Posts Tagged ‘local church’


Church Membership Or Biblical Fellowship? (Notes)


Over the years the question of Church Membership swirls around the Christian world, and is debated and discussed, sometimes fought over, and sometimes just taken for granted.

Now by “Church Membership” here, I mean it in the commonly used sense of the phrase, referring to formally joining a particular local church, in a formal way, maybe agreeing to some doctrinal statement, or agreeing to some written covenant, and actually being put on a list of “Members”.

Is that Biblical? Is it O.K.? Is it demanded? Is it optional? And so forth.

Today I want to open a discussion in what I think is a new direction regarding Church Membership, especially as it relates to Fellowship.

See, I believe that the discussion of Church Membership is in one sense missing the real point of what the Church is to be about.

Is Membership Fellowship?

There’s a big elephant in the room that no one mentions. This elephant is ignored, walked around, or maybe mentioned only in passing. The big elephant in the room is Fellowship.

Now I’ve read many extensive studies which attempt to prove from Scripture that Membership Lists are taught in the Bible. And I will admit some of them SEEM logical, and SEEM to make sense in a certain way.

But the truth is, there are no commands for Church Membership Lists in the Bible. There are no examples of Church Membership Lists in the Bible. And there are no examples of formal joining of the local church in the Bible.

Because of this, and in relation to Biblical Fellowship, I have come to believe that Church Membership Lists, and the formal joining of a local church, is a man-made result of a lack of true Biblical Fellowship, or what the Bible in Greek calls Koinonia.

No let me make a disclaimer, before I go any further. If you attend a local church that practices Membership Lists, I’m not saying you shouldn’t join, or formally become a member. Because the Bible also does not PROHIBIT the making of Membership Lists. So I want to be clear on that. The Membership List itself is not the problem.

Three Aspects

With that, I want to look at three aspects of this question of Church Membership:

1. What does the Bible teach about membership in general?
2. What made one a member of a local church?
3. What does Fellowship have to do with it?

1. What does the Bible teach about membership in general?

Romans 12:4,5, “For as we have many MEMBERS in one body, but all the MEMBERS do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually MEMBERS of one another.”

1 Cor 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are MEMBERS of Christ? Shall I then take the MEMBERS of Christ and make them MEMBERS of a harlot? Certainly not!”

1 Cor 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many MEMBERS, but all the MEMBERS of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

1 Cor 12:18, “But now God has set the MEMBERS, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”

1 Cor 12:20, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.”

1 Cor 12:25, “…that there should be no schism in the body, but that the MEMBERS should have the same care for one another.”

1 Cor 12:26, “And if one MEMBER suffers, all the MEMBERS suffer with it; or if one MEMBER is honored, all the MEMBERS rejoice with it.”

1 Cor 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and MEMBERS individually.”

Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and MEMBERS of the household of God.”

Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are MEMBERS of one another.”

Ephesians 5:30, “For we are MEMBERS of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”

Acts 2:47, “…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

2. What made one a member of the local church?

Acts 15:41, “And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 16:5, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”

“The Church” vs. “the churches”

Belief in Jesus Christ, baptism, and then practicing “church”.

Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

3. What does fellowship have to do with it?

Fellowship = “koinonia”, “commonality”, as in “koine” greek.


1 John 1:3, “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us; and truly our FELLOWSHIP is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

1 John 1:6, “If we say that we have FELLOWSHIP with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Now we get back to Membership Lists, regarding church discipline and dis-fellowshiping a member.youth-pray

Biblical “membership” involves “fellowship” — a commonality of spiritual Life in prayer, teaching, breaking of bread, drinking of cup, knowing one another, bearing one another’s burdens, sharing in one another’s financial needs, fervently loving one another, recognizing the hurt in one another and applying the balm of Jesus with warmth, stirring one another up to good works, exhorting, encouraging, blessing, hugging, welcoming, caring about, feeding with the true Bread, Who is Christ.

