Saturday, 21 March 2015

TIME TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM


TIME TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM

It is still very fresh in my mind, what I read many years back from an interview with Mr. Bunmi Oni, former MD of Cadbury Nig. Plc. He was asked that if he knew so much, why shouldn't he get involved in politics since that would give him the greatest platform to deploy many of his lucid ideas to the betterment of his fatherland. His simple answer was, the system does not allow decent people to get involved.

Is that not true?

Do we not have in Nigeria many brilliant minds that can bring in the Midas touch to governance and leadership and so lead the nation out of the woods? We do but there is a system on ground that ensures that such people do not come anywhere near political leadership and anyone who dares to may end up becoming a casualty of a pervert system. As someone said, we keep saying Christians should go into politics but those who have so gone have been harvested by the system they sought to change. Is this not true? The 'good ones' among us who have ventured into the murky terrain of Nigerian politics have had to compromise in one area and at one level or the other. 

Is this a discussion about politics? Far from it; I only wish to draw our attention to the power of a system. Those familiar with computers know fully well what an operating system is. It is the platform on which all applications or end-user programs run. For any application to run well, the operating system must support it.

Good intentions and right hearts not mattering, the system corrupts all of that. The system can, in a matter of time, turn good people into despots and thieving rogues. It is not just about what is in the heart, it is the power of an evil system. Of course, there are always exceptions: those who manage to defy the system and somehow get away with it. But such exceptions are extremely rare; for every one of such, there must have been a hundred valiant men who have been slain by the system. 

So rather than demonize the people and insist that they are the ones with a problem, why not work towards changing the system? Instead of trying so hard to get the people to cope with a system that is fundamentally designed to corrupt and pervert, why not put in place a system that makes it difficult - if not impossible - for the perverse to thrive? 

Where am I going?

Very few Christians are aware that there is such a thing as the church system. The church and the church system are however two very different things. The former, in its simplest biblical definition, is the body of believers in any location. She is the Body of Christ, a purely spiritual organism. But because she is made up of human beings in different localities throughout the earth, some form of coordination is required to facilitate healthy nurture and a vibrant expression of the testimony of Christ.  

Because of this human need for some form of organisation of our activities of corporate devotion and fellowship, and our interfacing with the larger society, a myriad of “church”-centred activities and routines as well very complex structures to keep them going have, over the decades and centuries, evolved into a predictable pattern which runs quite well even when they are disconnected from the spirit and essence that originated them. This is the church system. 

To start with, the “Church” in the church system has lost its original meaning of a body of believers to now mean a building where those activities are coordinated and carried out. Secondly, many of these activities and structures were copied from the world and were not a product of prophetic revelation or New Testament patterns. Furthermore, their underlying motive was never to promote Kingdom interests but the advancement of personal and denominational agenda.

Today, the church system has become the major face of Christianity globally and our only platform for corporate worship and spiritual/social fellowship. It is now a leading source of job creation; the livelihood of many families depends on it. It is a multi-billion dollar industry with huge investments in the education, media, entertainment and real estate sectors. And the centre of gravity of the entire system is our organised church services.

On the surface, this system claims to serve the body of believers and to advance the purposes of Christ. In reality however, it has become an institution on its own which is being served by the believers and has subtly diverted to itself the allegiance and devotion of God's people that are meant for Christ our Head and Lord. Millions today, serve the system, sincerely thinking they are serving Christ.  

When a person accepts to follow Christ through the system, rather than being helped to experience and nurture a concrete relationship with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is immediately introduced to the church system and overtime grows to be more committed to the system than to the Lord who shed His blood.

Fewer people can think outside the box of the system. By that I mean, is it possible to have a vibrant, healthy relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ without being a part of the church system? To many, this is quite unthinkable. As a matter of fact, that you are not in the system suggests that you have a serious spiritual problem. 

Yet, we have continued to witness very disturbing incidents within Christendom and, of course, the individuals are always to be blamed: they are the ones with a problem; they allowed the devil; they were not dead to the flesh enough, they did not pray and fast enough - and so on. Scarcely will anybody dare point at the system and assert that it is not so much of the people but a systemic problem which requires a change in the operating system of church today.

And this is inevitable, if we want to be a generation that will get it right: a total system overhaul. Truth be said, this system was never started by God in the first place. It is a man-made structure that blends a little of truth and error together. While it allows a few things, it will never allow the bringing of the Church to fullness. Today, it is all about money, power and fame. It will readily allow a few super-stars called the clergy and an onlooker and  dependent majority called the laity. It encourages a vast gulf between the leaders and the led and places the leader at the centre of attraction. It breeds division and sectarianism and will never allow the application called unity of the faith to run. It may agree in principle to all these truths and even allow them to be taught but it will never allow such applications as the priesthood of all believers to become a practical reality in the body of Christ. 

