"Pay attention, my children! Follow my advice, and you will be happy. Listen carefully to my instructions, and you will be wise. Come to my home each day and listen to me. You will find happiness. By finding me, you find life, and the LORD will be pleased with you." (Proverbs 8:32-35 CEV)
"The Irish peregrinus throughout the middle ages was not an Irishman who visited a shrine abroad and then returned home, but rather the man who for his soul's welfare abandoned his homeland for good or at least for many years" Thomas O Fiaich in An Introduction to Celtic Christianity
"An Irish peregrinus was a missionary who left his home to go on peregrinatio - wandering - for Christ. During the period of the Celtic revival (ca. 430-800 AD) thousands of men and women took up this calling, carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Ireland to Scotland, Wales, the Low Countries, Gaul, Switzerland, Northern Italy, among the German tribes, and even beyond. They were the principal means by which, in Tom Cahill's memorable phrase, "the Irish saved civilization."" T.M. Moore
We tend to view the Christian 'mission' as a stationary thing, something to go to every Sunday morning either at the church building where our offices and ministerial trappings reside….connected to the world by telephone, fax and even an internet website. Our leadership is there, our comfortable and even reclinable seats wait for our warm bodies to fill them…..a Cheers! kind of place where everyone, well at least those we trust, know our name and our reputations are unsullied. We live our faith for that hour of comfortable worship, dynamic instruction and with light refreshments afterwards as we catch up with our 'friends', who we usually don't meet for the rest of the week. The "Church" in community….a plug in and plug off society.
We also view the Christian 'mission' as transitory…..something to be shaped and reshaped as the membership numbers fall or the tithing's drop off…..we MUST protect and furnish with enticing objects and colors our buildings….all for the sake of our mission….after all, if we don't have a big sign off the major freeways and full big parking lots around the building, how are we to tell the gospel to the community……
Church is important, and the Bible instructs us to fellowship together for the glory of the Kingdom, but Church isn't a building, a congregation or even the more generic labeling of followers of Christ…it is a organic, vibrant and un-walled relational structure that does its best 'living' outside the traditions of Sundays and Wednesdays….and program-structured connections. It is an encouragement of spiritual progress, living faith and ethical 'good' works in the breath and width of creation….from inner cities to distant lands. It stops us from being self-centered, self-protective and self-agenda driven because it requires an intimate and personal relationship with those who journey with us in the landscape of this world. It cannot be faked, honestly, though there can be an illusion created for its believed existence.
It, the Church, can meet in a garage at someone's home, in the backyard or even in the living rooms. It can meet in warehouses, in rented school cafeterias and in movie theatres. It can also meet in workplaces……it can be two or it can be more……but if it is not relational, if the pastors and ministers and 'lay leaders' do not know, intimately, the congregation they lead, how can they be effective in the promotion of Christian living and doctrine?
But just like sitting in a garage doesn't make you a car, sitting in the physical environment of the church doesn't make it or you a church or a Christian. And just saying that you are a Christian does not mean you are fulfilling the Great Commission……
We were commissioned to be peregrinus and have built within us a desire to wander……after all, the journey cannot be done in a stationary stance…..but we aren't called to wander for ourselves, but rather wander with a purpose.
The Church was meant to be a foundation for 'works greater than these' not a stagnant and total business orientated establishment. The church is described by Christ in seven distinct ways: Shepherd/sheep, Vine/branches, Cornerstone/living stones, Merchant/pearls, Great High Priest/servant-priests, Head of Body/members of Body and Bridegroom/bride. The church, in this biblical context, was the organizational unit of an offensive and formidable component of the faithful's service in God's Army….not a way station on the journey and certainly not a destination of the journey's end. As Lambert Dolphin points out in The Church At The End Of The Age, "The amazing fact which the Scriptures clearly declares….is that God has designed His church should be a kind of government on earth…..mak[ing] possible benevolent law and order, the rule of justice and peace and would hold in restraint the wild forces of tyranny, anarchy and murder" and not the proud, rich and worldly institution that exists in many denominations today.
It was meant to equip, condition and training the soldiers of the Army of the Lord to fight the spiritual battles that often have physical representations in the whole of creation. A church that replicates, that spends more on its outreaches and has a constant flux of faithful who attend is more on biblical grounds than a church that spends millions on property and enticements, inner-focused ministries and cushy seats for its 'worship center' does.
The Church was meant to lead….was meant to be something impacting the social makeup around it, not being impacted by the society around it.
The universal (catholic) Church was given from the Apostolic age a package….the total content of Christian faith that has been transmitted to us from one generation to the next from the Apostles' witness unpolluted and undiluted….but we, as a church, have lost our integrity and orthodoxy because we have failed, as Jude…one earthly brother of Christ, urges us…"to contend (epagnoizomai, epi-upon or about intensive and agon-a contest) for the faith which was once for all time (hapax) delivered (paradidomi- delivered over, handed over) to the saints." Gone is the sound heritage of interpretation and wisdom from God….polluted by human reshaping and rewriting of what historically and sociologically is the faithful biblical worldview passed to us by those saints who have gone on ahead of us in this journey.
