The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D

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The early church got it right.

Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.

The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up.  The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”.  They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.

They kept things simple.  They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.

1.  They taught what Jesus taught.  
2.  They fellowshipped.  
3.  They ate.  
4.  They prayed.

Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.

They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.

Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

To those who were homeless and impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe early Christians offered nursing and medical services.

Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.

Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,

For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” 

They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.

Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.

Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.

Buildings started being built.  Rules and regulations started being added.  Structure was put into place.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad.  But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.

Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today.  They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.

Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?

At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?

The church has lost it’s voice.  The church has lost it’s authority in society.

The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.

The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.

Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.

The early church got it right.

A PROCLAMATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

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Together, we are to be One,

By One, for One, and in One—

Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are the Bride of Glory,

The Dwelling Place of Father,

The Ecclesia Family,

The Sons of God,

The Body of Light, Truth,

Resurrection Life and divine Unity.

Unite in Life, not in religions,

Nor buildings of institution,

Nor by programs, nor missions,

Nor interpretations, nor religious doctrines,

Nor politics of the nations,

Nor organized ways of man,

But as God’s free people

Living Him within one another,

Expressing only Jesus Christ.

He is our Head, our body Life

In everyday experience;

Every moment of our existence.

Let’s turn around now, and see Him.

Not His things we admire,

But focus upon the Face of Jesus Christ.

This is a proclamation to unite

As One people of God, and see Him as One.

If you are listening with the eyes of your heart,

You will hear the words cry.

Author, Kathy Marie Huff

GOD IS CHANGING THE CHURCH

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The following article can be found at the following website: http://www.housechurch.org/basics/simson_15.html.  This is one of the most concise and accurate expressions of my hearts longing for Father’s ekklesia.  This is definitely worth a read.

15 Theses. Wolfgang Simson

God is changing the Church, and that, in turn, will change the world. Millions of Christians around the world are aware of an imminent reformation of global proportions. They say, in effect: “Church as we know it is preventing Church as God wants it.” A growing number of them are surprisingly hearing God say the very same things. There is a collective new awareness of age-old revelations, a corporate spiritual echo. In the following “15 Theses” I will summarize a part of this, and I am convinced that it reflects a part of what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church today. For some, it might be the proverbial fist-sized cloud on Elijah’s sky. Others already feel the pouring rain.

1. Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings

Before they where called Christians, followers of Christ have been called “The Way”. One of the reasons was, that they have literally found “the way to live.” The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus, but in the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritually extended families as a vivid answer to the questions society faces, at the place where it counts most: in their homes.

2. Time to change the system

In aligning itself to the religious patterns of the day, the historic Orthodox Church after Constantine in the 4th century AD adopted a religious system which was in essence Old Testament, complete with priests, altar, a Christian temple (cathedral), frankincense and a Jewish, synagogue-style worship pattern. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system. Luther did reform the content of the gospel, but left the outer forms of “church” remarkably untouched; the Free-Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it into a uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and the Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the superstructure. It is about time to do just that.

3. The Third Reformation.

In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the Church through a reformation of theology. In the 18th century through movements like the Moravians there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.

4. From Church-Houses to house-churches

Since New Testament times, there is no such thing as “a house of God”. At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded unequivocally: God does not live in temples made by human hands. The Church is the people of God. The Church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There, the people of God: -Share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, -Have “meatings,” that is, they eat when they meet, -They often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings, -Teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God’s word, dialogue – and not professor-style, -Pray and prophesy with each other, baptize, `lose their face’ and their ego by confessing their sins, -Regaining a new corporate identity by experiencing love, acceptance and forgiveness.

5. The church has to become small in order to grow big

Most churches of today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament Church was a mass of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not upward into big congregations between 20 and 300 people filling a cathedral and making real, mutual communication improbable. Instead, it multiplied “sidewards”, like organic cells, once these groups reached around 15-20 people. Then, if possible, it drew all the Christians together into citywide celebrations, as with Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is, statistically speaking, neither big nor beautiful, but rather a sad compromise, an overgrown house-church and an under-grown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both.

6. No church is led by a Pastor alone

The local church is not led by a Pastor, but fathered by an Elder, a local person of wisdom and reality. The local house-churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called five-fold ministries (Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists and Teachers) circulating “from house to house,” whereby there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Eph. 2:20, and 4:11.12). A Pastor (shepherd) is a very necessary part of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way

In doing a puzzle, we need to have the right original for the pieces, otherwise the final product, the whole picture, turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make much sense. This has happened to large parts of the Christian world: we have all the right pieces, but have fitted them together wrong, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy and a power-and-control mentality. As water is found in three forms, ice, water and steam, the five ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11-12, the Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists are also found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places: they are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no-one. As it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new, and at the same time age-old, forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return back to the Maker’s original and blueprint for the Church.

