With this post I am introducing a series of posts called, “Affirmations“. In order to place it in its context, I’d like to share the spiritual as well as the personal background to it. Next week, I plan to publish Part 1.
This series developed out of a long process of the Lord’s dealings in my life, both spiritually and experientially, and is a distillation of some of the major truths concerning Christ and His Church that He’s revealed and made precious to me over the years. The different aspects of the series will make more sense if I give a little of the spiritual background to it. So, here’s how I see it…
The Church, the Body of Christ, is a living, spiritual organism. As such it is governed by the law of the “organic”. All living organisms develop naturally according to the uniquely encoded information that exists within their cells, in their DNA. The “blueprint” for all that they are and will become is found in this basic set of instructions. In living organisms, “in-formation” precedes formation.
Likewise, the spiritual organism of the Church grows and develops naturally according to the most fundamental set of “information” that it embraces and embodies as to the who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how? of its existence and calling. Depending on the nature of this “DNA”, a given expression of the Church will either manifest that which is according to God’s “blueprint”, or that which is some deviation or deformation of it. Man often looks at the externals and seeks to make and mold them to some pre-conceived form, but God is ultimately concerned with the “DNA”, the “in-formation”. When the “spiritual genetics” are right, the desired organism naturally develops.
So, what are the “spiritual genetics” of the Church? What is her divinely prescribed “DNA”? If we can lay hold of that and allow it to inform and form us naturally and organically, then we can fully expect that the end result will be an organic expression of the Church that will be according to God’s pattern. All of our focus, then, ought to be right there.
About seven years ago, I asked the Lord a question about what constitutes, at the most basic level, an established, functioning group. In other words, what are the bare minimum factors required for random individuals to come together and become a cohesive, viable social entity? In my questioning, I was seeking that which is common in all (free-association) groups found among men, not merely spiritual or religious ones. I felt that the Lord delineated four fundamental factors that any group forms around and according to in order to become established and functional. I call these four principles the “formative core” of a group. They are as follows:
1. Attractional Center – This is the preeminent person, purpose, or pursuit around which a group gathers and coalesces. It is the primary purpose for the group’s existence and the main reason why people are initially drawn and subsequently remain attached to the group.
2. Unifying Identity – This is the name or fundamental principle that people associate with a group as its identifying label or definition. It is in man’s nature to categorize, label and name all things that exist, and so when a group comes into existence, it is all but a given that it will adopt some form of distinctive identity. This identity is representative of the entire entity and serves as a banner under which those who associate themselves with it may stand united.
3. Foundational Base – This is that which establishes, unifies, and defines the basic parameters of a group even as a natural foundation does a physical building. When it comes to a social entity, a “foundational base” supplies a commonly accepted provision to the basic, “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?”, “why?”, and “how?” aspects of the group. No group can be united and function efficiently if there is not a common understanding of these basic parameters and presuppositions.
4. Governance Principle – This is some form of internal or external means of regulation adopted by a group through which it is organized, led, makes decisions, protects its interests, enforces its principles and protocols, and propagates itself to fulfill its purpose. Different types of groups adopt varying forms of a “governance principle”, but no group can or will exist without one.
These four aspects together, then, form the basis around and according to which any free-will association assembles and becomes viable. All four are needed in some form or another, and depending on the shape and substance of this “formative core”, the shape and substance of the group will, likewise, naturally grow and develop into its unique, full expression. The details embedded in this “formative core” constitute, if you will, the “DNA” of the group.
If this is true of groups in general, then we should consider whether it applies, likewise, to local expressions of the Church. To put it in Scriptural context, we might ask, “Were the local churches found in Scripture established with some form of an ‘attractional center’, a ‘unifying identity’, a ‘foundational base’, and a ‘governance principle’?” If indeed they were, then we should seek to know what the shape and substance of each of those facets of their “formative core” were. If Scripture informs us on that, then I believe we are zeroing in on the true “DNA” of the church, according to the mind and will of God.
According to Paul, we know that the Church is called to be the instrument through which “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known unto the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11)
The churches are, therefore, to be fashioned according to the eternal purpose that they may be fit vessels to display it forth. That being the case, the “DNA” of the churches, (i.e. the “formative core”) must, especially, be according to the eternal purpose, that the churches which naturally develop from it may become corporate manifestations of the manifold wisdom of God to all of creation.
