Comments

  1. says

    Your first post I read was “On being Italian.” I was sold and figured your other stuff was worth reading. Great post. I know without a doubt that discipleship can NOT happen outside of The Church. I had the opportunity to lead a small college ministry (about 50 people) and was able to effectively meld the two ideas; meeting as a community (but not just church. small groups, prayer meetings, recreational stuff – we lived life together and there was genuine Christ transformation, not just individually, but as a community) and meeting for individual “discipleship.” The individual meetings were more for those that identified a desire for depth in their relationship with Jesus (and those expressing a desire to lead and give and serve). We started out requiring our leaders to meet with someone, but it quickly transformed into an open door anyone seeking personal connection could walk through. Here’s my thing, it worked with 50 people, does it work bigger? There are so many books and leaders that talk mega v. organic. I’m called to plant ekklesia (God has confirmed it multiple times – although we’re a number of years out), but I don’t want to be that guy that plants a “seeker friendly” church where Sunday becomes a comfort producing more than fruit producing. But, I also don’t want to be that guy that abandons “traditional” church because it “old and antiquaited” and has some “new, hip way” of presenting the Gospel. I want it to be the preaching of Christ, Christ crucified and Christ resurrected that produces change. So where is the balance that you talk about above. Who do you listen to in the crowd I know the right answer is God. I know you be obedient to what God calls you to. But is this (your above post) a matter of mega v. organic?

    • says

      Bruce: I address all of this in great detail, not from a theoretical viewpoint, but from over 20 years of experience, in the books “Reimagining Church” and “Finding Organic Church.” If you feel called to plant churches, I encourage you to read them both in that order. http://frankviola.org/books – would be happy to dialogue after you finish.

  2. Brad says

    Great post Frank!

    The solution to the discipleship problem is that people(Christians) need to understand that their relationship with Father depends upon them. They can’t get closer to God without knowing Him intimately. Discipleship programs and church gatherings spread knowledge, but they don’t grow us in our relationship with Father. Knowing about me and knowing me are two different things. The modern church today is much like government school systems. There is a teacher and a student and no one can seem to see past that view.

    We need to come to the understanding that God the Father is REAL! Our relationship begins now and not when we get to heaven. People are so occupied with work, school, sports, television, movies, games, technology and everything else that they don’t take their relationship with Father seriously. They may want to, but they just don’t get it. I include myself in all of that, because those same obstacles pop up in my life as well. Being part of a living and breathing “ekklesia” that lives by example and has teaching moments at all times is what we need.

    I haven’t read all your books Frank, but I am still learning what it means to be the “ekklesia” today. Thank you for your insight!

  3. Simon Ritchie says

    Thanks Frank. I too have been esposuing the same truths you have been espousing, for many years with most people just nodding their heads in agreement but who don’t seem to have the feet to walk into it. Their mind says yes, I think I agree with you, but their hearts seem far from doing much about it. I encouragingly “baa” like a sheep and move on. In a practical sense, what I would love to do, but nobody else that I know seems willing (and I stress willing) to do, is to meet DAILY just as the early church did. After all, families ‘meet together’ DAILY, husbands and wives typically ‘meet’ daily together, and yet, we do not consider the family of God in this same context. Are we not all ONE body? Many say it is not practical and start to list a whole lot of ‘reasons’ which I feel are really excuses, as to why it is not possible to meet DAILY. I am not saying this is a must-do, but surely if we have hearts filled with love for one another (rather than for just oursleves), then the notion and practical outworking of this organic ‘attitude’ is going to mean we WANT yea, NEED to be together doing life, at every moment we can, and we become proactive in doing it, not reactive in failing to do it. Ekklesia is ‘organic’-living and breathing Him because the heart and love God gives us has that same “DNA make-up” too! DAILY they met together and DAILY the Lord added to their number those who were being saved(ie. disciples). Blessings.

    • says

      Simon: I think you need to be careful to not make a law or rule out of body life. The church in Jerusalem met daily for a season. But the members lived very close to each other. This wasn’t always the case for that church nor for the other churches. See my book “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church” to get a feel for the seasonal nature of body life and for the diversity among the various churches. Yet be assured: there are numerous churches that are experiencing organic church life and shared-life community. Though it’s not the norm today.

  4. michael says

    Is there a commentary/commentator that you trust has a solid view all around of the Church. I really want a good one on Timothy and Hebrews. Thanks

  5. Fiona says

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you as always for helping us. When I was in the institutional church I do remember thinking, ‘why doesn’t anyone talk about Jesus in their regular daily routine’, (outside of the church building). Why is He only preached in sermons. I long for the community, ekklesia you remind us about. I need my brothers and sisters to edify, encourage and admonish me in His love, and I too want to reciprocate and grow. In an earlier response you mentioned the unlearning of what the institutional church has taught. I feel a great need for this. Have you blogged on ‘unlearning’? Can you please direct me to anything that would help? At the moment I do not have the fortune to be part of an organic community in Christ, so would appreciate any information until I do :) Lord willing. I am concerned that I am ‘set’ in religious ways that need to be unlearned. I apologize if you have already mentioned this before.
    Thank you!

    Fiona

    • says

      Thanks for your kind words, Fiona. I’d suggest the “Christ is All” podcast as well as my books “Finding Organic Church” and “Revise Us Again.” Both deal with unlearning and detox.

  6. Peter Cushen says

    Dear Frank, thank you for your helpful and challenging insights. I’m still only “revelated” in part but getting there and facing the right direction with my focus firmly on Jesus, I hope! Yours in Christ Jesus, Peter.

  7. Klei says

    Hi Frank, I know this is really late and I just stumbled on this website after reading a few of your books (Pagan, Reimaging, Untold). I just have a 2 questions. One of which may be answered but not fully.

    1) From the ideas presented, there is a feeling of a lack of any intentionality in discipling anyone. I agree with you that if there’s a proper natural habitat, people grow, but are there not instances in scripture where that kind of mentorship happens? Ie. Elijah/Elisha, Moses/Joshua, Jesus with his Disciples, Paul/Silas/Timothy, Barnabas/Mark..etc.. where is that place in the Ekklesia?

    2) If what you say is true, what do we do with the churches we are in now but are not ready/unwilling to do church this way… just all leave and find an organic community? Start our own? How we we make this transition?

    • says

      Klei: You are confusing the training of workers with the transformation that takes place in the ekklesia (what many call “discipleship”). Discipleship isn’t a program in the New Testament or in the life of the body when its operating organically. In a healthy ekklesia, everyone is ministering to one another and pursuing the Lord. There is intentionality in the equipping of the saints to do this in the beginning. Then it moves from there in a natural way and through seasons.

      Both of your questions are discussed in detail in “Finding Organic Church.” I recommend that if you want my full thoughts on these matters.

  8. Marperor says

    Frank, I’m hoping that you will see my comment as you have just reposted a link to this blog on your twitter.
    I very much agree with your post.
    You said in the “How Did the Twelve Make Disciples?” portion, “When a Christian lives in a living expression of the Body of Christ today, he or she is being discipled just by being part of that expression”

    In your own materials you speak of when an assembly is initially planted that the apostle(s) teach the people Jesus Christ and how to function as a community of Christ etc. before leaving them on their own. I think that period of time would mesh well with our current definition of discipleship (spiritual formation).

    There was a time when “They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” as well as living in the body by devoting themselves ” to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

    I bring this up because it seems to be left out of your article. While discipling does occur in the organic setting still apostolic workers did spend time “discipling” the assembly they planted.

    In Acts the assemblies planted were all new converts/disciples. We know that an apostolic worker spends time teaching and revealing Christ to a newly planted assembly thus we could say that those people have been discipled by the apostle.
    So in an established organic assembly how is a new convert/disciple handled? How should the person be taught considering the rest of the group were initially taught by an apostolic worker? This person should be taught as they were.

    • says

      Marperor: Apostles equip the saints to know the Lord, function, and minister to one another. They they return. New converts receive the ministry of Christ through the church once she’s equipped. And also from the apostles when they return (or in our time, via audio recorded messages and books). This has been my experience and it’s never been a problem. See my book FINDING ORGANIC CHURCH for details.

