Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Blogtext: "Doing church or being Church"

"When you come together, each one of you has something to share."

Have you heard of the 80/20 window? It is a way of describing a great number of things where people interact. Out of a hundred about 1/5th do all the work and the other 4/5th rely on it and support it in various ways but are rarely part of the 'producing' end but always on the 'consuming' end.

Whether you are talking of politics, sports, religion this pattern repeats itself to a high degree. It is also useful to understand many things in the world. If you want to pursue it then follow this link.  It is actually very prevalent in the world at large.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle)

Following it has however dire consequences for the living body of Christ on earth. (It is not really applicable to a living physical body, for that would almost certainly mean that 80% of the body was inactive and almost as good as dead and only kept alive by the remaining 20%. That is being on a life support system like a respirator and  is not very desirable.) In the life of any church that would mean that 80 out of every hundred make very little contribution to the whole. If only 20% of the church's membership are accountable for the life of the whole then vast blessings are lost and the up-building of the whole is left to the few. The truth is that this largely reflects church-life as it is today all over the world.

You only need to look at the basic layout of every room used by the worshipping community. How much is podium, elevated platform, performance area and how much is seating for the audience, attending subjects and consumers of what is performed on stage? 20-80? More often even 40-60.


No way of getting out?

The lovely thing is  that this issue has solutions in the Word of God for the church worldwide. They have been there from the very beginning but are virtually ignored, also on a worldwide basis. The first insight comes from the wandering people of Israel. A short passage at the end of Exodus 15 and the first verse of ch 16 tell us: "And they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water, and 70 palm trees. They camped there for a rest. Then they took their journey from Elim and all the  of the children of Israel came to the desert of Sin." 

It is always fascinating to come across the number 12 in Scripture. Twelve sons of Ishmael, twelve sons of Israel, twelve wells at Elim, twelve stones; one for each tribe in the High Priest's breastplate, twelve pillars surrounding the altar, twelve spies to search out the land, twelve stones taken out of Jordan, Solomon's twelve regional officers for his kingdom, twelve bronze oxen under the laver in his temple, twelve apostles, twelve gates of the New Jerusalem, twelve foundation stones for the city of God, you get the idea. 


Also at Elim. Again it speaks of a full number and more than enough. It is according to the 20-80 window, what is needed to keep that particular business running. 12 wells for 70 trees. Shading light the trees are totally dependant on the produce of the waters. The shadow of the trees shelters the wells. The people dwell in the shadow for a while and drink from the wells. But it was not a destination. It was an oasis  on the route from slavery, captivity and bondage to the "promised land, flowing with  milk and honey." As such it was ok. As a permanent place of living it was meagre and stark and narrow and limited. Israel realized that quickly and stayed there no longer than absolutely needed.


"The Elim somambulance"
Not so the average christian church. "Elim" means 'oaks' or 'terebinths'. That is all that could grow there and their growth is slow. An Oak takes three hundred years to grow to maturity, three hundred years to die. And  here is a real eye-opener: In it's growing years it exudes a poison that preve
nts the germination and development of its own acorns. In other words it allows no competition even of it's own offspring in the area of it's establishment. The scientific name for it is  "'allelopathy". (I am often told off for mixing in natural science in the bible studies. My reply to that is that if I want to teach the way God Himself and his Son do, then keeping natural science out of it, isn't in it. It would be to deny that the Rabbi is the Rabbi of Rabbi's. He certainly does not keep creation out of the church. He sent us not only to baptize but make disciples by teaching them!) *see link at bottom of page.

The opposition party

Here is a sinister note to that: If the Accuser of the brethren and the blocker of all true light is in operation then how would he reason? First he would try to stop the establishment of the church in the first place. If that fails, he will gladly let them grow quickly until they were full of newly born children that had not enough spiritual parents to ensure growth and then let them engage themselves with only themselves for as long as possible. His calculus would be this: "Here in X.town there are 65.000 people. the Christians have tried for years to establish a church here and if I can't stop them I will let them grow to five hundred or so. The faster the better. That will keep them occupied with teething problems for years to come and the remaining 64.500 in the town stay in my kingdom. They themselves have a proverb: If you can't lick them, join them. When they have reached their level of comfort in numbers they will stop being a nuisance to me. And if I can make them satisfied with being bottle Christians I can prevent their growth for the next three hundred years."(In case you should think that evil does not boost growth I remind you of the herbicide used in the Vietnam war by the USA. The herbicide used to defoliate the millions of trees, was really a super fertilizer which caused the leaves to kill themselves by growing rapidly. The cocktail was called Agent Orange from the orange stripes on the barrels, and its lethal effects came from being mixed with dioxin.)

The  20-80 principle guarantees a low growth rate. Growth? What is that?


In the life of the Church growth is several things.

1 Growth in numbers "And God added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47 "and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both men and women." Acts 5:14  "And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed and turned to the Lord" Acts 11.21 "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith; and much people was added unto the Lord." Acts 11:24

2 Growth from spiritual babyhood to maturity. " I could not speak to you as to spiritual but only as to carnal, as babes in Christ. I have fed you milk, and not with meat. For up until now you have not been able to digest it, nor are you as yet." 1 Cor 3:1-2  "For by now you have had plenty of time enough to become teachers, but instead you have need of being taught the very first principles of the very words of God. Your needs are on the milk level and strong meat is not for you. Everyone who is on the milk level is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for such a one is a baby. Strong meat belongs to those that have grown up. To those who have trained their senses to discern both good and evil by repeated praxis." Heb 5:12-14  Childlike but no longer childish. No longer spoon fed but eating with own tools and teeth.