We have failed to remain separate from the world while being in the world….instead of standing upon the message that has been delivered into our hands by the faithful we have been more concerned about our ability to 'reach' the fallen world with enticing and engaging dialogue……reshaping it for its palettes instead of letting the Spirit to the watering of the seeds of truth. We have failed in heeding Paul's last words to the Ephesus elders…..
"And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: 'You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ...I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears...'" (Acts 20:17-31)
It does not mean that we are to be solely full of biblical knowledge and doctrine….lifestyle, conduct, selfish love and godliness are equally important, as proof of Truth acted upon and faith developed and lived. All things done in love…..with a doctrinal integrity lived in responsive relationship with God that speaks of our faith without words and with intentional sacrifice….for, as Peter tells us…love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). We aren't called to convert, brow-beat or shape with our words the makeup of a fallen world….but to speak the Gospel truth to the nations, to fellowship together and to live with a heart in full surrender to God. That is what the Apostles left us in the package passed down and what the Lord commands us to do. A servant-authority government in the church that has been surrendered to the top-down management style of the world business is a harlot or false church. There is no idea, nor command, that the Church would subdue the world with the Gospel….such is a human understanding and corruption of the Truth….and warps the great Commission beyond our ability to effectively profess and has lead to the prophetic apostasy of the Church.
A Church that becomes doctrinally and morally separated from the biblical worldview passed down by the testimonial witness of the Apostles…..a professing lifeless entity…..
A true Church does exist…..evidenced by its character and its body…..where Christ is the Head of a living organism that depends upon the wholeness of its organs….not made of a top-down, hierarchical leadership where things happen with the approval of one but where edification, endorsement and discernment are sought and discovered from the Head, Jesus Christ, in ALL things. All members of the Body work together, are equipped for their functional operations in the Body and are supported by the rest. "If one member suffers, all suffer, if one rejoices, all rejoice."
"But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift...And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love." (Ephesians 4:7-16)
A Church that is open and one….belonging to each other and to God with "the sense of openness and honesty and transparency, of the need to bear each other's burdens and to uphold one another before God," Ray Stedman describes the fellowship and Body Life of the church, "to be concerned and to care for each other, and to demonstrate it by deeds of help and mercy towards each other." It is that true church that is undeniable…..where great lives are lived with warmth, love, and acceptance of everyone and anyone….ones in need of salvation, ones in need of accountability, ones poor, ones rich and those who struggle in their faith. It is that church, and not the 'culturally-relevant' or 'seeker-friendly' that transforms the Gospel from the pages of the Bible by the example of its powerful work in our lives…..convincing evidence for what they want for themselves, their families and homes.
As a friend and brother in Christ told me as we fellowshipped together…..the time for 'gentle' and 'unexcitable' words are over….they have created an intellectually humanistic church that is the shadow of what it is supposed to be; a prophetic voice of the Word of God…..and time grows short. The growing apostasy, the departure from the Lord, that is being evidenced as the 'church age' progresses is a telling sign of the rapture, the end of times, according to John Walvoord, The Church In The End Of The Age. The prophetic scriptures are being fulfilled…and yet the professing church refuses to preach it….rather a doctrine of love, love, love than 'doom and gloom.' Rather than showing the world in its present state of doom and gloom and then presenting through the lives and testimony of the faithful saints of the Body, the church would rather profess a loving, improvable stance of 'tolerance' and subjective truth….as one Pastor I hear say…."The Gospel is more 'middle of the road', neither for or against certain 'hot topics' of the age."
This apostasy isn't something that has come to be born in the conception and life of the 'church age' but was rooted in the formation and commission of the original sin that introduced sin into the life of God's creation….the unbelief, the faithlessness of Adam and Eve that was the block between man and God….progressing through Cain's killing of Abel, the mocking of Noah and the subsequent flood, Israel's historical reproof and correction under God's direction and the apostolic church's rejection and rewriting of scriptural integrity is only the telling generational example of a people lost in their own depravity and dependent on themselves, rather than a God who sent His only Son to die for the sinfulness of our nature.
The so-called sense of an enlightened people has demanded that the concepts of Christianity which have been passed down through the ages be submitted to the 'bar of reason' as to what is the source of grace, the dependence of truth and the traditional sacraments in regards to the physical and philosophical realms of truth. The declaration of the unimportant and questionable virgin birth, deity of Christ as a divine quality of a good man, the spiritual rather than physical resurrection of His body and rejection of final judgment, heaven and even hell….by new and confusing cults and new religions of neo-orthodoxy that say the love of God makes the biblical and 'trans-generational' authority and understanding null and void because it makes a judgment of a righteous God impossible.
The post-modern conceptions of Christ are the 'damnable heresies' that Peter speaks of in 2 Peter 2:1-2……heresies that make the belief in them a barrier to salvation because of their falsehoods and corruption of biblical truths. Jesus has become regulated in these heresies to a 'natural child' of man who was an exceptional person, but ultimately just another human. It denies the authority and divine personhood of Christ and becomes a philosophical discussion of the myths that comprise His work. Christ is nothing more than a noble man who was caught up in His own nobility and not God incarnate who was subjected to man's wickedness and grave depravity because of His nobleness…..there is no guilt to be felt by a sinful and depraved creation at the culpability in the painful crucifixion of its Messiah, its God, and its Creator. And that through His nobility, His very Divinity….our sins were purchased and held in judgment on His blood as our substitute…is a concept we refuse to accept because it is very offensive and very damning to our enlightened minds…..where is our nobility if such an event happened at our hands?
