Generations

Life reproduces life. That’s true in nature and it’s true spiritually. Where there is vibrant mature life, there is reproduction.

Life Reproduces Life!

Last week, we saw that truth confirmed yet again as a third-generation fellowship emerged among what some consider a “disreputable” segment of our county.

This new community of believers is in a subculture where Christians and other churches previously lacked the courage to go. Until now, they had been written off as beyond hope.

These new believers found life in Jesus because some cared enough to go where most feared to tread.

In a nutshell, this newest fellowship is the fruit of another fellowship, which in turn was planted by our original fellowship. And as life keeps reproducing live, grace now abounds in yet another improbable place.

I’m excited!

Life Reproduces Live

The world looks at particular communities and sees only despair, addiction, exploitation, bondage and abuse. But others in our fellowships saw what God saw – people whom He loves and calls to Himself regardless of their circumstances or their past –  and decided to go and become part of their lives.

The folks who went loved Jesus enough get out of their sensibilities – not with all-too-typical arms-length programs, but with the boldness to stand firm in God’s precepts while embracing real people with messy lives. (See A False Love.)

By loving the Lord more than their sensibilities, they submitted to the assurances of scripture and gained the confidence to bring the Lord’s forgiveness, healing and wholeness to otherwise broken people.

It wasn’t always easy, but those who went were willing to heed the Great Commission and Christ’s command to “go” – to disciple, to baptize, and to mentor others in how to obey all that Christ commands. And in so doing, the lives of previously discarded individuals, and their previously discarded communities, are being transformed.

As a result, many now know the Lord and another indigenous church has emerged where Hell once prevailed.

Oh, and did I forget to say…

I’m excited!

The Body of Christ

When some of us go into new subcultures and communities in our county, we don’t go alone. As we show people Jesus, we became bridges who connect real needs with real solutions.

For example, there are people in our fellowships who have developed the skills to do the kind of intense counseling often needed to find freedom in the Lord from life controlling issues like addiction, abuse and despair – and they make themselves available as needed.

Others are good at being mentors in basic life skills – and they make themselves available as needed.

Some are good at laying the foundations needed to establish new indigenous fellowships – and they make themselves available as needed.

And folks gifted in ushering others into intimacy with the Lord through intercessory prayer make themselves available as needed.

Many gifts, many callings, many blessings.

It is the multi-gifted, multifaceted Body of Christ reproducing itself as each unique individual works together to do their part.

Authority

In our fellowships, we go and reproduce the life of Christ – and advance His Kingdom – because we have learned to confidently lay hold of His authority. We go where our sensibilities could not have gone, because we know Him as the Living Word and accept Him at His Word.

We are now into a third generation of new fellowships – and it’s only been a couple of years since some of us old timers first decided to invade the domains of Hell.

When we initially went, we didn’t know what we were doing. But we decided to heed the Lord’s tug on our hearts by obeying the commands and trusting the assurances we saw in His Word. As we did so, He began to confirm His Word and we increasingly began moving less and less in our own sensibilities and more and more in His authority. (See Participatory Church for more of that story.)

As a result, life is reproducing life, generations upon generations have come to know the Lord, and others likewise are advancing His Kingdom – all in just a few short years.

And although we are not big in numbers, we are right where the Lord wants us – letting the life of Christ in us be expressed among us and through us.

The Fullness of Christ or Insular Comfort Zones?

I know some don’t like having their comfort zones questioned in my blogs, but I bear witness to the dynamic power of Jesus to transform lives and communities.

Vibrant multiplying ekklesia doesn’t need to be just a “third world” phenomenon. It is happening even here, in our postmodern culture, as we let our sensibilities shatter on the rock of God’s written Word – then in obedience go forth.

In nearly fifty years of serving the Lord, I have seldom (if ever) seen an exception to this observation: Those who want to hold onto their sensibilities tend to promote some existential concept of Jesus over the plenary authority of His written Word. Because they only want to know a subjective Jesus defined by their own perceptions, they lack dynamic spiritual authority and authentic external fruit (beyond, at least, what any “good” person in the world might otherwise produce).

They are good people, and sincere, but tend to be internally focused on their own perceptions of Christ and those who share their existential sensibilities. They want an affirming Jesus, defined by their own needs and wants, and so they seek some new narrative or overarching “story” about Jesus which allows them embrace His Person, but ignore the hard propositional truths, moral precepts, and commands that He has also chosen to reveal in scripture.

