Tuesday, May 31, 2011


A few years ago I received an email from someone who had a question for me regarding the mounting debt issues at their church.

The email read:

"Our church is in debt. We owe the bank thousands. We now need the debt to function. We have become dependent on it. My spouse challenged the finance person, in private, about this and got no where. We suggested we stop doing stuff and paying so many people to run the church. These suggestions feel on deaf ears."

Now, my perspective may be different than most in this situation, but since the question has been asked, and since I believe that many other Churches will soon find themselves in the same boat very soon, I wanted to take the time and respond here.

For a bit of background on my personal situation, let me make it clear that my wife and I have fairly radical views when it comes to the Church, and especially when it comes to church finances, offerings and tithes. For our family, it is our conviction that the offering belongs to the poor and not to the Church to spend on herself and her own comforts. This is why we left our on-staff, paid pastoral positions and started a house church where 100% of all offerings could go to the poor in our community. I do not take a salary. We use every penny received in our basket to buy groceries for needy families and to help people in need.

However, many churches, if not most, do not operate in this way. Most churches in America today are operating as a business. Because of this, these churches, like every single other business, are suffering financially and facing economic hardships that force many to make difficult decisions about staff, expenses and programs.

Like every other business, Churches around the nation are laying off workers, cutting back on programs and down-sizing to make it through these uncertain economic times.

Could it be that God might be allowing the Church as we know it to go out of business so that she can realize that He has never intended her to operate as a business in the first place?

Most Christians today cannot imagine Church without a paid professional clergy, a large building, a state-of-the-art sound system, and programs for youth and children. However, the historical evidence is that people have been operating without these things for literal centuries. These churches have been making disciples and preaching the Gospel and serving the poor and worshipping Jesus just fine, thank you. All without a building, a paid professional clergy, or programs or a thousand dollar sound system. Seriously.

Furthermore, the New Testament tells us that Jesus refers to His Church as a Family, a Body, an Organism and a Bride. He never treats her as a business and, in my opinion, the Scriptures reveal a very different DNA for Church than we've adopted here in the West.

One pastor friend recently shared that he had approached his board of directors at his church about not continuing to take a salary for his services. He wanted to take a job in the real world and not be a burden to the Body financially. This, I thought, was a wonderful idea. However, they wouldn't allow him to work for free or to take his salary elsewhere. This response puzzles me in many ways, but sadly, most cannot conceive of running the Church in any other way than as a business.

Over the last few years I have met three different pastors, here in California, who have found it necessary to let go of their church building and their paid staff due to financial hardships. In each case, these pastors made the decision to re-organize as a series of house churches. All of them have since discovered the joy and the freedom of "Being the Church" rather than asking their people to attend one. None of them would ever go back. None of them would have taken the step towards House Church if their bank accounts were bursting either.

Now that they have made the leap towards organic forms of "being Church" these three pastors have also discovered that, instead of shrinking in size, they are growing, in maturity and in numbers. Instead of hurting for money they cannot help but generate money, because they have little to no expenses. Instead of spending thousands of dollars a month on utilities and bills, they now spend hundreds of hours in community and in fellowship with one another and have discovered what it means to really be the Family of God.

Our house church, The Mission, has been together for just about 5 years now. I have been very blessed to grow alongside others who share our passion for living outward-focused lives of love. My family has been blessed to open our home and discover true Koinonia fellowship and community with people who have a sincere desire to follow Jesus. We've all been blessed to encourage one another in our faith and to spur one another on to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

We've been blessed to share our finances with one another, and with those we encounter in the community, who are in need. We've been amazed to connect every dollar we give with actual people whose lives are blesssed because of what we share.

Of course, this is no way to run a business, and that's the whole point. Our passionate desire is to live our faith and share what we have been given without allowing profits or corporate strategy or ROI to muddy the waters.

Perhaps God has other reasons for allowing financial pressures to put the Church out of business? Perhaps our economy will rebound soon and all of this will go away? Who knows?

I just cannot help to see God at work in all of this, especially when I hear joyful reports of pastors who are seeing growth and maturity in their church as the walls come down and the people discover what it means to be the Church they were always meant to be.

My hope and prayer is that the people of God here in America would really begin to fully understand what it means to operate as a family, and to share what they have, and to embrace one another, and the poor, no matter what the cost.



The central message of Keith’s book is now for many of us a familiar one. A few short years ago we would have been hard-pressed to find many books at all on the theme of deinstitutionalizing the church and returning her to a more simple and organic format. Today there are now many, many such books, including this one. Soon there will no doubt be several others.

Early on in his book Keith makes the statement that “the Church in the West is desperately in need of a revival” (p. 11). At first I took a bit of an exception to that statement, because when we often speak of revival, we tend to speak of it in terms of returning to some sort of golden era of yester-year. We usually refer to revival as a return to a time that the church was, in our opinion, better than it is today. However, in reading further, it becomes evident that the “revival” that the author has in mind isn’t a return to the 1950’s church (or some other era), but rather a return to the way that the church functioned way back in the pre-Constantine era.

Keith addresses many of the ways that the early church (before Constantine legalized Christianity) was different from our modern church. One example of this is that strange (and non-biblical) dichotomy between clergy and laity. The author reminds us that, “every baptized believer in Christ was automatically ordained by the Holy Spirit into the ministry of Jesus. There was no separation between clergy and laity” (p. 51). As a matter of fact, both the words “clergy” and “laity” aren’t even biblical concepts. For many of us who have already left the traditional and institutional form of the church, this is nothing new. Still, the message is important for those who still find themselves in these systems and are having issues with some of her forms.

To further paraphrase Keith’s book, the central message is that we in modern Christendom have left the path that the early church before us had trod, and in a very real way, we no longer even look anything like the church of Acts. This I wholeheartedly agree with. If the early church were to look at our typical worship services today, at the very least I’d doubt they would even recognize us as the Christian church at all. More likely, however, I think they might actually even wonder what religion we are a part of. The point Keith makes is that there is a very stark difference between the church today and the church that Jesus founded. The two do not resemble each other at all.

Keith also does a good job of showing us the difference between a business organization and a family organism. The church that Jesus started was definitely of the family organism variety. Unfortunately, Keith says, in many ways we’ve made it into a business organization instead. The early church was much more focused of the communal lives of brothers and sisters than the church of today often appears to be. They would spend significantly more time together, much like normal families do. Contrast that with the business organizational type church that is common today, in which so much is money-based and is run very much like many other secular businesses. Modern churches may speak of being a family, but when we look at the amount of quality time they spend together, theirs is a dysfunctional family at best. The early church knew nothing of this type of church model.

Keith goes so far as to say, “If the world needs anything today, it desperately needs a return of the New Testament form of church and a New Testament brand of Christianity” (p.82). I like that. How can we do that? Keith writes further, “It’s time the church went out of business. Close down the bank account, lay off the pastoral staff, cancel the utilities, sell the building, auction off the sound system and the digital projector, and turn out the lights…the church needs to get out of the business of being in business” (p.91).