A central tenet of the eternal purpose is the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, and so He must be embraced and embodied as such in the churches as well. Thus, when it comes to the “formative core” of the ekklesia, we see that Christ Himself is indeed God’s central, supreme and all-sufficient provision for all four aspects. In the eternal purpose, as well as in the churches, Christ is the Center, Christ is the Identity, Christ is the Foundation, and Christ is the Head. When Christ Himself defines the “DNA”, the spiritual organism that grows and develops as a result is, likewise, CHRIST, in corporate manifestation. This is God’s divine “blueprint” and living “pattern” for the Church.
It is imperative, then, that local expressions of the Church contend supremely for these four aspects of their formation and development. Christ must be the “Attractional Center”; Christ must be the “Unifying Identity”; Christ must be the “Foundational Base”; and Christ must be the “Governance Principle”. If those four facets alone can be radically secured and diligently preserved for Christ, and as Christ, all else will naturally and organically grow according to Christ. It all boils down to just that.
Although this is simple in its essence, in its implementation it is not. The tragic reality within the Christian systems that fill the earth today is that it is exactly at these four points that Christ has been all but universally substituted and supplanted. At the very core of much, if not most of the Church, there is corrupted, malignant “DNA”. Something other than Christ has been embraced as the “attractional center”, be it a man, a program, a production, a practice, an emphasis, etc… to which adherents are drawn and held together, rather than the preeminent Person of Christ alone. (For more, see here.) The churches’ “unifying identity” has become a man-made name, label, denom, etc… rather than the unparalleled Name of Christ that the Father has given that we all may be one. (John 17:11) (Also, for more, see here) Man-made, sectarian foundations have been laid to establish, unify and define organizations and institutions men call “churches”, and the great, God-given foundation of Christ has been rejected Who alone can establish, unite, and define the entire Church, and all local expressions of it, according to God’s heavenly pattern. (1 Cor. 3:11) The “governance principle” that has been adopted has placed man at the head, be it in personality, committee, program, or protocol, rather than Christ, Who alone is Head and can govern the Church according to the will of the Father. (For more, see here.) It is shamelessly, and un-questionably accepted that at the very “formative core” of these religious entities there is man-made substitution for and supplantation of Christ. The consequences of this are immense. All that divides, diminishes, defiles, and distorts the “churches” springs from the existence of this corrupted “DNA” at the core level.
God’s eternal purpose within the Church will not be stopped, however, and so He is working in this last day to purify a remnant who will “return to the land” and “rebuild the house of the Lord” according to His divine Pattern, which is CHRIST alone, without substitute or supplement. His end-time purpose is one of restoration and it must begin at the root level of the “spiritual genetics” of the Ekklesia. God is looking for those who will diligently and faithfully commit to this end-time restoration.
This, then, is the spiritual background to the “Affirmations” series.
The Lord has been working these truths into me for well over three decades now, but they really came together in a unified whole about seven years ago when I taught a comprehensive five-part seminar called, “Christ-Centered Christianity”. (The audio of Part 1 can be found here.)
A year and a half later, I felt the Lord wanted me to boil the essence of these truths down to their most elemental form in a series of “affirmations”. This came to me as we were heading into the New Year of 2011. I felt that this would provide a concise expression of my faith and convictions concerning these things, and which would then serve as a foundation to a fresh commitment to them in my life and “ministry”. So, I wrote them out as a personal, spiritual exercise to kick off the new year.
Recently, I pulled them up on my computer to read again. It was refreshing to revisit them some five years later. In doing so, I also felt that now after four years of blogging, they would make a fitting addition to this blog as well. Enough has been published to date to “put meat on the bones” of these simple declarations. For those who have followed this blog, they will serve as a concise distillation of what has been published for the past four years. For those who are new to this blog, it may serve to whet your appetite to dig in a little deeper to what has been shared so far. Going forward, there are also some major teachings I have yet to share, but plan to get to. Some of the biggest rocks have yet to be put in the jar. I hope you will stay tuned!
I wanted to give some spiritual and personal background to this series before it rolls out, in addition to what I shared in the last post concerning what is presently going on in our family situation and the prospects of this coming year. I hope that you will take these “Affirmations” as not just quick reads, but as opportunities for prayerful study, sober contemplation, and renewed commitment. These concise expressions are like windows through which one can look to see vast and glorious vistas. I pray that you are captivated and challenged by the view. It is CHRIST!