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The Movable Feast

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is about who comes to dinner (Luke 14).  Do we just invite our friends and family or do we include those who are marginalized from Christian society. His “ministry strategy” was like a movable feast.   He took “church” with him and ate with people who were not usually welcome to “worship services” in the temple or synagogues.

The strategy that Jesus and the apostles used is worth revisiting.  Jesus followed a very simple strategy.  Most often he taught his disciples in a public place or in a home around a meal.  The apostles followed the same methods, not just for evangelism or missions.   This was how “church” was done for the first 300 years before the state church began building cathedrals and establishing a professional clergy and priesthood.

A Return to Simplicity

The way we structure our church culture is the way our spiritual descendants will reproduce it.  The simpler it is, the more naturally and quickly it will reproduce.   The less it isolates us from the culture around us, the greater the impact upon that culture.

Jesus told us to go and develop disciples and He would build His Church.  We reproduce disciples by revealing the presence and values of the Kingdom in the context of relationships. We invite pre – Christians to follow us as we follow Jesus. We demonstrate discipleship by loving God, loving one another and loving our neighbors. In this way we reproduce disciples who are equipped to reproduce disciples.

Jesus showed his disciples how to reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world.  Then he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and released them to do the same.   His purpose was to model for them a corporate lifestyle which they were to reproduce after he was gone.

“Greet the church which meets in your house” (1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon: 2, Rom. 16:5 and so on). Apostolic teams visited house to house and taught them (Acts 20:20). They ate together and hosted the presence of God (Acts 2:42).  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4)

Story Time

Jesus’ often told stories around a meal to explain the Kingdom and how it is manifested on earth. His disciples had trouble understanding what he meant by the “Kingdom” because they envisioned an earthly nation of Israel restored to her former glory and sovereignty, with a great king like David or Solomon sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ teaching didn’t make any sense in that context.  “The kingdom is here.”  “The kingdom is within you.” The “kingdom” is about who you invite to dinner, where you sit at the table, who your neighbor is, where and how you build your house or invest your money.  It has to do with how a farmer sows and harvests his crop, how a shepherd cares for sheep, how fishermen sort their catch, how yeast works in dough, how merchants value pearls and how treasure hunters respond to treasure.

The Kingdom is to be on earth as it is in heaven. He has given us the Kingdom. We are to bring heaven’s values and resources to earth through our relationships, families, communities and work.  The creation longs for this revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind religious walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc.

“They will…

  • Rebuild the ancient ruins,
  • Restore the devastated places and
  • Repair the ruined cities.”    Isaiah 61:4

Each household and social network was potentially an intentional community of disciples.  The life and affairs of the church were concentrated primarily within these groups.  Each group functioned as part of a larger community of groups within a city.

Heads of households hosted the presence of God.  They were not restricted by spiritual gifting,  or gender.  They may not even have been believers yet,  only “men or women of peace”.

The larger community of households was served by selected overseers who provided accountability, coaching and spiritual oversight to the house churches.  These overseers were chosen by the apostolic team from among the household gatherings.

What Happens at a Movable Feast ?  We eat together, pray, sang, worship, heal the sick,  share communion, read and discuss the scriptures.  We intercede and look for “lost sheep”,  love one another, encourage and build each other up in the faith  and cared for the poor.

I suggest that we consider limiting our reliance on frequent large gatherings, large events and stage performances. These can actually slow down the growth and development of disciples if they become too frequent.  Equipping ministries  (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists) should focus on giving away ministry by appointing elders and mentoring overseers, and key leaders.  Keep the groups small, simple and rapidly reproducing.  When they become too large for an average size house, divide the group, open another home and release more people into ministry.

My purpose is not to be critical of the church but to increase her exposure to the world.  The world longs for the revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of  family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc. 

By: John Cooke

The Movable Feast

movablefeasts@gmail.com

www.jfcooke.com

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For the Royal Family

I bow my knee before the Father, from whom every family  (or all fatherhood)
in heaven and earth derives its name” (or finds its identity).  Eph 3:14-15 (parentheses mine)
Apparently family and fatherhood are at the center of the universe and fundamental to the administration and government of both heaven and earth. We are not so much governed “by” as governing “with” the Family. Not so much “subjects” of the universal Government as we are heirs and therefore co-administrators.  ​We are  to reign with Him.

The government of the planet is upon our shoulders, (with and in the Name of the Divine Family).   Every name, title and authority has become subject to Him and placed under His feet (and therefore under our feet), who are the fullness of Him who fills everything.  (Eph. 1:22-23).  Where are His shoulders and feet, if not in His Body?   It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

 

The Name of God

When people have an encounter with the Creator, they often begin by asking for his name.  It seems like a reasonable request. “Which god are you?” “There are so many.”  In the Biblical accounts, God often responds vaguely.  “I am who I am”.  He appears content to be defined by his relationship with those who knew Him.  He attached His identity to their names.  “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses…” In fact the character and nature of God are primarily revealed through His relationship with people. People of other nations referred to him as the God of Israel, or the God of Daniel, or the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Some people are very concerned about the correct pronunciation of the right syllables in the Name of God.  I think it’s not nearly as important what we call Him as how we represent Him.

God told Moses to put his Name upon His people.  “This is how you are to put the Name of God upon the people: Say to them, ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord turn and look at you face to face. May His face break into a great big smile until your face mirrors His smile. May the Lord be merciful to you and give you peace!'” (Numbers 6:22-27  paraphrase mine). He places His Name upon us by blessing us, by caring for us, looking at us and smiling in recognition, by His relationship with us.

