Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant by David Bolton (PDF – complete)

Thank you, Sándor, for compiling this series into a single post and sharing it with your Hungarian and English-speaking audiences. (Having it in PDF form is also a blessing.) May God use it afresh for His purpose! All blessings in Him!

keskeny út - narrow way

Lázadók, menekültek és egy visszatérő maradék – David Bolton

You are able to reach in PDF form here

There is a monumental shift taking place in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ worldwide.  Multitudes of sincere, faith-filled Christians are leaving the institutional church in search of a simpler, more relational, and interactive experience of church life. According to George Barna’s research more than ten years ago, the numbers then exceeded twenty million [Revolution (2005) pg.13].  According to the nature of this growing trend, these numbers have increased exponentially since that time.

For the most part, these believers are not leaving because they have lost their faith, but because they desire to see their faith grow and find a fuller, even more Biblical, expression.  Those who are a part of this world-wide “exodus” are often found gathering under the banners of “organic…, “simple…, “house…, “missional…, and “emergent… church”…

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Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Reblogs, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, Translations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Experiences of House Church – by Sándor Abonyi

As a follow up to the series “On Church Leadership” (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary), I wanted to share a post that Sándor wrote for his Hungarian/English blog keskeny út – narrow way“.  In it he describes some of his first-hand experiences of living in an organic, “house-to-house” expression of the church in Hungary.  For those who are not familiar with this form of church life, this post will give you a well-rounded insider’s view.  For those of you who are familiar, and are pursuing this form of the ekklesia, I believe this will be very confirming and helpful.  I pray that all of you are blessed by this rich sharing which Sándor has allowed me to post here in full on this site. Please also see the link at the bottom of the post to the English section of  Sándor’s blog for further spiritual help in following “keskeny út”,  the “narrow way.”

~ ~ ~

Experiences of House Church
by Sándor Abonyi

“gathering from house to house”
(Acts 5.42; 20.20; Col. 4.15; 1 Cor. 16.19; Phil. 1.1-2, etc.)

After coming out of a “traditional charismatic church” we started on a new way; gathering
from house to house.  Earlier we had experienced “house groups” in a limited way while
still belonging to our local church, but now we wanted to live a total paradigm change of
Christian community using family homes.  I contacted many people in the USA, Canada
and New Zealand, who started this way earlier, to know their experiences.  During one year living the community life in a natural way we have learned many things and have reached some level of understanding.  We are aware that we do not yet have a full understanding but are in a continuous purifying process, and desire the Lord’s presence among us.  We are now seeking a way of multiplication and are making efforts to build a new system of relationships in our region, in Hungary, and even with people in foreign countries as well.  We have already formed some of these relationships.

To summarize, we can say the following: We don’t have a predetermined timetable for our meetings, nor do we make a program or order of service.  Events occur in an organic way
and, therefore, each meeting is totally unique and different. Our fellowship times consist of worship, prophecy, and teaching. Here are some characteristics of our current practices:

1. Teaching – Adhering to a hour-long teaching or sermon, as we did earlier in the
traditional church, would not be practical here because now we are an “interactive
community” not an “audience.”  Gathering from house to house we still have the three
men who served as teachers in the earlier local church, but they now teach in an interactive way.  We assign “home work” (writings, books, CDs or DVDs) to individuals or the whole community prior to meeting together.  We sometimes look at a teaching together and then have discussion.  Very often people bring prophetic words that they’ve received to the meeting to be read and discussed.  People ask questions, and we try to answer them according to the Scriptures.  It is very important that everyone learns to use Scripture to answer their practical questions of life.  We practice this together so that every one develops this skill.  We have not had visiting teachers, as we did earlier, but we are open and have invited people to come and share in this fellowship.  People have indicated they would come, but these are not from traditional churches.  If any visitor comes, it will be with the concept of interaction with the people, not merely to inform them.

2. Worship – We don’t have a worship team, and it is not our goal to have one.  There
are three who play guitar and lead worship.  We make an effort to live the Word which
says, “everyone has a psalm, revelation, word . . . “ and encourage the people to be ready;
to come bringing “everyone something.”  According to these Scriptural principles, worship
is not prepared by one person and is created as we go along with additional people introducing songs that we all sing.  If someone gets a song by the Holy Spirit at any time during the meeting, we join in singing that also.

3. Prayer, Revelation, Prophecy – Mixed in during worship are prayers to the Lord to receive from Him.  The people regularly get revelations, prophecies, thoughts, and pictures.  These are shared after each prayer.  On every occasion two or three receive visions. (See for example the translated, Vision of the Broad and Narrow Ways.)

4. Service to Each Other – It is very important to encourage, comfort and share joy.  This part usually takes one to one and a half hours, and after that we help solve problems,
praying to get revelation and advice to give.  Everyone participates in this, an activity that
the people totally missed earlier.  Because of this sharing, we commonly need four or five
hours for each meeting.

5. Spiritual Leading – We don’t have a separate leadership group.  The “elders” are among us (1 Peter 5:1), praying and discussing with all the others who together make decisions.  The elders have continuously received revelations and prophecies about the direction of moving ahead and what the next steps should be.