To many that may sound harsh and maybe somewhat extreme. Personally I like it, for I’ve said similar things before myself. The point that Keith is trying to communicate is that, if we really want to look more like the church that Jesus built, then we have to begin chopping at the root of that business organization that we’ve turned Jesus’ church into and get back to being the family that God intended. If, on the other hand, we’re content with the status quo, then we need do nothing and everything will continue on pretty much as it has. But then too, we won’t be the “Ekklesia As God Intended.”

I’ve come to appreciate Keith Giles. I follow him on Twitter and regularly explore the links to his various blog posts. Keith is definitely a gifted writer, and a cherished brother in the Lord. It is obvious to me that God is using Keith in some wonderful ways. If you have not yet read Keith Giles’ “This Is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended,” I would encourage you to do so. You won’t be sorry that you did.


Monday, May 30, 2011


The Bible uses several metaphors to describe the Church. We are called the Bride, the Family of God, and the Body of Christ.

We are never referred to as an organization, a weekly meeting or a business.

In God's heart, we are a living organism. We are a Body made up of interdependent parts with Christ as our head.

We are a family, adopted sons and daughters who are blessed beyond measure to call the Creator of the Universe "Papa".

We are a Bride, the fiancee of the Son of God, radiant by His Glory, madly in love with the Groom, being made ready for a wedding feast at the End of Time.

We are carriers of the Kingdom message, empowered by His Holy Spirit, called from the four corners of the Earth, on a mission of love and service and daily sacrifice.

We are sons and daughters. We are fathers and mothers. We are housewives and computer engineers. We are musicians and artists. We are mathematicians and scientists. We are poets and truck drivers and marketing executives and elementary school teachers and airline pilots.

We are the global ambassadors of God's love to a hurting and dying world.

We are the Church when we are awake and when we are asleep. We are the Church when we are driving on the freeway and when we are talking on the phone. We are the Church when we are in line at the Grocery Store or eating a cheeseburger in the food court.

We are the Church - Agents of change who have one simple command to fulfill; "Love one another".

If we could really understand this. If we could really see who we are every minute of every day, there is nothing that could stand in our way, not even the very gates of Hell.

Can we defend the cause of the orphan and the widow? Can we speak up for the abused and the enslaved? Can we share what we have been given with those in our own community who have nothing? Can we lay aside our petty differences and learn to forgive and love and befriend those who are right in front of us?

Can we learn to love others as Jesus loved? Can we give the way He gave? Can we lay down our lives, our wants, our needs, our comfort, for the good of someone else?

All of Heaven holds it breath in anticipation, awaiting the outcome of this drama of life we find ourselves in.

The Kingdom is in motion. Your assistance is required.

Don't miss your chance to shine.


Friday, May 27, 2011

A.W. Tozer on Corporate Christianity

We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.

A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped.

The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum.

- A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Christian Leadership

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frederick Buechner on Today's Church

"They make you wonder if the best thing that could happen to many a church might not be to have its building burn down and to lose all its money. Then all that the people would have left would be God and each other."
- Frederick Buechner, from "Listening to Your Life," Harper, 1992, p.331

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The following quote was authored by Billy Graham in the year 1965. Turns out it was a prophetic word that has come to pass in our time.

"Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heartwarming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food."
-Billy Graham, quoted in “World Aflame”, pp. 79-80.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. On the Early Church

"There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

"Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being 'disturbers of the peace' and 'outside agitators.' But they went on with the conviction that they were 'a colony of heaven' and had to obey God rather than man.

"They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be 'astronomically intimidated.' They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest."

-Martin Luther King JR:

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Thanks to everyone who came to the book release party last night. It was such a blessing to share this evening with so many of my dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.

Special Thanks: Mike McNichols and Fuller Seminary for the use of the classroom and to Jon Philpott for helping me get the PowerPoint slides to work.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You've Got To Give It Away

As of today I've given away 518 ebook copies of my new book, "This Is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended"!

Get yours free!

Friday, May 13, 2011


"I love how punk rock my friend Keith Giles will always be. Unlike most of the christian world, when he writes a book he loves to give it away for free! He is a writer, philosopher, activist, provocateur and a servant to all. He truly believes in the church and wants it to be at its best. Download his free book now for your ereader/ipad!" – Jarred Lawrence Romley

"WooHoo! I am loving it - thanks for putting it out there!" - Kim Tacheny

"Downloaded it last night, and am enjoying it today. thanks for the blessing."
- Larry Roy Woodsmall

"Pick up Keith Giles’ new book. Just read the intro and I'm ready for more!" -Josh Epperson

"A lovely sunny day here in Leicester UK. Spent a little time in the garden, eating a good bagel and passable strawberry jam, drinking Yorkshire Gold tea and reading Keith Giles latest book. This is the nearest I will get to pleasure today..... on page 97 already and it is very good. Really. Honest. Would have paid more for it....!" - Alan Rees

"Keith, thank you for presenting how the how the New Testament church is supposed to "function" in a way that the Lord originally ordained. Using the Old Testament references and tying them into the New Testament in showing how God always intended to build His church was great.

I have a great appreciation for what the Lord is doing in His church and your book is a great tool for those who want know more about the Body of Christ.

There is definitely a voice on the hill declaring the truth and you are one of them." - Steven G. Owen

"Keith, we are glad for what you are doing...and hopefully you saw in today’s CMA Tools & Trainings email...that your books were featured. We are glad to support you that way!

Thanks for who you are...and all you do."
- Mike Jentes, Church Multiplication Associates & CMA Resources


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The disciples of Jesus were very concerned with leadership. Early on they spent a great deal of their time discussing issues of hierarchy with one another. For example:

"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." (Luke 9:46)

Even at the Lord's Supper, when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him, and that he would suffer in order to establish a new covenant between God and man, the disciples took a break from discussing which of them might betray Jesus in this way in order to discuss the very important topic of leadership:

"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." (Luke 22:24)

Earlier on in Jesus' ministry the mother of James and John came to him to engage in a dialog about leadership, saying:

"Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (Matthew 20:21)

Of course, James and John themselves were also quite eager to move up in the hierarchy of the Kingdom and so they also came to Jesus to talk about leadership issues when they said:

"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." (Mark 10:37)

Even when they traveled from town to town, the disciples loved to talk about which of them was the greatest of all.

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, [Jesus] asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." (Mark 9:33-34)

Yes, the disciples were extremely fixated on the topic of leadership and hierarchy. But Jesus wasn't. In fact, in every single one of these cases, Jesus took the time to stress to the Disciples that, in the Kingdom of God, leadership didn't have anything to do with being top dog. In fact, if they wanted to be great in the Kingdom of God, they would have to get used to washing feet, being everyone's servant and acting like simple children.