  9. says

    Hi, Frank,

    Thanks for your edifying books and articles.
    You refresh my spirit while informing my mind.

    Jesus said to make disciples by:
    a) baptizing those who repent of their sins.
    b) teaching obedience to Jesus’ commandments.
    His apostles did both, typically to households.

    Perhaps our dilemma comes less from cultural
    values and abstract theology than from, well,
    disobedience?

    Galen

    • says

      Galen, that’s precisely how the apostles planted organic churches. They preached the gospel, baptized the new converts, then taught them Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3). If we read the story of Acts and the epistles chronologically, we discover how exactly they fulfilled Jesus’ commission. It was by raising up local “ekklesias,” not by creating discipleship programs or institutional religious systems/clubs (what we often call “churches” today). Hence the point of the article.

  10. Paul Steinbrueck says

    Hi Frank,

    I appreciate your reply, but I’m not sure it gets me any closer to understanding “what is God’s will for the church … what has HE ordained … what is HIS desire for the body of Christ and her expression … what does the LIFE of God teach us concerning these things?”

    The only thing I gleaned from your last reply is that you believe “programs/methods” fall outside of God’s will for the church. Right?

    Personally, I think having some sort of a schedule for meeting together and some sort of topical guide can be very helpful for 2 or 3 or 12 people who want to grow in their understanding of God and His desire for the body of Christ as long as the schedule and the guild are always secondary to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the well-being of all involved. And to be clear, just because a guide is used doesn’t mean the primary objective is a pursuit of knowledge. But if we are to live as the body of Christ, we have to first know what that means and then we can spur each other on towards that goal.

    For example, I have a brother in Christ who has also been trying to understand God’s will for the body of Christ. We decided to read through Pagan Christianity 1 chapter a week and meet for lunch each week to pray and discuss what we read. Sometimes we skipped weeks because of schedule conflicts, sometimes we talked about personal struggles or what God was doing in our lives. Because of that reading and conversation, we decided to gather informally our 2 families plus a third for dinner, prayer, and conversation. We are continuing to experiment and explore organic church and that wouldn’t have happened had we not had your book or a plan to have lunch weekly to discuss it. This looks and feels like a natural part of healthy ekklesia to me. I hope it does to you as well.

    • says

      Paul, the “discipleship” methods you have described obviously can be helpful. But again, that’s not the point of the article. The article is simply pointing out that when a church is operating organically, discipleship happens and all the standard methods/programs/techniques become obsolete. A very hard point to get across it seems given our present matrix.

  11. says

    “discipleship programs/methods exist because the ekklesia has been lost so much on this earth. The same is true for parachurch organizations by the way. We just don’t know our history so we repeat the same things over and over again, recycled, but having the same results.” ………….. soooooo true !!!

    I thought i was the only one thinking this !

    thanks

  12. Oengus Moonbones says

    quote: “The story harkens back to John Nelson Darby’s teachings in the early 19th century. Darby used the art of proof-texting the New Testament to separate conversion from following Jesus.” The gulf between conversion and followership further widened with the emergence of Dallas Theological Seminary and the early teachers there. They perpetuated Darby’s doctrine which separated faith in Jesus as Savior from following Jesus as Lord.

    Mr. Viola, could you please explain in more detail why you think this accurately describes John Nelson Darby’s thinking and what Dallas Theological Seminary is doing. What you’re saying seems rather vague to me. Please don’t be shy but give us the gory details on why you think they flew off the rails. I don’t carry any brief for Disp’ism, but I am very curious to know.

    I’ve given your book “Reimagining Church” a fourth read through. You should take that to mean that I regard it as having something very serious to say.

    • says

      OM, thanks for the kind words on “Reimagining Church.” I’m afraid I don’t have time to detail the history of Darby and DTS. But any good history book on either can give you that. In short, the teaching that says conversion is one thing and being a disciple is another (something optional) … that making Jesus Savior vs. making Jesus Lord (the latter optional) traces back to Darby. Lewis S. Chafer was the founder of DTS and it abounds in his writings.

  13. Mike S says

    I have some deep concerns about the term and practice of “discipleship” – I was part of a church that was very fast growing, fast moving and life changing that implemented discipleship however, it turned toxic and destroyed the faith of literally tens of thousands of people. The fundemental issue we encountered was this – the church began to pass judgement on areas of life and on people that it had no biblical right too. In addition – every issue, every flaw and every opinion became a salvation issue so that when one man was discipling the other phrases like “your not being a disciple if you do zzzzz” or “you need to be a good disciple”..ect became common place. In short – we took the place of God and became the judge of people and used thier salvation as a method to influence them. Over 20 years the group went from dynamic and strong to a shadow of its former self and man centered. I caution anyone thinking of discipling to set clear and true Godly boundaries and not let opinon become truth and see that at the foot of the cross the ground is truly level.

    • Kelli says

      Mike S. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’ve been involved in several churches where that very thing happened. I’ve been through more than one “split” as it were and it’s disheartening to say the least. I think one thing that’s not really thought about is that the problem with discipleship as it’s referred to today actually starts before the discipleship program is used on new converts. I think part of the problem is the “conversion” itself. We start building the house on sand. The way we now “evangelize” includes scaring the crap out of people. “If you repent of your sins, accept/confess Jesus, then you get to stay out of hell.” We use fear to convert. And I have said for many years, that which gain by fear you MUST maintain by fear. So if you get converts because they are afraid of going to hell, then the only way to keep them is by shaming/judging their every move (maintaining by fear). Not only does our disciple perspective and practice need to change, but so does our perspective and practice of evangelizing/soul saving needs to as well. If we start people out on a new course (Rom 2:4 – the kindness of God leads you to repentance) then we start on the right foundation. If we start with God’s kindness in evangelism, instead of fear of hell, then we have the right starting point, and then and only then can discipleship (not the traditional version of discipleship) can really work on a new christian over the long run.

  14. says

    Frank, I think because I have not experienced the kind of local body of Christ you advocate, I am having a hard time understanding what sorts of relationships and activities fall within “good ekklesia” versus those that don’t and you would consider “bad discipleship.” That probably sounds cheesy and this is going to sound knit-picky, but if you’d bear with me…

    For example, if two people within the same fellowship decide they want to meet for coffee and conversation once a week, would you consider that bad discipleship or good ekklesia? Does it change things if one person is further along in their walk with the Lord than the other? Does it change things if they decide to use a published Bible study curriculum?

    Similarly, what if a sub-group of people within the same fellowship decide they want to meet regularly to discuss matters of faith, is that bad discipleship or good ekklesia? Does it change things if its one person further along in their faith leading a group of new believers? Does it change things if they use a published curriculum?

    I guess what I’m asking is whether you’re objecting to all one-on-one relationships, to sub-groups within the fellowship, to gatherings among people who are at different places in their walk with the Lord, or to written curriculum? Or is all of that irrelevant and your objection is to mandatory, inflexible programs and manipulative lording-over relationships?

    • says

      Paul, very simply: discipleship programs/methods exist because the ekklesia has been lost so much on this earth. The same is true for parachurch organizations by the way. We just don’t know our history so we repeat the same things over and over again, recycled, but having the same results.

      Organic church life is an IMMERSION into Jesus Christ that goes on constantly. From regular open participatory meetings where everyone ministers Christ to one another after having prepared spiritually, to community life where members are sharing Christ around the dinner table, on the job, at the beach, outside cooking on the grill, seeking Him together (in the mornings and other times) and encountering Him throughout the week with one another in an endless variety of ways that go way beyond “pray and read your Bible”, etc. It’s very much like fish swimming in schools in their native habitat.

      Finally: I hope that we can someday get past the “tree of knowledge” mode of thinking that asks — “is this bad, is this wrong, can’t some good things come out of this?” to the higher questions of “what is God’s will for the church … what has HE ordained … what is HIS desire for the body of Christ and her expression … what does the LIFE of God teach us concerning these things?” and begin there.

      Again: One cannot raise the bar on discipleship without raising the bar on the ekklesia—the living experience of the body of Christ—the native habitat in which true disciple-making and transformation take place.