Disturbingly, they justify their existential theology by claiming they have found a “deeper life” which makes them “beyond” the rest of the Body of Christ, and write blogs and books that present an enticing, self-affirming picture of Christ.

When questioned, however, about their lack of external fruit and their persistent failure to create healthy, sustained, reproductive fellowships, they insist that they will eventually get around to “going”. According to them, the Great Commission, discipleship, producing external fruit, becoming reproductive, moving in dynamic spiritual authority that transforms their communities, and the like, will eventually happen as they pursue their ever deeper personal revelations of Christ – but it never seems to actually happen.

Let me repeat that: It never seems to actually happen.

In contrast, those who want the fulness of Christ and love Him enough to unreservedly submit to His eternal truths, experience transformational repentance as they let their sensibilities shatter on the Rock of His external Word.

Even new believers, who are totally sold out to Jesus and willing to wholly submit their own sensibilities to the discipline of His Word, are able to move in authentic spiritual authority and produce external fruit.

Such men and women are not perfect, but they nonetheless reproduce the authentic life of Christ as they surrender to all of Christ and all that He commands.

This makes me passionate for His fulness – and gives me the boldness to preach freedom from dead-end existential sensibilities which have crippled our lives, our culture, our faith, and even our churches for too long (see Organic Dead Ends).

Real Fruit from True Authority

Time and again I have seen these truths confirmed:

Only when we step out of our sensibilities…

Only when we stop creating Jesus in our own image…

Only as we embrace the fullness of the Living Word by also submitting to the plenary authority of His written Word…

… do we gain His authority to advance His Kingdom through authentically transformed lives and healthy, reproductive ekklesia.

Trust me, it does work.

His Word said it. I believe it. And in faith, we are doing it and seeing lives and cultures redeemed through the fulness of Christ.

Go Forth

Be bold!

Let Christ shatter your sensibilities as you embrace His fullness – His Person, His Word, His precepts, His truth, His commands, His equipping gifts and His dynamic power – and go forth in confidence as you learn to walk in His delegated authority though obedience.

Then let us join in praise and awe as together we see His Kingdom truly come, and His will truly done, time and again – on earth as it is in heaven.

~ Jim Wright

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14 responses

  1. An exciting and inspiring story. It reminds me of a saying by Neil Cole that bad people make good soil because there’s plenty of fertilizer in their lives.

    I’d be interested to know how the Lord turned your group to looking outwards. Did you start with mainly new believers, or did he challenge you in some way?

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    • I have been working on some blogs that try to tell that story, including our failures and mistakes. Essentially, the beginnings of our fellowships were three couples who didn’t know each other, but God sovereignly brought us together after putting us through the painful experiences of purging our sensibilities. We had to die to our own perceptions, wants, needs and agendas – as good as they may have been – and learn to radically submit, trust and obey all that Christ had revealed not only to our hearts, but externally in His Word.

      With me, I had deep roots in what we would now call “simple” or “organic” participatory fellowship from the Jesus Movement in the ’70s. But simply trying to make it happen again in this new decade – with its very different cultural mentality – didn’t work. I failed totally, and actually disbanded an “organic” fellowship I started that was “successful” by most criteria, but was not what God wanted. It as more an extension of my grace, gifts and “organic church” vision (which were not wrong, but couldn’t be the basis for health ekklesia because it all was dependent on me), than a healthy expression of the diverse life of Christ manifest in many different gifts, callings and motivations.

      I had to go through a very painful experience of being purged of my own agenda and my attempts to reproduce my own measure of Christ and my own motives. Interestingly, at the end of that very painful process, God used one of your books to tie lots of things together and it finally “clicked”. As I’ve told you before, I remain deeply grateful for that. Rather than expecting folks to “come” and be motivated by my vision and gifts, I learned to chill out and “go”. It now wasn’t about wanting people to come, but about serving them by going – and trusting in the Lord’s ability to bring forth His church His way and with many different gifts and motivations.

      God then brought my wife and me together with those other two couples, who had also gone through much fire and let the Lord purge their sensibilities through total trust in what He says in His Word – even when they did not “feel” it. They learned radical faith. We quickly became a nucleus of peer fellowship as we equipped and encouraged and formed community between us, while continuing to go separately – but cooperatively – to improbable places to establish and strengthen new fellowships.

      As we let our sensibilities shatter on His Word, our natural spiritual DNA and desire to reproduce life could emerge.

      Rather than turn inward, those Job-like experiences had caused each of us to look outward as we were stripped of our own sensibilities and able to then submit to all of Christ – including His commands, His precepts and His assurances in scripture.