6. Support of Each Other/Sharing – This is an area that has changed dramatically from the earlier situation of traditional church.  According to the Word we are God’s family, and we have declared that we will live our lives as a true family.  Now that we meet from house to house, we know the home situation of each member; that is, the living conditions and needs.  I personally have installed electricity, others have bought essential food for those in need, others have purchased fire wood for the winter.  Our cars are similarly used as in a family to help each other.  We have made a common decision not to own a building to use for meetings, only to rent space as it is needed.  In the summer we can use the gardens of our houses where more people are able to gather.  Therefore, the congregation doesn’t have pay for building rent, honorariums to visiting ministers, or big, high-cost programs.  Therefore, all of our money is available to spend on meeting needs.  Needs can be met by sharing cars, as well as paying for petrol or maintenance costs.

7. Tithes – We decided not to collect tithes (a tenth) but everyone used available funds to serve and support others according to their needs. In this way not everyone pays a tithe, but the richer members often contribute more than a tenth, and the poor who have need are supported by the richer.  We support the poor to help them out of bad situations and get them on the road to self-sufficiency.  We had money saved that we used to stay in a guest house for two nights to build unity among the community.  On another occasion we went on a day excursion together. [All left-over monies are used for those who have needs.]

8. Meals in Common/The Lord’s Supper – These two things are very close.  We share
food in common at the end of every meeting.  Sometimes it’s only pizza, or sandwiches, or
cold dishes, or bread and drippings with onion, but at other times we have a real dinner party with the whole community eating together.

Fitting the traditional Lord’s Supper (small piece of bread and little cup of wine) into our
sharing of regular food proved problematic, therefore, we quickly abandoned this practice
and began to follow the practice of the first churches.  We researched Scripture and the
practices of other house churches.  Presently we do the following:

– We looked at the Lord’s Supper as a possible way of meeting the needs of others,
using the context of a shared dinner.  Paul spoke of this aspect of the Lord’s Supper to
the Corinthian church.  Looked at this way, needy people are able to have enough to
eat on a regular basis.

– Not every supper is the Lord’s Supper.  At a normal meal we only give thanks at the
beginning of the meal.  If we decide to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, then the host
(usually a man) pours wine or grape juice into everyone’s glass.  Before eating
someone gives thanks, remembering the crucifixion of Jesus – His broken body and
shed blood.  Then we break the bread.  At the end of the supper we take our glasses and
someone (usually another person led by the Holy Spirit) prays and remembers the
communion and unity we have with Jesus and with each other by Jesus’ blood.  After
this we drink the wine.

– With the breaking of bread and drinking of wine during the meal, we remember the
crucifixion of Jesus and reaffirm our unity.  This is the difference between a normal
supper and the Lord’s Supper according to our present practice.  It looks like many
people today are seeking the original meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

9. Meetings – The number of believers has doubled in the past year.  Today we have about 20 people who gather in six family homes on a rotating basis.  We meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays at three different places from 4 to 9 p.m.  The Wednesday gatherings consist of three smaller groups, but there is overlapping with group attendance.  There is not sufficient room in any one home for the whole group to get together on Saturdays, only in the summer where there is more room outside in people’s gardens.  Sometimes only three or four will come together, such as a men’s meeting.  The four men elders meet regularly to pray, share visions, and discuss them.  The elders prepare suggestions for the house churches, and the whole fellowship later acts on these suggestions.  (In our earlier church there was a separate elder board which made unilateral decisions.)

10. New Believers – We baptized more born-again people last year.  One young lady
baptized another young lady, and one older lady an older lady.  On another occasion after
a tour together, the whole community baptized a young man totally spontaneously.  We
have been baptizing in a bath tub, but we are open to other possibilities as well.  Two
people joined us from other traditional charismatic churches.  We expect others in our
fellowship to become totally committed to Christ and receive baptism in obedience to
Scripture.  Our target is not to enlarge the size of our congregation, but to see a deep level
of real Christianity (quality, not quantity).  We wait upon the Lord to enlarge the church
with people born anew, and we are witnessing in our lives that He works this way.  So our
community has doubled in one year.  Other reports from house churches document that
this kind of duplication is normal.

We first try to reach unsaved family members in the homes where we regularly gather.
We use the natural environment and activities – such as teaching guitar playing, helping
with wedding preparations, praying for people who ask – to build relationships and
manifest the church as the Body of Christ.  In this way single believers become part of the
family life of the church, who is Christ.

11. Spiritual Warfare – This way is not without its problems.  During the past year we
have experienced spiritual attacks, feelings of heaviness from time to time. For two or
three months after coming out from traditional charismatic church, we had very strong
spiritual attacks.  Everyone in our city and region was against us for leaving the organized
church.  They thought our different way of being a church threatened their traditions.
Even when we tried to explain, they didn’t understand and they didn’t want to have any
contact with us.

The first six months when we were forced to be alone proved to be very useful.  We had
time to seek the Lord’s will, and to lay the groundwork for community living and working
in a totally new system.  We sought out other small groups walking in similar ways.  We
had to forget many of our earlier practices in organized church and seek after new ways.
Even our earlier ways of thinking were a hindrance, and we had to put them aside.  This
was not easy for most believers.  After two or three months, we were able to stabilized the
community and lay foundations.

