutional church.


RBC LETTER

I wish to say these things to Greg, Paul and the elders particularly, although I feel they are just as relevant to the whole congregation and Christians everywhere for that matter. I do not want to seem subversive so I am bringing them to your attention first.

To begin I must say that my commitment to RBC is strong and feel that God has called me there. I have no animosity or resentment to any one or more persons there and I believe that I have sought my heart to the best of my ability to check for motives of this type that could taint the viewpoint that I am laying out before you. I do sincerely love the people there and especially those who are leaders. I believe that you are passionate and wonderful people who genuinely pursue Jesus and His Kingdom. If I did not I would not bother to write this. I might as well also tell you something that you already know (probably better than I) and that is I am a person with many character defects and I can come across a little strong at times, can appear prickly and defensive and am deficient in my ability to relate properly to others. These are things I am aware of and I seem to become more painfully and acutely aware of as each day goes by. So please forgive me for past offenses, present ones (ones contained in this letter) and the inevitability of future ones. I must also say at the outset that the issues that I raise in this letter I will do so as briefly as I can, although probably not as briefly as some would like but please read them attentively if you can. Please remember that this is in no way a complete thesis but snippets from thoughts that have accumulated over years and accelerated, for whatever reason, over the last few months. I hope to attempt to formulate them in a much lengthier form in the near future but in the meantime I hope that these things I write make sense and maybe sow some seeds. Please forgive me also if it sounds as if I am trying to teach you. I am not. I am just being me and trying to impart some revelation that the Lord has been giving me and that I have being praying about for many months.

I’ve been attending RBC since the first year of the refreshing and have been a member now for at least six years. I have always had the conviction that RBC had a unique calling and that it would set the pace and be a pioneer/pilot church that would break new ground for others. This has been coupled with the distinct conviction that the wider church, as a result of the outpouring and Gods ensuing dealings, would be unrecognisable from its previous state. That it would finally grow into something that manifests God and Christ in such a way that the world would at long last be in awe of it as prophesied in the word (Ps 48 1-7). I guess since the outward manifestations (I believe there is a deeper work happening inwardly) on people through the refreshing have abated I and, no doubt, others, have wondered what next? My answer to this, that I hope has some divine revelation, is that I believe the next obviously discernable move of God across the world wide body of Christ will be a move to dramatically alter the traditional church structure, hierarchical system and mindset of Christian believers toward one another. In short, I believe that it will be a movement on the body and for the body which will result in the church being changed into something that it has always talked about being but has never actually been (except for a brief period in the first century); A true community of believers locked together in a undying and unyielding commitment to care deeply for one another, submit joyfully to one another and to out work daily the exhortation to lay our lives down for each other as well as freely using our many varied gifts to minister and edify each other. I believe that as a necessary course for this to become reality the church hierarchy must first be voluntarily dismantled and restructured accordingly in order to house such a community and to be able to effectively adopt, maintain and protect the prescribed methods on how all Christians (leaders included) are to relate, love and submit to one another, given to us by Jesus himself. These methods are supplied clearly from scripture and have always been the only ones that Christians are to live by both as an end in itself and also to bring about the purpose of God on earth, namely the manifestation of Jesus Christ on earth, through his unified body, to the world (John 17:23, John 13:35). The current state of the church with its centuries old traditional structure is inadequate for this task (It has certainly had long enough to prove it if it wasn’t) and is in need of a reformation with the same far reaching and lasting impact that came to Christianity in the 15th century. Where the last reformation primarily hit at our theology and doctrine and basically left our church systems unchanged, this one, by God’s grace, will radically transform the way we meet, worship, minister and relate to each other in the world. Unfortunately most, if not all, of our present day church systems are a hindrance rather than a help for such a transformation to occur and I would like to briefly outline a few reasons why this is so:

