The Glorious Church


I have a Dream…a dream that is based on Eph. 4:11-16…with emphasis on vs 13 which reads: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

I will get to the core: A global unified Body of Christ…lead by the Holy Ghost. Many initially respond, yeah, yeah, yeah to the idea, but as I reveal my vision, I begin to realize it is too far out for many - as if it can never happen – impossible! Nevertheless, it is still my dream. It is my aim in ministry. It is what keeps me going. It seems to be ever-present in the back of my mind – perhaps a compulsion (and probably the main reason I joined this particular Network).

Allow me to explain. We notice in Eph. 4, that the five gifts (or four, whatever), to me, seem to be given, for a specified length of time – that is: “Till”. Till, or until what? Notice the answer in broken down form:

1. Till…we all come in the unity of the faith,
2. And of the knowledge of the Son of God,
3. Till…(we all come) unto a perfect man,
4. Till…(we all come) unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

In other words, until it becomes that presentable, glorious church! BIG job! What concerns me is that in 2000 years, this “five-fold” ministry has not accomplished its purpose…which speaks many things (to me).

What I would like to ask my Network Brethren is:
How do you see the “presentable” church?
What would be different about this “glorious” church than the present day church as we now know it?

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One point I would like to make is that we can never get to the goal you describe without the on-going work of the five equipping gifts. Sadly, the definitions of these gifts are distorted and unbiblical in the minds of many apostolics. Most don't even recognized apostles and prophets anymore. We need all five gifts operating at some level in every local assembly. Until we get that, we will never arrive at the unity of the faith, etc. I believe the starting point is learning to recognize these gifts and granting space for them to operate in our local assemblies.
Brother, your whole response is so good and refreshing, that I must refrain lest I comment overmuch. But, as you mentioned, I too, think the appropriate place to start is in recognizing ALL the equipping gifts. Sadly, I can assure you of those that don't. I know of one assembly that installed a new one-man pastor. This assembly had a man who had been there for years and many in the assembly considered him a prophet. The new pastor told him there was no room for a resident prophet in the church. To the dismay of many, he had to leave. This is too sad. I can definitely see where plural, elder leadership would have prevented this.

At least we have a profitable deduction here: We know exactly where to start!

Lord knows I wish we lived closer together.

At the risk of being naïve here, I'll throw this out--please comment or rebuke if necessary. It seems to me that the issue of prophets in the church is one which is at the core of this entire discussion, I believe. Isn't it the prophetic spirit which is to rally the cry back to God and away from that which pulls us in the other direction? Isn't it the prophet who somehow says something which rises above the usual human way of understanding to embrace what God is really trying to get through to us at a given moment? Isn't it the prophet which makes us feel even uncomfortable and vulnerable at times? It would seem that a modern-day prophet nevertheless follows the prophetic thread from the Old Testament to the New. Haven't the prophets always been ridiculed, and even hated? Or am I misinterpreting what a prophetic ministry is? I'm pretty sure it's more than just being used to give a prophecy. It seems that in general, the prophet's role is somehow to get people out of their complacency and on fire for God! How can we recognize prophets? (Lots of questions.)
Nathan, dis ol Kintukee boy shore duz wish hee'uda sed dem dar wurds!

Actually, we are discussing the finished product of the equipping ministry church, and the office of the prophet (along with apostles) was brought in the process...

I've heard so much explaining away of spiritual things that I am compelled to say I've had it! I've heard, and read, prophecy explained as just simply preaching the Word. I am not saying that it cannot include that, but my research tells me otherwise.

Isn't is amazing that we apostolics can believe that God can speak through us in tongues - a language we cannot understand. But most (I fear) are prone to think that God cannot speak through us in a tongue (English in our case) that we can understand. To me, prophecy is mostly speaking by the Spirit as indicated in Acts 21:4, to cite one example. As Bro. Dave said, "Most don't even recognized apostles and prophets anymore."
Yep, you're right. I was prolonging the rabbit trail and getting the discussion more off-track. My apologies...I for one, though DO believe that God speaks to us in English (and French, Chinese, and apparently Kintuckish too.) Sometimes, though, I think God is saying something so different from what we are that we probably just assume it's not Him! But back to your original question: How would a Glorious Church be different from what we see now? Well, those four qualifiers; unity, knowledge, perfection, fullness are much better than anything in my mind right now--and it sure is far from anything we can see right now. But apparently Paul had some sort of vision from God of what that meant, so we can be sure that God, in due time, will show us as well (collective us). It absolutely must have something to do with our connection to God, His authority and his Headship--in a very real, practical, living way. I'm curious what He is showing you and others...
Nathan, you're a breathe of fresh air. No apoligies needed. I love "chasing rabbits" that come up along the furthers my understanding. Also, I appreciate you humor.