In other words, church discipline which may lead to dis-fellowshiping someone presupposes there is something to be dis-fellowshiped *from*. Something infinitely valuable, something one doesn’t want to miss, if they are a believer.282890_407010949350660_780975627_n

The modern American “church service”, where everyone files in at 11 and files out at Noon, with a, “How you doing?”, “I’m gr-r-r-eat!, how about you?” to a few people, followed by going home for another week apart from everyone else (or maybe till Wednesday for the truly “spiritual”) — doesn’t know what fellowship is. So it substitutes Membership Lists.

Then it either never dis-fellowships anyone, because “who cares?”, or it practices the church discipline of taking the unrepentent publicly sinful “off the Membership List”, whereupon the unrepentent publicly sinful either goes to the next church, or is “shamed” back onto the Membership List, not because they really miss the so-called “fellowship”, but because they are humiliated (too often they remain humiliated, with a red letter on their back…marked as a lesser being, not ike “us” who are incapable of falling so low…”How are you doing, Lesser Being?…O.K.?…go-o-o-d…see you next week…Ciao!”).

This is not meant to be a cynical comment at all, but a mere observation of many churches over many years, and a heart’s cry for a continual renewal of Biblical Fellowship.391270_369817819753634_869042150_n

“Church Membership Lists” is not primarily an exegetical question, it’s a spiritual one.

May God work His Fellowship in the churches.

Notes from Grace for Life

Posted on March 23, 2013

181287_536607173043497_1474976448_n578782_3549593277905_1935598937_n420656_356579927707684_276820845683593_1108519_2083609840_nNone But Christ Can Satisfy

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The Headship of Christ

Submitted by William MacDonaldon Mon, 02/07/2005 – 06:00


 A second truth to which the local church should be a witness is that Christ is the Head of the body. How can believers testify to this fact today? Obviously they must accept no human leader as head of the Church. The most glaring violation of this is the head of a large religious system who claims to be the temporal head of the body of Christ. Most Christians today have seen the folly of such a pretension, yet in somewhat subtler forms the evil has infiltrated into almost all segments of Christendom.

The Headship of Christ is truly acknowledged when He is allowed to control the church’s activities, to make its decisions, to superintend in every department. To many this will sound vague and impractical. How can the Lord in heaven guide a local church on earth? The answer is that He will never fail to make His will known to those who patiently wait on Him for it. True, this requires a great deal of spiritual exercise on the part of the believers. It would be much easier to take matters in their own hands, and make their own plans. But it should be remembered that New Testament principles can only be carried out with New Testament power, and those who are unwilling to tread the path of dependence, prayer, and patient waiting will never have the privilege of seeing the Great Head of the Church guiding the local church or assembly here on earth.

At this point it might be appropriate to emphasize that it is one thing to give lip-service to the Headship of Christ and quite another thing to acknowledge it practically. There are some who apparently would shed their blood for the truth of the Headship of Christ, and yet who deny it practically by being virtual dictators in the assembly. A man or a group of men may not have any official title or designation in a church and yet rule it ruthlessly. Diotrephes was such a man (3 John 9, 10). He loved to have the preeminence; he spoke against godly men like John with malicious words; he would not receive such men, and forbade those who would, casting them out of the church. This was a positive denial of Christ as Head.

Perhaps a word should be added concerning the headquarters of the church. The word headquarters speaks of the center of operations and of authority. The headquarters of the church are where the Head is; namely, in heaven. A local church cannot consistently recognize any controlling organization such as a synod, presbytery, or council where control is exercised over a single church or a group of churches. Each assembly stands directly responsible to the Head of the Church, and should be nothing and do nothing that would deny that truth.


As pointed out previously, a third important truth in connection with the Church is that all believers are members of the body. It is the duty of the assembly to set forth this truth with accuracy and faithfulness. Nothing that it teaches or practices should deny the oneness of all Christians. If we inquire how the local church can witness to this, we shall find ourselves concerned with the policies it follows in receiving others into its fellowship. This subject is commonly known as reception policy, and the principles are clear.