      Selah.

  15. says

    Thank you for this post.

    I wanted to say that I’m so grateful for the realization that God’s main purpose does not depend on a negative element, that is, our faultiness or failures. God’s purpose is the pure essence of love, goodness and peace, so intoxicating in its fullness, with no blemish or spot, no shadow of turning. What God wants is no less than for us to be filled with him in said fullness, together as an interdependent family.

    His redemption is merely all that purity and goodness and love driving out the fever of sin and death and the anxiety of twisted humanity. But, of course, there is something beyond this mere experience of redemption, something we have never experienced before the fall, and have never fully, permanently tapped into (I mean on such a scale that it could not possibly be stopped). If Adam and Eve had tapped into it, they would have never fallen. But I think that the lesson learned from the temptation to choose something else over God’s loving spirit had to necessarily come first (whether that temptation was given into or opposed). Once we know the utter futility of life without God, then come to truly know him, we are held captive forever, because we truly realize how worthless everything else is.

    Anyway, thanks again for your post. It’s not effective to focus on the problem – that leads to developing bandaid solutions, as we as humans have no better cures.

    This must’ve been what Oswald Chambers was talking about when he said:

    “A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ as He was sent by God. The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in work for God is behind, not before. The tendency to-day is to put the inspiration ahead, to sweep everything in front of us and bring it all out to our conception of success. In the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, the Lord Jesus. The ideal is to be true to Him, to carry out His enterprises.

    Personal attachment to the Lord Jesus and His point of view is the one thing that must not be overlooked. In missionary enterprise the great danger is that God’s call is effaced by the needs of the people until human sympathy absolutely overwhelms the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, the conditions so perplexing, that every power of mind falters and fails. We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”

    When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say – What wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted! The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God’s wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God.”

    I think we would be wise to heed those words.

    If we truly followed the path of God, we would no doubt be swept up in a whirlwind and finally understand what Jesus meant to be born of the Spirit – no one knowing where you’re coming from or where you’re going.

    May the Lord have mercy on those hungry souls today who are looking for such a reality. For I am one of their number.

  16. Tagbo {grimtraveller } says

    Just a quick word to Stan that may be of some use. Although Genesis isn’t concurrent history or a concurrent narrative, it is a God inspired record not only of the beginning of humanity as we figure it, but also, perhaps more importantly, gives us a fascinating insight into what God’s intentions were at creation in the early part of the narrative. No redemption in sight. Indeed, Gen 1:26-27 tells us what was in God’s head. Redemption obviously looms large in the history of God and mankind, but it is, at the risk of sounding as though I’m trivializing it {and trust me, I am not}, at best, a subplot to a far grander story. It’s a bit like the scene in “The empire strikes back” where Luke finds out that Vader is actually his Dad. It’s a great scene and so powerful is it that one can tend to forget the overall thrust of the film itself…….
    That we have turned a life with, in and through God into what ultimately amounts to a human centered thingy {and I don’t feel that we do it maliciously or deliberately} says something, ironically, about the state we are in that needs bringing back to God. Perhaps it says something about how we do and don’t listen to the Lord and how perhaps we need to take him so much more seriously . Certainly makes me less critical of the Israelites because once one has been there, it’s hard to point fingers…..

  17. Stan Graham says

    True enough, but to say that God’s purpose is not redemptive because it predates the fall is unnecessary (unless you also believe God is incapable of knowing the future), and appears to contradict much of what Jesus , Peter and Paul taught. In addition to Jesus’ own assertion that His mission was to seek and save lost sheep, Paul pointed out in Titus 2;11 that the whole point of Jesus’ ministry (and what we are to teach) is the redemption of a people for himself and for his ongoing purpose (to do good).

    You’re absolutely right that Evangelicalism has tended to reduce salvation to nothing more than fire insurance, and in doing so, distorted it into something Jesus would not have recognized or agreed with, but I think you’re pendulum has swung just as far afield as those you critique. Christendom has made a mess of much of what Jesus taught, but when our beliefs are built upon the correction – rather than the foundation – we err just as much as those we correct. In reality, this is just another truth based epistemology, when what we need (what Jesus insists upon) is a love-based-epistemology (thus, a God-based, and practiced worldview). I may be reading you incorrectly, but that’s how it appears to me. Just saying…

    Enjoying the conversation.

    • says

      Stan. His purpose in time is redemptive; His Eternal Purpose is non redemptive because it is in fact eternal, conceived in eternity past and fulfilled in eternity future and is unaffected by the fall. It would have remained intact if the fall had not occurred. To use Austin-Sparks’ line metaphor … you’re focusing on the dip. The eternal purpose is the straight line. :-)

      No time for more here. But hope you’ll be stimulated enough to explore the resources that go into this deeply. To see His eternal purpose changes everything … literally.

  18. John says

    Frank; As one who has gone through and seen it all, i,e, Shepherding, Discipleship and one who has dis-joined from organized “church,” I thank you for the article and your wisdom. I lived in a place (Org) called Jesus People USA for almost 20 years, raising three kids (with my wife). Before that we were part of another intentional community, where we were introduced to Shepherding and Discipleship, followed by JPUSA. I somewhere in the midst of this was struck by Ephesians. I am glad for you spreading the “Word.”

    • says

      thanks John. some of these concepts are quite difficult for many to grasp because they are so far outside the box of traditional church practices and the evangelical mindset. It really does take a revelation of the Spirit, as Paul prayed in Ephesians 1 and 3.

  19. Stan Graham says

    Frank, so far I’ve only read “bulbous amens,” so here’s what I think is a fair pushback…

    I’m not quite sure how you get “God’s non-redemptive purpose” out of Ephesians or Colossians 1. The completion of the Kingdom Come is hardly non-redemptive. Like you, I object to the separation of salvation from the purpose of following Jesus, but to claim that God’s ultimate purpose is non-redemptive appears to be more of a pushback against modern evangelistic practice than an exposition of biblical truth. My reading of the Gospels compells me to point out that Jesus appears to claim the finding of lost sheep as His number one priority. The salvation of individual souls is, as you say, only a slice of what God is up to, but it seems to be at the very heart of His mission, and the mission He gave to His Ekklesia. Am I reading you correctly, or am I missing something?

    • says

      Stan, pushback to the pushback ;-) Btw/ I hate that word “pushback” … whoever invented it …

      (just saying …)

      One simple point. Ephesians and Colossians 1 discuss God’s intention “before creation” which means before the fall.

      God’s eternal purpose — which Paul discusses in Ephesians — was conceived before the fall of humans.

      When God created Adam, he was NOT in need of salvation. The fall hadn’t occurred yet. There was something ELSE that God purposed for him to do. A purpose that existed outside of redemption for there was no sin when he came into the earth. If you’re interested in this subject, I hope you’ll take the time to read “From Eternity to Here” which is an unveiling of the eternal purpose of God from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. There’s just no way to uncork it all in a blog post. In the meantime, you can check out some of the discussions on it here: http://www.ptmin.org/mediography under God’s mission.

      I hope that helps.

  20. says

    Note to all: I want to thank all of you who have been commenting. This of course includes those of you who may disagree with parts of the article. It says a lot about a person if they are open enough, bold enough, and have the integrity to have their ideas tested in a forum like this. To ask questions or state their disagreements in a civil, gracious way.

    You all have done this.

    Last night, a man who I do not know posted a vague critical remark on my Facebook wall which didn’t explain anything. He also blithely ignored my request to post on this blog so that his comments could be challenged in the open.

    Thanks again to all who have reacted to the article in a Christlike manner. I’m quite impressed ;-)

  21. Dominique Boyd says

    Frank, are you suggesting that we are fish out of water unless we find ekklesia in a church or otherwise where we can pray together, sing together, learn about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, share with each other in organic community and then be Jesus as we return home to our neighbourhoods, jobs etc.?

    I agree that learning church history is crucial in order to move beyond and/or return to the centrality of the living Jesus Christ.

