Showing posts with label apostle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apostle. Show all posts

01 November 2014

The stamping of the seal

This time I'd like to delve a bit deeper into the seal of Paul's apostolic gift. It's more accurate to say that Paul himself was a gift to the churches he worked amongst. Jesus is the gift-giver here, and he gives people with particular abilities to communities of believers as they have need.

We'll come back later to the idea that people are gifts to the church. For now I'll just make the statement without enlarging on it. But what of the 'seal'? We covered this yesterday, but we can draw more from 1 Corinthians 9:2.


A wax seal
A wax seal
When Paul looks at the Corinthian believers he sees an unmistakeable imprint upon them. They are far from perfect, they have been bickering with one another, living in careless ways that may hurt one another. They are still beginning their spiritual journeys; and they have a lot to learn. If these people are the seal of Paul's apostleship (and he says they are) we might think in terms of the material that a seal would be made of.

It would have to be a material that could be moulded so it could be stamped with a signet ring, and it would need to set hard so that the  pattern would not be lost in transit. Many materials have been used for this purpose. Hot wax can be stamped and sets hard when it cools. Clay can be stamped and sets when it dries. Bitumen was used in Roman times and hardens as it cools; good supplies were available from the Red Sea and elsewhere.

In what way were the believers in Corinth stamped with an image? They were stamped with the image of Christ. Jesus is the one who wears the signet ring. He is the one who marks us as authentic followers and as authentic communities, the ekklesia, the church. He stamps us by pouring his Spirit over us and into us and through us, and we become a little more like him.

Paul could see this growing evidence of their Christlikeness, and it was proof that he had laid the right foundation. It was, therefore, a seal of his apostleship. He had, we might say, 'apostled' well in Corinth and he continues this work in his letter.

Whose stamp do we see among those we have taught and counselled? Do we see our own stamp? Or do we see Jesus' stamp? It had better be the King's stamp, the stamp of King Jesus. If not, we have built in vain and our work will be destroyed in the fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

31 October 2014

The seal of apostleship

'Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.' - (Paul, writing from Ephesus to the church in Corinth about 20 to 25 years after the death of Jesus, 1 Corinthians 9:2)

What does Paul have in mind here? What does he mean by a 'seal' of his apostleship? First of all, what does he mean by his 'apostleship'?


Apostleship - An apostle is a gift to the body of Christ; people with an apostolic gift lay foundations, start things off, and keep them on track. Paul is one of the best examples we have. He didn't stay more than a few years in each place, often far less and sometimes only a few days. But in that time he worked to establish something that would prosper after he was gone. Christ is the foundation, and it's Christ that Paul always wanted to establish in the hearts and minds of the believers. Often, he came back later to check on what had been constructed on that foundation. And when he couldn't go in person, he sent others or wrote letters.

Seal - A seal is a mark of authenticity. An important document was sealed with wax pressed into a pattern with the sender's signet ring. It could only be opened by breaking the seal which was therefore a guarantee of both authorship and freedom from tampering. If a document was still sealed it could not have been altered or replaced by a third party.

The Corinthian believers - So when Paul writes that the Corinthian believers are the 'seal' of his apostleship, he means that they are the proof that the work he did among them is the genuine deal and has not been interfered with. How so?

Paul tells them plainly that he doesn't want anything from them, he was pleased to do his work free of charge and without support. He has various issues to raise with them, but he begins his letter with encouragement (1 Corinthians 1:4-9). And it's these gifts and qualities amongst the Corinthians that prove that Paul laid the foundations well. The seal of his apostleship is that he can see in them the grace of Christ, that they have been enriched in their words and their knowledge, they have every spiritual gift, that they are eager and are in fellowship with the Son.

Of course, he finds much to criticise too, but the fundamentals are there, the basis is right even if the acting out has been a bit misguided. And that is why he wrote this letter, to get them back on track. That, too, is part of being apostolic.

And today? - We so badly need to see the apostolic gift active in the church in our own day. We need to see foundation-layers active, rescuing people from the clutches of consumerism, addiction, lack of purpose, despair and confusion. We need to see them placing people on the one foundation who is Jesus, and encouraging them and guiding them to live kingdom lives together. We need to see them gathering the new believers into Jesus-following communities, and challenging them to go out and share the good news that Jesus lives!

And we need to see them walk away to repeat the same work in other places, allowing each new church to explore for themselves the richness that is theirs in Christ, in prayer, reaching the lost, encouraging one another in using every available gift, including the apostolic gift so that the process repeats itself and becomes like seed growing and spreading, growing and spreading to the ends of the earth.