The general principle is that the local church or assembly should receive all those whom Christ has received. “Wherefore receive ye one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). The basis of true fellowship is the fact that a person has already been received into the body of Christ. The local church merely gives visible expression to that fact by welcoming him into its midst.


However, this is not a rule without exception. There are three additional requirements which are implicit in the teachings of the New Testament. The person received must be holy in life (1 Corinthians 5:11; 10:21). It would obviously give a very inaccurate representation of the holy character of the church to receive a fornicator, a covetous man, an idolater, a railer, a drunkard or an extortioner.

Closely associated with this is the fact it would be quite improper to receive a person who was at the time under discipline by another local church (1 Corinthians 5:13). This would be a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4). Until an excommunicated person has been restored to fellowship with the Lord and with His people, he is counted as a heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:17).

Finally, the person must be sound as to the doctrine of Christ (2 John 10). “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed”, The question arises here as to what is included in the doctrine of Christ. The expression is not explained in this passage, but we would suggest that the doctrine of Christ includes the great truths concerning His Person and Work: namely, His deity, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His burial, resurrection and ascension, and His coming again.

To summarize then, we would conclude that a local church should receive into its fellowship all born-again believers who are holy in life, not under discipline by some other local church or assembly, and sound in doctrine.


But the Scriptures give us some other instructions as to the matter of reception. The local assembly should:

1. Receive him who is weak in the faith (Romans 14:1). This refers to a Christian who is unduly scrupulous with regard to matters of moral indifference. The fact that he is a vegetarian, for instance, should not exclude him. 2. Receive without respect of persons (James 2 1-5). The Bible warns against showing special consideration to the rich, and despising the poor. This would apply too in the matter of race, social level, or culture. Discrimination is unchristian. 3. Receive on the basis of life, not light (Acts 9:26-38). Fellowship is not dependent on how much one knows, but rather on the Person whom he knows. Thus, Apollos was received in Ephesus, even though his knowledge was quite defective (Acts 18:24-28). 4. Receive on the basis of life, not of ordinance. Baptism is nowhere said to be the door into the local church. Though it is true that all believers should be baptized (Matthew 28:19), yet the moment we say that a person must be baptized in order to be received into fellowship, we have gone beyond the Word. 5. Receive on the basis of life, not service. Just because we might not agree with a Christian’s sphere of service is no reason for denying him the fellowship of the local church. In Luke 9:53, we read that the Samaritans would not receive the Lord Jesus because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. They were motivated by sectarianism rather than by divine principles. 6. Receive a person in spite of what he may have been before he was saved. Paul had been a persecutor, but he was received without regard to his past history (Acts 9:27, 28). Onesimus had been a thief, but Paul exhorts Philemon to receive him (Philemon 12,15,17). When an assembly’s doors are closed to converted drunkards, gamblers, or outcasts, it has lost its true character as an available center of worship for God’s people. 7. Receive believers in the Lord with gladness (Philippians 2:29). In a very real sense, the way we treat the weakest member of His body, is the way we treat the Lord Himself. ’’inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren. ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).


Now the question invariably arises, “How is an assembly to know whether a person is really saved and eligible for fellowship? At least five possible approaches may be suggested. First, there is the use of letters of recommendation (Romans 16:1). A Christian travelling from one assembly to another can avoid considerable difficulty and embarrassment by carrying a letter from his home assembly, testifying to his faith and walk.

Then the testimony of two or three witnesses is acceptable (Matthew 18:16). If a person is known to two or more Christians in a local church, that church may receive him on their recommendation.

The testimony of only one person, but one who has the confidence of the assembly, can be taken. Paul commended Phebe to the saints at Rome (Romans 16:1), and Epaphroditus to the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:28-30).

A man’s own reputation as a servant of Christ is sufficient (2 Corinthians 3:1-2). Paul disclaimed the necessity of a letter of commendation to the church at Corinth because he was well-known to them as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

There can be a careful inquiry and investigation by the assembly itself. By this is meant that an assembly, perhaps through the elders, may question a person as to his faith in Christ, etc., asking him to give a reason of the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). They may then receive him after reasonable assurance that he belongs to Christ.