Also during this period we were visited by other Christians who caused disorder and
disturbances.  Some of these people where unknown to us.  However, one highly visible
and committed believer, who had not been affiliated with any church for some years, tried
to destroy our new community from the start.  I had to send him away.

From the beginning we saw it was practical to divide the community into two different
groups.  One of the two groups was comprised of older believers.  They were the “seed”,
in that they received visions and they laid the foundation for the new way.  They gave
stability to the community.  The other group was made up of young believers who needed
to order their lives and overcome their problems.  After one year both groups now live
together in a good community life without disturbances.

At this time we are trying to find a way of multiplication in order to live our beliefs in
more small groups, geographically separate but connected within a network.  This will be
our way to enlarge.  And we have experienced many more spiritual attacks because of it.
Satan tries to cause disturbances among believers that we can’t understand, therefore, our
only defense is to fight it in a spiritual way, and the Lord is giving us victory.  We have
organized a three day’s meeting in the mountains in order to reinforce our relationships
with each other so we can go forward in this “natural” way.

Praise the Lord!

Sándor Abonyi
Jászberény, HU
08-03-2012

~ ~ ~

I greatly appreciate what Sándor has written here.  There is a strong working of the Holy Spirit around the world to call God’s people back to the simplicity, purity, and power of the early church and to assemble in organic, house-to-house expressions of the ekklesia similar to what Sándor has described.  For further encouragement along this line, and on other spiritual matters, please visit Sándor’s blog.  The English section begins with the following sub-heading page: keskeny út – narrow way/English teachings.

May God bless you,
David and Sándor

______________________________

Related posts and pages:

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

The Essential Character of the New Covenant – Part 3: Its Organic Nature

Audio Series: “Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant” (Four parts – complete)

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.4: “Chief Among Equals”?

Sándor and I concluded our exchange on church leadership with the following emails.  Though relatively short in length, they did touch on a vital question: What about the principle of “chief among equals”? 

[For the full context of this post, please see the prior parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]

~ ~ ~

I continued:

Hi Sándor,

Thank you for getting back to me on this, and for your comments.  I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly that a plural form of eldership is the only possibility that will be able to administrate the Headship of Christ.  I also agree that the single pastor system is the same as the Israelites wanting a king to rule over them, as all the other (denomi-)nations around them…I.e. a rejection of God as their King, or in the case of the church, rejecting Christ as the functional Head of the church in favor of a man.

Another facet of this matter of plural eldership, is that many will say they agree with it, but that there still needs to be a “chief among equals…” “lead”, “chief”, “or “senior” elder or pastor.  They will use the Jerusalem church, with James as the apparent “chief elder” there, as their model.  This in reality seems to be more of a playing with words, in my mind, in order to justify a “one man at the top” system.  I am not totally against the concept of “chief among equals”, for it seems to me that even in the economy of the Godhead, there is a functioning of the Father as “chief among equals”, and also in marriage, with the husband as head of the wife, but it needs to function truly as an equality in the end.  If anyone is to be “chief” they are to be the greatest servant and the one least desiring to be chief.  The “chief” aspect among elders should only be functional in nature, if at all, and not positional in any respect.  That is at least how I see it at this point.

Those are just a few more thoughts on this subject, albeit rather incomplete.

I appreciate the translation of “The Headship of Christ…” teaching. I will most likely link to it in an upcoming post once I record the audio of the English.  I’m glad it was a blessing to you and that you have been able to pass it on to your readers.

Blessings, my friend,

David

Sandor replied:

Yes.  We agree on this totally.

I know these arguments.  Many say that one needs to be „chief” (senior, pastor) but they think really „chief” over others.

I like to use the „first among equals” phrase instead of „chief/leader” among equals.  The „first” means: one is not a leader or chief over others, only the first with his biggest experiences, highest age, or apostolic gift, like James among the elders in Jerusalem.  It seems in the Scripture at the big decision in Jerusalem that apostles and elders made the decision together.  (James and Paul were mediators there.)  One with apostolic gift is able to fill a father role within the elders as you told.

I appreciate the discussing with you very much.

I have a detailed description about plural leadership in English from Alexander Strauch (USA). I translated this writing earlier too.

I think this is a balanced writing.  If you are interested in it, I will send that to you.

Now I go to sleep because it is 11 p.m. here.

Blessings,
Sándor

I concluded:

Yes, Sandor. I think we are in true agreement in these matters.  It has been encouraging and edifying for me to have these discussions with you and to be of one accord.  It is also as Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov.27:17.

Another example of our unity is that I was also going to mention to you Alexander Strauch’s book on Biblical Eldership.  I have not read all of it, but have been blessed by what I have, and found it balanced and solid.  So, thank you for that recommendation!

May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry in Him in Hungary!

David

~ ~ ~

This concluded the email exchange between Sándor and I from a number of years ago.  We have had further dialogues on this subject and others since then and may possibly share some of the content of those in the future.  To conclude this series, though, I’d like to simply summarize some of the main points of what we shared in this exchange.

Of all the aspects that we discussed, that which stands preeminent above them all is the practical Headship of Jesus Christ over His church.  That is “the first button”, as was discussed in Part 1.  If that “button” gets firmly secured in the “first hole”, all subsequent “buttons” will naturally line themselves up to follow in their rightful place!  If the Headship of Christ doesn’t get firmly fastened, however, then no amount of “biblical” form that follows will satisfy God’s desire and design for His Ekklesia.