The church building mentality tends to centralise our Christian life, worship and fellowship in one particular place rather than the place that it should be centralised; the home. The home is the place where our lives are really played out, the only place where we truly are who we are. The home is the centre-piece and main building-block of the community and society in which we desire to have an impact. The church building takes us from the place where we live and tells us that it is church. We call the actual church building “the church” because that is what it has become for us. Yet we know, sadly at a cerebral level only, that the church is not a building and has nothing to do with buildings, the church is Gods people wherever we meet. The early church had no building and met daily from house to house, eating and fellowshipping together, and in the temple courts which were like a public park area (Acts 2:46). The first Christian church as such was not even built until late in the 3rd century because Christians at the time did not want to build a temple to worship in as they considered it to be a pagan practice and they did not want to be thought of as just another organised religion. Even the first “church” discovered from that time was only a home that had been extended to accommodate more people. Now we not only have built thousands upon thousands of churches but every week in many of them people come forward to kneel at imaginary (and sometimes not imaginary) altars. All of this can seem quite harmless but we can forget so easily that “God does not dwell in temples made from human hands” and it only adds to the mentality of the church building being the church itself and the central place where our faith is lived out. Of course its good and essential to meet together for large celebrations which can be held anywhere such as a rented hall for example, but I believe that this should certainly be the lesser emphasized and less regular type of meeting. I do not think the push for a better house church system addresses this problem either because it merely becomes an extended ministry of the church rather than a church that is centred in the home or more importantly the people.

The regular Sunday church time is similar to the church building because it confines and appoints church to a time slot on a certain day in the same way the church building confines church to a geographical space. What do we say every Sunday? We are going to church. Not we are church! Wherever we are or whatever we are doing, at home or at work we are the church but we do not realise this. We pay lip service to this truth but do not live it out in practice. Church is something we go to at such and such a time on Sunday morning and Sunday night. It is something that we go to at certain fixed times once, two or three times per week (and they are called the really committed ones) rather than what we intrinsically are all the time. Although we may not attend out of legalistic religious obligation the emphasis on the Sunday service/services still encourages us to slice off a small part of our week, stick it in a box and feel comforted that we have done church. The attitude that results is deeply buried in the average Christian’s psyche and tells us that we are church members that attend the church in the same way that we attend a club or some other organisation rather than an integral part of a body that will not be whole until we are all together, at anytime, fulfilling the essential part that only each one of us can play. The implications of this very old and deeply set mindset in terms of the individuals involvement, responsibility to contribute and relationship/accountability to each other are many.

