What are We Aiming At?

This study is undertaken to answer the question raised on November 25, 2013 in Elim Church in Oradea, Romania following a discipleship study on Model D and Appendices D-2 and D-3 from the Models for Disciple-makers.

The group, led by Pastor Valentin Tent, observed that many of them had been in church all their lives but had never heard this taught before even though they agreed that it was very plain from their study of John 17, Acts 2 and Matthew 28:18-20 that what the scriptures taught was that disciple-making must be the priority of any church of which Christ is the Head. One member of the group is a seminary student who observed that to his knowledge "how to make disciples" was not taught at the seminary either.

Their question was "Why have we not been taught this before?"

The following study is an attempt to answer their question by first evaluating how the paradigms of "Church as Spiritual Body" and "Church as Institution" differ in purpose, leadership and objectives followed by questions. In the process of answering the questions, it is hoped that the participants will answer the question for themselves and for our brothers in Romania.

  1. Church as Spiritual Body
    1. Values Driven: Constant encouragement, modeling and exhortation:
      1. To love: God, one another, neighbors and the lost.
      2. To Christ-likeness: conformed to the image of God"s Son.
      3. To unity: of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
      4. To prayer: for one another, for the church, for their community and government.
      5. To in-depth Bible study: like the Bereans (check it out for yourself). Don’t just accept a teaching because it comes from an educated man standing behind the pulpit.
      6. To the exercise of the "wisdom from above" (James 3:17-18).
    2. Leadership: Collegial, plurality of elders, spiritual men who make decisions by consensus, mutual respect and deference.
      1. The closest model would be the trinity as described in the first chapter of Ephesians and I Corinthians 15.
    3. Method: Teach, correct, reprove and instruct (II Timothy 3:16-17).
      1. Model (I Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17; 4:9).
      2. Preaching, warning, teaching (Colossians 1:28-29).
    4. Worship: Generally meditative, thoughtful, reverent and authentic.
    5. Results: Dynamic, change oriented, caring, Bible-centered, growth is measured by depth-consciousness and maturity.
  2. Church as Institution
    1. Needs Driven: Purpose of church as affirmation of dominant cultural norms, part of a coping strategy for survival of families, communities and Christian culture—follows a business model for operation.
      1. Preserve and improve marriages and family relationships.
      2. Caring for neighbors.
      3. Instruction and encouragement in child raising.
      4. Opportunities for service.
      5. Community services:
        1. Responding to needs of the homeless.
        2. Caring for the hungry poor.
        3. Visiting hospitals, jails, nursing homes, etc.
        4. Formal funerals and weddings.
        5. Providing and caring for cemeteries.
        6. Community recreation, VBS, Sunday School.
        7. Concerts and revivals.
    2. Leadership: Generally led by trained professionals; pastor/CEO led; deacons serve the pastor and the investment of the congregation.
    3. Method: Essentially herd mentality, dividing up the interest groups by age, marital status, neighborhood or hobbies. Politically driven, adversarial, dominated by power bases serving the self-interest of power brokers who serve the self-centered interests of the majority. Growth by division rather than multiplication.
    4. Worship: Generally celebratory; focused on performance and self-expression.
    5. Results: Program driven; formula; routine; people-centered; numbers and status conscious; strong community approval.

Questions and Answers

  1. Is there anything wrong with investing in the church as institution?

  2. Which church model would be easier to plant, service and administer?

  3. Which would denominations prefer? Why?

  4. Which would appeal to seminaries and Bible colleges? Why?

  5. Which would generally appeal most to pastors? Why?

  6. Which would generally appeal most to congregations? Why?

  7. Which model is easiest to control?

  8. Which model is easiest to split?

  9. Given the time, energy and commitment required to plant and administer a spiritual body, why would anyone or group endeavor to establish such a demanding church body?

  10. Discuss how one might convert an established institutional church into a spiritual body?

  11. Discuss how a spiritual body could become an institution? How might that eventuality be prevented?