Once the practical Headship of Christ is secured, He may then sovereignly work in various ways to bring about the “wineskin” and “wine” that He desires.  This may come about either by His first establishing a biblical form, as a “possibility” (only), and then filling it with biblical content, as a “solution” (see Part 2), by working according to the principle of “Form follows function” with a recognition of leadership coming only after a substantial period of common, non-recognized functioning, or through an overlapping interplay of both (see Part 3).  In any case, this work must be by Christ’s sovereign Headship and hand, and not merely by the wisdom and works of man.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

As the shape and substance of the church develops organically by the Spirit in this way, the form of leadership that will most naturally develop will be one of a plurality of non-hierarchical, servant leaders/elders.  Although there will naturally be differences of gifting, calling, experience, and maturity among these, so that some may exercise a more prominent influence than others in certain respects, those differences ought not to constitute a positional or hierarchical arrangement.  The calling and intention of such plural, co-equal leadership is the establishment and manifestation of the Headship of Christ through His many-membered Body in unity, fullness, purity, and balance.

It is the firm conviction of both Sándor and I that the Lord desires to raise up a remnant of His people in this last day as an overcoming testimony to His original purpose and pattern for His Ekklesia.  These will return to Him with all of their heart and collectively seek the restoration of the centrality and supremacy of Christ in all things related to the Church.  We pray that this personal exchange that we have shared concerning church leadership, under the Headship of Christ, will be helpful and encouraging to those who are seeking such a restoration.  May we all join in this ongoing conversation with others, wherever God has placed us!

For your further edification and encouragement along these lines, I will be following up this series with some of Sandor’s original (English) writings on the church.  Please stay tuned!

___________________________

Related posts and pages:

The Greatest Among You (3D post)

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ – by Gospel Fellowships (a “hosted”, free resource)

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) Pt.3: “Form Follows Function”

As Sándor’s and my conversation continued, I responded to what he had shared within a few weeks. In his reply, he interjected his further thoughts and comments into the body of what I had written. What follows is that composite email, with Sándor’s remarks in blue.

[For the earlier parts of this conversation, please see Part 1 and Part 2.]

~ ~ ~

Hi Sándor,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus!  I want to apologize, first of all, for taking so long in getting back to you.  Life got rather busy here, and it has taken a bit to get caught back up.  I pray that all is well with you and your family at this time!

Many thanks, and you don’t need to apologize because of your engagement.

I wanted to reply to the attachment that you sent with this email.  I have read it a few times and I appreciate what you have written.  I understand what you are saying as to a plural eldership representing POSSIBILITY and not solutions.  That is a very good way of putting it and an important distinction (difference).

Yes I think similarly.

In some ways it reminds me of the way that the Lord brought forth creation.  He first created the environments, be it the sky, the waters, or the earth, as the POSSIBILITY, or the WINESKIN, and then He filled it with the living things afterwards, i.e. the birds, the fish, the animals, in their respective days.

Very good seeing and association. I appreciate that!

I believe the Lord often works this way, and as long as the structures are understood as possibilities rather than solutions, then the Lord can be sought to fill the possibilities with His SOLUTION, which is Himself!

The other way that I believe the Lord works is along the line of the principle of, “Form follows function.”  It seems when the Lord brings forth His church organically, that the functioning of His Body precedes the form of the Body.  In this case elders are functioning in an eldership capacity as simple brothers, and are only recognized officially as elders afterwards.  This seems to be a common way that Paul sought to establish the churches.  After ministering in a city for a season, he would leave the church there to function without recognized leadership.  Later he would return and see those who were functioning as the responsible brothers in their midst, and then officially ordain them.  In this way the form of the church followed the functioning of the church.

YES! I agree on this totally.  I see this way as a fundamental apostolic principle.  Also, according to my vision after the Word, the eldership is NOT only ONE of the POSSIBILITIES, but the single POSSIBILITY.  Only the eldership can be the FORM for the HEADSHIP of CHRIST over them.  JESUS CHRIST is the primary PASTOR and not any man pastor.  SEE 1 Pt 5.1- 4. and 1 Samuel 8.4–7.  I see in 1 Samuel 8.7 that any man (pastor – „king”) over the elders means the rejection of CHRIST’S HEADSHIP.

    1 Sám. 8:7 „And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”

I believe that the Lord may work by the “form” preceding the “content” (“possibility” preceding “solution”) as you have expressed, or according to the principle of “form follows function” as I’ve mentioned, or possibly even an overlapping of the two, in order to obtain what He desires.  I think that is important to keep in mind so that we don’t lock ourselves in on only one way and possibly miss the specific way and working of the Lord in each situation.

As I said in my earlier email, the most essential principle is the living Headship of Christ. If He is being sought and surrendered to in all things, the proper arrangement will come into being naturally by His hand.

YES! I agree on that.

Also, in regards to the Headship of Christ, I recently stumbled across a teaching I had written about four years ago for a seminar I was giving on, “The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church”.  I uploaded the teaching to my blog as a permanent page under the “Other Writings” section and thought I would share the link with you in case you would like to read it.  It outlines some fundamental principles that I believe are significant for the Body to function under the Headship of Christ as it assembles.  It also brings in the matter of plural leadership.  The link is here: https://christcenteredchristianity.com/other-writings/the-headship-of-christ-in-the-gathering-of-the-church/

I started to read it and thinking to translate that.