    I recall, in my home church as a teen, that my connection was to Jesus and not to the pastor or lay leader per se. In this way, Jesus’ love was pure and filled us completely allowing us to live in freedom. While we are God’s vessels, God is still God. Having said that, we also shared our lives with each other, we gave testimonies of what God was doing in our lives and we learned from each other. Even as a 14 year old I felt a mutual respect with my youth leaders. I have just re-connected with them on Facebook. I have such deep gratitude to them for speaking love and truth (with respect) into my life and to the rest of the youth and congregation.

    What is God doing in my life now? He is reminding me of my ekklesia experience and I am remembering “as the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after thee”. I am remembering God’s peace that passes understanding and how generous He is with his gifts. There is another thing that God is doing. God is showing me what an anchor looks like and how to give it to my children for their storms that will inevitably rise in life.

    More recently, in Nepal (Sept 09), we had a team of about 14. Every morning we would sing praises together, learn from the bible and pray with each other. I was back in ekklesia. Oh how amazing it was.

    In my home church I have felt between things with God as I am learning more about Jesus in the journey from eternity to here. Jesus has been my anchor in the storm. He has brought the beauty of humanity to me. As a recovering perfectionist, I have learned that God is perfect and I am human. I have been a fish out of water, waiting for something, and Jesus offered to take me back home to ekklesia. It is so good to be home.

    • says

      Dominique, I’m suggesting what the NT makes so clear. That the ekklesia of God is the Christian’s native habitat. This is developed in detail in “From Eternity to Here.” I don’t see how that can be overturned biblically or experientially. Note that I’m not speaking of a typical institutional church. I don’t see that as a habitat, but as an event (service) or an organization.

  22. Penney Winiarski says

    Frank,
    I’ve read most of your books, recieved Christ about 7 years ago. Like other’s that have posted one thing Jesus has spoken clearly is to Guard My Heart Only For Him. I believe I’m beginning to understand why. I’ve been studying, following and learning the history of church. It’s also been a challenge to have so many varying ideas, including those in both the missional & discipleship movement believing there way is the only way. Sometimes I feel as though there is almost this guilt trip being layed on. It’s begun to occur to me that transformation/discipleship is not about changing or being changed. It’s about exchanging what’s in our left hand and giving it over to the right hand of God. As we gather as follower’s in community it seems this is a question of ownership. The community through following Jesus as Lord from the moment of birth is in process of this exchange. It has really been laying heavy on my heart and has me recognizing how easily the pendelum swings off balance. The movements we are seeing now on being more missional or making better disciples tends to make one want to change their skin. I also agree it takes time, there should be a natural exchange.

  23. says

    Frank

    I love what I have been reading by you, I have the new book and love it. I wanted to comment on the recent writing. You mentioned that the early church the Ekklesia. I have used the salt water analogy before. my question is does that still support the idea that people will think the Ekklesia is still their own groups isolated from the rest of the world.

    My thoughts on the issue of a missional church or discipleship comes from the idea of Kingdom. Jesus said broad is the way that leads to destruction which in my view is not talking about eternal life but rather what kingdom values we tend to live by. for Instance a destructive principal would be gossip we know that it is not what Jesus taught or modeled His Kingdom. Jesus taught and lived kingdom principals in the world of two Kingdoms the one that He brought and the other that we know so well.

    I pastor a church and work a job as well I only use that distinction to make a point. I feel my both being a disciple and making disciples happens as I live my life of the kingdom among people I am contact with on a daily basis. as I journey through life I sense I am in the salt water, other fish are there with me from time to time. I see the Kingdom, I see the salt water, to me it is never about getting people into an environment, but rather seeing the environment we are already in. Jesus mentioned many times about not being able to “see” the kingdom. Jesus knew what Kingdom he was a part of. The trouble is that the Ekklesia still feels better in a building where we can talk the language and live in the building and only see Kingdom life lived there, but we lose that sense after we leave.

    any way just some random thoughts

    Thanks

    Jack

    • says

      Jack, the ekklesia is a colony from the heavenly realm on this earth. Thus, like its Head, it’s *in* the world but not *of* the world nor *out* of the world. It stands on this earth for God’s eternal purpose, showing forth what the kingdom of God is like and how it operates. I address this aspect more fully in other places.

  24. Angela says

    Ron,

    What do you believe is God”s primary purpose for business, work, education, recreation? I’d really like to hear.

    Frank, thanks for the great article again.

  25. Alan Curtis says

    Frank,

    Sorry but I completely agree with your main premise “get the church right in her expression and her experience, and discipleship takes care of itself.” Discipleship as a methodology, course, or program as it is most often presented in our present day, though sincere on the part of it’s proponents, sincerely is nothing less than a misguided man made effort to produce what is the natural byproduct of true organic ekklesia. Man I wish I had your gift for not having to resort to run on sentences to get my point across!

  26. Tagbo {grimtraveller } says

    Paul, in England, by law you have to send a child to school !! And as an amusing side issue, if that child refuses to go enough times, it’s the parents that risk jail – believe it or not ! Jokes aside though, my point wasn’t really about school. I think school is a great idea and both my kids go {the 4 year old starts in september}. But where my parents came from in Nigeria, loads of people never went to school, yet many of them brought up their own families eventually, some went into business, some eked out careers etc and were and remain mature adults. What they needed to learn before going out into the wider world, they learned organically in the situations of family and village and tribal life that presented themselves. Remember, other than Paul describing the law as a schoolmaster, there are really no school-ish references in the NT, certainly none used metaphorically to describe the ekklesia. The folk of Nazareth were amazed at Jesus as a grown up coz as far as they were concerned, he was an uneducated bruiser ‘that was good with his hands.’
    One could argue that all analogies break down eventually { I wouldn’t}, even those of the NT writers, but I’ll stress it again – the organic nature of family and the fact that almost every NT writer metaphorically harks to it should tell us something. They don’t use the business metaphor. They don’t use the sports team metaphor. Extremely rare is the military metaphor. The dominant one is that of the family, John going so far as to talk about Jesus giving us the right to become children of God. School has it’s place and a certain importance but in my opinion, it is certainly not necssary. But again, the school is not the issue. The environment that the disciples grow in – that’s the issue.

  27. says

    Frank, Thanks for your reply. I do understand organic church and that it involves the whole life relationally and not just meetings. Though not nearly as much as you, I have been at it a number of years. However, most of what I have seen so far still winds up with young people being trained in godless secular institutions and businesses for that area of their lives. I suppose the discipleship training regarding business and other aspects of kingdom life should occur in the organic daily life primarily on a one on one basis. However, again, most of what I have seen do not receive kingdom business understanding. They still believe that the primary purpose for a job or business is to get money to meet their needs and help fund ministry. They do not understand God’s primary purpose for kingdom business and other occupational activities.

    They do usually begin careers with good ethics from their experience that go with them into job and business and other areas. Even the good ethics may be somewhat lost through godless experiences. However, this is not primarily about ethics. Nor is it primarily about witnessing in the workplace. It is about the reality that they usually do not have a foundation in God’s primary purpose for and function of business, occupation, education, recreation, and other major portions of kingdom living. A kingdom world view affects discipleship practices and needs.

    I look forward to hearing more from you in this area based on your greater amount of experience.

    Ron

    • says

      Ron, this gets into the whole area of God’s will for each individual, which is a different subject all together. For instance: Some folks feel that every Christian must home-school, and if they don’t, they judged as being part of the world system. Others believe that it’s a sin to go to college and earn a degree; others feel led of the Lord to do that. The problem is with putting one’s own personal conscience and standards on every one else (a la, Romans 14-15). One of the marks of authentic church life is freedom in Christ in such areas where each person is led of the Lord to follow his or her own conscience with respect to business, career, how they handle money, etc. The community of course helps shape the conscience and instruct one another; but no one puts their own personal standards on the others in these areas where there is freedom and liberty in Christ. I know some people who feel that God has told them not to own a television set, for instance. But they are mature enough in the Lord not to put that on anyone else, as God hasn’t led others that way. Failure to grasp these simple principles is the reason why there is so much division in God’s house and 33,000 plus Protestant denominations on the planet.

