26 November 2021
The burden of the Lord is upon me to invest a few electrons in discussing the boundaries of the Covenant of Christ. What you get here are my convictions. If I were an elder or pastor serving a church somewhere, this is what you would expect as church teaching. However, this blog has nothing to do with forming a community, so don't pretend you are getting some kind of catechism. This is merely advisory.
That is, it's advisory in content. The hammer part is that you are warned of God's wrath if you don't get on with the business of reconsidering what it means to follow Christ. If He comes back tomorrow, you had best be found faithful.
Another preliminary point I need to make is that this will be contextual, as is every covenant in the Bible. It addresses the needs of time, place and people. To be more precise, this is for Americans, the nation to which I am called to serve in prophetic teaching. For my readers outside of the USA, you'll need to extrapolate via your own convictions.
So the first thing we do is establish something critical: The Bible is a Hebrew document. Jesus was a Hebrew man teaching a Hebrew religion. It is not very portable. It will not come to you; you must come to it. God didn't simply choose the Hebrew cultural context simply because it was the best available at the time. He built that culture from scratch as the only possible way to reveal His true nature. You don't have to learn Hebrew language, but you do have to learn how to think like an ancient Hebrew.
That means rejecting everything you know here in Western culture, or the newer Networking culture based on the West. Both are closely related and both are irreparably evil. That doesn't mean you should be dressing like someone from the Bronze Age and rejecting all technology arising since that time. It's not the trappings, but the core assumptions about reality and what is good and evil. When you claim to be a Christian, you are buying into a transformation that cannot be expressed in Western terms. Following Christ means you are no longer a Westerner and no longer American in identity. It means you become a complete alien internally, even if you manage to appear relatively typical on the outside.
This transformation is what churches are supposed to teach. Religious leadership that fails this mission qualify as the evil shepherds mentioned in Old Testament prophecy. Church is supposed to be a microcosm of ancient Hebrew culture and thinking. Your church must be an eastern feudal tribal covenant community. It must function like an extended family household. It's not a question of your physical assets coming under church control, but that you must deeply desire to contribute to the atmosphere that moves everyone closer to the Hebrew Messiah.
There's nothing wrong with multiple churches affiliating together in various ways, but a single local congregation should be no larger than 100 people, unless there is an exceptional level of uniformity in the people's cultural orientation. The issue is what the leadership can manage, and people with a broad similarity in habits and mental quirks -- like folks who grow up in the same extended family household -- will tend to act more predictably as a whole. The ideal is that each small body should develop their own unique blend of customs and habits, just like a small clan of Ancient Near Eastern folks would be. You'd have a "sheikh" (church elder) and his "priest" (pastor) working together to shepherd the people closer to the Hebrew Messiah. Your clan can affiliate with others, and even have a senior elder and pastor over several congregations. But it all has to reflect the heart and soul of what it would have been like in ancient Hebrew ways.
Your leaders should have attendants ("deacons") who serve rather like messengers and bodyguard for the leadership. They handle a lot of mundane organizational and administrative tasks. This is where women are permitted, because there are many tasks for which women are frankly better equipped (more about that later). Deacons/deaconesses don't set the agenda. The shepherds determine the pasture, and the deacons guard the edges of the flock and take care of specific needs as much as they can.
The investments in physical property should reflect putting a premium on the people themselves, not on real estate or facilities. Granted, in our Western/Networked world, it's hard to have a group meet without some kind of facilities built on dirt, but nobody should be investing too much sentiment in such things. The Hebrew people began as a nomadic tribal nation, and the church must echo that as much as possible. The places and facilities don't matter much, but the people are the real treasure.
Membership is not a matter of in or out; it's a matter of involvement. Privileges will always fall on those who are more committed. There's nothing professional about any of this. Commitment to the community as a flock is the first marker you seek, and skills or talents are secondary. If you need some particular capabilities for some operation, pray them into the body. Otherwise, you can do only what the capabilities of your faithful members can handle. That business of single-minded devotion is the first consideration. You aren't seeking accomplishments, but stability and faith.
The whole point of the church's existence is to build faith and a Hebrew cultural orientation. Your primary investment is in the people and their faith. All you really have to do is keep the flock together and make them tolerant and gracious toward each other. That's the whole mission; that's what shalom means. That's our evangelism, too. The means to that mission is teaching the Word, which means teaching Hebrew cultural and intellectual traditions.
Note: pastors are appointed. Elders arise naturally. Who do the others treat like a father figure? Who would they follow? The shepherd leads by example and by his voice because that's how sheep act. They aren't cattle to be prodded. If they don't follow, they aren't in the flock. If someone is ambitious, they are automatically disqualified from leadership. Real household elders are men who would rather be doing something else, but God has called and they have obeyed.
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