Quote: Sometimes, though, I think God is saying something so different from what we are that we probably just assume it's not Him!

I think so too...and may be a big part of what is hindering progress. Tradition is pretty strong. After all, how can you tell me there is no Santa when I see him on everycorner, in every store, and with so many telling me that it is so?

I am just glad for the quality of Brethren on the Network, who are willing to share that others may learn. Great bunch of guys here! I too, am excited about learning what God has shown others, and will show us.

Quote: It absolutely must have something to do with our connection to God, His authority and his Headship--in a very real, practical, living way.

This says it well.
I would like to further present my concept of the finished product church, or the “glorious” church, here for "peer review", thus allowing my Network Brethren to confirm, correct, or provide additional input.

First I would like to state that I believe God will bring His church into the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ – regardless of how current situation looks. In other words, it will be a full grown body functioning as Christ Himself did. It is more than hinted at in some parables that it is a growing kingdom intended to reach maturity!

The kingdom like a mustard seed: …when it is grown (Matt. 13:32)
The kingdom like leaven: …til the whole was leavened (Matt. 13:33)
The kingdom like seed: But when the fruit is brought forth (Mar 4:29)

Fruit doesn’t happen until the plant is fully grown/mature.

While the law was to bring us to Christ, the Eph 4:11 ministry is to bring us up in Christ, or cause us to grow up in Christ – to be mature in Christ. In fact, Eph. 4 states that this five-fold ministry is given “till”, or until this happens! So…it is going to happen! And may it happen in my lifetime.
Brother Donnie
To me, the difference between the glorious church you desire and the present church is based on its structure. Currently, we have a traditional, man-made organizational hierarchy, much like a business model. Our focus is on one leadership gifting, the pastor.

The glorious church would be one structured according to the dictates of the word of God, ie: 1 Cor. 12:28. There is to be the governing role of the gift of apostle, prophet and teacher, with the shepherding role of the elders who are assisted by the deacons.

The results of this structure is that the inherent power (dunamis) will be manifest in the ministry gifts of the believers. Which means that the nature and image of Jesus will be lived out in the local assembly.

Much more I could say. But enough for now.
Bro. Martin, I think we have a slightly different view here, though please correct me if I'm wrong. I agree that one of the most significant problems in today's church is structure, but I see the local church as existing in two phases. In the first phase (foundational phase), the assembly is under the oversight of the founders (e.g. Paul and Barnabas) or their direct representatives (Timothy/Titus). But this oversight exists only until the elders are appointed, at which point the assembly moves into the second phase (the completed phase). I believe that once the elders were appointed (Acts 14:23), the apostles were no longer involved in the oversight of the assembly. They certainly continued to have a voice in many of the assemblies they founded, but this was because they were respected and esteemed, not because they were the overseers.

I also see a distinction between the shepherding (pastoral) ministry of the elders and the ministry of the deacons, which is service to the people in a variety of ways, but is never characterized as shepherding as it is with the elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Certainly the deacons make it possible for the elders to do their work more effectively, but deacons are not required to be able to teach whereas all elders must be able to teach and defend the truth (1 Timothy 3:2, 8-13; Titus 1:9).
Just as individuals have reached different levels of maturity in Christ, I’m sure there are assemblies throughout the world that have done so as well. Perhaps even with demonstrations of the Spirit as the norm. However, from where I’m viewing, it appears the overall, global church has not reached the status of full maturity in Christ.

Eph. 4:11-16 (and other verses) have caused me to rethink many of the ideas that have been presented to me over the years. Many are saying the Lord can come any minute. May I ask, “Can He?” (I’m aware one should not live foolishly, as he could die at any minute!) What about the task given to the five-fold ministry? I fear too many are saying that we are waiting on the Lord to come back. May I propose that the Lord is waiting on the church to grow up instead?! Why? Ultimately, that He may present it to Himself a glorious church (Eph 5:27). (Not intending to be critically harsh...I, somehow, just cannot see a wobbling toddler (children tossed to and fro) as “bride material”.)