The most deeply entrenched and powerful component of our church systems that leaves the church anywhere but resting squarely in the bosom of every believer is the relatively small concentrated management centre made up of one, two or just a handful of people. In one form or another this system appears in just about every church I know of. I use the word management because it much more rightly describes the type of leadership or powerbase in most churches, with a distinct “from the top down” style of decision making and vision/agenda setting that is scarily close to the same style adopted by most business corporations today. We have the senior pastor as the CEO generally accompanied by his associate pastors acting as his management team and the executive board of the elders over which he officially or unofficially presides as chairman. They meet regularly to discuss general policy, make decisions and set and review goals amongst other things(I understand that there is much more to RBC pastor/elder meetings etc). Just the word leadership is enough to bring worrisome connotations to my mind as it is the word most frequently bandied around by secular motivational speakers, in the upper echelons of big business and corporate management training seminars. As we all know it also happens to be the contemporary “buzz” word Christians use to describe the different positions of authority within the present hierachies of our churches. Perhaps that in itself is not too alarming except for the fact that many of the same principles of leadership espoused by their secular proponents are often the same as the ones taught by the various Christians i.e., setting and achieving goals, effective team management, communication skills, motivating others and conflict resolution. The latter seems to be one needed more and more in churches since we no longer emphasize the exhortation to submit to one another, lay down our lives for each other, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. I have even heard of churches bringing in secular conflict resolution specialists to solve disputes that they were unable to. I cannot tell you how ashamed this makes me feel and I echo Paul’s plea to the Corinthians “…why not rather be wronged.” While I know that the contemporary theology of church leadership is about more than just the things I’ve mentioned, and maybe we can learn something of value from the secular principles of leadership, I would have to say that according to the bible, the true value gained would have to be in the lesson of how not to lead, as Jesus himself told us that we are not to exercise authority the way that the world does. (Luke 22:24-27.) As far as Jesus was concerned the one who leads should look exactly like the one who serves. When studying these things in the New Testament I feel that one cannot help but conclude that if there is a common theme or a more strongly emphasised principle of leadership than any other it is that this one. As far as the bible goes the most highly visible and distinguishing mark of the Christian leader is his humility of service to others, not his ability to manage or influence people, his organizational skills, his formal education, preaching skills or his ability to set and achieve goals or targets. This point is born out simply by doing a basic study around the word leadership. The word itself when referring to Christian overseers in the body appears in most contemporary versions of the bible (NIV etc.) barely enough times to count on one hand. However the word minister which actually means servant is used by the NT authors much more frequently and there is no doubt that it is the servant aspect of leadership that Jesus most wished to visually and verbally impress upon his disciples before He returned to his father (Phil 2:3-10, John 13: 3-17, Luke 22:24-27). If this principle of service exemplified in leadership is so essential why is it the one we hear least about? In all the churches that I have experienced first hand I have to say that RBC is least like the management type leadership system that I have seen and yet the core potential and base is there. I can also say through personal and painful experience that as a management style lead church grows numerically (which seems to be a current and dominant component of the vision at RBC) the line between leadership and congregation/sheep becomes more and more distinct. Coupled with this is a growing need for that leadership to exercise more control in how the church is run, how meetings are formatted, the need to continually reiterate and clarify the Senior Pastor’s or core leader’s vision and the systematic, albeit subtle and unconscious, shutting out of those who do not fit the criteria of that vision or who are seen as weak or different in some way. When a leadership base is management style and its primary purpose is to implement the common vision of the leadership or the singular vision of the senior pastor the church must, by absolute need, become ever increasingly selective firstly on who can be a leader and secondly on what type of church member can fit into “their big picture.” The teaching and preaching, by equal necessity, becomes geared toward that end and only allowed within the scopes of their own limited agenda, ultimately to the exclusion of other essential aspects of the “whole counsel of God” and to the gradual exclusion of those who do no fit that agenda. Like in some type of spiritual “darwinism”, the strong, together types are generally the ones who thrive in these often, ruthlessly focused environments and the weak and foolish are pushed to the fringes and eventually out the door and all the while Jesus Christ weeps for those of his sheep who have been unable to find a human manifestation of the good sheperd who would lay down his life for them. Another perilous problem of the numerical growth orientated church or the management style church is that although a church may hold in high verbal esteem the principles of grace and faith as opposed to works, as far as church expectation goes, in reality they always seem performance based and people generally relate to each other on a common task type basis ie; your relationships are formed out of what you do in the church and if you have no function or ministry involvement the chances are you also have no real relational involvement either. The common vision becomes the standard to which people either measure up to or fall short of depending on what they do or don’t do to contribute to the vision. Because the vision is performance (doing) based you only fall into relationships with people as a default from doing some task with others that contribute to the vision. Again, at least for me, I have to emphasise that this is not theory, I have witnessed and felt the pain of it from both angles, as a very needy member of this type of church and also as a leader whose flaws were hidden to well to attract the notice of those who appointed me. The line of division in these churches between leadership and sheep is overtly pronounced, especially in the larger churches, but the pain or repercussions of such a division are felt by the weak and “problematic” sheep who are unable to articulate it or who are to afraid to speak out against it because it would be seen as contentious and rebellious. The others aren’t complaining because they are either already enjoying the subtle benefits of being part of the leadership including the very comforting thought that they are secure members of the crowd or they are those who are just about to put their first foot on the corporate church ladder.