8. God does not leave the Church in the hands of bureaucratic clergy

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive religious consumers Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament. The heavy piritualizationon of the church since Constantine has now been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into laity and clergy. According to the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in-between people and God forever. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way. To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems, because it basically asks only two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity, no room for real life. This may be OK for politics and companies, but not the Church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His Church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, the hands of ordinary people made extraordinary by God, who, like in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume and revolution.

9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity

The “Body of Christ” is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists on its local level of a multitude of spiritual families, which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole. What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism, has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket, often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better. The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge.

10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God

The image of much of contemporary Christianity can be summarized, a bit euphemistically, as holy people coming regularly to a holy place at a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual lead by a holy man dressed in holy clothes against a holy fee. Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called “worship service” requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy to keep going, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional 1-2 hour “worship service” is very resource-hungry but actually produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, that is, in changed lives. Economically speaking, it might be a “high input and low output” structure. Traditionally, the desire to “worship in the right way” has led to much denominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores that Christians are called to “worship in truth and in spirit,” not in cathedrals holding songbooks, but also ignores that most of life is informal, and so is Christianity as “the Way of Life.” Do we need to change from being powerful actors to start “acting powerfully?”

11. Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people

The church is changing back from being a Come-structure to being again a Go-structure. As one result, the Church needs to stop trying to bring people “into the church,” and start bringing the Church to the people. The mission of the Church will never be accomplished just by adding to the existing structure; it will take nothing less than a mushrooming of the church through spontaneous multiplication of itself into areas of the population of the world, where Christ is not yet known.

12. Rediscovering the “Lord’s Supper” to be a real supper with real food

Church tradition has managed to “celebrate the Lord’s Supper” in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the “Lord’s Supper” was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.

13. From Denominations to city-wide celebrations

Jesus called a universal movement, and what came was a series of religious companies with global chains marketing their special brands of Christianity and competing with each other. Through this branding of Christianity most of Protestantism has, therefore, become politically insignificant and often more concerned with traditional specialties and religious infighting than with developing a collective testimony before the world. Jesus simply never asked people to organize themselves into denominations. In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house-churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of the Church of the city or region. Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church.

14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit

They crucified Jesus, the Boss of all the Christians. Today, his followers are often more into titles, medals and social respectability, or, worst of all, they remain silent and are not worth being noticed at all. “Blessed are you when you are persecuted”, says Jesus. Biblical Christianity is a healthy threat to pagan godlessness and sinfulness, a world overcome by greed, materialism, jealousy and any amount of demonic standards of ethics, sex, money and power. Contemporary Christianity in many countries is simply too harmless and polite to be worth persecuting. But as Christians again live out New Testament standards of life and, for example, call sin as sin, conversion or persecution has been, is and will be the natural reaction of the world. Instead of nesting comfortably in temporary zones of religious liberty, Christians will have to prepare to be again discovered as the main culprits against global humanism, the modern slavery of having to have fun and the outright worship of Self, the wrong centre of the universe. That is why Christians will and must feel the “repressive tolerance” of a world which has lost any absolutes and therefore refuses to recognize and obey its creator God with his absolute standards. Coupled with the growing ideologisation, privatization and piritualization of politics and economics, Christians will, sooner than most think, have their chance to stand happily accused in the company of Jesus. They need to prepare now for the future by developing a persecution-proof spirit and an even more persecution-proof structure.

15. The Church comes home

Where is the easiest place, say, for a man to be spiritual? Maybe again, is it hiding behind a big pulpit, dressed up in holy robes, preaching holy words to a faceless crowd and then disappearing into an office? And what is the most difficult, and therefore most meaningful, place for a man to be spiritual? At home, in the presence of his wife and children, where everything he does and says is automatically put through a spiritual litmus test against reality, where hypocrisy can be effectively weeded out and authenticity can grow. Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots, back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history.

As Christians of all walks of life, from all denominations and backgrounds, feel a clear echo in their spirit to what God’s Spirit is saying to the Church, and start to hear globally in order to act locally, they begin to function again as one body. They organize themselves into neighborhood house-churches and meet in regional or city-celebrations. You are invited to become part of this movement and make your own contribution. Maybe your home, too, will become a house that changes the world.