The system has done it in such a way that you can never recognize the Body of Christ except through its own expressions called churches. What we call churches today, in any case, are actually religious organizations which are more or less the personal enterprise of the pastor. Yes, members of the body of Christ can be found in them but the church of Jesus is not a sorry mixture of sheep, goat and pig.

Even wonderful, sincere and God-fearing believers and Christian leaders with a genuine call of God to serve the Lord and His body have no choice but to resort to this system because that is what we have always known. Alas, they labour for so many years and decades, yet it is like all the rivers running into the sea, yet the sea is not full. It is like washing a garment repeatedly but it never gets clean. The problem is neither the leader nor the people; the problem is a pervert system that will at best keep the people of God as babes and ever learning but never coming into the experiential knowledge of the truth. 

Some of those essential qualities of the Body of Christ - simplicity, transparency, genuine brotherhood, the priesthood of all believers, corporate ministry, the pre-eminence of Christ, absolute dependence on the leadership of the Holy Spirit without undue interference of man, the autonomous yet inter-dependent nature of the local communities (I can go on and on) - cannot just find expression in what we call church today. 

Whereas, those key features by which church today is identified: exotic buildings, denominational tags, ecclesiastical titles and mannerisms, performance-driven ministry, a visible head/setman as the CEO (etc) are completely alien to the spirit and the essence of the Church of Jesus and the teachings of Christ. 

The good news however is that the One who said, “I will build my church” has His own tamper-proof operating system inextricably interwoven with His message concerning the Kingdom of God. And today, there is an increasing global awareness for all of God's people to return to “Church the way God wants it.” As someone rightly said, “God started the church the way He wanted it; now He wants the church the way He started it.” May you, dear child of God, heed His call no matter the cost.  

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We welcome all questions, contributions and enquiries. You are invited to THE KINGDOM CONNECT, a monthly interactive non-denominational Kingdom forum where we explore the truths of the Kingdom of God and learn to express the life of Christ at No. 20, Osuntokun avenue, Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria - on the third Saturday of every month, 11am-4pm. GOD BLESS YOU.

Monday, 9 March 2015

My Gleanings from Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Church Life (3)



THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH LIFE

The New Testament Pattern of The Churches, the Ministry and the Work

WATCHMAN NEE
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(Continued from Part 2)

The danger, with those who know little about life and reality, is to emphasize mere outward correctness; but with those to whom life and reality are a matter of supreme importance, the temptation is to throw away the divine pattern of things, thinking it is legal and technical. He considers that he himself has authority to decide on outward matters and rather fancies that to ignore God’s commands regarding them is an indication that he has been delivered from legality an is walking in the liberty of the Spirit. But God has not revealed the truths that concern our inner life; He has also revealed truths relating to the outward expression of that life. God prizes the inner reality, but He does not ignore the outward expression.

But God demands both inward and outward purity. To have outer without inner is spiritual death, but to have inner without outer is spiritualised life. And spiritualisation is not spirituality.

We seek to follow the leading of God’s Spirit but at the same time we seek to pay attention to the examples shown us in His word. The leading of His Spirit is precious, but if there is no example in His word, then it is easy to substitute fallible thoughts and unfounded feelings for the Spirit’s leading, drifting into error without realising it. The Spirit’s guidance will always harmonise with the Scriptures. God cannot lead a man one way in Acts and another way today. In externalities, the leading may vary, but in principle, it is always the same; for God’s will is eternal, therefore changeless. God is the eternal God and His will and ways all bear the stamp of eternity.

Here is a very important principle: If we want to know the mind of God, we must look at His commands in Genesis and not look at His permissions later on, because every later permission has this explanation: “…Because of your hardness of heart but from the beginning it was not so!” It is God’s directive and eternal will that we want to discover, not His permissive will. We want to see things as they were when they proceeded in all their purity from the mind of God, not what they have become, with time, as a result of the hardness of men’s hearts. In the light of this, the question we must then ask ourselves is: What kind of generation of believers/followers of Christ do we desire to be? Those who will follow Him with half measures, in our own terms? Are we content to follow Him based on what is clearly His permissive will or are we willing to press on to recover His absolute and eternal will? Selah.