Before closing this section on reception, we should also consider three other questions which commonly arise in connection with this subject.

Does the church have any right to judge whether a man is saved or not? The answer is that this is not only a right but a sacred obligation. Since Christians are forbidden to have fellowship with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17), it is obvious that they are required to use every reasonable means to discern the spiritual status of those who seek a place among the people of God.

Suppose an assembly receives a man and he subsequently teaches error in the church? Then his teaching should be publicly refuted from the Word of God (1 Timothy 5:20). A New Testament church can only function in the environment of an open Bible. It should have godly elders who can expose error and defend the faith (Titus 1:9).

Suppose a local church receives a person, and he either attends irregularly thereafter, or never comes back? In the first place it should be emphasized that fellowship means sharing or holding things in common. Those in fellowship should enter into the life of the assembly, bear their load of responsibility, and share the work involved. Generally speaking, if a person attends only one service a week, he is limited in fellowship. Reception into a local church is in reality a reception into the hearts and homes of the Christians making up the fellowship of that church. With regard to a person who is received but who never returns, the man himself is accountable. The assembly is responsible to present to him a faithful and spiritual representation of the Church. He is thereafter obligated to be obedient to the truth.

Obviously the subject of reception is a complicated one, and we have only been able to touch on some of its more important aspects. Recognizing the incompleteness of our coverage, we move on to the next major point.


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The Local Church Defined

Submitted by William MacDonaldon Mon, 02/07/2005 – 06:00


Down through the years, there has been considerable disagreement as to what constitutes a New Testament church. The usual approach is to list a certain number of requirements or marks; if a group of Christians answers to these qualifications, then it is considered to be a true local church.

Henry Barrow has given what might be considered a rather typical definition of a church. He defined it as follows: “A true-planted and rightly-established church of Christ is a company of faithful people, separated from unbelievers, gathered in the Name of Christ, whom they truly worship and readily obey. They are a brotherhood, a communion of saints, each one of them standing in and for their Christian liberty to practice whatsoever God ha commanded and revealed unto them in His Holy Word.”

First Corinthians 1:2 gives a simple, yet accurate description of a local church. “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

Other definitions have been far more restricted with the result that only the churches of a certain denomination or group actually qualify.


This raises a very real question. Does the New Testament list a certain number of requisites or essentials of a local church? Are the marks of an assembly stated so clearly that any believer could separate the fellowships in any area into those which ate true New Testament churches and those which are not?

We would suggest that this is not the case. If becoming a true church were merely a matter of conforming to a certain pattern or going through a specified routine of meetings, then this could be done quite mechanically without spiritual exercise. Lethargy and complacency would result. Though the position of a church might be ever so correct, yet the condition of the believers might be far otherwise.

Instead of that, we believe that the New Testament approach is this. All believers are instructed that, by the grace of God, they are members of the Church. They are exhorted to gather together in such a way as to give expression to the great truths of the Church. Some assemblies of Christians give a very poor representation of the body of Christ. Other groups present a more faithful likeness. None does so perfectly.

Thus, instead of following the legalistic method which says, ‘lf you meet certain requirements, you will become a church,’ the language of Scripture is the language of grace; namely, “You as believers are the Church; now meet in such a manner as to give an accurate expression of this fact to the world.” The motive power under grace is love for the Savior, and this love should make us want to present a faithful image of the body of Christ to those around us.


To summarize then, the local church should be a miniature of the Church universal. It should be nothing and do nothing that would contradict the great truths of the Church which is the body of Christ.

As Ridout has said: “Its nature and unity must be manifested. It must be seen that it is the body of Christ, formed by and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that all believers are members of it, united to Christ glorified and to one another; that the Lord’s coming is the hope before it; and that the Name of Christ is the only one by which it is called. Furthermore, it must exhibit the unity of the body of Christ.”