When the Creator places His Name upon us He is entrusting us with His reputation and identity. We now bear the Family Name. The primary way He is known and defined on earth is by association with us His human family. We are not only partakers of the divine nature, we are also mirrors (the image of God). So when we pray “hallowed be Your Name” we are saying “May your image be beautifully and accurately reflected by your people”. May the Family Name (reputation) be respected and honored on earth as it is in heaven”. He associates his name with you. He is now known as the God of Mark, John, Michael, Richard, Terry, Tamy… Not only do you bare His Name, He bares yours.

Organic Kingdom Communities

Organic Spiritual Communities Rooted in Households, Families  and Social Networks 

Our default mental picture when we hear the word “church” involves church buildings and worship services.  We think of pews and pulpits, preaching and worship teams or choirs performing from platforms or stages.  This is part of our cultural heritage and has been used of God in the past to impart blessing to his people and the world.  It should be noted, however, that there is nothing sacred about these traditional forms or structures.  There are actually some inherent  weaknesses and even hindrances to the process of discipleship and the advance of the Gospel within these traditions.

  • They require a significant investment in time and resources to reproduce and maintain (trained and skilled ministers, musicians, buildings, mortgages, audio-video equipment, and salaries, etc.).
  • They tend to limit ministry to a minority and passivity to the majority.  In fact, professional ministers are tempted to  foster dependence and postpone maturity (often without realizing it).   Success is often is measured by the size of the audience gathering to experience the ministers’ teaching, preaching or  musical abilities rather than by how effectively people are equipped and released into their callings.  Large churches often “grow” more by having the best show in town, recycling saints from one church to another, rather than by making new disciples.
  • They tend to isolate Christians from non believers by replacing community based social networks with a church culture.  The more time one spends attending a busy church calendar, the fewer non believers are in their social network.  The majority of our resources are spent on the “99%” safe in the fold, while “1%” of our time and resources are spent on finding lost sheep.  Heavens priority (more rejoicing over one sinner who repents than on the ninety-nine in the fold) is reversed.
  • Unbelievers are less likely to “come” to Church.  The Master told us to “go” and make disciples.  Since we are the church we can structure our church life around going to where they are, rather than expecting them to come to where we are.
  • The more complicated and busy our church culture the more difficult it is to reproduce, and the more retarded its growth.  The church has seen exponential (almost 100 fold) growth in places like China, without church buildings or professional ministers.  Church life is simple, organic and explosive, moving organically within households and social networks.
  • It seems that management and control from top down leadership can actually delay the development and release of disciples.  One would think that less control would lead to all kinds of error.  The opposite seems to be true in China.  Ordinary believers with the Holy Spirit and with very few copies of the Bible have, for more than 50 years, maintained greater purity of doctrine and more unity of faith than we enjoy.

A Return to Simplicity

The way we structure our church culture is the way our spiritual descendants will reproduce it.  The simpler it is, the more naturally and quickly it will reproduce.   The less it isolates us from the culture around us, the greater the impact upon that culture.

Jesus told us to go and make disciples and He would build His Church.  We make disciples by teaching obedience to the commands of Christ (one of which is to go and make disciples).  So, we can define “ministry” as making disciples who make disciples.  Jesus showed his disciples how to reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world.  Then he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and released them to do the same.   His purpose was to model for them a corporate lifestyle which they were to reproduce after he was gone.   They were never to be just spectators, following Jesus around to watch him perform.

The technologies and strategies we use give an outward form to the church.  We tend to call those structures “churches” but they are not the church.  They are wine skins,  not the wine.   We can judge their value by how they facilitate or hinder the work of discipleship.

A Movable Feast

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is about who comes to dinner (Luke 14).  Do we just invite our friends and family or do we include those who are marginalized from religious society (known as “sinners”).   Jesus “ministry strategy” was like a movable feast.   He took “church” with him and  ate with people who were  not usually welcome to the “worship services” in temple or synagogues.

The strategy that Jesus and the apostles used is worth revisiting.  Jesus followed a very simple strategy.  Most often he taught his disciples in a public place or in a home around a meal.  The apostles followed the same methods.   This is not just for evangelism or missions.   This was how “church” was done for the first 300 years before the Roman church began building cathedrals and establishing a professional clergy and priesthood.

“Greet the church which meets in your house” was a common greeting of Saint Paul to various churches. (1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon: 2, Rom. 16:5 and so on)

Apostolic teams visited house to house and taught them (Acts 20:20)

They served food and discipled the new believers (Acts 2:42)

“And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4)

Each household and social network was potentially an intentional community of disciples.  The life and affairs of the church were concentrated primarily within these groups.  Each group functioned as part of a larger community of groups within a city.

Heads of households hosted the presence of God.  They were not restricted by spiritual gifting,  or gender.  They may not even have been believers yet,  only “men or women of peace”.

The larger community of households was served by selected overseers who provided accountability, coaching and spiritual oversight to the house churches.  These overseers were chosen by the apostolic team from among the household gatherings.

What Happens at a Movable Feast ?

We eat together, pray, sang, worship, heal the sick,  share communion, read and discuss the scriptures.  We intercede and look for “lost sheep”,  love one another, encourage and build each other up in the faith  and cared for the poor.

I suggest that we consider limiting our reliance on frequent large gatherings, large events and stage performances. These can actually slow down the growth and development of disciples if they become too frequent.  Equipping ministries  (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists) should focus on giving away ministry by appointing elders and mentoring overseers, and key leaders.  Keep the groups small, simple and rapidly reproducing.  When they become too large for an average size house, divide the group, open another home and release more people into ministry.

My purpose is not to be critical of the church but to increase her exposure to the world.  The world longs for the revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of  family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc. 

By: John Cooke

jfcooke.com