And we need to see them checking back in person, by sending messengers, writing letters (or using today's communication systems) to keep the growing nodes on track, healthy and well networked.

And so it will be again as it was in the beginning. This is no pipedream. It is necessary and it depends on Jesus pouring his Holy Spirit into his people, and on us responding to his bidding.

The time is now! So go and make disciples of all nations.

29 December 2012

Choudhrie's steps - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Victor Choudhrie is an Indian evangelist and apostle who has baptised many people in India, planted many house churches, speaks internationally, and writes books, manuals and teaching material. He suggests twenty-one steps for transforming a traditional church.

Victor Choudhrie
Victor Choudhrie is an Indian cancer specialist turned apostle. I don't know if he would describe himself in quite that way, but I do.

He has started a movement of house church planting in India and it is spreading exponentially. He has also been invited to speak about his work in many countries and has written books and papers about it.

Listen to him speaking about how he changed from medicine to preaching Christ (there's a two minute introduction before Choudhrie speaks). The full set of six videos is well worth hearing.

One of his papers is a PDF containing twenty-one steps that he recommends for transforming the life of the church. Some of the steps have been shared on SimpleChurch Journal and briefly discussed on The assembling of the church. Victor Choudhrie describes them as 'twenty-one steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls'. They form part of the training material on the Paul-Timothy website.

But I'd like to go further, I think it would be useful to take all twenty-one steps individually and examine them in a bit more detail. They are very striking, and extremely challenging. Are you ready?

The steps are listed below in abbreviated form and will be examined in future posts.

  1. Clergy and laity - rewrite the job description of the professional clergy
  2. Meet in houses - move from meeting in temples to houses of peace
  3. Small and informal - phase out Sunday services, gather informally
  4. Share resources - replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing
  5. Eat together - replace wafer-and-sip communion with agape meals
  6. Spiritual melody - replace professional music with heart music
  7. Interact and participate - not spectator-oriented but prophetic
  8. Become a network - not mega-church but meta-church
  9. Multiply - produce baby meta-churches abundantly
  10. Know who you are - be Christ's royal-priests, not laity
  11. Challenge purposeless church - clearly stated vision and a roadmap
  12. Unglue and send out - don't sit, soak and stagnate, but actively go
  13. From death to life - from titles to five-fold ministry that equips
  14. Subgroups are church - every prayer group and Bible study is church
  15. Replace goats with sheep - individuals who care for the weak and lost
  16. Simplify disciple making - gossip the gospel and multiply
  17. Training at home - no seminaries, share the truth house to house
  18. A new personal paradigm - church is where you spend your time
  19. Legacy church is secondary - see it as it is
  20. Preach Christ in new places - be fruitful and multiply
  21. Have a completion mindset - aim to be a millionaire of souls

Questions:
  • How do you react to the list of steps?
  • Does Victor Choudhrie have the right to suggest these steps to change?
  • If so, why? If not, why not?
  • What do you find most interesting or challenging about his life as a believer?

See also:

15 September 2011

Moggerhanger - Millenials meeting

< 13th September 2011 | Index | 16th September 2011 >

A series of three addresses at Moggerhanger in Bedfordshire brought together Clifford Hill, Wolfgang Simson, and Peter Farmer to share their thoughts on the current state of Britain.

We gathered in the evening on 14th September for soup, a welcome and an introduction to the Moggerhanger meetings.

Introduction - On 15th we began with some introductory thoughts from Danny Stupple. The intention was a day of consultation with Jesus and a sense that we would need to come like little children in open simplicity. Some other phrases that seemed important were 'body ministry', 'running with our eyes fixed on Jesus' and 'it's not about the steps we take, it's about the ultimate destination'.

Gathering at Moggerhanger MillenialsBody ministry - With that in mind here are some things that came out of an initial time of open contribution.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (body ministry) and Psalm 98 (sing and rejoice) were mentioned.

Wolf Simson mentioned Abraham and Isaac and asked, 'What is our sacrifice? What is our Isaac?' I shared a word from  the Lord, 'I AM. That is my name just as I told Moses. It is not your place to say, "I am" - it is my place to say "I AM" - my place and mine alone. I say "I AM" and it's for you to say, "You are"'.

Then there was a tongue and an interpretation. 'Finish the work, talk about how you will finish the work'. He has a plan for the end, a finished work - but it has to be worked out in practice. The river and the trees in Revelation 22 are for the healing of the nations (see also Ezekiel 47:1-12). There will be a crumbling of the existing order, a shaking as in Hebrews 12:26.

