… HELLO PASTOR ONE-ANOTHER

Goodbye Pastor Phil, hello Pastor One-Another (some more thoughts on the function of the pastor)

Considering the prominent place of the Pastor in the makeup of the modern local church scene (though dating back to Constantine), it is surprising how little the New Testament has to say about such an individual. Practically nothing. The word ‘pastor’ is used once and it is in fact almost impossible to find a clear reference in the New Testament to a local church led by one man.

Mind you, it is also hard to find a local church that looks anything like what we’ve come to know as a local church today – a distinctively named assembly (such as Keppel Coast Christian Fellowship) with its own vision, building and man in charge.

Rather what we find are churches that embrace the whole city, with no separately owned ‘church’ buildings and a plural eldership belonging to all.

And a style of pastoring that did not seem to centre around any special individual but was spead out between ‘one-another’.

Not that the early church lacked leaders but there is very little exhortation in any of the epistles for believers go seek out a leader for advise, counselling, healing or encouragement. Rather the exhortation is to practise this stuff on ‘one-another’. Over 60 times this (or a similar) expression is used in the apostolic letters.

Here is an example of the ‘one-anothers’.

  • live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
  • care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
  • speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)
  • submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
  • forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
  • teach one another (Col. 3:16)
  • wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)
  • love one another. (John 13:34)
  • be devoted to one another … Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  • stop passing judgment on one another. (Romans 14:13)
  • instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10)
  • be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
  • teach and admonish one another  Colossians 3:16)
  • encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • encourage one another daily, (Hebrews 3:13)
  • consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
  • confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16)
  • offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  • clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
  • have fellowship with one another  (1 John 1:7)

Note that the apostles felt that the saints were quite competent to teach and instruct each other, correct each other, hear each other’s confessions, pray for their healing,  encourage each other, build each other up etc etc. They were well equipped to pastor one another.

John, in facts, encouraged them to believe that each of them had ‘an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.’ (1 John 2:20) If this is so and such a hidden and under-used anointing exists in the body of Christ then the task of the ‘fivefold ministries’ is surely to encourage its release.

Considering the huge burn-out rate that exists is in traditional pastoral ministry perhaps those in ministry would do a great service, both to themselves and to the local body they serve, by

  1. encouraging people to believe that they don’t need ‘the Pastor’  as much as they think they do
  2. foster the kind of intimate ekklessia where people can actively practise the ‘one-anothers’.
  3. actively step back from ‘doing the stuff’ themselves and let the Holy Spirit bring out the aforesaid anointing among the saints.

I suspect that the result of this would be to release  leaders to spend more time seeking each other out , seeking the Lord together and exploring ways to advance the Kingdom within the city (Acts13).

In order for that to happen perhaps the great need of the local church is not another Pastor Some-One but the release of Pastor One-Another.

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Is ‘two or three gathered’ church? – Frank Viola