In the Kingdom of God, the only boss is Jesus. He is still the head of His Church and no one else. All the rest of us are brothers and sisters in His Family.

Jesus reminds all of us that the least among us is the greatest of all.(Luke 9:48)
He models a servant style of leadership for all of us to follow (John 13:4-17)
He boldly declares that, unless we can become humble like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of God.(Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17; Matthew 18:3-4)

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus pointed to both Jewish (Religious) and Roman (Political) hierarchies and made a point to contrast those systems with his own model. He sternly warned his disciples not to “lord it over” one another as the Gentile rulers did.(Mark 10:42-45) He also commanded them not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders who loved the praise of men and built their own kingdoms to glorify themselves. (Matt 23:8-12).

Eventually, the disciples got it. They abandoned their pursuits of hierarchy and they embraced the loving, servant leadership posture that Jesus so beautifully modelled for them.

We see this when Peter appealed to the Church as a fellow laborer in Christ and referred to himself as a "fellow elder" rather than as an Apostle:

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Paul echoed this also, saying:

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” – 2 Cor.1:24

People love leaders. We love leadership. We flock to those with the greatest talent and ability. But this is exactly what Paul warns the Church about when he rebukes them for identifying themselves as followers of Appollos, or Peter, or even of himself. (see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

Instead, Paul warns all of them not to become disciples of any other man, or leader, but to fully submit to Christ alone as Lord and Savior and Teacher.

When Paul was preparing to return to Jerusalem he wrote a letter of farewell to many of the churches he had helped to plant and nourish. As he encouraged them he took the opportunity to remind them of something that had been burning in his heart for three years. It was something that, in his own words, he “never stopped warning each of (them), night and day with tears.” – (Acts 20:25-31)

What do you suppose it was that concerned Paul so much? What could bring him to tears like this? What could compel him to constantly remind and warn those first Christians “night and day”?

Was it false doctrine in the church? Was it the coming persecution? No, it was something far more devasting to the Body. The rise of teachers and leaders who would draw disciples after themselves rather than pointing them directly to Christ.

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” – Acts 20:25-31

What troubled Paul most of all was the knowledge that, after he was gone, men would rise up “to draw away disciples after themselves”. Paul was broken-hearted to think of the Body submitting to the authority of men rather than to the authority of Christ.

Think about this. Paul is mainly concerned that men will rise up from within the Body itself and, in his absence, set themselves up as leaders and draw disciples to themselves.

Why would this concern Paul so much? Why would it cause him such anxiety and emotional turmoil? Perhaps because Jesus made the issue of leadership within His Body very clear: It was designed to be a family, an organism and a community, not a hierarchy.

In the Church, our only Head and Leader is Jesus.

"Christ is the head of the body, the church; Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,that in everything Christ might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18)

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:22-23)


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A First Century Pagan Talks To A First Century Christian

Imagine the conversation between an unbelieving Pagan in the first century and a follower of The Way:

Pagan: "I would like to know more about this Christ you speak of. Where is your temple?"

Christian: "We don't have one."

Pagan: "What? Then where does one go to meet with your God?"

Christian: "We are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so God meets with us wherever we are."

Pagan: "Hmm...then where do you conduct your sacrifices?"

Christian: "We have no animal sacrifice at all. Jesus became our sacrifice so that we could be free. Our only sacrifices are our own lives as we surrender to Him and His will every day."

Pagan: "Fascinating! I would love to meet your Priest to learn more about this."

Christian: "Well, I am a Priest."

Pagan: "You are?! But I thought you sold pottery in the marketplace? How can you be a Priest in this new religion?"

Christian: "You can be one also if you submit your life to Christ and place your trust in Him. We are all Priests of God."

Wasn't it a radically different system of faith that Jesus breathed into life 2000 years ago?

Isn't this a radically different system of faith than anything we have today?

Can someone explain to me why it should be different than what Jesus taught, inspired and promoted for His Church?


Monday, May 9, 2011


Those of us who are part of a house church or an organic church often speak of "being the church" rather than "attending a church".

A fellow house church leader recently emailed me and a few other house church practitioners to ask us how we would answer this question: “How are your house church communities doing at ‘being the Church’ rather than ‘going to Church’?”

Here’s my response.

Over the last few weeks I've had conversations with several in our house church family and they’ve indicated to me that they've started to experience a paradigm shift between "going to church" and "being the church". Here's how some of them have expressed this phenomenon:

*"Once I realized that being who God created and called me to be was all that He expects of me, I started to realize that I have a ministry to children already. I don't have to travel to Africa or even to Mexico to minister to children who don't know the Gospel. They're in my 5th grade class I teach every day."

*"I had only been coming to this house church for two weeks when I offered to host the next meeting in my home. Everyone was like, 'That's great!' At first I thought, 'Don't you want to see my house first?' but then I realized that it didn't matter to anyone what my house was like. They were all eager to allow me the freedom to contribute to the Church in whatever way I wanted to."

*"All my life at other churches I was always on the outside of that myterious inner circle of leadership, but now I'm one of the many other contributing members of the Church. Suddenly my voice counts for something. My gifts are relevant. My family is truly known and loved. This is what Church is all about!"

*"Growing up in Church I never understood what the pastor was saying. But now I'm free to ask questions and people are free to question me and to challenge me in my walk with Jesus. It's the Body of Christ that has changed my life where all those sermons never did."

*"For the first time in my life as a Christian, when I think of "my church," I now think of the people in it. Not the building or the pastor because we don't have any. The faces of the people I fellowship with come to mind."

*"Instead of going to church and attending a meeting, the house church experience has allowed me to see that all of my life is a ministry to God. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, the Spirit of the Living God is alive in me and that's where 'Church' can happen."

Our house church is called “the Mission” because we hope to encourage everyone to see that they are missionaries equipped by God to minister the Gospel in their own neighborhood, workplace, community, etc.

In addition to these statements, I’ve personally witnessed individuals in our house church family as they discover their own personal mission. Some have felt a calling to start a weekly prayer meeting in their home. Some have felt compelled to take regular trips to an orphanage in Mexico. Some have taken it upon themselves to put together survival kits for the homeless. Some have responded to God’s calling to use their teaching gift to lead weekly Bible Studies with people outside our house church family. Some have stepped out to help teach Chinese students how to speak English as a second language. Others are still trying to understand what their personal mission is and we’re patiently standing by them and encouraging them as they continue to follow Jesus daily.

While no one in our house church family feels pressure to participate in anyone else’s ministry, they do know that they are free to join in if they want to. No one feels pressure to start a ministry of their own either. Unless God is genuinely speaking to them about stepping forward, we’re content to meet them wherever they are.