So, that is all I have for now.  Thanks again for sending along the attachments and the link to your book.  I have been edified by them!

I am glad If you could use it.

God bless you and your family!

Many thanks, and you too!

Love in Him,
David

~ ~ ~

So, in light of this conversation, what do you think about how the Lord brings about form and function within His church?  Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or experiences in this regard.

Part 4 will follow in which we touch on the question of “chief among equals?” Hmmm. 🙂

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.2: “Possibilities and Solutions”

Sándor replied to what I shared in Part 1 with the following email and attachment:

Dear David,

I am very grateful for your valuable thoughts.  I agree on that basically.  I would like only to reflect on that shortly and share a few of my thoughts from another aspect.

I have attached my description.

Blessings,
Sándor

Attachment:

A Few of my Thoughts about Leadership

I agree with you on all of the things in your letter, which is a short study summarizing the main questions and specifying their rank.

I see theoretically everything is OK. Some of my pastor brothers said to me: the FORM is NOT IMPORTANT, that is a second priority question.

Let me share some of the practical things from my life connected to this question.  I am originally a machine engineer and worked more than 30 years in the development area.  We had to know the theories.  That was the basic thing.  We had the possibility to realize a theory in many ways, and all ways had to work.  I worked in a multinational company with more factories in different countries.  In the different factories they carried out different solutions to the same problem.  A few of the factories needed to be closed because of NOT enough efficiency.  After these experiences came the question: to find out the best practice.  Sorry for the comparison, BUT I think the situation in the churches is similar to this.  This is the CONTENT and the FORM question.  I see that the CONTENT IS OK, BUT one FORM hinders the efficient working and another FORM helps it.  The forms are NOT SOLUTIONS, but are only POSSIBILITIES.  I see the FORMS like frames.

In my practice as a believer, I had a pastor over me.  I had a mandate to be a pastor BUT I laid it down and worked in plural leadership through more than ten years.  We kept the total gathering on Sunday morning in a rented room and house groups in houses during the week.  Later we worked without renting a room and gathered only in houses too.  We tried all FORMS and I collected and analyzed the experiences.

Mt 9:17 says: „Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

The Church – as I see the situation – tries to work all over the world within „old bottles” (in the frames of the Old Covenant).  From what Jesus says, I see this would be a priority question:

The first step has to be a RIGHT BOTTLE (as a POSSIBILITY only).  After that, GOD will be able to fill new wine into that.  If we are waiting for a big awakening, having church buildings and single pastors, and don’t have houses to gather in, in this case we are waiting for God to fill new wine into old bottles (structures).

We tried to realize a new bottle (FORM) as a frame during the past years in these things:

  • plural leadership
  • gathering in houses.

Many others said to us we are totally different from other local churches:

  • we had vision continuously.
  • there worked more spiritual gifts.
  • There were visible the signs of prophet, teacher, evangelist…gifts.
  • we have done many things in other ways than others.
  • This FORM is working only in the Spirit and humility. Without it there will be confusion, which is a warning: the leader is NOT the Holy Spirit, and they need to go to the Lord.

Plural leadership gives the POSSIBILITY for elders to practice humility and obedience and to get practice in the moving of the prophetical spirit.  The plural leadership FORM shows the fact that JESUS is HEAD over them.  We can show forth our Lord and King, NOT the way it is with other people who have an earthly “king.”  I think this is an important question.  In this way we can make our invisible King visible to others, NOT similarly to the way it is in the world.

Comparing this to the one pastor system:

  • One pastor presents a FALSE FORM, deceiving others with this.  It would seem for the people as if HE would be the HEAD.  This results in believers having a baby syndrome.  The pastor needs obedience from all of the people in the church.  His missings have a big effect.
  • One pastor cannot confront himself and he can work in a human way too.

We learned through gathering in houses:

  • The people don’t have the POSSIBILITY to be hypocrites and the sins will become visible.
  • Love needs to be presented in a very practical way.
  • Everyone has the POSSIBILITY to practice his/her gifts…

Of course we had many missings and were not perfect……

I see the churches today are:

  • Temple (church building)
  • Pastor
  • and Bible concentrated ones.

The first churches in the first century didn’t have Bible (New Testament), only a few letters if there were problems, and had no one pastor, BUT the Lord was within them by the Holy Spirit.

I see after that there were big problems in the churches:

  • Many believers are not born again and there are no disciples.
  • Leaders are corrupt in many things.
  • The sin and holiness question is a not an important thing…..

I tried to present a few of my thinkings in order for you to see my idea.

I hope you understand my thinkings written by my not perfect English.

The FORMS are only as POSSIBILITIES and not solutions, according to my vision, but are important, and we need to apply RIGHT FORMS (best practices) waiting for the RIGHT CONTENT (new wine) to be able to keep it on an efficient way.

What do you think about this aspect? This is a little bit of a different approach to things.

Blessings,
Sándor

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My reply to these thoughts along with Sándor’s response back will follow in Part 3.