Frank Viola on the Postchurch Perspective

Is “where two or more are gathered” a church? (unedited version)
by Frank Viola
Originally published in Christianity Today/Out of Ur in two parts.
There is a growing phenomenon in the body of Christ today. Alongside of the missional church movement, the emerging church movement, and the house church movement, there is a mode of thinking that I call “postchurch Christianity.”
The postchurch brand of Christianity is built on the premise that institutional forms of church are ineffective, unbiblical, unworkable, and in some cases, dangerous. Institutionalization is not compatible with ekklesia. So say postchurch advocates.
But the postchurch view goes further saying, “any semblance of organization whatsoever . . . any semblance of leadership … is wrong and oppressive. Church is simply when two or three believers gather together in any format. Whenever this happens, church occurs.” So the thinking goes.
Here are some examples of what you might hear a postchurch advocate say:
“Sally and I had coffee at Starbucks last week. That was church.”
“I get together with two other men once a month at Sonny’s BBQ. That’s church for us.”
“I travel a great deal and whenever I visit Christians in other cities, we’re having church together.”
“I belong to the same church that every other Christian belongs to. I live in Dallas, TX. Last week, I talked to my friend on the phone for an hour. He lives in Miami, FL. The week before I talked with a friend who lives in Portland, OR. We were having church on the phone. I belong to the same church that they do.”
“I don’t attend any Christian meetings. Not regularly anyway. I have church on the Internet. I belong to several Christian discussion groups and social networks, and that’s church for me.”
“I don’t understand how people can talk about church planting? How can a church be planted when we are already the church? I’m the church. You’re the church. So just be the church. Church happens. “
To my mind, all of the above reflects an entire redefinition of ekklesia as it is found, used, and understood in the New Testament. No first century Christian would have used “church” in this way. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with fellowshipping with Christians at Starbucks, on the phone, or through the Internet, the biblical meaning of ekklesia is something quite different.
In order to understand the Scriptural meaning of “church,” the New Testament must be understood within the framework of the biblical narrative. And it must be read and interpreted in its cultural and chronological context.
The biblical text that postchurch advocates hang a great deal of their doctrine on is Matthew 18:15-20.
Let’s look at this passage in context:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Here, Jesus is speaking of a local ekklesia. He is speaking of a local community of Christ-followers who live in the same locale. (That is what the word ekklesia meant in the New Testament. More on that later.)
The people in this ekklesia know one another. The context makes this clear. This passage has in view an excommunication meeting. Therefore, it’s a horrifying text—a text that no Christian should ever want to use. It has to do with a person who is acting in a wayward manner and refuses to stop.
When this happens, the injured person must go to the offending person in private. If the offending person refuses to reconcile, two or three others from the local ekklesia must talk to the offending person. If the offending person still refuses to stop their wayward conduct, the offending person must be disfellowshipped from the ekklesia.
Note that Jesus says that after two or three have talked with the offending person, and the person still refuses to stop what they are doing, then the news of his unrepentance must be taken “to the church.” Now think: If the two or three people are the church, then this text becomes incoherent. Jesus says that the two or three should “tell it to the church” if the offending person doesn’t repent. Consequently, the two or three cannot be the church. They are simply a part of it.
The two or three at the end of the passage are the same two or three at the beginning of it. The implication is that the two or three who went to the unrepentant person should be praying for him. And the Lord will be with them in a special way as they do. He will stand with them.
This context indicates that the ekklesia is an organic entity where a group of committed believers in a locality “bind and loose,” using the keys of the kingdom that Jesus has given to them.
Consequently, Matthew 18 is not a text where Jesus is trying to define the church for us. It’s rather a text describing the awful process of excommunication.
Having said that, I’m of the opinion that the postchurch viewpoint cannot stand up against the light of the New Testament. Let me unravel that statement and you be the judge.
THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE TEST
New Testament scholarship agrees that the word ekklesia (translated “church”) meant a local community of people who assemble together regularly. The word was used for the Greek assembly whereby those in a city were “called forth” from their homes to meet (assemble) in the town forum to make decisions for the city. Consequently, the word also carries the flavor of every-member participation in decision-making. The Christian ekklesia is a community of people who gather together and possess a shared life in Christ.
As such, the ekklesia as used in the New Testament literature is visible, touchable, locatable, and tangible. You can visit it. You can observe it. And you can live in it.
Biblically speaking, you could not call anything an ekklesia unless it met (assembled) regularly together.
New Testament scholar Robert Banks makes this point loud and clear in his groundbreaking work of biblical scholarship entitled Paul’s Idea of Community.
THE EPISTLE TEST
The word “epistle” means letter. The NT contains twenty-one epistles. And most of them were written to local churches—ekklesias—in various cities.
Now here is a test. Those who belong to a postchurch “church” (which I also call the “phantom church” or the “ghost church”) should ask themselves a question: Can a person write a letter to my church? Can it be received by the church and read together by all of its members at the same time?
Paul of Tarsus wrote such letters to the churches he planted.
He wrote a letter to the church in Corinth, for instance.
There was an actual, physical, locatable, visit-able body of believers that met together in the home of Gaius. Paul could write a letter to that church and everyone read it at the same time.
Paul did the same for the church in Thessalonica, Colosee, Philippi, Laodicea, etc.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16)
THE VISITATION TEST
Can you visit a postchurch “church”?
If you were living in the first-century, you could literally visit any of the churches that existed.
You could also visit the church in Jerusalem in A.D. 35 and meet Peter, James, John and Mary, the mother of Jesus. These were real people who met together regularly. They were part of the same believing community—the same church.
You could visit the church in Corinth and sit in a living room in Gaius’ home and talk with Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.
The house of Chloe could visit the church in Corinth and attend its meetings (1 Cor. 1:11).
If you were to visit the church in Rome before Nero annihilated it in A.D. 65, you could sit in the living room of Priscilla and Aquila’s home and meet all the believers who regularly assembled together. (Their names are mentioned in Romans 16.)
Paul could also send Timothy to visit the church in Philippi where Lydia, Euodias, Syntyche, and Clement gathered. He could send Titus to visit the churches on the island of Crete. He could also send Tychicus to visit the church in Ephesus. And on and on.
Question: You who belong to the postchurch “church,” does your church pass the visitation test?