  28. Mike Warriner says

    Frank,

    As usual you lay down a solid foundation on how it should be. I was part of a “house church” 5 or so years ago, I was 30 or so years old and a brother wanted to “disciple” me, I thought wow maybe the Lord is going to use me and I can teach others (part of my young man ego I suppose) so I met with him, he gave me a book , tried to teach me how to pray and threw rules on me, also some homework assignments (apparently I didn’t tell him I was a D average student in school) my spirit had no peace with this brand of disipleship and I left, an experience that left me wanting nothing to do with discipleship of that nature, the man inspired sort. I have asked the Lord to disciple me and I am fortunate to have a few Christians that have been walking with the Lord and out of the institutional church for a long time around me. I am looking forward to your new book and hope the Lord begins a New Testament type Church in the Phoenix area.

    • says

      Mike, right on. That brand of “house church” which doesn’t change the traditional mindset or experience of the Christian life, but simply moves it from a building to a living room is what I call the “convenient substitute”. That and the post-church view of church, which is another discussion.

    • john says

      hi mike, look up an elderly saint named
      Thornton Stearns, in the suburbs. Fellowship
      with him in Christ…your brother in the Lord.

  29. says

    So, Tagbo, does that mean you’re not going to send your 4 year old to school or home school him? Just let him glean what he can in the family environment and hope he can parlay that into a career?

    • says

      Paul, I believe you’re missing the point of the original family analogy. The point is that spiritual nurture and rearing in Christ happens in the authentic experience of body life just as being physically nurtured and reared happens in the context of family life. Shifting the discussion to modern, Westernized career prep is to miss the point of the analogy.

      • bob christopher says

        Well said Frank. “Schooling” is one thing, education is something completely different. Education does not and cannot take place in one singular place. It happens within the whole of life. Benjamin Franklin had limited “schooling”, yet he stands as one of the most educated men the world has known.

        The whole of life for us is in Christ, and is experienced within the body. Loving as Christ loves us cannot happen in isolation.

  30. says

    Excellent post, Frank. I especially liked, “When a Christian lives in a living expression of the Body of Christ today, he or she is being discipled just by being part of that expression.” We are seeing this in our local expression of Christ.

    Thank you for the challenge to the “missional” and those who emphasize discipleship at the expense of the eternal purpose.

  31. says

    Frank, sorry, I did not do a real good job in wording my comment about kingdom disciples. Yes, the kingdom is embodied in Christ and is coming forth through the ekklesia.

    Bill wrote: “The kingdom, properly conceived, is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence,” In you reply to Bill you wrote: “The ekklesia is not the kingdom; but she embodies the kingdom. In her, the kingdom is expressed, experienced, seen, and made visible.”

    I agree completely with your article and both these comments. My two cents worth here is regarding expansion of our thinking regarding making disciples. I believe God’s intent is that the kingdom not only be expressed, experienced, seen and made visible in the ekklesia but through the ekklesia into all areas of organic life as well. This includes areas like family, occupation, education, recreation, and all areas of life becoming a part of the manifestation of God’s ruling presence.

    The kingdom is emobided in the ekklesia and in God’s design flows organically into life and culture thus establishing God’s manifest ruling presence (kingdom) in all areas of life. If this is right then discipleship can in some way involve training the disciple first in the organic life of the ekklesian and then in these expanded areas of life as well.

    It seems to me that our past experience has been to disciple in matters of church and leave much of the discipleship for life to godless secular teachers and mentors. Is it not God’s design to have the headship of Christ in all these areas? Would it not be practical and real as an example to disciple converts and children in Spirit-led business as an expansion of Spirit-led ekklesia? My question is how can we be sure we don’t do it over again in the new kingdom age thing that God is doing in the ekklesia?

    Thanks for your patience and consideration.

    Ron

    • says

      Hi Ron. We do not disagree; but I think that your comment is yet another example of how “church” is misunderstood in our time. Which is chiefly what my article is about.

      Ekklesia life — organic church life — encompasses ALL of one’s life. It’s the habitat in which ones lives, breathes, and has their being.

      The old traditional idea of “church” separates a weekly event from the other arenas of one’s life. Not so with the *experience* of ekklesia life, which is what the article has in view. Ekklesia is “life together” and includes everything. It’s the community of the King. It’s a group of people who are living by Christ *together* … not a weekly event, but the whole of one’s life.

      Hope that helps.

  32. Tagbo {grimtraveller } says

    As usual Frank, a thought provoking piece of thinking {yes, I do mean that ! } and writing. I really enjoyed it and I’ve also enjoyed many of the comments and been struck by them, whether I understood all or little or agreed or not with bits of what my sisters and brothers have said.
    I really wanted to reply to Paul’s points about fishes, children, family and schooling. I think he may have misunderstood the analogy, which I took to be about the natural environment that one grows up in. Of course fish know how to be fish – but babies “know” how to be humans, ie baby humans. And as fish thrive in their environment and continue to grow in {sorry about this….} ‘fish-ness’, so do humans in humanness. It’s part of a natural progression. I believe the NT writers were very deliberate in using the family metaphor so much in describing the ekklesia and here I disagree with Paul – schooling {it comes across as schooling via the educational system so if I’ve misunderstood this, do say} is by no means a necessary part of the road to maturity. Yeah, kids learn great and wonderful things at school but they are already learning and progressing long before they start school. Indeed, millions of mature adults never went to school. The way a child develops is through being part of a family and yes, most of what they pick up is done so organically. I was looking at my 4 year old the other day and I was just marvelling at what he knows and how he has picked up words and ideas and tricks and logic and humour. Without a doubt, there is a place for teaching in a structured way sometimes but it is the picking up of things as life is lived together in the family unit that so looms large in a human being’s make up. And real families do learn together and change together. We often tell someone off together if need be, or listen together or debate together etc and this strengthens the child. Just think of all the things that happen organically within the family, the good and the bad, and it becomes both easy to see and amazing to behold, that the ekklesia is so often couched in family terms. The family is also the setting where so much can go wrong { I mean, look at many of the families written about in scripture ! }, which is precisely why we need the Lord living in us and why it must be his show, so to speak.
    As amazingly breathtaking as he is, sometimes, I think the Lord is just too simple for us……we seem to struggle almost endlessly with his simplicity or rather, his immenseness expressed in simplicity.

  33. Brad says

    Frank,
    I’m struck that a foundational part of the church’s current dilemma is related to its understanding (or misunderstanding) of who it is. We simply have forgotten who we are, a shift that I believe you date back quite a few centuries. Over that lengthy period of time (1300 years?), we have confused our identity with our activity. If we are indeed the children of a God who is self-defined by the phrase, “I am,” and who then engages his activity out of his being, shouldn’t we be doing the same, rather than defining ourselves primarily by our activities?

    As I ponder the gospel, Jesus’ doing, like God’s, emerges from who he is as well, so the impetus for the Christian church seems to be to follow in those footsteps. But this is either impossible or radically dangerous if we don’t know who we are to begin with. The organic model you present and to which our little fellowship aspires, seems to begin with that natural, DNA-inspired identity that then determines how we act, live, move, and have our being in the world. It is remarkably refreshing, even and especially for someone like me who was raised and trained in the traditional model that presents the church as a propositional and institutional endeavor.

    In a culture so shaped and influenced by the fading Age of Reason, a return to identity and relationship over activity and propositions is a challenge. And yet, those who, like those fish (great metaphor, by the way) who find themselves back in the sea after being on life-support in the backyard, find home, lifestyle, and identity.

    brad

  34. says

    Frank, not having ever experienced organic church myself, I reserve the right to be wrong here, but I’m just not sure the analogy of the salt water fish fits here.

    When a salt water fish is born, it is pretty much self-sufficient. It knows how to be a fish. It doesn’t need any training. But when a person is reborn in Christ, he is just starting the sanctification process and is pretty much clueless about what it means to follow Christ.

    As you know one of the ways scripture describes the body of Christ is as a family. When a child is born, he is just starting the process of becoming an adult and is pretty much clueless about what that means. As a result, most parents are very intentional about providing their child with years of structured learning whether it be at a school or through home schooling. Of course that is not the only source of learning. In fact, one could make the case that the interpersonal, emotional, and life skills learned within the family are even more important than academic course work, but the academic work is still important.

