House Church Talk - Re: [ntcp] HC Covenants

Keith Smith castillofuerte at
Wed Aug 11 11:11:26 EDT 2004

Hi John, 

May the Lord bless you real good!

John wrote:
Hi Keith,  Since I seem to be in the middle of this particular discussion, I thought I would comment on your comments.  First, let me say that I'm not pushing the word "covenant" in this context.  If the word is too "loaded" for some people, then use something else like "agreement", "statement of values", etc.   I believe Robert Fitts has something like this.

First of all, I think that I must correct a misconception. OFI (Robert Fitts) does not have a "Statement of Values". One was proposed and wholeheartedly rejected by the coordinators and Robert himself (e.mails available if needed). I think that pushing is to strong a word to describe your promotion of "covenants", but you certainly have circulated the covenant writen by your friend. Personally I don't think that man made covenants are helpful.

Then John wrote:
I think we all agree that organizational pyramids have no place in the church.  Perhaps the more important question is - what is the proper role of human leadership?  Does a "totally flat group" do away with all leadership?  

Recently, I've been spending time in 1 Corinthians.  At least one way that Paul thinks about his role with the church in Corinth is that of "father" (1 Cor. 4:15).  In this role he is extremely forceful and directive.  He shames them (you are mere "infants" -  3:1, "this kind of thing does not occur even among pagans" -  5:1, "I say this to shame you" - 6:5), he threatens them ("shall I come to you with a whip?"-  4:21), he commands them ("hand this man over to Satan" - 5:5), he rebukes them ("your boasting is not good"  - 5:6), he lays down guidelines for church ("two or three prophets" -14:29).  I could go on but you get the idea.  

Paul is not exercising organizational authority but he is exercising an uncomfortably (for me) high degree of personal authority.  Now, we can dismiss this by saying that he was functioning uniquely as an authoritative Apostle (capital "A").  However, I don't think Paul would buy this.  I believe he is saying that this is the way that a father relates to rebellious children.  (Compare with his "parenting" of more mature children in 1 Thes. 2.)  Further, Paul himself tells us to imitate him (4:16).  

Humm, As you say we must examine what is the proper role of human leadership? & Does a "totally flat group" do away with all leadership?  As you say the correct NT form of leadership seems to be that of a father/child relationship. However, I do not regard myself as being OVER my children, but rather caring for them as a trust from the Lord. It is a responsibility, based on real relationships. The ideas that you put forward of demonstrations of fatherly authority, are strangely similar to admonishments of how we are to treat one another. Rom 15:14, Col 3:16, Heb 10:24   
and many other texts. that the sort of authority that you describe falls outside the sort of thing that we should be doing to one another. I would certainly expect my children to correct and admonish me if I did anything wrong and also to encourages me as well. The commands and guidelines that you mention are the Lords, and rest on His authority not Pauls. I don't believe that what Paul is doing is exercising organizational or personal authority here, but relational authority, on the basis of one-anothering. The real authority of these texts is the Lord's. I have often said that apostles (or any other of the 5 fold ministries) have no authority in themselves, but rather share the words that they are hearing from their Father, do the things that they see Father doing, thus the authority is not theirs but the Father's. If their hearers do not listen then they do not listen to the Father. However, if the apostle speaks from his own authority, the church should reject his words, whilst accepting him.

Continuing John wrote:
I've heard this perspective a lot but I wonder if we have unconsciously adopted a kind of Greek dualism here.  "Anything that come through prayer is good.  Anything that comes through my own thinking (or the business world) is bad."  The Hebraic mindset embraces more of a "both/and" approach - some of God's direction comes through prayer and some comes through good thinking (some business strategies).  

I could give lots of examples but consider 1 Cor. 9:7-12.  Here Paul is building his case for the financial support of apostles, not from spiritual revelation but from business strategies and principles from the military, from farming, from shepherding.  For instance, in v. 10, he says that it's a good strategy for the plowman and the thresher to know (hope) that they will receive benefit (part of the harvest) from their work.  This "hope" is a key to their motivation.

I don't think Jesus would condemn business strategies.  He referred to them all the time. (In Lk.10:2, He even identified Himself as the "Lord of the harvest".  In today's language, He would have probably called himself the C.E.O. of an agricultural enterprise.)  Rather, I think He would have been critical of strategies that didn't work or that focused on the wrong goal.  For instance, trying to "make disciples" by building big buildings and putting on impressive performances.  The strategy is not wrong because it's from business but because it fails to accomplish the objective.

With regard to the Dualism argument, you have never heard me on this subject, and I feel are classifying me under this idea unfairly. I wholly stand against this dualism. It is no more that modern Gnosticism, which i whole heartedly reject. I too agree with the Hebrew approach. However, I would always start continue and finish with prayer and obedience. So often folk start with business type approaches pray expecting the Lord to bless their ideas. Often the Lord's strategies are very different to ours, Gideon's Army springs to mind. And whoever would have started a movement with a hand full of uneducated fishermen, tax collectors and terrorists? I'm sure that no businessmen would do that. No, they would probably look for people who had already started 10 branches, and thus are successes. God's view is always somewhat different to ours.  Jesus surely wouldn't condemn business strategies, but he would always listen to the Father, more than Mat thews business plans. My goals are His goals, sought in prayer, and are not dependant on business research.

Finally he closed saying:
I agree with your understanding of a "network".  In addition to the elders, I would say that Paul (and other apostolic people?) felt that he also had authority with the network.  Not governmental/organizational/institutional authority.  More of a personal/relational/familial authority.  Wonder what this should look like today?  -John White

I would disagree that Paul felt that he had authority over the network, but rather that he felt a responsibility towards the network as a servant (he repeatedly referred to himself as a slave). This is totally relational. 


Keith Smith 
castillofuerte at<mailto:castillofuerte at><>

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