Our house church family has a saying that goes, “We’re all in process.” That means we recognize that none of us is in exactly the same place in our walk with Christ. While we encourage everyone to grow deeper with Jesus, we don’t set our own expectations of what that should look like. We allow the individual person to listen for God’s voice and to respond accordingly. We strive to have grace for one another and not to impose our passion on others.

For example, my family has been serving at a local motel for nearly 9 years now. We go every month and pass out free groceries which our house church family purchases using the offerings that are freely given to help the poor. Not everyone in our house church goes with us when we serve at the motel, but they know we'd love to have them join us if they wish. They also know that they don't have to give their offering to this cause if they don't want to. No one forces them to give or looks to see who is giving or how much. We don't impose our vision and mission on them and they don't try to convince us that their personal ministry should be everyone else's.

Rather than exploit one another to benefit our ministry, we empower one another to step out and serve others in whatever way we feel called. We help when we can. We encourage one another, and we cheer each other onward.

So, in a nutshell this is how our little house church family is learning to “be the Church” to one another and to people we come into contact with each and every day.

How are you learning to “be the Church”?

-Keith Giles

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Church of One Another

The Church of One Another
by Keith Giles

As I've studied the New Testament Church one thing that overwhelms me is the fact that the Body itself was always encouraged to minister and serve everyone else within the Body.

In the book of Romans Paul exhorts the community of believers to:

"be devoted to one another" - Romans 12:10

"honor one another" - Romans 12:10

"live in harmony with one another" - Romans 12:16)

"love one another" - Romans 13:8

"edify one another" - Romans 14:19

"accept one another" - Romans 15:7

"instruct one another" - Romans 15:14

"greet one another" - Romans 16:16

What is also amazing is that Paul never instructs Pastors to do these things.

In the New Testament Church the ministry to the Body was done by and through the Body, and in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Todd Hunter recently said that "In the early church the Holy Spirit was not a controversial subject. It was simply the continued ministry of Jesus being released to the Church."

As we, the people of God, begin to embrace the notion of being a priesthood of believers, we can start to use our God-given gifts to bless and serve and instruct and edify "one another" for the Glory of God.

Perhaps part of what's wrong with our churches today is that we've shifted the "one another" aspect of Church life into a system where one man, or one team of people, is expected to perform all of these various functions alone. Clearly, this isn't the way God intended His Church to operate, and yet we've become complacent with a man-made system of church that allows many to opt out of ministry and sit back to be fed by the chosen few.

If we look through first and second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and all the other new testament epistles we'll see a continuing list of "one anothers" where the Apostles spurred the people of God onward to be the Church that God always dreamed of.

I would echo that same encouragement to all of us today.

Let's become the Church that actively and enthusiastically embraces our calling to be the people who minister to, and love, one another.

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth" - 1 John 3:18.



Saturday, May 7, 2011

A review by Kent C. Williamson of THIS IS MY BODY

Allow me to start by saying This Is My Body is FANTASTIC! And I’m not just saying that because I’ve known the author for nearly 25 years. I say it because This Is My Body is a much needed treatise about the state of the church in North America. As most of those who claim to follow Christ know, the church is not made of brick and stone, it is made of spirit, of flesh, of bone... for the church is made of nothing more than the Spirit of God dwelling in those who seek Him. How His followers connect with each other is the essence of the greek word Ekklesia and the topic that Giles explores within this book.

Giles reminds us that one of the most mind-blowing elements of the crucifixion of Christ was the mysterious tearing of the temple veil. Prior to that historic event the high priest alone had access to the Holy of Holies. Only on special occasions could he enter the dwelling place of God behind the veil, which had to be an amazing event for the lone participant. But the symbolism and substance that springs from the torn veil is even more amazing... that we all can now approach the One who for so long was unapproachable.

Giles asks the question, will anyone dare pick up a needle and thread to repair the torn veil? It's obvious that only an extremely arrogant person would attempt such a thing, but unfortunately the institutional church has had their share of such men who desperately attempt to repair the veil, mainly because their livelihoods depend on it.

The days of "Professional” Christianity are over! The Holy Spirit is reclaiming it for the common man and Keith Giles is helping to blow the trumpet! I can hear pastors of the institutional church screaming "heresy" as they desperately cling to their salary, their staff, and their beloved "book funds"! My hope is that This Is My Body will become required reading in seminaries and bible colleges across the land. Unfortunately, it's more likely that it will be added to the bonfire by the hoity-toity elite who see their security being threatened.

As much as I loved reading This Is My Body, it is not perfect. There is one missing chapter of this book, which should be called Exit Strategy. Giles does a great job setting up the problem with the typical top-down church structure in America, but I would have liked to see a section devoted to helping people move from the comfy pews of “spectator Christianity” into this brave new world where the only safety net is the Holy Spirit. A chapter where the reader could gain valuable information on how to leap from the train known as the institutional church... a train that, as my brother and I pointed out in our film Rebellion of Thought, is tragically on the wrong track, barreling blindly toward the wrong destination. (I might add that Rebellion of Thought didn’t offer that type of help either!).

When the Sunday Morning Business Men take to their pulpits to drone on-and-on "teaching the Word of God", my prayer is that the brave few who get their hands on This Is My Body will move out into their communities and neighborhoods "living the Word of God", being Christ to those who need it most. Only then will we experience the sense of Ekklesia that our New Testament brothers and sisters knew so well.

Originally posted at Kent's blog

Every Believer a Priest of God

Chances are that, unless you are a pastor, you don't consider yourself as being qualified to baptize a new believer, lead others in the Lord's Supper, or pray for someone dying of cancer in the hospital. You are not alone. Most people who attend Christian Churches today would not feel it was their place to baptize a new believer or perform any of the functions normally reserved for the clergy.

The sad thing is, your Bible suggests otherwise. In fact, Paul the Apostle says on several occasions that every member of the Body is competent to lead, to instruct, to exhort and to share.

For example, in Romans 15:14 Paul says, "I myself am convinced, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." and in 1 Cor 14:31 he says, "For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged". This last verse specifies a shared prophetic gifting within the Body, but this shared dynamic is not limited to that specific gifting, especially when compared to what Paul has previously communicated in chapter 12 of this same epistle.

One of the most famous verses of scripture in the New Testament which gives us a clear picture of what the original New Testament expression of Church looked like is found in 1 Corinthians 14, verse 26 which says, "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

Here we see a gathering of Believers who all partake of Christ together, sharing their God-given gifts with one another in love for the common good.

The fact is that Jesus gave birth to a Church that was radically different from anything that had ever been known before, or since. It was a Church where every believer was a priest of God and every member was a Temple of His Holy Spirit. The only daily sacrifice was performed by average, everyday people like you and I who were filled by the Spirit of the Living God and empowered to live radical lives of love in demonstration of the Gospel message.

The Doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer is nearly unheard of in today's Churches, and rarely preached on. Mainly, I would suspect, because for any traditional church to follow through with the implications of this doctrine, many pastors would soon find themselves out of a job. Nevertheless, the New Testament reveals an early Church where everyone participated and shared their spiritual gifts openly with the rest of the Body.

In 1 Corinthians 12, verse 4, Paul says, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." Notice here that Paul doesn't say, "...but the same God works all of them in ONE MAN." If he did then we might have a Biblical basis for the all-in-one religious professionals that we currently employ today. Instead, as numerous Biblical Scholars have clearly remarked, the early Church knew nothing of a clergy class of leader we see today.

These Biblical Scholars include FF.Bruce, Gordon Fee, Robert Banks and Howard Snyder who said:

"The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only 'holy men,' namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity. The New Testament teaches us that the church is a community in which all are gifted and all have ministry."

Another Biblical Scholar, William Bausch, himself a Roman Catholic, freely admits that the New Testament Church knew nothing of the One-Man-Pastorate that we employ in today's modern Christianity:

"Our survey has shown us that no cultic priesthood is to be found in the New Testament. Yet we wound up importing Old Testament Levitical forms and imposing them on Christian ministry . . . Nevertheless in practice there is no denying that there has historically been a gathering into one person and his office what were formerly the gifts of many . . .[This practice] goes astray, of course, when it translates to mean that only ordination gives competence, authority, and the right of professional governance. It goes further astray when eventually all jurisdictional and administrative powers in the church come to be seen as an extension of the sacramental powers conferred at ordination. In short, there is a movement here away from the more pristine collaborative and mutual ministries of the New Testament." - William Bausch, from his book "Traditions, Tensions, Transitions in Ministry", Twenty-Third Publications, 1982, pp. 54, 30.

Whenever someone suggests that it is unbiblical for the average Christian to teach, preach, baptize, or prophesy on a regular basis they are dead wrong. While the New Testament teaches us that not all Christians are specifically gifted as teachers, prophets, or apostles, (see 1 Cor 12:29) it also teaches that every Christian is a minister, a functioning priest, and is capable of instructing, prophesying, and exhorting in the church.

The truth is that if you are a spirit-filled child of God then the Holy Spirit living within you has already licensed, ordained and empowered you to begin your ministry as a Priest of God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and the function of the Body is to encourage and equip you to walk out that Divine calling every day of your life.

It doesn’t take much digging around to uncover a host of Biblical Scholars who freely admit that our modern divide between Clergy and Laity is not a New Testament concept.

"In the Catholic Church there are two classes, clergy and laity...This structure does not correspond to what Jesus did and taught. Consequently it has not had a good effect in the history of the Church ...Among his disciples Jesus did not want any distinction of class or rank...In contradiction to this instruction of Jesus, a “hierarchy,” a “sacred authority,” was nevertheless formed in the third century - Herbert Haag (a Roman Catholic), Upstairs, Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, Crossroad, 1997, p.109.

Jesus was quite clear when he pulled his Disciples aside (many of whom would go on to become the Apostles who would shape the New Testament Church) and said to them: "(The Pharisees) do all their deeds to be seen by others...But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers." – Jesus (Matthew 23:5)

What did Jesus mean by this? Did He seriously intend to communicate that He was the only head of His Church? Could He really mean that they were not to set up a hierarchical system of Church government?

Let's ask ourselves the following questions:

Where in the Scriptures can we find anyone other than Christ who is called the head of the Church?

Why didn't Jesus name a human leader to take his place before ascending into Heaven?

The truth is, Jesus never relinquished control over His Disciples or His Church, to any human being. But, you might ask, didn't Jesus assign ANYONE to lead the Church in His absence? Yes, He did:

"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you...But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." - JESUS, see John 14:7; 13-15

Here we see that Jesus did leave someone in charge in His absence - The Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus continues to lead His Church today, as His people (the Body) respond to His leadership in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some have suggested that this radical picture of "every-believer-a-priest" goes too far and leaves us with a leaderless Church founded on anarchy and chaos. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Every Church requires leadership and God has not left us without it. The truth is, I believe in a plurality of leadership within the Church because every Believer is a Priest of God. For example, whenever anyone in our house church is sharing he/she is leading us. It may be a seven year old girl, a twelve year old boy, a forty year old man, or anyone in the room. Even so, this is still not the end of leadership. In a larger sense, Christ is still the leader of His Church, not me or anyone else. He might lead through us as we submit to Him and respond to His Holy Spirit, but it is still Christ who is leading us.

So, what is at stake? Do models really matter? Can't God work through us no matter how we gather or who our leader is? Yes, of course. God can, and does, work through any and all means to advance His Kingdom and communicate His Gospel. We are all unworthy vessels and in the end God's perfect will is accomplished no matter where or how we gather.

But, I would simply ask, if you knew that God had something special in mind from the beginning, and if you could see Biblical evidence for a form of Church that did more than give lip service to the concepts of family, and brotherhood, wouldn't you at least want to give it a shot?

If there was a way to enter into the kind of community we read about in the book of Acts, why wouldn't you want to entertain the possibility that it could be within our grasp? Why wouldn't you be willing to surrender anything it took to have a Church like that?

Certainly those of us who have made the decision to worship in our homes and step into the priesthood of the believer are in the minority, for now. But according to Leadership Magazine, Christianity Today, Focus on the Familiy and Rev Magazine, approximately 1,500 pastors a month leave the traditional pastorate in the United States alone, and a recent Gallop poll showed that 1 million adult Christians per year leave the institutional church in the U.S. - and that number is growing.

I believe that God is up to something. I believe that many of the one million people who leave their pews this year are being lead by the Holy Spirit to enter into a form of Church which Jesus inspired from the beginning, and even now is calling some within His Body to experience today.

As author Reggie McNeal, an authority on Church Leadership, has said, "A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost their faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith."


Friday, May 6, 2011


Thanks again to the hard work of Jon Philpott, my new book, This Is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended is now available for the Kindle, in addition to the versions for iPad, iPod, Android phone, Sony Reader, Nook, Kobo, and other e-reader devices.

Download the new Kindle version, and the EPUB version (for free):


The Human Temple

"In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the LORD', and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts." – Jeremiah 3:16-17

In this passage from Jeremiah, God speaks of a time that is coming when no one will speak the name of the ark of the covenant, nor will it be remembered or missed or rebuilt. Why? How? What could possiby bring such a thing to pass?

The ark of the covenant was the place where the Holy Presence of God rested. Behind the thick veil of the tabernacle, and within the temple in Jerusalem, it was placed. Only the priest could enter in at specific times to offer the sacrifice for God’s people. No one else was permitted to stand before the ark of the covenant, and even the priest who stood near it was in danger of falling dead if he failed to deal with his own sin accordingly.

Yet, God tells us that the day is coming when the ark, and all it represents will be forgotten, and never remembered or spoken of again among God's people.