    If someone said, “Children don’t need any schooling. If they are a part of a truly healthy family, they would naturally mature to know and practice everything necessary to become productive adults” I think most people would take issue with that claim. Wouldn’t you? If not, then what is the difference between a maturing child and a maturing follower of Christ? Where does the analogy break down?

    • says

      Paul, only have a sec. but very quickly. These two points are built on my experience:

      1. Christians are born with spiritual instincts. The role of extra local church planters who raise up the church (and then leave it on its own) is to give a little help on how to follow one’s spiritual instincts and root out those things that hinder such. So yes, they are very much like fish in this regard. The main point of that analogy is the natural habitat. Which for the Christian is the ekklesia.

      2. The ekklesia — when she’s operating organically — operates as a school, so everyone is learning Christ together. The young, the old, etc.

      Again: this is very hard to conceive if someone has never experienced it. Which throws us back on the main point of the article — the dire need for church restoration the way God intended. But that will never happen among those who refuse to let go of a man-made system or who opt for the convenient substitutes.

  35. Fear No Man says

    Dear Frank,

    I got quite excited about your article but for one thing.

    I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the teachings of Darby and the problems associated with them. Darby’s writings are certainly not an easy read and in some places there are seeming contradictions and he clearly changed his viewes on some things over time. However, your references to him in this article do not accord with my understanding of Darby’s writings at all. He gave very great emphasis to “the assembly” (the church) as the body of Christ where we should growth and learn and to say that he taught discipleship as separate from participation in “the assembly” is not in my opinion a fair interpretation of his teachings. For him participation in “the assembly” was high priority. His views of evangelism/ prophecy etc. were all tempered by his central strong emphasis on New Testament church principles as he understood them and that the gospel was taken ‘out from the church’ to the unreached with a view to converts being added to the church.

    Sorry to have to disagree as otherwise I like your article very much. You could make your point without reference to Darby and the article would be even better.

    • says

      Ken, yes, we do disagree. In fact, I think you assumed some things the article doesn’t assert. For instance, the article never speaks of Darby’s teaching on the “assembly.” That’s not even mentioned. It rather refers to his teaching of separating the Lordship of Jesus from the Saviorhood of Jesus. That was clearly a Darbyite influence that has never left evangelicalism, particularly the fundamentalist stream.

  36. says

    On the missional topic, that’s one of the simplest and best ways I’ve heard the two sides described. It’s not surprising you have a way with words and with making your point understood, but I still wanted to thank you for offering it up to the rest of us in such a pointed way.

  37. tommyab says

    I can testifie that in my place (Québec) the traditionnal ways of spreading the Gospel have not been a success and I feel it will never be… and if doing mission and disciples continue to be an individualistic thing it will do nothing… or so superficial and irrelevant…

    Any effort to spread the Good New toward the unbelievers is seen here as suspicious, hypocrit, and unthrustable…

    and you know, I have come to think that it really is that bad… when we don’t do it as an “ekklesia”.

    would you thrust a car-seller more than a modern-day gospel preacher ?
    would you thrust someone who’s only interest is make you change your religion and is not interested in you ?

    I am dreaming of the day to come when the good new will spread naturally as it did in Lydie’s house in the book of Acts.

    “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone IN THE HOUSE.” Matthew 5:15

    “… you cannot separate disciple-making from the ekklesia. You cannot separate the forming of people into full-pledged followers of Jesus and a living, breathing, vibrant community that gathers under His headship….”

    amen !

  38. Bill Bremer says

    Frank,

    By, “The ekklesia is the embodiment of the kingdom of God. The kingdom, properly conceived, is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence, ” are you saying the Ekklesia is the kingdom? God’s ruling presence surpases the ekklesia. King Jesus rules over the Jerusalem above (Hebrews 12:22-29). The heavenly Jerusalem is diversely populated with myriads of angels, the church – that is us, God, the spirits of just men made perfect – the dead who trusted in Messiah Jesus and Jesus. Now, we see God. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude verses 24-25).

    • says

      Bill, no, the ekklesia is not the kingdom; but she embodies the kingdom. In her, the kingdom is expressed, experienced, seen, and made visible.

      If you wanted to see the kingdom of God in 47 A.D., visit the church in Jerusalem, or the church in Antioch, or the churches in Galatia. You’d find the presence of the future in those people, in those communities, even though they were fallen and fell short (as we all do).

      To remove the mystique, the manifestation of God’s ruling presence (the kingdom) is embodied in Jesus. If you want to see God’s ruling presence manifested, look at Jesus.

      The church is the corporate Christ. It is the very body of Jesus. So if you want to see God’s ruling presence manifested on earth, look at the ekklesia *when* she is functioning properly. In her you will find the presence of the future. In her, you will find righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit (as Paul defined the kingdom).

      I plan to write an article on the kingdom of God in the future, where this will be expanded more. But in short, the charismatics have made the kingdom all about outward power and miracles. The postmod Christians have made it all about social justice and a political utopia. But the kingdom is not just act or being; it’s both. God’s ruling (act) presence (being) is manifested through the ekklesia of God, for Jesus Christ dwells in her.

  39. Joe Livesay says

    After reading your blog and the subsequent comments I am overwhelmed with the need to cry out to God for help…Father forgives us for we know not what we do!

  40. don lamb says

    Dear Frank,
    Ive read pagan, re-imaging, and NT church books.I just bought a copy of Here to Eternity at the local books-a-million, will take it on the ship with me soon. Will buy just about anything you write, been eatin it up brother! Your books have definately changed the way I think and feel about my faith. Ive only been in the family for 12 years, but early on I got hooked on Watchman Nee, and, well, lets just say I realised early on that “the church” was in actuality usually an extension of a worldly intention. Luckily for me I got saved at the Brownsville Revival, which had been going on in my hometown of Pensacola for a couple years before someone rescued me from a local crack house and brought me to the revival and I was instantly set free and set on fire for God, so I did not come out of a past filled with alot of things about church that I had to un-learn, as was the case with alot of the people that came and were mightily touched by God in that powerful revival. I give this testimony to explain the parigdym from which I view the church. It has been my experience over the years that I have had to guard the deposit God put in me very jealously against the enemy who usually works through my own family. The only fruit I have been able to bear as far as dicipling has been to the degree that I have lived a life totally submitted to the Lord, where ever I am. I have been involved for the last few years in jail ministry and as a teacher at Teen Challenge in my off time ( Im a merchant seaman) and I can attest to the goodness and faithfulness of God to reach these people in dark places, places where most church people dont want to go. The key to any undertaking I have had, which basicly is my every waking moment, is to stay in a right place with God, and everything else flows. I know this sounds pretty simplistic, and I am a simple man, but, well, I guess Im just trying to get my 2 cents in. The way I see it, as far as this topic goes, regardless of what any of us think feel or believe, God is going to grow up His church, and He will and DOES use any and all means to accomplish this, whether its a home church or a big box church. Your question at the end of Pagan Christianity, “what are you going to do with this information?” challenged me for about a month. I really did not know what I was going to do. The area I live in does not have any real organic expressions that you describe, but more importantly, I asked the Lord what I was to do, and the Lord said to me to stay put right where I was, at Church of His Presence in Daphne, Al. My Pastor, John Kilpatrick, is a very humble and therefore powerful man of God, and the blessings that flow our gatherings and homegroups are as close to touching heaven as I ever knew. I do believe the times we live in are definately changing, and circumstance may well govern the future gatherings of believers, but till He comes, let the Lord reighn in us all, and everything else will be made known in due season.
    Peace,
    Bro Don

  41. says

    Heh Frank,
    I don’t know what others long for, but I just want to see multiplication take place. I don’t think 30/60/100 speaks to speed at all – as you commented – but expansion of the Kingdom of Christ. I’m not even sure that multiplication always means more people – it could mean the Kingdom producing more fruit on earth, or rather those who are in Christ being more fruitful.

    Maybe I don’t know where to look, but it seems to have been mostly division in the time I’ve been alive, not multiplication.

    Just my $.02.