If someone comes to your town, can they locate and visit your church? Can they meet the members and stay in their home for a week?
THE NARRATIVE READING TEST
I would like to challenge you to go through your New Testament very carefully, beginning with the book of Acts, and try to find in the whole sweeping story support for the postchurch “church.” Not by proof-texting verses together, but by looking at the entire first-century narrative in chronological order.
I suggest picking up The Chronological Study Bible or The Narrated Bible and go through the New Testament story in chronological order from Acts to Revelation. And see if the postchurch view can fit into that beautiful saga.
THE CONSISTENCY TEST
Three common critiques that postchurch advocates level against the institutional form of church are:
1) It breeds low commitment.
2) It feeds the consumerist, individualistic Christianity that plagues the Western church today. (In consumer Christianity, religious teachings and experiences are goods that one “buys into” by becoming a subscriber to a particular church that “sells” those goods. Religious professionals produce these religious goods, and consumers pay to keep them in business. Those who consume the same sort of religious goods are no more members of a real community than those who shop at Walmart.)
3) It produces little transformation in the lives of the people who are part of it.
Ironically, these same three critiques can be appropriately leveled at the postchurch “church.”
The postchurch breeds low commitment because there are no regular gatherings nor is there any real community life that’s consistent. (Talking to Christians on the Internent is virtual. It’s not a substitute for authentic Christian community where people’s lives are shared in Christ.)
The postchurch view also reflects the consumerist, individualism that reflects our culture. Why? Because there’s no devotion or commitment to a regular community of believers. It’s church on your own terms. Whenever you feel like it.
The truth is, the postchurch “church” is actually more convenient and easier on the flesh than virtually every other form of church.
THE “ONE-ANOTHERING” TEST
Throughout the New Testament epistles, there are nearly sixty “one another” exhortations given to churches. All of them imply close-knit community, such as “forbear with one another.” Here are some others:
• live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
• be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10)
• edify one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11b)
• care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
• serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
• bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
• bear with one another (Eph. 4:2)
• be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
• speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
(Eph. 5:19)
• submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
• forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
• teach one another (Col. 3:16)
• admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
These “one another” imperatives assume ever-deepening relationships and community, not casual and occasional get togethers.
THE PURPOSE OF GOD TEST
In my book, From Eternity to Here, I’ve sought to trace God’s “eternal purpose” from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
The New Testament makes abundantly clear that the eternal purpose of God is intensely corporate. God isn’t after a group of individual living stones, He wants those stones to be “built together” to form a house for His full-dwelling and expression.
You are not the church. And neither am I.
The church is the corporate expression of Christ that is expressed visibly in a locality, where human beings can see, touch, hear, and know one another and live a shared life together in the Lord.
While God never seeks to take away our individuality, He does desire to take our individualism to the cross.
Why? Because the Lord is after a bouquet of flowers, not simply a bunch of individual roses.
Consider the analogy of a father who has seven children. One Christmas day, he gives his oldest son a trumpet. He gives his youngest son a trombone. For his oldest daughter, he gives a violin. He gives another child a drum kit. Another he gives a bass. Another he gives a flute. And another he gives a piano.
Each child learns to play their instrument. The years pass, and each loves playing their individual instruments. It’s a joy to them.
Years pass by and one day the father sits down with all of his children and says, “I am so happy you have mastered your instruments. Each instrument was given to you as a free gift. And I’m glad that you have come to enjoy and treasure your gifts.
But I didn’t give you these instruments to enjoy by yourselves. I’m creating an orchestra that will produce music that this world has never heard. And I’ve invited you to be part of it. That is why I gave you these gifts.”
And so it is with our Lord. The gift of eternal life is not for ourselves. God wants an orchestra in every city. He wants a spiritual building, not a collection of individual living stones. A body, not a collection of individual limbs and appendages. He wants a corporate expression through which to reveal His glorious Son. And this requires the loss of our individualism and independence.
It seems to me that the postchurch view denigrates Christian community (at worst) or deemphasizes and redefines it (at best). For that reason alone, it fails to fulfill God’s ultimate intention and grand mission in the earth.
SUMMARY
In my personal judgment, the postchurch view fails all seven tests.
The postchurch paradigm is rooted in the attempt to practice Christianity without belonging to an identifiable community that regularly meets for worship, prayer, fellowship, mutual edification, and mutual care.
Such a concept is disconnected with what we find in the New Testament.
The first-century churches were locatable, identifiable, visit-able communities that met regularly in a particular locale. They were not amorphous entities. For this reason, Paul could write a letter to these identifiable communities (local churches) with some definite idea of who would be present to hear it (Rom. 16). He would also have a good idea of when they gathered (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14) and the struggles they experienced in their life together (Rom. 12—14; 1 Cor. 1–8). He can visit these churches and/or send others to visit them as well. The same is true for the other apostles.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with fellowshipping with Christians on the Internet, over the phone, or meeting with friends at Starbucks. I personally love doing these things. (And for some folks who have been hurt in their Christian life, this sort of casual fellowship is a good form of temporary “detox.”) But calling these activities “church” or substituting them for ekklesia is misguided in my opinion.
It is my observation that many (not all) who embrace the postchurch viewpoint have been hurt in churches that had organization, so they have concluded that any organization is bad. Consequently, the viewpoint seems to have been born out of personal pain rather than a revelation of Christ and His Body.
To put a finer point on it, the postchurch paradigm appears to be an expression of the contemporary desire for intimacy without commitment. (Commitment and devotion to a body of believers are the same thing.) And commitment/devotion often brings injured feelings. This is especially true in Christian community, where very fallen people are learning Christ together.
So it seems to me anyway.
*For further reading, see Pagan Christianity for a biblical and historical critique on the institutional form of church and Reimagining Church for a presentation of the organic expression of the church.
—Frank Viola is the author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and church reform, including From Eternity to Here. For more, visit http://www.FrankViola.com.