This is the significance of the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion. Because of the finished work of Christ upon the cross, the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant sat was suddenly wide open to any who would receive Christ and allow Him to enter in and dwell (tabernacle) with them.

In 1 Chronicles 28:2, we read, "King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it."

The ark was considered the footstool of God, the place where His presence rested.

However, God clearly says in Isaiah 66:1 - "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?"

God's response to David regarding the need to build Him a temple is:

"I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" - 2 Sam 7:5-7

Clearly, God never asked for a temple to be built for His presence. He wants to be "the God who is with us", Emmanuel. Not kept in a structure built by human hands.
Yet, we continually insist upon building great structures and temples for God.

In Daniel 2:44-45, King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the future is interpreted for us:

"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces."

This prophecy reveals that God's Kingdom will be established, first as a small stone, cut from the rock "but not by human hands" and that it will grow to destroy every earthly kingdom and it will "never be destroyed" but "it will itself endure forever."

Jesus came as a stone, a small child that grew and became "the stone that the builders rejected" (Psalm 118:22). The Gospel that Jesus came preaching was about God's Kingdom, and Jesus gave rise to a nation of people who were once not a people, but through Him would become a "chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God," who "were once not a people but (who) now (were) the people of God." - (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The prophecy of Jeremiah is in harmony with God's promise to David; that God Himself would build the house of God, and that this new temple would be one "not made by human hands" but made up of "living stones (who) are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 2:5

The Temple God has always dreamed of is the one He Himself is building. It is a building of living stones, it is a spiritual house. His resting place is within the human heart.

As Dr. G.K. Beale writes, concerning the Jeremiah passage:

"The reason the ark in the temple is not remembered is that a greater temple than the more physical one will encompass no only all of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 3:17) but the entire world. This future temple will be so incomparably greater than the former that God’s people will not even "remember it nor shall they miss it" (Jeremiah 3:16). Furthermore, a physical ark within a small temple will "not be made again" because everything to which it pointed has been realized.

In this light, the verse in Jeremiah 3:16 is affirming that once the greater glory of the eschatological temple comes, one will not focus on the lesser glory of the earlier temple, much less should one ever desire to rebuild it."
-(From the book, “The Temple and the Church’s Mission”, page 140, InterVarsity Press)

As Jesus said, "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here." (Matt 12:6) and when Jesus had fulfilled the role of the High Priest and offered himself as the final Lamb of God, and the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, from top to bottom, He made a way for us, the people of God, to become the new temple, not made with human hands, but spreading out over the whole earth, and living as the new priesthood of believers, to make known His Glory among the nations.

We do not need a temple because we are the temple. We do not need a priest, or a pastor, because we are all priests of God, empowered and filled by His Holy Spirit. We do not need an animal sacrifice to be made, because He was our final blood sacrifice, and we are now the living sacrifice, daily dying to ourselves and carrying our cross to follow Him.

Let us not return to the rubble and rebuild the man-made temple. Let us not take up needle and thread and repair the veil that was torn. Let us not commission special priests and clergy who will stand before God in our place.

Our identity, as followers of Jesus, runs deeper than brick and mortar. It transcends a building. It goes beyond ceremony. Our identity as disciples of Christ is defined by a relationship between a Loving God, and a Living Temple made of people who love God, and love others.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review by Arnie Adkison

Review of the book, "This is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended" by Keith Giles

I struggle with the organized church.

I'm not sure where it all began, but somewhere after pastoring a traditional church myself, then being involved in a so-called parachurch ministry, I began to get quite a bit jaded about the organized systematic religious church in the US.

My friend Keith went through some similar experiences, I think. Today I read his new book "This is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended." And I highly recommend it, not just because he's my long-time friend, but because the book raises some great questions about the religious Christendom that I struggle with so much.

And I think we're not alone.

Keith too has been a senior pastor of a traditional church. In fact, our pastorates were just minutes from each other in El Paso. One time there was even talk of merging our two churches together (postponing the inevitable death of two churches struggling to maintain their very "southern anglo" culture in the midst of a nearly 100% Hispanic part of El Paso, but that's another story for another time). Keith takes you through the Old Testament processes of worship, then shows well how there are both similarities and distinct differences in the New Testament church. Most importantly, Keith hits the nail on the head about Jesus being the fulfillment of the OT shadows, and how that affects the methods of organization of Jesus' new "body", the fellowship of believers.

Keith digs into some of the core doctrines of New Testament faith. Probably my favorite discussion is on the priesthood of individual believers, something that shatters the current focus on the professional clergy of our modern churches. And his call for churches that spend millions and cumulatively billions on salaries and buildings and many other unnecessary accoutrements of "worship" instead of caring for the poor, the widows, the orphans, etc of the world, is a call that needs to be heard indeed.

Ultimately, every believer has to make the call--can I find real community, can I be the NT body of Christ with other believers, within the organized church of the US. Not that long ago I was ready to give up trying. But the truth is Jesus died for the church, in all it's goofiness. Keith challenges us well to consider how the church needs to be in our culture, and I for one hope that many hear the Voice of the One who is speaking through Keith, and follows not into an organization, but into the very body of the One who made the universe. Great read on not throwing away the church just because it's been warped in our culture.

-Arnie Adkison

Arnie blogs

You've Got To Give It Away

In just 2 days I've given away 141 free ebook copies of my new book, "This Is My Body".

Get yours FREE for either iPad/iPod, Nook, Kindle, Sony E-Reader, etc. at:

Merely Followers

"(The Pharisees) do all their deeds to be seen by others...and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others," Jesus said to his disciples. "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers." – Jesus (Matthew 23:5)

These instructions from our Lord Jesus are all but forgotten in today's Church. The organizations that dot the fruited plane with His name over the door have not followed the advice of their founder when it comes to leadership.

In fact, not only do we have numerous "rabbis" and "teachers" clogging the airwaves and bookshelves in our modern version of Christendom, we have also become obsessed with the concept of leadership in the Church. We have Leadership Conferences and Leadership Study Bibles and Leadership sections in our bookstores – all devoted to making you and I better leaders.

With all this special attention placed on leadership and raising up leaders, it's almost as if we’re doing all we can to avoid the idea of being merely a follower. Our obsession with leadership suggests to everyone that to be a follower is to be pathetically average. To be a follower is to be lazy. Only those who lack ambition are just followers. It's only the serious Christians who desire to be successful and to be successful in the Body of Christ means being identified as a person with leadership skills and the potential to lead others.

In our lust for position as leaders we've convinced ourselves that being a leader is part of fulfilling our command to make disciples and preach the Gospel to every creature. Yet we cannot truly make a disciple (a follower) unless we ourselves are also disciples and followers of Jesus. This means we must first become devoted to the idea of humbling ourselves daily, taking up our cross, and following Jesus before we dare to instruct someone else in this path.