If then, the local church must be a replica of the complete Church, what are the great truths of the body of Christ to which it must provide a living testimony? We have already referred to seven of these fundamental truths; namely:

A. There is one body.

B. Christ is Head of the body.

C. All believers are members of the body.

D. The Holy Spirit is the representative of Christ in the Church.

E. The Church of God is holy.

E. Gifts are given for the edification of the Church.

G. All believers are priests of God.

Our present objective, therefore, is to take these truths one by one, and seek to determine how the local church can portray them to the world.


The first truth to which the local church is responsible to witness is that there is one body. How can believers testify to this fact today?


Perhaps the most obvious way is by adopting no names that would separate them from other Christians. In the church of Corinth, some were saying, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Christ.” Paul indignantly condemns such a spirit by asking, “Is Christ divided?’ (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).

Today Christians divide themselves into denominations named after countries, religious leaders, ordinances, or forms of church government. All such are a practical denial of the unity of the body of Christ.

Clearly, the scriptural approach is for God’s children to be known only by such names as are given in the Bible – names such as “believers’’ (Acts 5:14); “disciples” (Acts 9:1); “Christians” (Acts 11:26); “saints” (Ephesians 1:1); and “brethren,” (James 2:1). It is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks in the Christian life to carry no name but that of a simple believer. The vast majority today feels that one must belong to some organized church and carry some other name than those given in the Word. Anyone who refuses to be known as anything but a child of God will suffer reproach at the hands even of other Christians and will always be a conundrum in the community. Yet how can believers consistently do otherwise?

But obviously it is not enough just to have a scripturally accurate name. It is all too possible to adhere strictly to the language of the Bible and yet be extremely sectarian in spirit. Some in Corinth were saying, “I am of Christ,” for instance. Perhaps they prided themselves on the correctness of their name, but they actually meant that they were of Christ to the exclusion of other true believers. Paul found fault with them equally as much as with those who claimed loyalty to himself or Apollos.


When any doubt is voiced as to the scripturalness of denominations, the objection is commonly raised that the Lord has richly blessed in some of the great divisions and sects of the Church. Granting that this is true, we should still remember that the blessing of the Lord does not indicate divine approval in every detail. He honors His own Word though often its delivery is accompanied by much failure and imperfection. If God blessed only where there was perfection, there would be no blessing. Therefore the fact that any group has seen His hand does not mean that He approves of all that the group does. The message is always greater than the messenger.

The Lord’s attitude toward divisions in the Church is clearly shown in 1 Corinthians 3:4: ‘For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?’

Divisions in the Church bring great evils. They create artificial barriers to fellowship. They limit the movement of gifted men of God whose ministry should be available to all the Church. They confuse the world, causing men to ask, “Which church is right?”

In his renowned work, The Lord’s Prayer for Believers, Marcus Rainsford wrote: “For my own part, I believe sects and denominations to be the result of the devil’s attempt to mar and hinder as far as possible the visible union of the Church of God; and that they all have their root in our spiritual pride and selfishness, our self-sufficiency and our sin.’

“May God forgive us for, and correct our divisions! Nothing gives greater occasion to the outside world, than the differences between professing Christians. The bickerings and contentions between men and women of different sects and denominations of the visible Church of God has always been one of the world’s greatest hindrances. Instead of looking on, and being constrained to confess, See how these Christians love one another,’ the world has too often reason to say, ‘See how they carp at one another, see how they judge one another, see how they malign one another.’

Sadly, this deplorable state exists all too often within some local churches and dishonor is thereby brought upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Believers who determine to witness to the unity of the body of Christ will find it a great difficulty to separate themselves from all divisions in the Church, and at the same time maintain a loving spirit toward all the people of God.

C. H. Mackintosh, beloved author of the Notes on the Pentateuch, wrote: “The grand difficulty is to combine a spirit of intense separation with a spirit of grace, gentleness and forbearance; or, as another has said, ‘to maintain a narrow circle with a wide heart.’ This is really a difficulty. As the strict and uncompromising maintenance of truth tends to narrow the circle around us, we all shall need the expansive power of grace to keep the heart wide and the affections warm. If we contend for truth otherwise than in grace, we shall only yield a one-sided and most unattractive testimony. And on the other hand, if we try to exhibit grace at the expense of truth, it will prove, in the end, to be only the manifestation of a popular liberty at God’s expenses most worthless thing.”’