I’m reprinting the following excellent article by Frank Viola because I hope it’s going to help me get back on track after a slight diversion.

Is “where two or more are gathered” a church? (unedited version) by Frank Viola

Originally published in Christianity Today/Out of Ur in two parts.

coffee_cup_289624aThere is a growing phenomenon in the body of Christ today. Alongside of the missional church movement, the emerging church movement, and the house church movement, there is a mode of thinking that I call “postchurch Christianity.”

The postchurch brand of Christianity is built on the premise that institutional forms of church are ineffective, unbiblical, unworkable, and in some cases, dangerous. Institutionalization is not compatible with ekklesia. So say postchurch advocates.

But the postchurch view goes further saying, “any semblance of organization whatsoever . . . any semblance of leadership … is wrong and oppressive. Church is simply when two or three believers gather together in any format. Whenever this happens, church occurs.” So the thinking goes.

Here are some examples of what you might hear a postchurch advocate say: Continue reading “Is ‘two or three gathered’ church? – Frank Viola”

GOODBYE PASTOR PHIL

Rev Phil badgeWhen I first began as a Prison Fellowship chaplain out at Capricornia Correctional Centre I was issued with a name badge, reading Rev Phil Walters. Being a bit embarrassed by the ‘Rev’ tag – I was neither officially nor in character ‘Reverend’ – I covered it up and ordered a new badge, more appropriately reading ‘Pastor’ Phil Walters. However, having mislaid that badge, I now need to order a new one. Which brings me to a slight dilemma. Because I have come to a stage, with all my recent questionings of modern church practice, where I’m not comfortable with any titles, be they Pope or Pastor.

I must say that I have never really been comfortable being called ‘Pastor’. Perhaps it is because I’ve always struggled with the clergy/laity thing, which is an awful division that developed in the church very early on, creating a false old-covenant style division between the professional ordained elite and all the rest. A hierarchical model of leadership which is foreign to the New Testament.

Jesus made it clear that we are not to get hung up on titles. Surely this was his intention when he said

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. Matthew 23:810

I suspect that he knew very well our propensity to exchange the lower-case ‘function’ for an upper-case ‘office’ complete with title. So that someone who pastors become Pastor Someone. Then Senior Pastor Someone. Or Associate Pastor or Youth Pastor or Worship Pastor etc etc. The church is full of it. Apostle This, Bishop That, Most Reverend The  Other.

Where is such use of titles in the New Testament? Did Apostle Paul write to the Corinthians and tell them he was sending Pastor Timothy and Youth Pastor Titus to catch up with Senior Pastor Aquilla and Associate Pastor Priscilla? It’s a nonsense. And it perpetuates an unhealthy divide. Nowhere in the New Testament are people addressed by their functions in that kind of a way.