      The thing that I think saved us from the insular, anemic existentialism of so much of the “organic” church movement in the West – while keeping what is good – is that although we read all the major “organic” books, we took the time to actually do some fruit inspection. We asked questions, we looked behind the curtain, and we had enough discernment to realize many of those books were promoting a troubling, existential theology that sounded enticing – but we could find no evidence of real dynamic authority or external fruit.

      As we considered why this might be, we realized it was because their existential Christology, “deeper life” ecclesiology, and Karl Barth concept of scripture – while it sounded enticing – actually denies the fulness of Christ. So we never fell into their existential, overly subjective quagmire.

      Looking back, I think we were fortunate. We were able to find our way without trying to follow those who tout a fractured Christ – with wonderfully tempting aspirational books and blogs but no real proven external fruit. Too often, they were promoting their own limited measure of Christ rather than the fulness of Christ expressed not only to our hearts, but also in His authoritative external Word and through His diverse, multi-gifted Body.

      Avoiding the existential theology that is so prevalent in the organic church community, I think, while still learning to operate organically, is what made a huge difference.

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  2. I was going to say, “thanks for sharing,” but that would minimize the import of what you actually said in this article. A couple of sentences really “hit home” with me:

    “Vibrant multiplying ekklesia doesn’t need to be just a “third world” phenomenon. It is happening even here, in our postmodern culture, as we let our sensibilities shatter on the rock of God’s written Word – then in obedience go forth.”

    While working full-time in a developing, not necessarily “third-world” context, I have dealt with many assumptions from visitors that the ministry of the gospel is “easier” here. It is “phenomenal.” It’s not. This post supports that.

    Neither post-modern thinking nor its predecessor “modern” thinking are sufficient to lay hold of gospel truths. The Gospel transforms thinking. We are transformed in the renewing of our minds. Romans 12:2

    It takes the incarnate logos, both medium and message to bear the kind of fruit you’re talking about. It takes more than just an “as you go” mentality.

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    • Thanks, Miguel. My interaction with you over the last year or so has been a significant influence in helping me, and our fellowships, sort out many of the things I say in this blog. Thank you for being a wise voice of experience who is bearing fruit even here in Virginia.

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  3. Pingback: Do we see only despair, addiction, exploitation, bondage and abuse, or do we see hope for life? | The Assembling of the Church

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  5. Curious to know how many fellowships and how many people are in these fellowships you speak of? And what us the length of time these people have been meeting together?

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    • Sorry for the delayed response. Hurricane Sandy knocked us off line for a couple of days.

      How many fellowships: That’s hard to say. We likely are now up to fifth or sixth generation in new fellowships (this blog focused on a third generation fellowship because it is part of the direct lineage of our original fellowship and I’m more directly involved in helping it become established).

      The reality is that we don’t keep count or even know of all of the fellowships that have emerged. We have no interest in building a new denomination or organization, and so we are content to help establish new fellowships – but by the third generation or so we often don’t have direct involvement because we have reproduced the ability to do just fine without us and others also have learned to step forward to help lay the foundation for new fellowships. Also, some of these new fellowships go beyond our geographic focus on our own home county.

      Nonetheless, I suspect there are about 30 to 50 such fellowships that have sprung from each other over the last three years since three of us in our original fellowship began going out and actively helping to start different fellowships in our area.

      Regarding size, they typically are from several to about 20 people. Much larger than that, and it becomes difficult to have participatory gatherings where folks can minister one to another. However, almost all of those fellowships – to the extent we even know about them – have emerged from new believers, rather than re-shuffling existing believers.

      Our oldest fellowship is now about three and a half years and going strong. It’s one I helped start and initially worked with to lay a foundation. For health reasons, I haven’t visited them for nearly six months, but they are doing great from what I keep hearing. That they don’t need me anymore is my greatest joy. They in turn have started a number of other fellowships and have brought many, many to the Lord.

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  6. Thus, having before us such a wealth of examples of failure, we conclude that only in the teaching of the Savior can people find guidance for the resolution of their contemporary social and family problems. Building our life on Christ’s commandments, we console ourselves with the thought that the Kingdom of God will certainly prevail. Any success of evil and the rule of the antichrist are transient events. On the last day of this world the King of glory, our Lord Jesus Christ, will come to resurrect all. He will judge the fallen angels and all evildoers. Then on the renewed earth there will come the promised peace, happiness, and everlasting life. We pray to God to make us worthy to inherit it!

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