Further thoughts included Isaiah 48:14, the redeemer, peace like a river, righteousness, the river again, and leaving Babylon.

Isaac and the knife is about our reputation.

Clifford Hill - We heard about the history of British society leading to the current disaffection and deprivation and lack of hope. This was a valuable background for the ideas that would be set out by the next two speakers.

After sharing his own story of life and work in Brixton Clifford explained that his generation had the responsibility of helping us understand the present. He covered the history of slavery in the West Indies and the harsh conditions in the north of England during the same period (tantamount to white slavery) and outlined how this affects the first, second and third generations thereafter.

During the recent Tottenham riots there was no racial tension, instead the trouble was caused by the third generation of both groups who find themselves pressed into the same mould of dysfuntional family life. When families break down, so does the nation. There's a deep need for good fathers.

The Old Testament has little about fatherhood until Isaiah 63 and 64. Clifford stressed that we're not to be building our own houses, but should focus on the Lord's house. We must recognise our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6) and repent. And in John 15 we finally see that the Father's heart is truly our heritage.

Wolfgang Simson - Wolf noted that Britain is getting worse, every time he visits he sees deterioration. He spoke about the father of the Prodigal Son, in some ways it is not a good example of fatherhood. One son sees him as an employer, the other feels neglected. The father is like the church.

He pointed out that a crisis causes us to ask questions and only then will we be able to find answers. But we make progress by obeying the King and we desperately need to put that into practice. There's a difference between prophets (who point to the mountain) and apostles (who build a road to get there). 1 Corinthians 4 shows us the role of an apostle. Often an apostle is unrespected, comes out of nowhere and may appear foolish.

We have to go back to the first true radical - Jesus! We must repent and have the attitude, 'Your Kingdom come, my kingdom go'. We don't need a church religious system, we need the Kingdom, the domain of the Almighty's uncontested rule, our opinion is not invited.

The role of parents is to provide a phone number, a cheque book, and love. That's what the older generation is for - support; it's true in family life and it's a Kingdom truth too. Apostles and prophets set up a home.

It's time to stop merely preaching the Kingdom and to begin living it as Jesus intended. Father's initiative is to open up his house; we should do the same.

Wolfgang Simson set out for us the Kingdom perspective on the state of Britain in 2011. All is not lost, there is a roadmap out of this mess but we had better start paying attention to the King and begin doing what he says, not following our own ideas.

Peter Farmer - Right at the start, Peter shared that his wife, Marsha, is a cousin of Mark Duggan who was shot by police in Tottenham. Peter and Marsha have been working in the Meadows area of Nottingham for about eleven years and there is a clear sense of oppression amongst the people there. Peter described how the work they were doing was not accepted by traditional church leaders.

This follows the same pattern of trouble faced by people like William Booth, John Wesley, and groups like the Lollards. They brought transformation but faced severe difficulties. Paul had similar difficulties two thousand years ago.

Peter suggested there are two kinds of soil in the UK today. On the one hand there are those who grow well until difficulties come, but then they back off and the new growth withers. On the other hand others are distracted by the things of this world, things 'get in the way'. The answer to the first group is 'blessed are you when you are persecuted' and the answer to the second group is 'woe to the rich'.

Trouble and persecution are coming, the question is will we respond now or will we leave it until later? Of the prophets, Peter commented that there is no such thing as an unpersecuted prophet. Jesus himself said, 'Some you will stone and some you will kill'. They said things that stirred people up; we are not called to be comfortable.

Peter wondered how we are to train people to hear for themselves? How do we train people to read and understand the Bible for themselves? He believes the Lord will use us as spiritual mothers and fathers. We must bring the poor and the hurt into our homes. They will respond out of brokenness so it certainly won't be easy! We need to find (and follow) Kingdom principles of education, politics, and life. Projects that follow these priciples to work on the solutions will be loud and chaotic. Will we celebrate this work or persecute it?

Traditional church in the UK is prejudiced against the working class, we need to do more than give them soup and let them continue in distress. We need to release them to create and lead their own groups, not corral them into our existing ways.

The gospel needs to change people's hearts to allow a grass roots movement to develop. Will we get out of its way? Will we bless it and resource it? We'd better not criticise their methods or try to prevent them. Instead we need to let them do it their own way.

Concluding remarks - Danny pointed out that forty years ago today the Festival of Light was started. But within a year the power of the Spirit had been diverted, our vision had been that the Spirit would fall on 'Christian flesh' when truly is should have been 'all flesh'.

In Clifford Hill's view we now have a second chance. If so, we'd better take it!

< 13th September 2011 | Index | 16th September 2011 >

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