The alternative to this type of model which, I believe, is more in keeping with scripture and the heart of Jesus, is a church whose vision is the members themselves. A church whose pastors or elders or whatever you want to call them (Because they do not need to be labelled “officially” at all, even if by nature, giftedness and calling that is exactly what they are ie; pastors, elders, evangelists etc.) are simply committed to seeing the vision of each individual person in their care found and fulfilled . A church whose vision and focus is on relationships as an end in itself rather than a by-product of some lesser vision. A church where leadership is so anonymous that you cannot even tell for sure who is running the show. A church where we are so secure in the love of Jesus and the love of each other that we are unafraid to take off our various authoritative caps and just be who we are. A church where the collective vision is simply to love Jesus, to bow to one another and to seek to fulfill each others visions, desires and needs. That would truly exemplify and magnify the love of Jesus. We could give up evangelistic programs (and every other program too!) because with all that real love going around I suspect that many will want in. The elders could be released from being the board of management and having to spend all their energy in supporting the Pastor and could devote much more time to becoming disciplers and shepherds which is their truest calling anyway (1 Peter 5:1-4). This is not Utopian and there are models where this type of reality is possible, but I suspect the best one will be the one that is given to us directly from the Holy Spirit as the scriptures tell us; “unless the Lord builds the house the laborours labour in vain.” I believe that at RBC we have looked at other many and varied churches of all shapes, bents and colours in the same way that the Israelites looked enviously at the nations around them and exclaimed “we want to be like them!” When all the time God had His own unique agenda that would “set them apart” if they would only do one thing: Listen. Listen to what God is saying to us personally, not what he is saying to others around the world, not trying to preempt the moves that He is performing elsewhere or copying the formulas that seem to be working for others and not worrying about what the statisticians and the church growth “experts” are saying (everything that God does in the bible seems to be the opposite of what the experts, religious leaders and statisticians say he will, should or would do.) It seems to me that a lot about what Jesus was doing in the refreshing was bringing people back to His person. Away from law, works, denominations, programs, formulas and the like and back to a simple, passionate love for him, his redemption and his very merciful and grace filled Lordship. What He has been doing with the individuals of His Kingdom I now believe He is beginning to do with the corporate structures of His kingdom. I believe His intense desire is too take the organisations that are largely run by man, that exist in His name and transform them into organisms whose stimuli, growth and progress are instigated, supplied and wholly sourced in Him. This, I suppose brings us to the crux of the matter. For all this is about bringing the uncompromised Lordship of Jesus back to His church. It is all about allowing him to rebuild his church from its foundations upward in a way that not only maintains His Lordship and the rulership of the spirit but also has in-built defence mechanisms against the reclaiming of the helm of the church by man and his own corrupt and innate desire to control. Am I accusing specific people of having “control” issues? No, I am accusing everybody of having them. No matter how far into God and the kingdom they are. Control is the essentially corrupt bit of man and Jesus knew that and that is why He emphasises so strongly the need for his people to serve one another, even re-emphasising it more strongly for people who are gifted with authority by Him to edify the body in some aspect. This is why He said to us in Matt 23:8-12 that we are not to call each other “Rabbi,” meaning master or leader (or any modern equivalent) and we are not to call each other “teacher” meaning guide, for “you are all brothers.” Notice the explicitness of the reason Jesus gives us for this command; that we “are all brothers.” In other words we are not to create lines of division by labelling or entitling people based on their particular gift or, for that matter, experience in the Lord, nor create distinctions in his body by constructing levels of hierarchy and authority. We are all the same. People will pastor, elders will elder, prophets will prophesy whether they are called by their official titles or not. The point is that there be no distinctions from “the least to the greatest” and if there be those with authority in the body let it be the authority that comes from being the Lord’s servant. Let it be authority that can easily be stepped out of so he or she can also just as easily wear the cloak of simple brotherhood. If the main intent of this passage in Mathew isn’t clear enough for us Jesus reiterates it in the last two verses; “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” I have never been in a church with a multi-tier leadership system that does not publicly exalt its leaders. Usually flagrantly. When this happens as a regular part of church life rather than stifle the spirit of competitiveness that comes as standard issue in man’s sinful nature, it enables it to flourish, even if hidden from the undiscerning eye. For the disciples, those who lived with Jesus and who were destined to be the pillars and foundations of the church for all time, who have gone into eternity carrying within their bosom what must be considered the Kingdom epitomy of greatness and honour, were also once in the grip of the spirit of competition and argued on more than one occcasion about who would be the greatest. Jesus’ answer to them, as always; “If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” It is interesting that this word “servant” is the same New Testament word used to describe pastors, ministers and deacons and literally means a waiter at tables or someone who performs menial tasks. Built into the very word itself that was given to the leaders of Christ’s church is the very essence of servanthood. I harp on this because there is no greater hindrance to real relationships than an environment where either overt or covert competitiveness is prospering and the only antidote to competitiveness is the principle of servanthood. Jesus names the people who are to give us the “live” example of this principle and He calls them ministers, pastors and deacons. When we fail to get the “live”example we end up with another message. One that causes us to believe that we must perform or be a certain way to get the special acceptance, relationship privileges, praise, distinction, and exaltation that we see the leaders, and others who conform correctly to the system, getting. No one wants to be vulnerable in an environment like that. No one will definitely be so risky as just to be themselves, because they can see that won’t get them anywhere and they are probably right. Unfortunately without freedom to be yourself and to be vulnerable there can be no intimacy and hence no real relationships. A church that does not recognise these things, although it may openly espouse the wonders of our liberty in Christ, can never really be free at all and no matter how many times God turns up to refresh them, they will ultimately always revert to doing things man’s way, thereby imprisoning themselves over and over again. My hope and desire is that RBC will not go this way.