    Peace

    • says

      I can tell you what I long for … I long to see Jesus Christ revealed in His saints when they gather together under His headship. There are few things more precious under God’s heaven. The rest takes care of itself once that happens.

  42. says

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you for writing this article. It rests in my spirit very well. One suggested area expansion comes up on my inner screen. Discipling fish in the natural habitat (ekklesia) has got to be right. Obviously this is the best method for reproducing the ekklesia or ekklesias, if there is such a word. This will produce ekklesia focused disciples which hopefully in the practical actually does translate to disciples of Christ the Head of the ekklesia. This is a great improvement over the fish in the back yard disciple. However, does it still produce something less than a kingdom disciple?

    The kingdom of God involves all areas of life under the headship of Christ. Your illustration calls for the fish to be discipled in the natural ocean not a tank of sea water (ekklesia). Surely a large tank would be better than the back yard splash method. But, would not the whole ocean (the whole of kingdom life) be a better way to go. Is there some way that all of the facets of life under the headship of Christ including all the seven mountains (the whole ocean) can become the environment and focus of discipleship to produce kingdom disciples?

    Ron

    • says

      Ron, I’m not really understanding your point. The ekklesia is the embodiment of the kingdom of God. The kingdom, properly conceived, is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. That happens in and through the ekklesia when she is functioning as God intended and both experiencing and expressing Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of the kingdom. I think it’s a mistake to pit the ekklesia against the kingdom, at least from a NT perspective.

  43. Rachel says

    Hi Frank! Thank you so much for your insightful article!

    I have a quick (maybe?) question….

    What do you believe the purpose and focus should be of someone who is appointed by the Lord to be an Evangelist (in an Eph. 4 way)? In their equipping of the body, what is the best way for them to do what the Lord has called them to do, yet not lose sight of God’s eternal purpose?

  44. jrust says

    I think what’s at the root of the whole missional/discipleship movement outside of the organic expression of the body, is a fundamental mistrust that the living Christ has not only the ability but the authority to govern and mature his own body. What makes this concept so ‘un-popular’ in most Christian circles today is for the same reason the cross is so unacceptable among non-believers… it requires a vulnerablity, a “being laid bare” if you will. When Paul writes to the Corinthians about unbelievers or ‘someone who doesn’t understand’ coming into the meetings, we can assume he’s asserting that these people are in need of ‘discipleship’. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t advise them to split off into pairs or organize a time to get together to DO discipleship. Instead he plainly states the FACT that “if he witnesses everyone prophesying about Christ, he WILL be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will LAY BARE. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!!’” (1 Co 14: 24)

    True discipleship doesn’t come from man, but from the indwelling Spirit being ministered to as each member functions under Christ’s headship. This is the Divine pattern of discipleship, not a new fad or something cool that Frank just thought up. It’s the pattern of fellowship and maturity that’s existed before time and it works!!!
    Now, the truth of discipleship has been laid bare for all to see for the past 2,OOO years… why do we deny it’s power?? I think the answer is in two parts. The first and more sinister is that our flesh is in constant competition with Christ’s headship and so we conform to the Babel-esque mindset of ‘let me think of a better way’. I think this whole discussion lends itself to the fact that we haven’t. The second, and more tragic reason points to the vulnerability piece. Humans in general don’t want to place themselves in situations ‘where the secrets of their hearts will be laid bare.’ The very thought of it scares the crap out of us!! But just as the competition with Christ’s headship has gotten us to utter confusion within the Christian population, the outright refusal to imitate Christ’s humility has done the greatest harm to his body and in a way is ‘crucifying him all over again’.

    For this reason, and this reason alone a flag must be raised. So many flags are raised, battles fought, and blood shed within our own family of believers over things like denominations, dispensations, predestination, etc, etc… all THINGS that frankly, don’t change the fact that we’re sharing heaven with these people!! One thing I have come to seriously admire about Frank is that he does not raise his flag for anything else but Christ’s beautiful Bride and HIS headship over her. Of all the hills to die on…WHAT A HILL!!! It’s the only one the gates of Hades will not overcome.

  45. says

    Frank and Co.

    In my experience thus far, most western “discipleship” is focused on providing information to the new follower, rather than the one-anothering seen in the scriptures which in a nutshell could be called “relaionship” I think much of the former approaches seek to perform the role of the Spirit, largely discounting or eliminating His role in the life of new believers and in the coming together of the assembly. I think of Peter, who had no courage, and seemingly little theological knowledge prior to Pentecost, who after Pentecost was quite the opposite – all without a new members class, Theology 101, or any formal training. What he did have was community with the Godhead and with one another In Christ.

    Also, I think a chief issue, getting back to a lack of ekklesia being a root problem with discipleship is that we’ve become event-driven as local churches rather than relational – not seeing ourselves as a living organism and community to be lived IN, but as things to attend TO. How inorganic is that? Inorganic can only produce plastic. Organic produces grains of wheat.

    In God’s sovereignty, I think he still has used Darby and Moody and “discipleship” programs for tremendous things in His Kingdom. Yet we need to learn how to affirm that yes, God has worked in these methods in the past, but that doesn’t authenticate them as THE WAY. Manna feeds, but it’s no substitute for Milk & Honey.

    Perhaps the Parable of the Sower provides us the best insights into discipleship. Good seed (the word as Scripture and the Word as Jesus) on Good Soil should produce 30/60/100 fold increase, right? If our means and methods don’t do that, is it really Christ being multiplied, or an infertile substitute?

    According to Neil Cole’s “Organic Church” only 4% of churches multiply (nowhere close to 30/60/100 that Jesus spoke of). That should be proof enough that our means of “discipleship” don’t possess the exponential, reproductive nature of the Person of Jesus Christ.

    All that to say, I think that your observations are good ones and agree that any consideration of discipleship that ignores or diminishes the ekklesia (both universal and local) will produce infertile disciples. Praise God that He is bringing these things to light now. By His grace, maybe we’ll have the humility to press on towards being the Body, Bride, and Building without spending time defending our past ignorance.

    Thanks again brother.

    • says

      One minor aside: I take issue with the modern emphasis on “rapid” multiplication. You can’t find that in the New Testament story … what you do find there is multiplication only when the foundation has been properly laid. That takes years by the way. Especially in our day when so much un-learning has to be done first within most Christian groups. The groups that I’ve seen who swallowed that doctrine and multiplied quickly were so shallow a gnat couldn’t drown in them! And these were the ones that didn’t disintegrate in a short period of time.

      Just saying …

  46. Barry Dehart says

    It seems to me that if we truly knew our history we would be able to see. But I have noticed that a large portion of the Christian landscape is littered with broken bits of history that support each groups own view. You can only see what you have eyes to see. History is so important to understanding and upon reading the above blog I see that it is all to subjective with out the grounding of the one who comes along side. I am vary much in agreement with this article as well as “Organic” expression of the Ekklesia and the Bride this is my passion. Navigating the broken bits is a labor of LOVE.

    In His service,Barry

  47. Kristen says

    My husband and I (both 24) have been feeling everything you’ve written here today almost to a painful degree. We were both “raised in church” and went to Christian schools, we’ve been a part of it all. Both the good and the bad of modern-day-traditional church.

    And my problem has always been the lack of real community & the lack of vision. It has always seemed to me that salvation does not equal satisfaction. There is so much more to the story of God than just “getting saved”. When we see His eternal purpose, somehow our purpose comes alive too.

    And. we. need. purpose. Not another bake sale.

    After a year out of church – which we decided on – I came across Pagan Christianity? and felt like so much of what you’d written resonated with exactly the things we’ve been struggling with.

    We feel led to house church. And are just now trying to get connected.

    All this to say, thank you. I know I’ve felt alone in my desire for something more real all of these years. Now, I see, maybe the Lord was whispering this to me all along…and I’m not quite the “liberal Christian” ; ) I’ve been labeled.

    In King Jesus,
    Kristen

  48. says

    Frank,

    I own and have read Reimagining Church. Are you talking about your covering section or the authority and subjection section?

    In my experience a more organic approach to Church does not automatically make disciples; it still must be intentional.

    • says

      The whole book.