But before that presentation, it seems to me there is the coming perfection (complete growing up) of the church that must happen first. In fact, if I understand correctly, God has destined the five-fold ministry until that happens. We often hear, with must enthusiasm and pulpit pounding, loud proclamations of great end time revival. It seems that many are stretching and reaching as if that alone were the worthy goal. Someone has even proclaimed that we are going to put the early church to shame. I’m afraid we have embarrassed them enough already! (LOL! Though I do understand what they meant - and mean well.) Personally, I see no end time revival as such without the maturity of the church happening first. With a church grown up into a perfect man in Christ, revival, miracles and healing are the result. Not the other way around.

With much thanks to the “Left Behind” series, too many are being left out of what God really intends for His church to become. Instead, they are focusing on an escape route. Not being equipped and encouraged to advance in Christ, they are just trying to hold the fort and keep from backsliding...all the while hoping the rapture will take place before any serious contention arises. Sure, things are looking more bleak as night follows day...and to focus constantly upon them is depressing. But when I look at what God has intended for the church to become…while still in this world…I get excited. My hope is in “what God is going to wrought!”

The world had never seen anything like Jesus Christ! Healing and miracles were the norm, rather than the exception, for Him. He healed too many to count. John stated that He did too many things to record (Jn 21:25). I will venture say that the world has never seen anything like the coming perfection/completion/fully equipped/grown up church - with Christ in complete control as the Head! “Greater works than these shall he do.”

As stated above, I have a dream!
You wrote:
"Someone has even proclaimed that we are going to put the early church to shame. I’m afraid we have embarrassed them enough already!" LOL--I'm reading some church history at the moment, and I have to totally agree with you here, Donnie.

Jesus always had a way of not meeting people's expectations. I mean, He often surprised them. Need I give examples? I'm having a hard time trying to find a specific instance when He did NOT surprise even His closest followers. I think it will be like that again, too--that it always has been like that, even. Call it 'confounding the wise', or even 'the wind one knows from whence...'--we just cannot get away from this principle. Jesus is the ultimate in creativity and resourcefulness, in glorious wisdom, not to mention love, generosity, grace, truth, compassion, strength, power and majesty! And of course, He knows us to the core. And we marvel when He said: "O ye of little faith..." We haven't changed much in 2000 years. I too, am excited though, when I get that glimmer of faith. It is all it takes to grow into a future reality, that is yet unseen.

About the world not really "knowing the church": Let's not forget, too, that when the world does really know her, it will hate her as it hates the light and the source of the light, but prefers darkness. This is a necessary, albeit unpleasant, consequence of the end-time church and the coming of the Antichrist. It's also a consequence that many will turn from, I'm afraid. Some people just cannot stand to not be liked by others... "Take up your cross" will very soon have a very strong, very present and real meaning to more and more people as it does already for many Christians in the world.

In reply to Martin's post: I agree that a major difference in the church will be one of structure. Given that, though, I'd like to add that we should seek at all times the headship of Jesus in order to allow His heavenly structure to be built up. That he gave gifts to the church and that these gifts were men called to be apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, etc. I think illustrates a couple things. (Pardon me if I repeat what others on this site have already written, and much more elegantly than I am here...) First, that they are gifts from God and as such are determined by how God sees fit to distribute them. Simply creating the office of an apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor or evangelist will not completely get the church structure to where it needs to be since any office can be subject to misuse and human manipulation, and even a gift is subject to the one to whom the gift has been given. What is very important is being able to properly understand the role of each element, being able to recognize how God uses these gifts in people, and being able to cultivate said giftings in the church for the edification of the body. It would definitely seem that one of the reasons God wants a mature church to be led by elders is the importance of maturity in bringing up other believers, helping them to be led, recognizing their gifting, admonishing and even rebuking, etc...A team of men is also more stable and mature than just one and can offer a better glimpse of christian maturity and service than can one man--but we already know this, and I'm chasing another rabbit...

I guess what I'm trying to remind us of it that the ultimate goal is not the structure, of course, but getting each of the body parts to be able to respond to the head--the purpose of the structure. And this applies as much to every man with the gifting of an apostle, pastor and a teacher as it does to every new convert. The authority is derived from Jesus, from the gifting, in this case. Jesus wants us to recognize Him in His body! Which brings me back to what I mentioned above: when the world sees Jesus in the church, there is going to be a clash.
Well said, Nathan!
Doesn't this give new meaning to Jesus' instruction to pray, "Thy kingdom come."

Quote- Nathan: I too, am excited though, when I get that glimmer of faith.

May we see it in OUR DAY!!!

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