You are welcome and encouraged to redistribute this article.

By Wolfgang Simson

http://www.housechurch.org/basics/simson_15.html

For further reading regarding the revolution of the church, please read the following: PAGAN CHRISTIANITY & then REIMAGINING THE CHURCHAlso, check out Wolfgang’s book entitled Houses That Change The World

The Church of Tomorrow

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I found the following entry on a blog entitled “The Way Journal” by our brother Andrew Strom.  I encourage you to check it out.  He and I are definitely on the same page.  So, read his latest blog entry below and of course may the Lord Jesus bless you richly!

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THE CHURCH OF TOMORROW

For awhile now I’ve been sensing in my spirit that there is something shaking.  Hebrews tells us that there would come a time when everything would be shaken and only that which remained would last.  In recent years I’ve witnessed a great migration taking place.  An exodus out of the organizations we call “church” to gatherings in homes and online.  There are several reasons for this exodus.  Most are waking up, looking around and saying “where am I? how did I get here? what do I do now?”  There’s a disorientation that often accompanies a long deep slumber.  Some, when fully awake, realize that they were so horribly deceived that they determine to bring the system down.  Hundreds of books and websites, blogs and Facebook and other social networking pages have been created and published for this very purpose.  Some of them are really beneficial and water the soul.  Others are filled with rebellion, animosity and false teachings leading many astray.  Currently, it seems to me that the latter is gaining the most ground.  People are exchanging the truth for a lie and inventing a Jesus, God and gospel they can live with, rather than submit to the One and only True One.  We have never been called to bring God to our way of thinking – we have always been called to Him.  He is unchanging, unwavering, immovable.  One never brings a river to themselves – one must always journey to the river.

God is shaking.  He is shaking the church and sifting it.  Those who are pure of heart will easily pass through the sieve.  Those who are not will not pass through those small openings.  Everything that can be shaken is being shaken.  Why? Because it’s a preparation – a last push and call for the Kingdom that’s coming in physical form.  Only a pure spotless Bride will be counted worthy to participate in the first resurrection, which is the marriage of the Lamb.  God is restoring the body of Christ to it’s origins and purposes, accompanied by all the power of the Holy Spirit operating and confirming with REAL signs, wonders and miracles, in order to reach a lost and dying world and to hopefully snatch some from the fire that are caught up in the false doctrines and teachings.  I urge anyone reading this today to heed the call.  Purify your hearts and minds.  Reject all that is unholy and untrue.  Return to the real Jesus and the real God.  Repent.  Call on the Lord while He may be found.  The result?  A restored New Testament Church in full operation to usher in the return of the King.  What does that look like?  Well, I think Andrew Strom says it far better than me.  I want this.  I want this so bad I can taste it.

We Are A Perfect Fit

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I was talking with my friend Kathy the other day about the beauty of the body of Christ; the ekklesia.  We marveled at how wonderfully Father puts us together.  I then said, “Yeah, it’s like we are individual perfect puzzle pieces and Jesus, as the Head, puts us together like puzzle pieces to form an image of HIM.” She then said this,

“He made us complete in order that we might ‘complete’ HIM here on earth.”

Did you get it?  Do you sense the enormity of that statement?  Reread it!  It is profound yet oh so simple!

THIS is simple church…..simply put!

We as individual Christ followers we together form the magnificent puzzle picture of our Lord Jesus.  THAT my dear brother and sister is the ekklesia!  As “living stones” or living puzzle pieces if you will, we allow the world to find Jesus; to see Him; to experience Him.


The koinonia of these individual, complete and perfect pieces form THE house for God to dwell…here and now.  Again, this is truly God’s heart for His family; His people.

My dear family of God is this your experience of “church”?  Do your gatherings reflect this precious imagery of His house?  I don’t care if it’s a house church, traditional church or whatever.  It is the heart of our Father to connect passionate hearts for Jesus and to form these into His house and an image of His dear Son and our savior Jesus.

Let us ALL be consumed with Jesus alone, and ask Father to unite our hearts with others with a similar passion for His Son.

A Response Explaining “Why?”

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This is a letter that I wrote to a friend back in AZ who had written me a long letter expressing his concern.  I am sharing it, because I believe there are others who might have questions.

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My dear brother!
I am so sorry you are going through these struggles.  My heart ached for you when I read what you are going through.  Father is so very faithful & will meet you in the midst of this.

