Saturday 17 July 2010

Deconstructing " 5 Attributes of a church in decline."

Five Attributes of a Church in decline

Lack of mission and vision clarity

Failure to Define a Concise Strategy to help Newcomers become fully devoted followers of Christ

Complex structure

Inward focused with little connection to the surrounding Community

Weak Leadership especially in the senior pastor role
as supplied by Archie Rhines on Facebook

My Examination of the 5 Attributes
This post is not being written in a vacuum. It is informed by two events this week.

Event 1. Two (IMHO) excellent posts appeared this week from Daniel Yordy and Rich Novek. In response I wrote on Facebook

A lack of inward revelation as to how and exactly why God is so mad on us and His work in us has kept the Bride in something like a "monkey's cage of separation theology" instead of hunting the Church down and screaming let me in let me in I want some of that (as we did when we saw Graham Pulkingham and the Fisherfolk in 73) people are screaming with laughter "Looookee, monkeys in the monkeyhouse!!!!"
Lionel Thomas (name changed) replied concerning Portsmouth Family Church's success under Andrew Elmes:
"Could it be that much of the church is still staring at its navel, picking it's nose and scratching underarms. We don't endear people because of silly antics, religious mumbo jumbo and silly behaviours etc.
The research has been done, answers are out there if people want answers. You only got to look at churches like Hillsong, and Abundant life etc... to see that it is only a choice if you want to continue to look and feel like a monkey house.
We are seeing almost double figures (weekly) across our congregations respond to the gospel message, and regular baptisms back this up. It's so exciting! God is on the move! "
While honoring Andrew Elmes and the anointing that is on his life, I have to take into consideration that Lionel himself just upped and walked out of his own marriage, leaving his wife to dig herself deep into God and find a completely new life, while her Christian husband breaks the covenant that you both as Christians, assume is a given and completely (save the instructions given by Jesus) inviolable.

Event 2.One of the ex-offender brothers I was writing to in the letter then blogpost this very week saw the man being tried for the ex-offender's abuse get off scot free. John had endured abuse alongside others in a children's home.Something inside him flipped and John poured petrol all over him. With a criminal record John was immediately taken into custody and sentenced to one year in jail. The deep irony being ofcourse-the original offender is now free, and the deeply hurt offended one is in jail.
From a legal point of view, if not enough proof can be come by, a man cannot be sentenced. And if any of us take the law into our own hands, we can be banged up! If it were not so, imagine Belfast this weekend, as largely kids take to the streets in Belfast to clash and hurt police officers. This would spiral out of control and spread much much further than Belfast. Elaine Waterfield's friend Matt Baggott (Head of Northern Ireland police) would have no legal arm left to stand on.
Yet all over northern Ireland, families from both sides are nursing permanent hurts: sons and husbands unnecessarily slaughtered. If everyone exacted revenge, there would be few left in the province.

So let's look at what Archie has posted in some real world situations. What I am asking is are we looking at a systems failure, or if you peer below the foliage in the Spirit is it something else?

Can I first explain my own position and why I am torn on this issue. I was born again in a school revival in 1972 in Dr Challoners Grammar School Amersham Bucks at the end of the Metropolitan Line out of London. When we prayed for somebody, they were often saved the following week. It was wildfire. When I received the baptism in the Spirit I received not just a nicey nicey anointing, but a bellyful of what Bono of U2 describes as "The Unforgettable Fire".
After this, when I preached or talked people got saved. And I was also used to pray for others to receive the baptism in the Spirit. All grace ofcourse!!!

But for the last 30 years or so, my life has taken a different course, all the while finding it abnormal not to have people being born again in my vicinity. The different course has been the researching the subject of this blog. It has been much seeking of God. It has been the simple response to a simple directive:
Seek first the Kingdom of God and
His righteousness
Why? because, get this and
All things shall be added unto you.
So it's been a simple equation for a simple man.

It does not say Bill Johnson and others -Seek first the higher primarily, while still being open to the 2nd Kingdom wind that was prophesied in 1990 (see Peter Stott's Lift Up Your Heads message referring to this) I have NOT being do so.

But as the events of this week have shown:
Just having mission and vision clarity (as do Transformed who evangelise offenders and ex-offenders among prisons and Andrew Elmes who has established church cultures that Go to the lost and bring them to Jesus)
-you still get quite mature Christians walking out on their wives
-evangelists pouring petrol on people.

Lionel's phrase"the church is still staring at its navel, picking it's nose and scratching underarms. We don't endear people because of silly antics, religious mumbo jumbo and silly behaviours etc." still has a ring of truth though. It is real. And it is real in this way. If churches are filled with people that DONT know who they are, that wander around in the desert of incomplete revelation and growth, they really will , like the Israelites, live and die their entire life without getting a smidgen's whippet near the Land that has been promised to each and every one THIS SIDE OF ETERNITY.
In fact most Christians lives resemble "the years that the locusts have eaten".

This is my response to The Decline List. Look at Jesus. "Aha," the systems person who drew up the list says "but I did." Well I say look closer. Jesus may have appeared to fulfil these definitions if you really must look at His Life through the specs of the CEO of Toyota, or the CEO of General Electric....but do you mind if we take the specs off and use more Biblical ones?