If we could understand the will of God concerning His church, then we must not look to see how He led his people last year or ten years ago, or hundred years ago, but we must return to the beginning, to the “genesis” of the church, to see what he said and did then. It is then that we find the highest expression of His will. Acts is the “genesis” of the Church’s history and the church in the time of Paul is the “genesis” of the Spirit’s work. Conditions in the church today are vastly different from what they were then, but these present conditions could never be our example or authoritative guide. We must return to the beginning. Only what God has set forth as our example in the beginning is the eternal will of God. It is the divine standard and our pattern for all time.

Christianity is not only built upon precepts but upon examples. God has revealed his will not only by giving orders, but by having certain things done in his church so that in the ages to come, others might simply look at the pattern and know His will. God has not only directed His people by means of abstract principles and objective regulations, but concrete examples and subjective experience. One of God’s chief methods of instruction is through history.

Shall we then say that because God has not commanded a certain thing, we need not do it? If we have seen His dealings with men in days past, if we have seen how He led His people and built up His Church, can we still plead ignorance of His will? Must a child be told explicitly how to do everything? Are there not many things he can learn simply by watching his parents or his older siblings? We learn more readily by what we see than what we hear, and the impression is deeper. That is why God has given us so much of history.

As I read, I am asking myself, but why are we so hardened in heart, so impetuous, so presumptuous, so resistant to simple truth that we just dismiss these obvious truths with a wave of the hand and rationalise everything Nee is saying to his own perspectives. We convince ourselves that he is not the Holy Ghost and is only speaking from his own subjective opinion – Lord have mercy!

This book is intended for those who, having learned something of the cross, know the corruption of the human nature, and seek to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Its object is to help those who acknowledge the lordship of Christ in all things, and are seeking to serve Him in the way of His own appointing, not of their own choosing.



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My Gleanings from Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Church Life (2)



My gleanings from
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH LIFE
The New Testament Pattern of the Churches, the Ministry, and the Work
WATCHMAN NEE
==========================================================

(Please read INTRO first.)

PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION

Because of the vastness of the subject and the importance of its issues, I have not found it easy to write this book. It is not intended for anyone and everyone. It is for those who bear responsibility in the Lord’s service. But more than this, it is for such as honestly and truly mean business with God and whose hearts are open and have no padlocked mind or prejudices. The book may test one’s sincerity and honesty to no small degree; but genuine hunger and desire to know the Lord’s full thought will sustain a careful reading to the end.

In reading this book, the door must not be closed with a snap of “Impossible!” or “Ideal but not practical!” what is set forth in these pages is no mere theory or teaching, but something we have actually tested out.

INTRODUCTION

During the past eighteen years, the Lord has led us through different experiences in order that we might learn a little of the principle as well as the fact of the cross and resurrection, and learn something of the Christ-life, the Lordship of Jesus, the corporate life of the Body, the ground of the Kingdom of God, and His eternal purpose. It is natural that these have been the burden of our ministry. But God’s wine must have a wineskin to contain it. In the divine pattern, nothing is left for man to decide. God Himself has provided the best wineskin for His wine, which will contain and preserve it without loss, hindrance or misrepresentation.

We have sought to stress, throughout these past years, truths which have more direct bearing on the spiritual life of the believer and the eternal purpose of God. But the practical outworking of these truths in the Lord’s service is by no means unimportant. Without that, everything is in the realm of theory, and spiritual development is impossible.

While the book itself may seem to deal with the technical side of Christianity, let us emphasise here that we are not aiming at mere technical correctness. It is spiritual reality we are after. But spirituality is not a matter of theory; it always issues in practice.

It is wearisome to me, if not actually repulsive, to talk with those who aim at perfect outward correctness, while they care little for that which is vital and spiritual. In fact, it is a deep grief to meet children of God who know practically nothing of the hatefulness of a life lived in the energy of man, and know little of the vital experience of the headship of Jesus Christ, yet all the while are scrupulously careful to arrive at absolute correctness of method in God’s service. We hope this book will not fall into the hands of those who wish to improve their work by improving their methods, without adjusting their relationship to the Lord.

It is death to have a wineskin without wine, but it is loss to have wine without a wineskin. The God who inspired the writing of the letter to the Ephesian church equally inspired the writing of the letter to the Corinthians. While letters like Romans, Ephesians and Colossians deal with the spiritual contents of our faith, letters like Corinthians, Titus and Timothy deal with the practice of it. But why is it that the children of God have never had any serious contentions over Ephesian truths but always over Corinthian truths? Because the sphere of Ephesians is the heavenlies, and its truths are purely spiritual. But Corinthian teachings are practical and touch the earthly sphere. Yes, Corinthians is very practical and it tests our obedience more than does Ephesians!