Of course the excuse we make is that it is a way of ‘honouring’ our leaders. But if we need a title in order to be honoured surely something is wrong. Should I not be honoured for what I am regardless of title? My son-in-law is a much respected and sort after plumber but we don’t need to call him Plumber Dennis. Why should he not be ‘honoured’ in similar vein to how we ‘honour’ pastors? Is his profession less honourable?

Pastor Only Parking2On the contrary I can hide behind a title, use it as a smoke screen to hide my insecurities or the flaws in my character, even pull the old ” Do not speak against the Man of God” thing.

No, no. The people I serve, in whatever function I have been called, are my friends and my fellow companions in the work of the Kingdom. This was Paul’s attitude to those around him and it should be mine. They knew him simply as Paul (or at the most ‘brother Paul’, a term he uses for Peter as well) and so I should be known simple as Phil.

So goodbye ‘Pastor’ Phil. And hello Phil, a pastor … and a father, husband, lover,  prison chaplain, events person, radio presenter, blogger, brother in Christ and friend of all, etc etc.

(Thank you Jon Zens for the photo, from his latest book A Church Building Every Half Mile)

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2

Continuing Maurice Smith’s great article – this is the encouraging part.

Maurice Smith

 

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

Part 2: Evangelicalism in Transition

Now I want to offer several observations regarding what I see as the outcome of that collapse.

Evangelicalism will look more like the church of the first century, and less like the church of the last (i.e., 20th)  century. I’m tempted to simply allow that statement to stand without comment – forcing you to simply digest it without elaboration . . . . but what fun would that be?!  When David Lehman in “The Answering Stranger” declared, “The Twentieth Century is the name of a train that no longer runs”, he could easily have been referring to the Evangelical Church. The Church of the 20th Century witnessed the rise and fall of the temperance movement in the first half of the century(culminating in the 18th amendment), and the rise of the pro-abortion movement (culminating in Roe v. Wade) in the last half of the century. The Evangelical Church has witnessed Billy Graham filling Times Square (September 2, 1957), and “gay pride” marches filling those same streets. The Evangelical Church has witnessed the rise of the mega-church and the precipitous decline in the impact of the church on American culture. We began the 20th Century with a world wide awakening of historic proportions, and we ended the century with . . . . nothing of note. I believe God is done with the Church of the 20th Century, and He is taking us back to the Church of the 1st Century.

Evangelicalism will be vastly smaller, but vastly more effective.  Let’s face it. In traditional Western Christianity of the 20th Century, “success” is measured by size: the size of your congregation, the size of your budget, the size of your facility, the size of your staff, etc.  Size matters . . . except in the Kingdom of God.  But the day of “size matters” is quickly Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2”

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1

nooseThis is a reprint of an excellent article by Maurice Smith of the Parousia Network. It’s a bit of a challenging read but worth it.

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1: Anatomy of A Collapse 

The English author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once observed regarding the hangman’s noose, “It marvelously concentrates the mind”. Confrontation with our own mortality, whether at the point of a gun or the short end of a noose, tends to do that. There comes a point in every person’s life or the life of a community when, when confronted with the harsh facts of reality, they must decide whether or not “denial” is just a river in Egypt, or whether it represents a condition of the mind which they must overcome and move on if they are to survive. That, I believe, is where Evangelicalism as a biblically based Christian movement is at in the opening decade of the 21st Century. We stand at the short end of a noose. We are in need of a very searching self examination of who and where we are. Why? Because Evangelicalism as an identifiable movement of God’s people gives every evidence of both internal and external collapse; a collapse which will prove fatal to “church as we have known it” and is probably  irreversible apart from a divine intervention unlike anything we have witnessed or experienced in well over 100 years. 

Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1”

THE BARKADAS OF JESUS

MOLONG NACUADSC00521

The third apostle we met on our trip to the Philippines was Molong Nacua (pronounced naquah). I met Molong on the internet whilst surfing for house churches in the Philippines. His writings connected with my spirit and we finished up spending 5 wonderful days with him and his wife Lisa and their extended family on the Central Philippines island of Cebu.