      Joshua, “organic” is a word being used by many folks today who have never experienced it. My experience of 21 years testifies that *authentic* organic churches which are raised up properly DO produce full-pledged followers of Jesus with depth that are being transformed into His image without methods, programs, etc.

      If that’s not happening in many or most who are involved, it’s not organic the way I’m using the term.

  49. says

    Hey Frank,

    Thanks for the post. I don’t disagree with you, but some of what you wrote does raise some questions for me, especially on specifics.

    Obviously you believe that disciples should be made. So to clarify, are you saying that the process of making disciples is inherent in Church life and assemblies?

    And on the flip side, are you saying that disciples cannot or should not be made in smaller group meetings instead (2 or 3 – maybe like an LTG that you seemed to describe)?

    My understanding of New Testament ministry is that both types are needed. There was the large meeting, but then we also see relationships like Paul/Timothy and the constant command for the older to teach/model for the younger. I don’t believe disciples should be made in a vacuum outside the Church, for disciples are what make up the Church together. But I also don’t believe that the large Church gathering is the only effective tool in making disciples.

    The only healthy Church I’ve worked with was in Russia, where they did both effectively. There were three major types of meetings for them: monthly large gatherings, weekly house churches, and one-on-one Bible studies. Virtually everyone was being studied with or mentored by someone, and I saw people grow more in that environment than anywhere else. They were still vibrant members of their Churches, but the small meetings were necessary as well.

    It seems like you’re saying that it’s either individualistic or community-based, and that there cannot be both simultaneously.

    Maybe I just misunderstood your exact point/application, so if you get around to it I’d appreciate your input.

    • says

      Joshua, since so many contemporary Christians have no idea what ekklesia is in experience … the way God intended her to be … it’s very hard to grasp the idea that disciple-making happens in that environment organically. I discuss the former in “Reimagining Church” should you want details on what it looks like.

  50. Sisterlisa says

    I agree with you Frank. I came out of a legalistic authoritarianism church that believed in dispensationalism and they coerced people to be under a portion of the Law, curses and all. I am thankful God called us out of it all.

    We work in what some would call a para-church ministry, yet we are organic in nature with our discipleship. All day every day discipleship. We are teaching them the truth of what we are learning. Everyone gets a ‘School of Christ’ book and we are doing all we can to share the real truth about Ekklesia. Then when they complete their 1 year they will have the knowledge to make up their own minds without Organized Religion making church an obligation, law, and cruse if you don’t attend.

    I am thankful our leadership team is in agreement with us in this direction.

    In the ‘church’ I was at before they had that sort of discipleship you speak of. The problem is they discipled them into their movement rather than with the truth. I’ll write soon about how God used that discipleship time to get us out of there. It is amazing. I’ll send you the link when I’m done.

    Good plea here Frank.

    • says

      Just a note that most of the discipleship today is not abusive at all (though some are authoritarian). But it’s not very effective, and it’s an attempt to try to solve a problem without going to the root, namely, the ekklesia in her organic expression.

      It’s the same reason why para-church organizations exist. If the ekklesia was being expressed and experienced as God intended in every city, there would be no need for para-church organizations or discipleship programs. These exist because we’ve coopted the church with a human-invented organization.

  51. Bob Macias says

    Right on, brother.
    As a young man I embraced the the discipleship movement in the 70′s wanting to be in the center of what Jesus was doing in the earth. In time however, I learned the movement was a ruse to control and manipulate the saints. Not so much by the men and women who were leaders of the time, but by the enemy of our souls. To keep the Church from intimacy with Christ in the fellowship of the Body, was all that was needed to prevent us from growing into Him.

    May our Lord Jesus keep the prophet stream flowing through you and others that are sharing God’s heart from Eternity to Here.

  52. says

    Yet again, Frank, great words. What I believe all the churches in the world forget is to teach Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom being in you.
    We have forgotten the spirit that resides inside of us that want to come out. This is really true here in the United States of America. We stand so far left or far right and figure that is the only way to be. We also want to be “spirit” at church, and “human” in the world and forget that both are to be ONE and Jesus and our Father are one.

    Here is secret of Jesus that got him killed. Here is the reason Christianity is “dying” and a new way of life is beginning.

  53. says

    Frank, thanks for the post. Can you clarify something for me? Are you criticizing all discipleship programs or just discipleship programs that are outside of the local church or do not emphasize the importance of the local church. If all discipleship programs, what do you think is the best way to help a new believer gain understanding into what it means to be a part of the body of Christ?

    I think it’s unfair to criticize all discipleship programs as “routine,” “drudgery,” and stale, just like I think it’s unfair to criticize church gatherings as “routine,” “drudgery,” and stale. Both church gatherings and discipleship are only that way when they’re not being done right, when the cart is put before the horse – put the program ahead of the person. Good discipleship is Spirit-led, relational, insightful, and inspiring. It should be voluntary on the part of both disciple and discipler, and something both of them look forward to.

    I agree with you with regards to the centrality of ekklesia in the life of a Christian, but I also see one-on-one mentoring/discipline as important too. Without it new believers are left to haphazardly pick up on the truths and actions of Christianity as they are discussed and observed in ekklesia. Wouldn’t you agree?

    • says

      Paul, your question reflects how far off our understanding of “ekklesia” has become. When the church is functioning organically as she should, it does away for the need for “discipleship programs” period. Transformation takes place organically as God’s people are learning Jesus Christ together, the young, the old, etc. This necessitates that the church is raised up properly, however. And we rarely see that done today.

      Of course, there is a place for the training of Christian workers, as both Jesus (in Galilee) and Paul did (in Ephesus) — see “The Untold Story of the NT Church” for details. But that’s not “discipleship” nor is it one-on-one program or method.

      Point: get the church right in her expression and her experience, and discipleship takes care of itself. A fish doesn’t need to be sprayed with a water hose when it’s living in its proper habitat.

  54. james townsend says

    great blog, sir. it’s like we’re stuck in the pendulum swing of the same issues, switching sides over and over, isn’t it? i appreciate your challenging observations.

  55. Bill Bremer says

    Shalom Frank,

    Your perspective is full of great insight and wisdom. Thanks for having the guts to take on this gnarly topic and some of the teachings.

    The Holy Spirit gave me and my wife a big check about the discipleship/shepherding movement of the 70’s and we were not taken in by it. The backlash of the 80’s left none of us unscathed as the pendulum swung to the authority of traditional churches and quenched “unsanctioned” one another gatherings.

    Looking back to the prophets of old, God’s Old Covenant people had similar problems and both the sheep and the shepherds were sternly rebuked in Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34.

    Moody and Scofield were cohorts who promoted dispensationalism, which reduces God and His plan to man’s understanding. Dispensationalists believe Jesus will not reign as King until the millennium, after they are raptured. Thus it is natural for them to disciple others instead of making disciples of King Jesus by encouraging relationship with Him.

    Dispensationalists also declare the gifts of the Spirit aren’t for today. It is ironic that their rapture theory has been accepted by many Charismatics. According to Dispensationists, Jews don’t need to be saved until the millennium for they are still under the Old Covenant. I need to remember that teachers of dispensationalism are also our Father’s children. However, these brothers and sisters should be spanked.

    We need to remember the ekklesia does not live in the church. We live in the kingdom of God that is and is coming.

    “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:9-20 NASB).

  56. says

    Please provide the “elsewhere” tag for your discussion on the immense eternal purpose of God.

    Likewise, history lessons are good. I believe that some men err as they wrongly apply the Word of God. Thus the two should be discussed together. For example, those who follow D. L. Moody’s mindset as he wrongly applied ___ (fill in the blank with Scriptures). If the two cannot be tied together then the former is not worth discussing for the man/movement is simply and clearly false teaching that in no way lines up with the Bible. What we have to understand, and as you repeatedly ask your readers, is to line up our teaching with God’s Word. And where it does not, we ask for correction. Please take the time to put the Truth in up front.

  57. Alan Adans says

    Frank…thanks for writing this…I believe it is most timely…I don’t want to be part of the crowd which “are good at bulbously saying “amen” and then going back to business as usual.”

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