I must reiterate that I feel RBC is more open and further along in an understanding of these principles and also in the practice of encouraging body participation than any church I have visited or experienced. This is not meant to be an attack and I hope it does not sound like one. It is an acknowledgement and confirmation of the path we are on and just my perception of how far we still have to go. For there still exists, though to a lesser and more enlightened degree, however wonderful and humble the individuals are (and they really are), what I call the 40th generation ministry or ruling class of church leadership who are spiritual descendants of the small pockets of elite men who have dominated, directed and decided the who, what, where and when of the church ever since it got out of its nappies almost two millennia ago. Again this is not a judgement on anyone it is just the system we have inherited from people who have acted on the limited revelation they themselves were given. The saddest and the baddest part of this reality is the stark inertia of the body that this system has enabled. The saints of God who are to collectively manifest all the many coloured and multi leveled facets of Gods wisdom and glory by the varied expressions of the Holy Spirit through all our unique giftings, personalities and even our many differences instead have elected to sit in rows each week and have a whip around to pay for one or two others to do the lot for us. Everyone of us are in need of a revelation revolution. Both for the ministry class who have allowed themselves to be ruler/shepherds for hire and for the sheep class who have been happy to be lulled into a state of ineffectiveness and semi consciousness. For between the two classes their exists a bond that can only, at best, be called an unhealthy, dysfunctional (especially as far as the advance of the kingdom is concerned) and even co-dependant one, as both classes manipulate the needs of the other for their own benefit. One uses the other to control and the other to be controlled. One gains self importance, purpose, respect and admiration etc. The other gets to skip out on responsibility, accountability and has an authority figure, not only to meet their needs but also to resent and blame when those needs aren’t met or when things go wrong. Yes this is a harsh generalisation, but one, I believe, that contains a truth, the reality of which, would be clearly seen if we could unveil and lay bare the hearts and motives of a large majority of people from both classes. The truest sense of a leader from a biblical perspective is not one who seeks to control, do all the ministering, display all the gifts and generally make him or herself indispensable. In fact the opposite of this is true and this can be no more obvious from the life and death of Jesus who found a small core group of followers, lived, walked and discipled them, demonstrated His gifts, let them loose amongst the gifts themselves, then He died and left the whole show to them, telling them to go do likewise. This to me represents the only correct pattern for God’s people and church leadership and also the pattern that Paul followed in his apostolic ministry. Yet we can not merely aim this word of instruction at the leaders. Equal blame must be levelled at the sheep who don’t want to be responsible for taking up the mandate left for us by Jesus to “do greater works” than He did. In a relationship that has grown sick there is always two parties at fault and I feel for all of us (meaning Christians in general) it is time for a scrutinising look at this tradition of church leadership and our own motives and part in it.

Maybe for you all of this is a simple warning of the dangers of large church systems in advance of a period of growth for RBC. For me this is all about a completely different church experience that I have always longed for but never been able to put into words. A deeper more glorious expression of Jesus actually manifesting through the different members of His body. A radical departure from church tradition, man’s organised church systems and an embracing of community style fellowship and intimate relationships as a real way of life rather than just theology. I know I am not alone in wanting deeper, more solid and much more honest relationships. I have not felt one with the present vision for numerical growth as I believe it is an inferior vision in and of itself (I believe numerical growth comes as a byproduct of doing things Jesus’ way) at anytime, but more so when it seems the current number of members still have so many needs and it worries me that a whole bunch of new christians would come into this present system. At least I can say that I am at least partly unified with Paul’s desire to get out of the building, its just that I would like to get out and stay out of all church buildings but I realise that the path to change may be slower than I, in my presumptive and impatient self, would like! Whatever your feelings are after reading this I do appreciate you taking the time to read it and am very open to any feedback you may have.

Sincerely
Simon