The story of Molong (or as he says, ‘Long’ for short) is one of a gradual journey through traditional style church (youth pastor, worship leader) to traditional style homechurch (doing the same but in a house) to a less structured homechurch (but still based on attending a weekly meeting), to his current passion, simply building a company of disciples for Jesus.  While we were with him he coined the phrase ‘The Barkadas of Jesus’ to describe them – a barkada being a wonderful Filipino word referring to a company of friends joined in a common bond of friendship and loyalty. No set meeting times or programs but what he refers to as a life of ‘intention – relational discipleship’, mainly based on reading the Bible, learning to listen to the Spirit and learning how to disciple a friend for Jesus. We did a lot of listening and talking while we were with him but the highlight of our visit was an unintentional demonstration of the ‘barkada’.

It happened when a young recently graduated high school student, Jommie, turned up with his friend Julian, who he had recently invited to become a disciple of Jesus. Jommie had been discipled two months earlier, beginning with the same invitation, by Albert, who had been discipled by Molong. Albert had baptised Jommie the Saturday before we arrived  and now Jommie was ready to baptise Julian.

So we headed down to the sea to baptise him. Two days later however, the three boys turn up at Molong’s house with a new friend, Louey Dan, a not-yet-believer who they were working on. Over lunch the Gospel was explained to Louey Dan and an invitation given to become a disciple of Jesus. He was ready, having observed his young friends for some time. An hour later Julian, baptised only two days earlier, was praying over his friend as he baptised him into Christ.

Later, as we celebrated over Dunkin Donuts, I took the opportunity to quiz the members of this growing Barkada of Jesus about what they had done and how deep was their grasp of the Gospel. Each man impressed me with his grasp of repentance and faith, one of the most articulate being Louey Dan.  We finished our donuts and the boys hung around for a meal with Molong and Lisa and then headed home.

And three days later we headed back home ourselves, back to our own nation of Australia with a whole new understanding of what Jesus meant when He simply said (my paraphrase),

“Go and preach the Gospel, making disciples, baptising them and teaching them to obey me. And lo I am with you to the end … every day, not mainly on Sundays, not mainly in your meetings, not mainly via the Pastor, but moment by moment, day by day, until I come again.”

You can catch up with Molong’s writings at the new blogsite we are building together, The Barkadas of Jesus.  It’s still in in the building stage but you might like to bookmark it.  But be warned. It could change your thinking about the nature of church.

Here’s a Youtube of the new barkada.

THREE APOSTLES TO THE PHILIPPINES

I’ve just returned from one of the most significant trips that I have had to the Philippines. We (myself, my wife Esther and my good friend Carl Porter) went there to serve some churches with whom we had a relationship – and in the process finished up serving three apostles, three good Filipino men that Christ has given as gifts to the church.

FELIX DE RAMOS

One of them was Felix de Ramos. Felix has been serving as a father in the Philippines for the past 15 years and more, travelling around the country building up pastors and serving the Filipino church. He is one of the humblest, most unassuming men I know. His home church, Peace International Christian Church, sounds grand but meets in the basement of a house in Quezon City, Manila, hidden from view yet immensley influential.

Which is what true apostles are all about. Like the bones of the body or the foundations of the building they carry weight and give strength and shape but are hidden. It’s the flesh that carries the life and is seen. Felix, to my mind, embodies that principle and is a gift to the church.

LHOY EDANIOL

Lhoy and Venus EdaniolLhoy I’ve introduced in the previous post. He met me with tears at Felix’s church and we proceeded to Sapang Palay to meet the two churches that he was fathering in San Jose del Monte, a significant city in the hills above Manila. Five years ago God restored a very broken Lhoy back into ministry and gathered again the scattered flock that he had left – and added another battered flock to him as well. By the time we arrived Lhoy, with the enthusiastic help of his wife Venus,  had formed them into a couple of vibrant churches with equally enthusiastic workers reaching out among the poor and planting home based churches among them.

Part of the reason I went was to check that he had put into place some protections for himself and his family. Church planting is hard work in the Philippines, especially under old paradigms of ministry. I left him, confident that the safeguards are in place (before I came he had submitted himself to an older pastor in the area who loved him)  and confident also that God had restored him from the wilderness to be a key man in the city. For he carries an apostolic heart for the city, for the churches of the city and for the many other pastors who have fallen under the weight of ministry. God is making him a father beyond his local congregations. And I’m looking forward to being part of that process, raising some support back here in Yeppoon and dropping in now and then to strengthen him in a great work.

MOLONG NACUA

Then there was Molong.  But he definately requires a separate post … stay tuned.