W. H. Griffith Thomas expressed the same thought in his book, Ministerial Life and Work: “Let the principles be firmly fixed on the unmistakable rock of Divine truth, but let the sympathies go out as widely as possible to all who are endeavoring to live and labor for Christ. Never shall I forget the words of the saintly and noble Bishop Whipple of Minnesota, the Apostle of the Indians, as I heard them in London on a memorable occasion: ‘For thirty years I have tried to see the face of Christ in those who have differed from me.’

The visible display of the unity of the body of Christ is not to be brought about by the various ecumenical movements about which so much is heard today. Such unions, councils or federations succeed only by compromising the great truths of the Scripture. Christian congregations deny their Lord when they join with those who repudiate the virgin birth of Christ, His sinless humanity, His substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension and exaltation, and His coming again.

The true basis of Christian unity is a common devotion to Christ and His Word. When His glory is the great desire of our hearts, then we will be drawn together, and then His prayer will be answered: “That they may be one, even as we are one,” (John 17:22). As Griffith Thomas has said, “It has often been pointed out that when the tide is out, there are little pools of water here and there on the shore, separated from each other by vast stretches of sand, and it is only when the great tide rolls in and submerges them all in its vast embrace that they become one and are united. So must it be, so will it be with our severances of heart, ‘our unhappy divisions’; the great tide of God’s love will flow deeper and fuller into each and all of our lives, and in the ocean of that love we realize the Divine ideal of love, joy, peace for evermore.”’

In the meantime the responsibility of local churches is to seek to maintain a testimony to the unity of the body of Christ in a day when most of Christendom serves only to deny the fact. They can do this by acknowledging in spirit, principle and practice all their fellow-believers.

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Why Corporate Church Won’t Work – Mike Breen

Guest Post by Mike Breen

The past few weeks I’ve been working with the 3DM Content Team on material for our new book on how to multiply missional leaders (coming out in April, 2012). I wanted to share a little preview of some of the things we’ve been discussing.

You see, I am absolutely convinced that 100 years from now, many books will be written on the phenomenon that is the late 20th Century/early 21st Century American church. And I am fairly certain that it will be with large degree of amazement/laughter that people, in reading about it, will say to each other: “You must be joking! Seriously???! People actually thought it was a good idea to structure the Church as if it were a business? Honestly?!”

Perhaps we don’t have the perspective necessary to see how funny or strange this really is, but I promise you, if you run your church like a business, it’ll never be a family and families are what have changed the world. Bill Hybels was right about the local church (as the Body of Jesus) being the hope of the world…just not as we are currently seeing it.

Efficiency has replaced effectiveness. Many churches are organizationally efficient, but we aren’t affecting the lives of people the way in which Jesus imagined a family would do.

We’ve created a corporate America-like church, somehow buying into a false dichotomy between a Leadership Culture which produces leaders and a Discipleship Culture that produces disciples. Here’s what I mean: In American businesses, it’s about moving people from A to B, but has nothing to do with making people. We have one guy with the vision and a culture of volunteerism to help that one guy get his vision accomplished. It’s the genius with a 1000 helpers. So while churches may claim to have “leadership development programs,” what they really have are “volunteer pipelines” that are run by managers, not leaders.

In doing so, we run the campus, but don’t expand the Kingdom. We’re keeping the machine of the church running (which, much to some people’s chagrine, I think is needed if done in a lightweight/low maintenance kind of way), but doing practically nothing to expand the Kingdom.

This is what we’ve created:

Clearly there isn’t quite the black and white dichotomy as this matrix illustrates, but I still think it serves the point. Often we have churches that are great at making disciples, but not terribly effective at mobilizing these people into God’s mission in the world (yes, I’m overgeneralizing). Or, on the other side, we have churches that are great at moving people to do things, but are pretty poor at making disciples, creating a culture of volunteerism, implemented and run by managers of the leader.