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Related posts and pages:

On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.1: “The First Button”

Of Wine and Wineskins (3D post)

The Greatest Among You (3D post)

The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.1: “The First Button”

Shortly after I began blogging in 2012, I happened across another blog that caught my attention.  Somehow I landed in the English section of a Hungarian blog, keskeny út – narrow way by Sándor Abonyi.  Though most of his blog was unintelligible to me, being written in Hungarian, I felt a deep connection with what I was able to read in the English section.  I decided to follow.  Shortly thereafter, Sándor began to follow my blog as well, and in 2013 he contacted me about the possibility of posting a number of articles onto his blog that I had written and which he desired to translate into Hungarian.  From that point on, we began a regular email exchange which developed into a long-lasting, mutually edifying, friendship.

In the near future, I plan to highlight in a post (and permanently host in the Resources section), a book which Sándor wrote: Which Way is the Church Going To?.  This is an excellent resource on the practical expression of the church according to Christ, as revealed in the New Testament.

As a way of introducing my dear brother and friend to you, I’d like to first share a volley of emails that we exchanged several years ago concerning the matter of church leadership.  I feel this is a very substantive and edifying sharing on this matter and a good example of “iron sharpening iron” as we each expressed our unique perspectives and came to a greater sense of clarity, balance, and unity in our understanding as a result.  I trust that you will be edified as you “listen in” on that conversation!

I will begin the exchange in this post with Sándor’s initial email and my initial response.  I will follow that up shortly with the subsequent exchanges in additional posts.

And so, without further ado, here is the initial volley of our exchange:

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Sándor wrote:

Dear David,

You are working before the Lord on the Christcentering Church.  What do you think about the one pastor system in the churches versus eldership?

Do you have any articles about this question? I think this question is important similarly to fastening of first button on a coat (right or wrong).

I am interested in your vision after the Word. Can we discuss about this?

Blessings,
Sándor

I replied:

Dear Sandor,

I will try to get a few thoughts down on this matter of eldership versus the one pastor system as I see it.  Sometime I would like to write more fully on this, and maybe this is the spark to do so.  For now, here are a few seed thoughts that outline my thinking.

First of all, I believe we need to approach this subject, and the Word of God in regards to this subject, from a Christ-centered, Christ-preeminent perspective.  What I mean is this, the form and function of the first century Church came about with only one Pattern in view…the Person of Christ.  They did not have a manual on how to do church, or how to structure it, or what it was to look like.  They simply had Christ, and He was their Pattern. He was central, He was supreme, He was Head, He was all spiritual fullness and blessings, He was unity, He was Life, He was all in all.  As they gathered around Him, and in Him, and on Him, and under Him, and for Him, and through Him, they became the expression of the Church that we read about in the New Testament.

The New Testament Scriptures are the record of a church that was radically Christ-centered, and all form, function and fruitfulness came out of that single reality.  That is the Root of the tree.  The most important thing that we can learn from the New Testament is that Root!  If we can get the Root right, then the tree will be right, and the fruit will be right.  If we try to make the tree right and the fruit right without truly getting the Root right, however, we end up with a dead religious system that outwardly may resemble certain aspects of the New Testament Church, but has no life and power.  So, in reality, there is a “first button” on the coat that precedes the matter of church governance and leadership.  The “first button” is CHRIST, central, supreme and all-sufficient!

Church leadership is possibly button number two!  If button number one is in place, then button number two, three and four will follow in place.  When it comes to the leadership of the church the number one principle is the Headship of Christ.  That is the over-arching, all-dominating principle.  All other aspects of leadership, governance and oversight must bow before that principle. That is the supreme “governance principle” of the ekklesia!
So, with that button firmly in place, we need to ask, how does the Headship of Christ operate and function when it comes to the human leadership of the Church?

First of all, there is a need for spiritual maturity in order for there to be a humble submission and yieldedness to the Headship of Christ in the leadership position. Leadership is to take the attitude of John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  It takes those who are “descending” in nature according to the nature of Christ (Philippians 2), not “ascending” in nature according to the nature of Lucifer (Isaiah 14).  Leadership must be humble, submissive, servant-leaders.

It also takes more than one person to manifest the fullness of Christ’s ministry as Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher.  Therefore, when the Headship of Christ is the ultimate issue, a plurality of mutually submitted, diversely gifted, spiritually mature men is the only fitting form of leadership that will be able to lead the church under the Headship of Christ.  That is what will naturally develop and come forth.  No other form facilitates the Headship of Christ as that form.  It must flow out of and facilitate the Headship of Christ, not supplant it, however.

From studying Church history, the transition from a plurality of elders to the single bishop rule of the church came about by the middle of the second century.  What seems rather clear from that transition is that “the first button” changed.  Because of the Roman persecutions from without and the rise of multiple heresies within, the Church turned to a single man, the “bishop”, to be the solution. HE replace Christ as the Head of the Church and her unifying Foundation.  The church gathered around and under the Bishop as the center, head and foundation of the church.  The elders and deacons were the second and third levels of leadership under the bishop.  This was the Old Testament priestly order of high priest, priest and Levite brought into the church.  The entire Roman system developed from this seed and dominated the earth for 1500+ years.