If our desire to lead is based on the idea that we're a better speaker or teacher than someone else, or if it's based on the feeling we get when people treat us like leaders, then we're in leadership for the wrong reasons.

I can remember being at pastors conferences where the idea of being seen as a great leader in the eyes of all the other great leaders was the only thing on anyone's mind, including my own. All the posturing, the off-hand remarks about the size of my church or the casual references to the innovative approach we were taking to ministry were all calculated to raise my stature in the eyes of the other pastors in the room. It didn't seem so bad to me at the time because everyone else was behaving the same way. Today I realize there's more to leadership than being perceived as the one with all the answers and I fully repent of this self-centered pursuit of man's approval.

Our ultimate model for leadership is Jesus. He demonstrated a leadership style that flies in the face of our popular ideas of what it means to be a leader. Jesus laid aside his great authority and power and humbled himself from the very beginning, taking on the role of a servant, making himself nothing. Our attitude should be the same. (See Philippians chapter 2).

Even in the House Church Movement we have started to fall into this leadership-centric mindset with authors and experts being sought after to speak at large conferences around the country. We're beginning to create our very own house church celebrities now, and this troubles me. If there's anything our movement can contribute to the Church as a whole it's the concept that everyone matters, not just the leaders among us who instruct and guide us.

Jesus was the one who told his disciples that the one who wants to be the leader has to be willing to wash feet, and serve others and put their needs ahead of their own. "The greatest among you shall be your servant," Jesus said. "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (see Matthew 23:5-12)

It may not be sexy to merely follow Jesus today, but it's the main thing each of us is called to be – a humble follower of Jesus who teaches others how to humbly follow Jesus too.

I pray each of us can learn to embrace the simplicity of following Jesus in our daily lives.

More than anything else, I hope I can

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

THIS IS MY BODY - Releases Today

Starting today you can now purchase a print copy of my new book, This Is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended at this online link

As always you can also download a free PDF copy at this same link above, or if you prefer an e-book or iPad book reader version (also free), you can download that file

*I want to offer a huge "THANK YOU" to Jon Philpott who, on his own volition, took it upon himself to create this e-book format version of my book, AND host this link on his own personal domain. I only met him for the first time last week and he's already gone out of his way to be a blessing.

Purchase a print version of the book or download a free PDF version

Free EPUB version for iPad/iPod, Sony Reader, Nook, Kobo, Android phones, and other E-Reader devices available:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Where are all the Pastors in the New Testament? Why are they absent if they are so crucial to the life of the Body? Why is the word only used once in the entire New Testament? Why are no letters addressed to them from the Apostles? Why are the Elders (plural) the main form of leadership we see in the New Testament? What were the qualifications necessary to be an Elder or an Overseer? What do these words even mean?

First of all, there is no direct correlation in the New Testament to our modern pastors. None. The word only appears once in the New Testament and it is never unpacked adequately for us to understand exactly what a pastor did. However we can extrapolate based on the root of the word which means "To shepherd". Therefore, pastors were to shepherd the flock and care for them, spiritually. Beyond that we have no other instructions regarding a pastor.

Make no mistake, the leaders of the early church were not the pastors. The most common of all of the New Testament references to leaders are either "Elders" or "Overseers" and the two are used almost interchangeably throughout the epistles. The term "Elders" applies to those who were "Old" or "Mature". Essentially they were to be followed because they were wise and they deserved respect. The "Overseers" were simply those who helped to "oversee" or "facilitate" the gatherings of believers.

From what we see in the New Testament, every church had more than one Elder and numerous Overseers who helped to guide the church and lead them to follow Christ.

It's fascinating to me that the letters to the Churches in the New Testament are never addressed to the leaders directly, but instead to the Church as a whole. (Exceptions are letters written directly to people like Timothy or Titus or Philemon. It should also be noted that, although many pastors assume that Timothy is an example of a Biblical pastor, in actuality Timothy was engaged in work similar to that of Paul who was busy travelling and preaching the Gospel and planting churches. Timothy is told to "do the work of an evangelist" – not a pastor. He certainly didn't stay in one place and teach the same people week after week. Therefore, Timothy is an example of an evangelist or apostle, not a pastor as we would know one today).

The church in Corinth is a fascinating example of a church with numerous moral and ethical failures, yet when Paul writes to correct them he doesn't address their Pastor and command him to fix things. In fact, he doesn't even address their Elders or Overseers to respond to this by exercising their authority over the people. Why were the pastors, or for that matter the Elders of the Church, not commanded to exercise their authority and deal with the very serious moral failures within the Church in Corinth? Perhaps because Paul understood that the Body itself was capable of coming together to correct the problem themselves. Something he hints at when he says, "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?" – 1 Corinthians 6:3

I would like to humbly suggest that "Authority", and "Submission" do not necessarily imply organizational structures are at work in the New Testament Church. Submission is something that all believers are urged to do, and authority is only to be submitted to if it is in line with God’s Word and not on the basis of an office or appointment.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." – Ephesians 5:21
Everyone is urged to submit to everyone else. It's a shared submission among brothers and sisters in Christ who are equals and who humbly care for one another. Only Christ is the head, or the leader, of the Church.

Many are of the opinion that Jesus actually taught and promoted hierarchy in the Church, something I find alarming and dangerous. But, just for a moment, let me ask, "What would we expect to see in the New Testament if Jesus DIDN'T want His Church to be run like a hierarchy? Wouldn't we expect to see Jesus condemning this practice? Perhaps he would have pointed to a hierarchical system and commanded His disciples not to follow that example?

"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verses 42-45.

Does Jesus command his disciples not to exercise authority over people? Yes, he clearly and plainly does. What, then, are today's pastors doing if they are not exercising their authority over their church members? Isn't this a fair question to ask? Am I allowed to point out the disconnect between what Jesus says and what His Church actually does, or does not, do?

Here, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus points to the Roman Government (a secular hierarchy) and commands his disciples not to imitate this system of lording it over people or exercising authority over those who follow.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus points to a religious system of hierarchy and instructs them (again) not to imitate this system of hierarchy where the "Teacher" is exalted over the student. Instead, he says, remember that you are all brothers:

"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. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." – Matthew 23:8-12

Next, let's look at the Apostles themselves. If they heard Jesus commanding them to avoid the hierarchical system of leadership, wouldn't we see evidence that they obeyed this command? Did they take his words to heart? Let's see:

"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm." - 2 Cor.1:24

Paul the Apostle obeys Jesus and refuses to "lord it over" those who follow Christ alongside him. Instead he works with them, as a brother, not as an authority figure.

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Here, Peter identifies himself, not as an Apostle, but as a fellow elder among the brethren. He then urges these elders (plural) to serve as overseers because they are willing, not because they have been handed a title or an appointment, and especially urges them to be careful not to "lord it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" – as Jesus commanded him several years earlier.