What we need is a way of making and moving people so that as we make disciples, we release them into their destiny of pushing into new Kingdom-frontier.

Corporate church doesn’t do this. Strictly organic church doesn’t do this. I would argue that in the whole of church history, there is one thing that does this, but is largely lost to us in Western culture.


The Oikos.

A group of people, blood-and-non-blood, about the size of an extended family, on mission together, often times networked with other extended families.

Why the extended family?

* Because it’s small enough to care, but large enough to dare.

* Everyone gets to play.

* Sociologically, people locate their identity within the extended family size (known as the Social Space). We’re hardwired for it.

* To function well, it’s a beautiful combination of both the organic and the organized

* It’s the perfect training ground for future leaders

I believe, with everything in me, that until we embrace this reality, we will continue to struggle to be the fully functioning Body of Jesus.

Why might this be so difficult for overachieving Americans?

Because as J.S. Bryan has said, Many men can build a fortune, but few men can build a family.


Mike Breen and the 3DM crew will be exploring more of these ideas and training on Missional Communities, discipleship and leadership development at Verge 2012. Be sure and register for the Verge: Missional Community Labs pre-conference to take advantage of the most in-depth training on missional leadership in a smaller environment. Space is limited in the pre-conference, so register quickly before it fills up!


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3. Autonomy Of The Local Church:
Church is a totally new system instituted by
God. It is completely different from anything
that one sees in the Old Testament and it was
a mystery before the day of Pentecost.
Starting from that day, God revealed
numerous things about the Church and
Church Age. This information is spread from
the book of Acts to the book of Revelation in
the Scripture. When all this information is
collected and arranged, it becomes clear that
the Church of Christ is not to be organized like
a human organization.
The New Testament Church is a very large
family, with born again members spread
throughout the world. The New Testament
makes it clear that they are to gather into
churches, but that these churches are not to
be made into any kind of human organization
or hierarchy. There are a number of reasons
behind this new command, and one of them is
to preserve His church from human control
and manipulation. However, practically every
Protestant church in the world has organized
itself into a hierarchy and there is absolutely
nothing in such hierarchies that grant
autonomy to the local church. They have used
this hierarchical power to introduce man
made rituals, demands, and theology to
exploit their members. This is totally contrary
to the New Testament pattern.
The Brethren are practically the only church in
the world that literally and strictly adheres to
the principle of the autonomy of individual
churches. Each church is autonomous, and is
under no pastor, no bishop, and under no
hierarchy. Yet the Brethren worldwide
continue to be one New Testament pattern
movement because every autonomous church
stands upon one and the same foundation,
which is the Bible and not any man-made

