Getting The Vision
A new wineskin?
Western culture is changing; God is doing a new thing
Momentous change in western culture: post-Christian and post-modern
A generation or two ago people in the UK knew the Christian story. The church had merely to bring people into their buildings and meetings to reintroduce them to the reality of it. This is no longer the case. A church meeting, even (especially?) a charismatic/pentecostal one will be strange and quite possibly irrelevant to the unchurched who have very little idea of what Christianity is about.
The church can no longer rely on bringing people to it; it must go to where they are.
Many social commentators describe a monumental shift from ‘modernism’ to ‘post-modernism’ which – neither good nor bad but a fact of life – creates particular challenges for the church, both its theology and its practice. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand, blind to what is going on around us, if we are to communicate the Christian faith and pass on the baton to the next generation. We are being forced to ask again: what is church, and how can it reflect God’s glory to the world?
What God is doing
a. In recent decades God has raised up men and women who, out of revival and charismatic renewal, have pioneered extraordinary ministries bringing the church to a brand-new place. The Christian scene in the UK is unrecognisable from 40 years ago. Many of these ministries are in the process of handing over leadership to the next generation without having seen the great awakening/revival so many of them longed for.
As this handover takes place the emphases in these ministries have often been shifting from revival meetings (transforming the people of God) to impacting towns and cities (transforming society).
b. The message to ‘go’ (the preacher motivating the congregation to be Christian witnesses in the world during the week) has been familiar in recent years. Yet it remains an elusive target. The body of Christ, and therefore the glory of God, has remained pretty much bound within church buildings and organisational structures.
c. There is increasing disquiet with the church scene, with many disillusioned about time spent attending meetings, services and programmes. Our towns and cities have many people de-churched. Things are shifting.
d. The prevailing trend against dualistic thinking (pitting spirit against matter, a non-biblical notion) is causing a massive rethink in certain quarters about the false divisions that have emerged in our thinking regarding how the church relates to the world. We can see now that a wrong distinction between ‘holy’ and ‘secular’ resulted in a mindset that has wrongly separated certain aspects of church from world.
For instance: a church building was seen as holy but the world (outside the building) as secular; ministers (priests) as holy (in ministry), others ‘in the world’, or ‘in secular employment’; Sunday mornings holy but the rest of the week for secular things. Breakthroughs over the centuries – such as Luther’s priesthood of believers – has broken this down to some degree, yet in practice wrong dualistic distinctions remain in the body. Even in cutting-edge charismatic churches it is commonly thought (whatever is said) that it is somehow a second-rate call to be ‘in secular employment’.
When Paul said in Eph 4 that Christ ascended in order that his body fill the universe he surely meant for the church (i.e. the congregation) to be church out in the world wherever they were put, revealing Christ. The purpose of the fivefold ministry, mentioned in the next verses, is apparently to equip the body for such a purpose.
Our vision is not to ‘do church’, but to fill the universe with the body of Christ, reflecting his glory to all creation.
a. In the Old Testament the glory was shut in the holy of the holies. As Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in front of the holy of the holies was torn. We often think in terms of this enabling our journey into the presence of God – true enough – but it also let his glory out! To trap it once again, this time in church structures, is to miss the point of what God intended to do through his church. His glory is to be known throughout creation, not just in meetings and church programmes.
Church is all week long, wherever people are. Each person seeks to build relationships with those who are not saved, led in whatever way the Holy Spirit directs him/her. The body will be intrinsically outward looking.
b. There has been wonderful teaching in certain parts of the church over the past decades (the last wineskin). It is time for the congregation to walk in the good of knowing who they are in Christ, knowing they carry the fullness of God within them, every spiritual blessing in Christ (etc), and be equipped and released by the fivefold ministry to be Christ in the world, releasing his presence and power for the world to see. They will walk in faith, understanding it is the kingdom of God they seek. It is the congregation who are the most important part of the church, for it is they who are to be the carriers of his glory in the world.
The church will walk as the army God intends it to be: each person standing for themselves and following God themselves – at the same time walking in order and under authority. Each person should be responsible for getting revelation for themselves from scripture, taking responsibility for where God puts them in the world and being church all week long out there – building relationships with those who do not know him.
Each person joining the church will, therefore, be trained to understand and walk in the good of the revelation that has come. They will learn who they are in Christ, and walk in the good of it from the beginning. They will be responsible for feeding from God for themselves and be encouraged to do that daily, and from the whole council of God. They will never stop feeding and learning about God and his purposes for them and for the church.
in Christ, and walk in the good of it from the beginning. They will be responsible for feeding from God for themselves and be encouraged to do that daily, and from the whole council of God. They will never stop feeding and learning about God and his purposes for them and for the church.
c. The church will shift from expressing authority through hierarchical structures to the whole body exercising authority in their own prayer lives and releasing the power of God in every situation in the world they find themselves in. People need to be trained, but the body of Christ now has the revelation of these things. In the new wineskin these things will be accepted and immediately be part of every believer’s day- to- day arsenal.
Each person therefore will be trained to exercise authority in their prayer lives and in every situation they find themselves in. They will take authority effectively over circumstances, obstacles and spiritual barriers they might face. They will see things around them changing.
d. The dynamics of worship, prayer and community will be maintained as strongly as before, yet without containment in a pre-packaged ‘service’. As we look outwards we stand with each other in support of what God leads us into.
These dynamics remain essential to the people of God and we look for breakthrough in each.
e. The church remains envisioned at a world as well as a local level.
Each person will be encouraged to be part of a world impacting aspect of the ministry. Teams will be sent around the county, country and world.
© Cornerstone Church (Norwich) 2017 Reg UK Charity Number 1118125