The Reformation “re-buttoned the coat”, but instead of getting the first button right with the restoration of the absolute centrality and supremacy of Christ restored, they put the Word of God button into the first hole.  This brought about major changes to certain doctrines, but the structure of the Church remained fairly much in tact.  With the Scriptures now central and supreme, the Catholic priest was given a Reformation makeover and became the Protestant Pastor/Preacher who ruled over the church.  With a movement now built around the interpretation and preaching of Scripture as the supreme thing, and a single pastor over each assembly, the Protestant movement splintered into a hundred thousand divisions and denominations, each claiming to have a sharper “sword” than the next.

The single pastor system is as much a left-over of Catholicism as elaborate pointy buildings called “churches” are.  (That’s a whole other discussion though!)  The Anabaptists went beyond the mainline Protestant reformation and sought to restore a more Biblical vision for and expression of the Church itself.  These tended towards a return to a plural eldership to oversee and shepherd the flock.  Their history is worth studying in this regard.  The error that some of these and subsequent groups tended to fall into, however, is looking at the PATTERN of the new Testament Church as the “first button”.  This, however, only leads to a new form of legalism, which much of their history has been marked by.

We have to get back to what lay underneath all that we see in the pattern, form, function and fruit of the New Testament Church and recapture THAT as our “first button”.  THAT is JESUS CHRIST in all of His fullness, glory, authority, centrality, all-sufficiency and supremacy.  When HE is returned to His rightful place, everything else will come into place even as it did in the first days of the Church.

When that happens, I believe a plurality of elders will happen as naturally as the grass grows. But we can’t get the cart before the horse.

That in a nutshell is how I see it.  It is a very rough sketch, but I hope it helps to give an idea.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts as well, Sandor!

As always, if there are words or phrases that are difficult to understand, please let me know and I will try to help with them!

Love to you and your family,
David

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Sandor’s (substantive) reply will follow in the next post…Please stay tuned! 🙂

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Related posts:

Centrality and Balance

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 4: “Tradition and Apostasy”

Affirmations (5) – Christ the Uncontested Head of the Church

The Greatest Among You (3D post)

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Eternal Purpose (a manuscript excerpt)

Five years ago this month, I had a terrible fall off of a ladder that broke under me while I was doing some tree work.  Fortunately, I had enough wherewithal to toss the chainsaw far from me as I fell, but the ten foot “seat drop” onto hard ground left me with a crushed vertebrae and eight and a half months of at-home recovery.  During my unplanned “vacation”, I sought to make the most of the situation by pouring a good amount of time into writing a draft manuscript for a book that had been on my heart to write for some time.  The working title of the book was Full Circle – An End-Time Restoration Manifesto.  It focused on the Christ-centered restoration of an overcoming remnant at the end of the age. (Hmmm, sound familiar?? 🙂 ) 

It was during those months that I also began blogging as a way of sharing some of the things that were on my heart in more bite-sized pieces.  As my recovery period came to a close, I felt that I had to lay aside the larger book project for a season and focus what time I did have on blogging.  Here, five years later, there has yet to be a significant window to revisit that manuscript and push the project through to completion.  (Frankly, much of the time it is difficult to find time even for regular blogging. 😦 )  I continue to hold all of that before the Lord, though, and trust that He will somehow make a way, in HIS time!

As I was glancing over some of the manuscript pages recently, though, I came across a portion in Chapter 1 that I thought would be worth sharing on the blog as a stand-alone post.  This excerpt is concerning the eternal purpose and five of its essential characteristics.  The eternal purpose is where God begins and ends in all that He does. It is also that which governs everything He does in between.  It is of the utmost importance, then, that the eternal purpose be that which governs all that we do as well as we live and work in union with Him!

I offer this meditation for your consideration, then, and pray that you will be blessed by this brief glimpse into God’s ultimate intention!

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THE ETERNAL PURPOSE

Behind all that God does, from eternity to eternity, lies what the Scriptures call the “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11).  This ultimate intention was established before the beginning of time and will endure into eternity future.  It is what undergirds, guides, informs, motivates, and harnesses all of God’s activities throughout the vast expanses of time and eternity.  Apart from the knowledge of God Himself, there is nothing more essential, significant, and consequential to spiritually apprehend than the eternal purpose of God as it is revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  We will take just a few minutes to begin to explore this immense matter in regards to a number of its most significant facets.  Let us begin by looking briefly at some of its most essential characteristics.

First, by its own self-definition, the eternal purpose is eternal in nature.  It existed in God before time began.  Before the “In the beginning…” of Genesis 1:1, the eternal purpose of God had already been established.  Genesis 1 and 2 are the product of that eternal purpose, as well as the motivation and wisdom behind the creation of all things.  All of the vast array of created things were fashioned to fit and to serve this eternal purpose in its outworking in time.  We do not rightly understand the created order, seen and unseen, until we comprehend the motivating force behind it.

The eternal purpose not only preceded Genesis 1:1, but also endures long after the commencement of the events described in Revelation 21 and 22.  The eternal state described in Revelation 21 and 22 is a picture of the long-awaited culmination of the eternal purpose at the end of its temporal developmental stages.  Its ultimate fulfillment and enjoyment begins there and has no end.  All of eternity future will be composed and choreographed by that which played and danced in the heart of God before time began.  Not a note will be missing, and not a step out of place.