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1 Separation

With Protestant Reformation, an increasing
number of churches realize that their
doctrine needs to be right. Many of them
have produced statements of doctrine that
are highly biblical. However, for such a doctrinal stand to become effective, the right kind of
emphasis is needed. Just as prescription of medicine should be followed by regular consumption of
medicine, right doctrine becomes practical only when there is right emphasis in the church.
However, today the Protestant Christendom has become so corrupt that they have added man-made
sets of stipulations along with right doctrines. This in effect has totally destroyed the unique
character of the New Testament church and has made these churches resemble the Roman
Catholicism out of which we came out.
The Scripture is very clear that
salvation comes only and only
through Christ. Only Lord Jesus
is the mediator between God
and man. There is no other
mediator, and there is none
other than Christ who is
qualified to be such a mediator.
The Brethren have given emphasis to the essentials right from the beginning, and some of these
· Separation
· Priesthood Of All Believers
· Autonomy Of The Local Church
· Necessity Of Evangelism
· Necessity Of Church Planting
We need to discuss each one in detail:
1. Separation: It becomes clear even to a
casual observer of the Scripture that God
wants His children to be in the world, but be
separated from the world in certain things. In
other words, we are people with dual
citizenships and therefore we need to be
careful in what we do and in what we avoid.
This is based upon the principle, ” If ye were of
the world, the world would love his own: but
because ye are not of the world, but I have
chosen you out of the world, therefore the
world hateth you.” (John 15:19). “I have
given them thy word; and the world hath
hated them, because they are not of the
world, even as I am not of the world.” (John
The human race craves for pagan practices, as the
Old Testament history has repeatedly demonstrated,
but God’s children need to practice separation.
God’s children continue to live in this world
after their salvation. During this time they
enjoy dual citizenship, of the earth and of the
heaven, with totally conflicting demands. Thus
there is a constant battle within the Christian
life (and within the Christian society) to arrive
at a compromise between the demands of the
old and new citizenships of the Christian – a
compromise between Christian theology and
earthly outlook. This kind of a compromise
reduces the conflict, and is a great gain for the
world, but is a great loss for the church. Such
a compromising believer is never able to
attain the sanctification, maturity, and
spiritual effectiveness for which he/she has
been called by Christ. The Scripture warns
against compromise, against mingling with
error, and against certain types of fellowships.
We read in the Scripture:
· I pray not that thou shouldest take
them out of the world, but that thou
shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am
not of the world. (John 17:15,16)
· I wrote unto you in an epistle not to
company with fornicators: Yet not
altogether with the fornicators of this
world, or with the covetous, or
extortioners, or with idolaters; for
then must ye needs go out of the
world. But now I have written unto
you not to keep company, if any man
that is called a brother be a fornicator,
or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer,
or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with
such an one no not to eat. For what
have I to do to judge them also that
are without? do not ye judge them
that are within? But them that are
without God judgeth. Therefore put
away from among yourselves that
wicked person. (I Corinthians 5:9-13)
.If there come any unto you, and bring
not this doctrine, receive him not into
your house, neither bid him God
speed: For he that biddeth him God
speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2
John 10,11)
· Beware lest any man spoil you through
philosophy and vain deceit, after the
tradition of men, after the rudiments
of the world, and not after Christ.
Let no man therefore judge you in
meat, or in drink, or in respect of an
holiday, or of the new moon, or of the
sabbath days: Which are a shadow
of things to come; but the body is of
Christ. Let no man beguile you of your
reward in a voluntary humility and
worshiping of angels, intruding into
those things which he hath not seen,
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
And not holding the Head, from which
all the body by joints and bands having
nourishment ministered, and knit
together, increaseth with the increase
of God. Wherefore if ye be dead
with Christ from the rudiments of the
world, why, as though living in the
world, are ye subject to ordinances,
(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22
Which all are to perish with the using;)
after the commandments and
doctrines of men? Which things have
indeed a shew of wisdom in will
worship, and humility, and neglecting
of the body; not in any honour to the
satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians
2:8, 16-23)
· And I heard another voice from
heaven, saying, Come out of her, my
people, that ye be not partakers of her
sins, and that ye receive not of her
plagues. (Revelation 18:4)
From these it is obvious that God wants his
children not to be part of those forms of
Christianity which are contrary to the
Scripture. God also wants His children to be
away from evil and sin. What is more, He
wants His children not to have fellowship with
heretics who are within the family of God, if
the heretics do not give heed to doctrinal
correction and if they continue to perpetuate
their teaching in the family.
As a result though the Brethren are courteous
and friendly to all, they refuse to be part of
any endeavor that encourages sin,
compromise, error, or heresy. They do not
endorse ecumenism, and do not participate in
activities that are aimed to promote
ecumenism. They are also the first to spot
error within the assemblies and
outside and they are the first to
expose such error. The ultimate
aim of all this is to show the world
that God’s children do not
endorse sin, compromise, and
heresy within the assemblies and outside and
they are the first to expose such error.  There are very few
churches that are as strong in these matters
as the Brethren Assemblies are.
Ecumenism tries to unite all Christian denominations
under the Roman Pope, and the tries to bring all
religions under one roof and under one head!
Brethren are totally opposed to this compromise.

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