Unless we accept our hand in the plan of God, the sinful and evilness of our crucifixion of the Messiah, we cannot realize the freedom of the hope that our salvation brings….as Mark Freier of WhatIf Enterprises calls our divine authority to be 'who God made us to be.'
As the ministry I am involved in (www.ahmministries.org or www.m3ministries.org) progress into the transcended mission that God has enticed it to pursue begins that season, such freedom and faith that God has purposed each and every person involved to be uniquely part of the Body in such holy and lofty pursuits becomes not only paramount but necessary……for God's plans defy man's enlightened logic and corrupted theology……one cannot walk with God and work with God unless God is understood and pursued in the context of the work and in the motivation of the desire. As Henry Blackaby says, "Joining God in His work requires major life changes…" and simple commitment.
You cannot live life for God unless you live the life God made you to live; being that person, that personality and that character that God has perfectly designed you to be. It is not a matter of shaping yourself to the ministry you have been lead to serve in….but to find that shape within the ministry to which you have been shaped to fit. Removing religion from it does not remove the biblical view of its foundation……
And there lies the culpability and corruption of the Church; where human concepts and conditions have led to personality driven, top-down leadership instead of fully functional membership of a complete Body. If the Church is not simply a collection of building, denominational commonalities and like-minded people but rather an organic, breathing, multi-functional and directional entity compromised of uniquely purposed and shaped parts……then the missional imagery of the church and its 'attractiveness' to the fallen and lost becomes a living "Word", a perceived and viewable testimony to the 'hope we have.'
It doesn't fight the world, but the world still will fight it…..it doesn't lay down upon the corruptibility of the humanity of the parts but stands accountable and vigilant against its effects…..it stands ready to battle, draws swords in opposition to the demonstrations and illusions of the enemy and lives a life forfeit to God……surrendering without agenda, without self-preserving gain, for the sake of love…a love so powerful, so sacred, that it's absolute truth is evident to even the ardent of opposition….there lies the power of the seed, the authority of the planter and the mission of the Church.
It is not a church of so-and-so pastor, it is not a church of so-and-so doctrinal beliefs…….no, it is a mosaic (to borrow a word) of a collection of parts that joined together become the hands, feet, arms, thoughts and eyes of a bride painted worthy of the bridegroom's sacrificial purchase and His eminent return…………….
If I have been designed with the strengths of context, restorative, harmony, intellection and input (Strengths Finder 2.0) that grow under the Strategic Thinking style of leadership (Strengths Leadership) and are purposed under Administration/Teaching and compassion……and yet I live a life burying those strengths and focusing on the overcoming of my weaknesses…….then I am living a life in bondage and am guilty of the state of the body… i.e. the Church…….as much as the next nominal, 'enlightened' Christian.
But if I, as Freier states, "dare to imagine a life of significance and potential" through the "continuing task or responsibility that one is destined or fitted to do or especially called upon to undertake"…. i.e. mission, as the person God has made me to be….then I become an organic and effective member of the uncorrupted, true and worthy bride of the Bridegroom……and find achievement of a significant (though small) part in the larger story of God's tale…..
Such individual accountability in the corporate wholeness of the church prevents the "lukewarmness" of the works it performs and guards against the worldliness of its identity because the distinct separation between the life of its members from those disconnected from its life….it is not simply complimentary of Christ but a clearly defined, dividing and absolute testimony to Jesus Christ's deity and eternity….one with the Father in being as well as fellowship. In a time where the world is full of 'lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…..(2 Timothy 3:2-5), such distinct separation is unavoidable and divisive….because of its' un-human influence.
"The best efforts of the evangelical church are falling far short in keeping up with the increasing birth rate, much less countering the avalanche of unbelief and ridicule which expresses the world's attitude toward divine revelation..….For the true church, it means that the days of its pilgrimage may be coming fast to a close. On the one hand, this calls for expenditure of every effort to snatch as brands from the burning those who have not yet come to Christ." John F Walvoord says in The Church in Prophecy (Kregel 1999), "On the other hand, the hope of His soon return should constitute both a comfort and a challenge to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:58) and to purity of life and motive (I John 3:3)."
It is not simply a matter of transforming the wayward and lukewarm church into the bride it is supposed to be but the individual work and effort of the members of the body to be living the hope unseen and in perseverance of the redemption of our corporate (and individual) body…….as promised as the beloved sons and daughters of the Most High God through the kinship and inheritance of our Savior Jesus Christ.
"Having the firstfruits of the Spirit, I groan inwardly as I wait eagerly for my adoption, the redemption of my body. For in hope I have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he sees? But if I hope for what I do not yet see, I eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:23-25)"
True peregrinus on a wandering journey for our Lord Jesus Christ………..