Having said all of this, doesn't the New Testament ask that we submit to our leaders and their authority? Yes, it does. For example:

Hebrews 13: 17- "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Let me be clear, I am not arguing against leadership here. Not at all. Every church needs leadership, and this is also clearly taught in the New Testament, however I would like to ask us to consider the possibility that leadership doesn't automatically mean top-down, authoritarianism. Jesus modeled something different than this, and then he commanded his disciples to emulate his example.

So, going back to our verse above, you might read this and ask, "What is the basis for our submission to our leaders?" Does their authority rest in the office they hold, or is it found in something else? Are we to submit to these leaders only because they hold an office? Or are we to submit to them as they point us to follow Christ? Hopefully we do not blindly follow people because they are "the Pastor" or because they have a title of authority. Hopefully.

No, the only authority we are to submit to is Christ Himself. To me, this truth is self-evident when we look at the NT as a whole.

Earlier in this same chapter, the writer of Hebrews, in chapter 13 and verse 7 says, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

Here we are told to submit to our leaders as they speak the Word of God to us. Not to them as authorities in and of themselves, but as humble servants who lovingly teach us to follow Christ, and who then demonstrate this by their actual lives of faith.

Submission then is to Christ and to the Word of God. If our leaders handle and teach the Word of God wisely, and if they faithfully live lives that reflect Christ, THEN we are to submit to their authority. But only if. Their authority is not automatic and it is not based on the office they hold. Otherwise, we would be accountable to obey leaders simply because they held that office, regardless of whether or not their lives reflected Christ or their teaching of God's Word was true.

If we follow the policy of hierarchy for the sake of itself we can end up with someone holding an office within the Church and exercising authority even if they are not followers of Christ. Such a person should have no actual authority in any spiritual sense over the life of believers. What counts is character, not the office or the position. However, someone with no organizational office may, because of gifting by the Holy Spirit and sincere love for others, have actual authority to speak and teach and lead his brothers and sisters in Christ (who are his equals).

Institutional Churches that employ such a man-made organizational method can only hope to mimic the kind of leadership such as the "rulers of the gentiles" possess, something that Jesus expressly commanded us not to do - "It shall not be so among you!" - Matthew 20:25-26.

The Holy Spirit is the only source of spiritual authority and accountability in the Church through real-life relationships, not titles handed down by men.

Did the Apostles depend upon the authority of men or did they give any weight to the opinions of men? Apparently they did not. For example, Paul says, "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody." - 2 Corinthians.3:1-2

If hierarchy was so important in the early church, why don't we see them exercising it? Why do we see them operating as a Body and not as a business? Perhaps the answers are right in front of us? Are we courageous enough to answer truthfully?

As Biblical Scholar Richard Halverson has said, "When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business."

I pray we can help God's people to see that they were never intended to be run like a business, and instead to help them see that, according to the Word of God, they are simply a Family, a Body, an Organism, and a Bride.


Monday, May 2, 2011

God Called. He Wants His Church Back

For far too long men have wrestled with God for control over His people.

Jesus modelled a servant leadership style for His disciples, and today our leaders emphasize a CEO brand of leadership patterned after the world of big business.

The Apostle Paul told us that we were the Temple of the Holy Spirit, yet Ministers today insist on collecting millions of dollars from their flock to build a temple where people can worship.

The Apostle Peter told us that we are the living stones God is building up to become His Church, and instead we are convinced that building the Church involves putting butts in the seats on Sunday morning.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples, those who would follow His teachings and apply them to their everyday life. Instead we have become experts at entertaining the Saints each week and occasionally converting a few to our denomination.

The other day I read a familiar verse of Scripture and it hit me in a new way. Here's what I read:

"As you come to him, the living Stone...you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 2:4-5

What struck me about this verse was the simplicity of the promise here. As we come to Jesus, who is the Living Stone, we are also built into a spiritual house (The Church). Coming to Jesus doesn't involve coming to a place, it simply means coming to Him. It means seeking His Face and falling at His feet. As we come to Jesus, we will become like Jesus and He will build us up into a people who will reflect His character to the World.

A few weeks ago I visited a protestant church where there was actually a Holy of Holies at the front of the church where only the Priest and the ordained ministers were allowed to enter. It made me sad to think that Jesus had come and suffered so much, even torn the veil of the Jewish Temple in two, only to have His people create a new version of the same thing when they built the Church and named it after Him.

Why do we insist on returning to a place where professional clergy interact with God on our behalf? The Children of Israel begged Moses to speak to God for them because they were not comfortable hearing His voice or being in His presence. The Pharisees and other Jewish Leaders of Jesus' day created rules and regulations and barriers to the Temple so that very few people had access to God.

Have we built a Church today where our structures and rules have kept God's people from Him? Have we knowingly participated in a system of religion where only a select few have access to God on our behalf? Are we more comfortable being in the background while a paid clergy seek God for us?

God calls us a "royal priesthood." He has put His Holy Spirit within each individual believer and follower of Jesus. He has called every single one of us to be His Ambassadors to a fallen and broken world.

I believe that God is in the process of tearing down the man-made barriers we have built in order to get His Church, His Bride, back.

God's plan has always been to have a living, breathing, active, passionate people on this Earth who will live out His Word and demonstrate His incredible love to those in darkness. He is a jealous God, according to His Word and "the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely" (James 4:5). God will not share us with a system built to keep Him out or us away from Him.

God is calling all of us to step into the destiny He has bought for us with the blood of His Son. We are a royal priesthood. Each of us has the Spirit of the Living God within us if we have surrendered our hearts and lives to Jesus. We are empowered to preach. We are deputized to serve. We are qualified to love. We are energized with His power to accomplish all that He has called us to do.

Maybe that's why we prefer the safety of the pew? We are afraid to believe that this amazing promise of God could really be true. It's so much easier to send Moses to speak for us, or to build a Holy of Holies where only special clergy go and minister, or to pay a professional to go and preach and serve and love for us.

Like it or not, God wants His Church to step into the freedom and destiny He has called Her to. God will have His way. We cannot deny Him. Even if we deny it, we are still priests and kings who have been called upon to serve, and love, as Jesus did.

Will you believe God? Will you accept your place among the living stones who are being built into the temple of God?

Step forward. Accept your ordination into the service of the King.

You and I have a job to do.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brant Hansen's "Servant Man vs Leader Man"

One of my favorite bloggers and friends, Brant Hansen, recently shared an inspiring list of contrasts between "Servant Leaders" and "Leader-Man" type leaders who take the CEO approach with their congregation.

Here's a brief look at Brant's list:

Servant Leader: Has something to say
LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he's a Leader
Servant Leader: You're not sure he knows he's a leader

LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path

LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you

LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader: Just gets together with you

LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it

LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are "key people"
Servant Leader: Wastes time with you

LeaderMan: Gives you things to do
Servant Leader: Gives you freedom