Not only does the eternal purpose define the ends of the spectrum of God’s eternity, but the epochal unfolding of time between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 21 and 22 is contoured and shaped by the eternal purpose as well.  Our Sovereign God meticulously and persistently works, conforming everything to the unfolding of His Grand Design.  Paul speaks of “Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11)  However man’s will and actions interplay with the sovereign work of God, through it all and in the end the eternal purpose is obtained.  All of history is superintended by that which was established before time began and will endure through times eternal.  This then is a brief description of the eternal nature of God’s ultimate intention.

Secondly, the eternal purpose is good.  Standing behind the eternal purpose is the “good pleasure” of God.  Ephesians 1:9 says, “And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ,”.  When all has been accomplished, all of creation will resound with the goodness of God in its infinite perfection.  God, being good, could do no other.  His word to Israel was, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (Jeremiah 32:40-41)  This is God’s ultimate good intention not only for Israel, but, in essence, for all of His people.  The eternal purpose, therefore, becomes the deepest spring of hope and rejoicing for the human heart.  Its contemplation is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV).  The eternal purpose is hallmarked by the manifestation of the infinite and everlasting goodness of God.

Thirdly, the eternal purpose is wise.  This Grand Design is the crafted genius of infinite Wisdom and Knowledge.  Every faculty of God’s mind has been employed to composite this Plan and nothing has escaped His purview.  As such, the eternal purpose is unimprovable, unrevisable, immutable.  Nothing can be added to it to make it better, and nothing can be taken away from it without making it less.  It is the supreme product of infinite wisdom and can, therefore, be fully trusted and marveled at in every detail.

Fourthly, the eternal purpose is sure.  It is established by the Sovereign God and will be carried out by the Almighty.  There are only two types of forces that could possibly hinder or stop this Plan from being carried out.  The first is some force that resides within God Himself.  He alone could choose to alter or abort this Purpose as an act of His will.  This is an impossibility since God is unchanging, His eternal purpose is already the highest expression of His “good pleasure”, and the perfect genius of His infinite mind.  God has committed Himself, and there is no power within Him that will ever cause His purpose to fail or change.

The second type of force that could possibly thwart or change God’s eternal purpose is that which exists outside of God.  This would of necessity have to be in the created order which came into existence at the mere word of His mouth.  Here, again, lies an impossibility.  There is no created force that is mightier than its Creator.  All things are subject to His Sovereign and Almighty hand, and He reigns supreme.  We can have full assurance that in the end, God has no rivals.  His will shall come to pass.  It is as sure and as steadfast as God Himself.

Finally, the eternal purpose of God is all-glorious.  It is designed to manifest and display forth the glory of God in its fullness.  It is, likewise, designed to bring man into the participation and enjoyment of the glory of God in fullness for all eternity.  God could not conceive of a more glorious plan for Himself and for you and I.  This is our destiny, to the praise of His glorious grace!

Before we explore this eternal purpose more fully in relation to the members of the Triune God and to the Church, it would be beneficial to pause for a minute to consider our personal relationship to it.  We have the opportunity, as believers in Christ, to align ourselves with and be the first-fruit partakers of the supreme purpose of the ages.  We have the privilege of yoking ourselves with that which represents the infinite goodness of God’s heart and the infallible wisdom of God’s mind.  We have the honor of being called to serve and labor for that which never fails and will never pass away.  We have the blessing of giving our lives to that which is unsurpassed in its unspeakable glory.  All other purposes will fail. All other endeavors will come to naught.  All of man’s greatest and best intentions will fall short.  This and this alone will endure and shine with the glory and favor of the Sovereign God for all eternity.  To the fellowship of this Purpose we have been called.

When a man’s life becomes consecrated and committed to living, serving, and laboring for God’s supreme purpose, it, likewise, becomes marked with certain distinctive characteristics.  First and foremost, it becomes purposeful and focused.  It is not frivolous in its use of time or selfish in its ambitions and pursuits.  It is not shifting and meandering in its intentions or flagging in its commitments and obligations.  It does not follow the most popular fads or hop on the latest bandwagons but joyfully and sacrificially keeps its hand to the plow, tilling a straight furrow.  It is marked by a persistent and patient zeal in a purposeful, settled direction.  Such a man is approved of God for he is a man after God’s own heart.  He will in no wise lose his reward, for he co-labors with the One whose purpose never fails.  He is further marked by joyfulness of heart and sagacity of mind as he follows the good, wise, all-glorious, enduring purpose of his Father.  God is seeking such men and women to be the forerunners and first-fruits of His eternal purpose and kingdom in the earth.  Will you and I be those who will be marked and sealed in this way?  We need only to bow our knee and yield our heart to this one great and glorious purpose.

© 2011 David Bolton  All rights reserved.

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This is just the beginning of the exploration of God’s eternal purpose.   If you would like to explore more, you might find the following posts and pages helpful:

Audio Teaching: “The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church” (CCC Seminar – Session 1)

Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 4)

Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Cont. (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 5)

The Process of the Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 6)

Affirmations (1) – The Eternal Purpose, Christ, and the Church

Shaped by God’s Eternal Purpose

Co-Laboring With God

May we all be yoked together in this one Grand Pursuit…for His highest glory, and our deepest joy!

With love,
David

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Eternal Purpose of God, Uncategorized | 10 Comments