THE PERFECT MODEL - PART 1
After speaking with many believers on the subject of the Church it seems to me that much of what is being discussed never really penetrates into the realm of the vital. What I mean is the underlying core of it all. We never seem to get to the origin, source, and power behind the Church. In other words, we never seem to come to grips with the main point of what we call Church. What is it? Where does it come from? Why is it here? How do we live or practice it? These most basic of questions may take us on a journey that we never bargained for!
My purpose in writing this article is not to tell you how to have church. Neither am I in a position to tell you that this way is right and that way is wrong. It's simply not about right or wrong. It's about Life! God's Life. If we will look in that place, the place where there is true Life, then we at least are on the road to discovery.
The Traditional Model
Which model should we use for our pattern of church life? Well that would depend on whom you ask! Many believers today are in organized groups of Christians that are called denominations. These denominations are usually controlled by one central headquarters where church polity and policy are decided for the local congregations. I suppose in this instance, we could say that the model is the organization. But where did the organization get its model? Usually, it was handed down from the founding fathers of that particular organization. The founders usually come up with the model for the church based partially upon scripture and partially upon man made traditions. Even among the many groups that have left the denominations, many still use this type of model. This model involves a designated building to hold services, a Pastor, board of elders, deacons, Sunday School, various committees, worship "services", prayer meetings, and the list goes on. But is this model accurate? Is it the right foundation? Do we pattern the way we do church after this mixture of traditions and scripture? I think the answer is obvious. However, the next commonly used model is not so apparent.
The Early Church Model
The second most popular type of church model is what I will call "the New Testament model". This is the model that is based upon the New Testament scriptures that reveal things about how the early church practiced their faith. This is probably where most of you are at who are reading this article.
How do we have church? It's simple; we just read what the first century believers did and then copy it! Since it's recorded in the bible, it must be right ... right? After all, we want to be scriptural people and following "the Word" is the only way that we can be sure that we are using the correct model. Surely, the New Testament is our example of the church!
Well, dear friends, there are some problems with this idea.
First of all, there are many ways in which the scriptures are interpreted. Do you realize that most cults use the New Testament as their model for church life? Yes folks, it's an historical fact that the most horrendous atrocities ever perpetrated upon mankind were performed in the name of "scriptural loyalty"! Now please understand me, I am not saying that we should ignore the teachings and examples we have in the scriptures! Those things were written for our example and support. We must be clear, however, that these things written are not really a model, but rather a record of people who were (very feebly) following after a model! The New Testament records for us some of the experiences of people who saw the "real" model. They were not the model; they were following the model! Where did this model come from?
Back to the Source
In order to find the Perfect Model for church life, we need to go back before the early church. What was their model? Why copy a copy when you can go directly to the original Source? Where does the church come from? What model did the twelve apostles share with the first century believers? You see, Jesus Christ brought the model and lived it right in front of the twelve! That's how they learned church life!
The Lost Model
This model that the Lord shared with His disciples is something which has almost been totally lost in our day. I have personally only heard a few people even speak about it. Yet, it is the Perfect Model, the Absolute Pattern for the Church. This is not a model that you can copy with a rubber stamp by learning some program or system of rules and then implementing them. This model can only be experienced! This model is an experience of a relationship!
The Lord Jesus brought to this earth an experience that He had before eternity. That experience was outside of space and time. That experience was inside of the Living God! Your Lord had fellowship (koinonia) with His Father through the Holy Spirit before creation. This "fellowship" is the foundation of the relationship within the Trinity (or Godhead). When I say "Godhead" I am speaking of the Triune God; three Persons in One; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their fellowship, life together, love, communication, and sharing is the basis of the Perfect Model! You see the basis for the Church is the Godhead! God is the first Church! Jesus brought this "fellowship of the Godhead" with Him to earth and lived it in full view of twelve men. They, in turn, shared it with others.
Brothers and sisters, if we will learn to experience and live this model, we will learn what the church is all about!
We desperately need the perfect Model!