In Dr Challoners Grammar School we had an atheist English teacher called Mr Hennig. Before I was saved, from an unconverted point of view anyway, we had the unfortunate experience of being subject to not just one, but 2 assemblies given by him. These were not just any assemblies. These were assemblies just after Mr atheist Hennig had just returned form his first visit to the Holy Land. Now this had to be around 1971, still early in modern Israel's history. By far the bulk of his talks referred to the experience he had had at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Over and over again he tried to convey the impact of what he assumed to be the Presence of God...and the deep irony of the fact that he as an atheist, didn't actually believe what he was experiencing.

The church gathers around the Presence of God. The church , made up of believers and hopefully soon to be believers, are drawn by the Presence of God. In 1972, I saw two films by Billy Graham and responded to the Presence of God on the films. When I was baptised in the Spirit I was inundated by this Presence. This Presence can so easily be almost too much for the human frame. Blessing in Hebrew conveys the meaning of a vessel packed to the brim and then some, filled with absolute packed out fulness. God's not like the devil. You get your money's worth. And some!

Where the continued Presence is, there is growth. You don't need doctrine. You need actual Presence. If it is the True Presence, out of this will come articulation. You will begin to understand the things of God. Many of the things on this blog. But when you subsequently talk about the Holy of Holies, fire comes out of your mouth. People who have read the books only as an intriguing concept, when they talk, nothing comes out of their mouth.

The reason Andy Elmes is successful is that from early on he bumped into people like Vaughan Jarrold, a Londoner in New York State who has a fire anointing, and he was taught to seek and move in the same. And that's what Andy did. He went to New York , learned off Vaughan, and sought God for himself along with other youngsters.

But it's more than the Presence. If it was just some measure of the Presence, all we'd need to do is to hang around Morris Cerullo meetings and Benny Hinn meetings. Those that do, like Andy, get a measure of the touch of God that is undefinable. But you know folks, this is (in an unborn again kinda way) what the disciples experienced in their first few weeks of moving with Jesus.

But the power and distinctiveness of the Word that was coming through Jesus was of a whole other order. It was more like a letter by Rich Novek or Daniel Yordy. The power of this Word was perhaps "more" than we will ever know. Why? Because today we know about being born again and being baptised in the Spirit, and we MOVE ON FROM THERE.

Jesus' Word was so powerful it catapulted the disciples from a pre-born again miracle- experiencing kind of Jewish / Kingdom mix through to being fully breathed on born again, fully baptised in the Spirit, fully Father stage (1John2:12ff) reproducing Kingdom Key openers by the time of Acts 2. IN ONLY 3 YEARS.

Jesus had to believe that His Word was sufficient to carry these non born again 12, from being unable to twig much about His Word in the Upper Room, through His death on the Cross and His resurrection, to collect them the other side and to get them to a point where He could comfortably leave.

If your favorite Bible seminary Director was standing in the Upper room, kind of co-checking out Jesus disciples, in the manner that seminary graduates are assessed today, it wouldn't have looked good for Jesus.

"Ah, so Jesus, you're telling me that you have adequately trained these disciples of yours in the last 3 years in Biblical exegesis, knowledge of Jewish history, and say you have been showing them the Father?......I'm afraid Jesus, your capacity as a future theological professor in my academy is very much in question."

Andy Elmes and John Affleck are leading people to Jesus all the time. But somehow we have to move on as a church to doing the impossible. Even Jesus had a hard time with this. More details on this are here We have to be churches that move simultaneously in the 3 levels of growth. Most ministries are totally unaware that these stages exist. They are not taught these things and anyway, because they are fundamental to our maturation as humans, and our inner seeing as discussed in the April article, people in the first stage can only perceive those in one stage above them. Two stages and you're in trouble! The Catholics burned Madame Guyon. But it is precisely this level we are re-introducing. And not just for a handful of individuals. The Holy Spirit is breathing among this beaten up, battered generation, many without fathers, many totally shattered through addictions, many like Mary Magdelan...having come to the absolute end of raise up a generation of people who


KNOW THAT TO LIVE IS CHRIST- not just the previous outside kind of Christ but recognise the nature of Christ within them as expressed through their personalities and their bodies.

KNOW THAT TO TAKE UP OUR CROSS is not a religious term, it's a dynamic of Life whereby we see what Jesus is doing and ONLY DO THAT. Where we understand the completeness of the anihilation of our dead spirit centre at the Cross....where the Body death of Jesus actually means something, when we take communion, and not just the Blood. Just about every church celebrates 50% of the communion each time . Most ofcourse take bread and the wine, but only a small handful understand what it is to take the Bread. Mother Teresa was one....(and in the Protestant arrogant phrase) she was a Catholic!!!!

See, if Andy Elmes was teaching all three levels

-People would more and more ONLY be doing what they saw Jesus doing.(Which by the way IS NOT the same phrase as a WWJD or What would Jesus Do bracelet.)The disciples often grumbled, but Jesus kind of shrugged....I have to be doing what I see my Father doing, and my Father is working still. For us it is "seeing" what Christ is doing through us and around us and flowing in with that.

That doesn't include pouring petrol over people.

And it doesn't include walking out of covenants.

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