All day my mind raced here & there as to what I wanted to share with you.  First, I want you to know brother that I have read & have been “influenced” by many people including several “no names” in the body of Christ.  The list of authors are as follows: Gene Edwards, Frank Viola, George Barna, T. Austin Sparks, Tony & Felicity Dale, Neil Cole, Jon Zens, Wolfgang Simpson, Floyd McClung, Robert Fritts, Watchman Nee (I may have forgotten a couple).  So you see ____, this is not just something that just “happened”.  As I said in my post, it actually started 26 years ago.

So ____, I don’t see myself as “part of a movement”, but rather a life….HIS.  I have a deep longing to experience “living stones” being built by HIM into a house for HIM!!!  For years (unknowingly for a long time) I’ve craved the body life He speaks of in His word.  I desire to see “God get what He wants: a Bride, a body, a building and a family – a corporate expression of His glorious Son.”  This is not just positionally it’s a reality NOW that was born in the heart of God from before time.

(btw…in ALL of the authors/speakers mentioned above I have not read/heard any of them attack the body.  As a matter of fact they all – especially Viola – constantly encourage those already involved in organic fellowships, to NOT discuss or make it all about “those institutional churches”.  They are encouraged to keep their focus on JESUS….period)

I love the body deeply & really desire to be a part of that “corporate expression” of Jesus.  To watch the body’s members EACH functioning as God intended, with Jesus as the ONLY head; to truly experience the “priesthood of the believers” (which we say we believe) in action each week.  Meeting for one purpose….Jesus; to discover & display Him in real life; not sitting there week after week watching just a few people exercise their gifts & then each “living stone” going back to their individual lives; separate from the other “living stones”.

____, I think I do understand what’s going on inside you right now, but brother please understand I deeply love the “brethren”, but I am appalled at the manmade system they find themselves caught in.

I was thinking of you today in regard to this all, and realized that this is nothing more than experiencing REAL intimacy in the ecclesia; the very thing I believe your soul longs for.  I love you brother & appreciate your honesty and desire for truth.

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through THE CHURCH [ecclesia] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” Ephesians 3:8-10

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” – Col. 1:17-18
Resting In Him,

Anthony

THE Announcement of my life!

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This announcement is truly a long time coming.  I will start by coming right to the point:

I have left the “church”!

Seriously?  As you noticed, the word “church” is in quotes for good reason.  I have ceased “attending” a church in order to experience being THE church…HIS BODY!  Let me further explain.

About 26 years ago, while as a “Youth Minister”, Father had me “accidentally” find a book at a yard sale entitled Revolution: The Story of the Early Church; a novel about the first 17 years of the church.  I was captivated and mesmerized.  It resonated with my spirit.  I was so unknowingly bound up by legalism and religion that the reality of simply “being the church” went by the wayside.

About 7 seven years ago, through a series of contacts and books, our Lord resurrected this truth of functioning as His body.  Though, I found myself “stuck” in this institutional system of “DOING” church, just because I truly loved the “living stones” who gathered in the buildings.

As a matter of fact, about 1½ years ago I agreed to preach at a “church” building because of my passion to share the freeing message of God’s wonderful grace.  This lasted six months until I finally had to call it quits.  Quit?  Why would I do that, if I’m “doing the Lord’s work”?

The whole time I felt like such a hypocrite doing and being a part of the very thing I did not believe was in Father’s heart.

Then once again, out of a love for my family of God, I joined in one heart with my dear brothers and sisters at Highlands.  All the while, an inner turmoil stirred within, because my heart was not in agreement with what I was doing.

I QUIT TO PRESERVE MY FAITH!

Do I love those in organizational/institutional “churches” across America?  ABSOLUTELY!!!  I especially have a tender heart for my brothers and sisters who are in the paid “ministry” right now, and I deeply appreciate their sincere desire to please our Father.

If you would like to really hear my heart regarding this, then you MUST LISTEN to these two audio messages by Frank Viola.  I just discovered them and WOW do they ever express the depth of my heart’s passion:

Reframing the Mission: Pt 1
Reframing the Mission: Pt 2

Since moving to Minnesota and being very alone (with the Lord though…so NOT lonely…PTL!), I have wept several times out of a deep desire to see the fulfillment of Frank’s message.  Check out his blog at: http://frankviola.wordpress.com/

THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!

you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:5

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church [ecclesia] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, – Ephesians 3:8-11

He is also head of the body, the church [ecclesia]; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit,… that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself… and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. – Colossians 1:18, 24; 2:2, 19

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above [God’s eternal purpose], where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. – Colossians 3:1

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.  AMEN.Romans 11:36

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