The danger, with those who know little about life and reality, is to emphasize mere outward correctness; but with those to whom life and reality are a matter of supreme importance, the temptation is to throw away the divine pattern of things, thinking it is legal and technical. He considers that he himself has authority to decide on outward matters and rather fancies that to ignore God’s commands regarding them is an indication that he has been delivered from legality an is walking in the liberty of the Spirit. But God has not revealed the truths that concern our inner life; He has also revealed truths relating to the outward expression of that life. God prizes the inner reality, but He does not ignore the outward expression.


But God demands both inward and outward purity. To have outer without inner is spiritual death, but to have inner without outer is spiritualised life. And spiritualisation is not spirituality.


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My Gleanings from Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Church Life (Intro)



MY GLEANINGS FROM WATCHMAN NEE’S 
"THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH LIFE"
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MY INTRODUCTORY NOTES…

I first set my eyes on this book, I think, in 2005, when my friend and brother, Olasunkanmi Okeniyi (we used to call him Sukisuka, those school days) brought it to my Adamasingba office. I asked him to lend me but that somehow didn’t happen until I stumbled upon it in Goodnews (CAET) bookshop in December 2007. I immediately bought it and on reading just the introduction, I realised I had caught a real treasure.

Though I have always had a profound respect for Watchman Nee, I never knew that he was actually a leading light in the “house church movement” (for want of better expression really. I think “a return to the divine pattern of the nature of God’s work” will describe it better), an early pioneer of what the Lord taught us in the 1999-2003 period and what some of us still stand for in spite of  its unpopularity.

So it was with much relish that I ravished the book because he was speaking 100% my language. Until then, I have never read anybody who spoke so pristinely about the convictions of my heart – except “Baba” Gene Edwards. In fact, as I read Nee, I saw so much similarity between his thought and that of Gene that I began to wonder if one copied the other. It was much later, reading Gene’s profile somewhere, that I realised that he had been influenced much by Watchman Nee and that at one time, he even travelled to China for a period to learn under Nee. Only recently, I got to know that Nee himself was a student of T. Austin Sparks and much of his understandings about the deeper Christian life and the divine pattern of the church were chiefly influenced by Austin Sparks, and some other notable names like Jeanne Guyone (Nee’s biography is now in public domain).

I confess that, for the peculiar nature of my work, I have not been as studious as I ought to, so even though I have started reading the book since 2007, and have recommended it to lots of people (one of such people bought 5 copies and gave them out to some of our elders in the Ibadan House Fellowship) and have bought it for a friend, and have lent out my copy to several others, I myself have not gone more than half way through the book. But I am determined to finish it with this summarisation that I am undertaking of it.

One thing with me, if I am going to read a book, is to read from cover to cover. So I noted that the book was written in 1939, undertaken by Nee himself, not like most of his other books that were written on his behalf, through a compilation of his teaching notes. So as I started reading back then, 8 years ago, I was seriously moved to tears. Have these truths been around for so long yet the church has remained in darkness regarding the truth of the pattern? I do well know that many of our present-day fathers in the land have read and do have a profound respect for Watchman Nee. I assume a good number of them should have read this book. Why then have they chosen to disregard its very fundamental message and to continue in the very things the book fingers as contradictory to the divine pattern and intent? Is that not why many of them today have, in the name of doing God’s work, ended up building empires in their own names? Well, Lord have mercy!

So, I am presenting my gleanings to those who can see right through the makeup of popular Christianity today, and are sincere enough to admit, at least to themselves, that what is on ground in the name of church and ministry today are far from the ideal and their hearts are crying for the truest expression of the life of Christ in His people to become a tangible reality in the midst of us. They are not only desirous, they are willing to pay prices required to bring it about. It is for such that I have made this considerable effort.

I sincerely hope, after going through these excerpts, you do not dismiss this with a wave of the hand as merely Nee’s subjective views. Like I did point out, these are not just Nee’s views; he had forebears like Sparks and down through the ages, there have been movements which have kept the torch of the testimony of the truth concerning the divine pattern. I believe there will be men in our generation who will dare to follow the truths of God’s word rather than the traditions of men. I pray you are one of such.

In this excerpt compilation, I make very little personal explanations; most of what you will read here are direct quotations from the book. My own notes, I kept in colours and for emphasis, I underline or capitalise. Read through with a prayerful heart and afterwards, do try to get a copy of your own (though it’s very scarce today) as well as its sequels: Further Talks on Church Life, The Glorious Church and the Assembly Life. God bless you real good.

Temidayo
31 Jan 2015

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