3 Growth is growing together into a living temple. "You are built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone in whom all the building, FITLY FRAMED together, grows into a temple, holy to the Lord in whom you are also built together into a habitation for God  through the Spirit." Eph 2:20 "Coming to Him as to a living stone, thrown away by men, but in the eyes of God precious and favoured, you make up those living stones that are built into a spiritual house, serving God as royal priests able to sacrifice spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God in Jesus Christ." 1 Pet 2:4ff

4 Growth is growth to full spiritual maturity. " He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, These are his gifts to the church so that the believers, the saints, should become fully equipped for their work, that of together building up the body of Christ, until every one of us comes to unity in faith and to a common knowledge of the Son of God, the perfect man. 
Yes until we all reach the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ, so that we cease being children, easy to sway this way and that by every new doctrine, no longer becoming putty in the hands of suave talkers and easy prey to smart new deceptions. 
But learning to speak the truth in love  me may grow up into him in all things, into Him who is that head, yes Christ himself, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and drawn into compact fellowship by the support that every individual member gives to the whole. 
All in accordance with the effective working of every part, this will cause the growth of the church and of the love that it is made by and for." Ef 4:11-15  If you read that and spend time on that image then you should at least become frustrated with the apparent absence or at least ultra slow motion of this growth.

Growth 1 can happen initially without 2,3 and 4. But not in the long run. If we think that growing out is true growth then we shall soon be out of both belts and braces. Unless the growth is upwards growth, then it will stop when the creche is full. Changing diapers on adult babies is hard work.

What about the 20-80 window?

The growth patterns of the church are diametrically opposite to the 20-80 pattern. The body has no dead flesh to carry along, the worship service has no  audience, the ministry of the church is on all hands, there is no such thing as a passive and active membership in the living church. There are not even laymen and clergy. There is no such thing as performer and public. There is to be no one man or one woman benevolent  tyranny of leadership. 

What is there then?

There is the conscious dedication by each member to the church as a whole. And I claim to have good cause to claim that the local church is the sum total of all those who are born again unto a new and living hope in one geographical location. And the gifts of God in leadership have been given to that entire church. When they each are limited in their gifts to one fifth of the church then we have 5 one/fifth blessed churches, and the deficit shows. Do not all need evangelists? Do not all need leaders with a missionary calling? Do not all need live prophets? Do not all need pastors and teachers? What if they are on site but not realized by the church?

There is a coming together in unity for one common aim. No 51% voting and carried,  but consensus in the Holy Spirit. Coming together cannot be  all that successful if the common aim is  dimly understood. All about trumpets with unclear sounds you know.

There is the clear understanding that if I withhold myself and the gifts that God has given me from the other's then we all suffer loss. If one member suffers we all suffer. If one member is glad and shares it not sadness deepens.

"How is it then brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, or a teaching, a message in an unknown language, or a revelation or interpretation, yes,each may have something to bring for the edification of all. The common up-building is the main thing, everything in your service must be aimed there unto." 1 Cor 14 The arena of the church meeting is for the saints to minster to one another. It is not the place to consume religious artefacts produced by some for the many. It is not a theatre of professionals to receive praise for their skills. The flesh shall not glory in the fellowship of the saints. Our God is not impressed.


Two more observations

Six days of the week most Christians battle it out along the demarcation lines between the world and kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. We are battered, wounded, worn and sometimes bleeding, but we are also blessed, encouraged, uplifted, and full of joy unspeakable, and we have made discoveries of both the goodness of God and the mayhem of the evil one. What is our coming together for?

Escape from reality? An oasis like Elim? A pause from the war? "I have in my heart a plant called reverence, it needs watering once a week?" 
It is two things: a place for the battle weary to be bandaged, restored and strengthened. To be debriefed and open our hearts, to pour out all the heartaches to which we all are prone. 

And a place for being built up by the ministry of the body for each other. Of "continuing steadfastly in the teachings of the apostle's doctrines, of communion with each other, of the breaking of bread and of the prayers" . Of hearing teaching from the whole counsel of God, of learning and practicing the life of Christ in us. We expect to be warned of sins, admonished to love, encouraged to share the faith within, and to be built up in our relentless devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father. It is for us to be released of yesterday's burdens, restored by the day of salvation which is always today, and have bright hope for tomorrow.

We also have every reason to expect that we shall be called disciples, with lessons to learn and tasks to perform. That is what church is for. To do the work of the church, not merely to hear something new every Sunday. In every other field of learning we pass exams, show competence in doing what we learned and build more knowledge upon success in doing what is taught. Not so in the church. Not enough, not much. How else can we explain decades of no real growth in any direction?

Oh, we will still go to heaven on the conditions of the 20-80 window. But heaven was supposed to come here by the life-giving Lord of the Church in and through his people. "The kingdom of God is within you."  Luke 17:26  "..Hope never shames us, because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us." Rom 5:5  

All that love is far to big to be locked into a 20%-80% existence. What would revival be in this context? Take down your tents, get out in the midday sun from under the shading oaks, fill the water bottles and leave Elim. Now!

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster Feb 7 2018




*Allelopathy:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS18600.pdf

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