Dr. Stephen Phinney
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5)
This article is one of hope and renewal, aimed at equipping individuals and families to stand, walk free, and complete in the indwelling Life of Jesus Christ by the miraculous mystery of the Holy Spirit in us. This is the key to renewal in the Church as well.
The Misnomer of Church
The organic term ‘Church’ is not what the masses refer to as church today. In our church culture, we reference ‘church’ as denominations; a church building, church house, or a church building used for “Christian” worship services that adhere to a set of collective doctrines. The challenge is that these doctrines are hand-picked by leaders through divisive disagreements and self-interpretive views OF the Bible. Most exaggerate selective passages, build a denomination and propagate portions of the Holy Word while deleting, minimally de-emphasizing portions of the Bible that leaders deem offensive or unnecessary.
The original label of ‘Church’ came from a description of individuals who became members of the Body of Christ – born-again & graphed into Jesus Christ as His earthly representative of His body. It is the reason we are told that we are the temple (body) of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Thus, the Church is the global representative of all those receiving Jesus Christ into their mortal bodies. In the Scriptures, all references of the Church are directly connected to believers who have been indwelt by Christ - gathering in separate communities. As in the church at Ephesus, the Seven Churches stated in Revelation, etc.
The transition of the Church going from a collective group of indwelt Christians to denominational types that devolved into independent “churches” took place due to the division of beliefs and interpretations of the written Word. It began during Biblical Paul’s time, about 67 AD, and the Church then morphed into churches. Within a few generations after Christ’s ascension, the term Body of Christ faded into the misnomer of “churches.”
While it is acceptable to use the term churches, we need to keep the context of the initial logic of this label. That of a group of indwelt Christians meeting in a community, i.e., the church at Ephesus. Originally it was to communicate a group of born-again believers that gather at a particular location. Today it is used as a group of “believers” gathering under a structure of selective doctrines.
However, each time I use the term Church, I am referencing the Body of Jesus Christ as a whole. Since you cannot lead a nation or church into the saving Life of Christ, we shift our focus to the individuals within the nations or churches. For example, America has been known as a Christian Nation. The irony is, nations cannot be born-again – only people. Churches cannot be born-again, and only their people can. Thus our emphasis is on the doctrinal ideologies of the Body of Christ.
The Christ-as-Life Church
When I use the phrase “Christ-as-Life Church,” I am addressing every indwelt Christian who has a desire to learn more about how to allow the Life of Christ to minister (or live) through their mortal being – no matter what community they gather.
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14)
God gave us the ability through the Life of Christ within us to admonish (put in the mind) one another to assist our Groom in keeping each of His Bridal members on the same road, teaching sound doctrines. However, non-indwelt self-proclaimed Christians are putting false doctrines into the minds of real & fake Christians by terminating the doctrines of Christ in you.
The commission to admonish one another does come with some restrictions and guidelines. For example…
He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity, but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?; And not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (1Ti 3:4-6)
When we decide to admonish another believer, we first look at his ability to manage. And that is done by carefully reviewing his family, history of broken marriages, etc. Even though this standard has drifted into our lukewarm culture, it is the Biblical mandate put before us. This evaluation is not dependent on selective children who chose the route of a prodigal, and however, it is dependent on the man’s skillful methods of managing such trauma.
The organic reason why we are to evaluate the “who” we are to invest the pearls of Christ is simple. The correlation between a man’s family and the family of God is perfectly in line with the methods of God’s ordained governance. It is a statistical fact that a man will lead the Body of Christ in the same manner he governed his earthly family. While noting a man can be transformed, the discipler must keep a watchful eye on the flesh pattern of the past that can show its “ugly head” on the days of walking after his flesh.
“Do not give what is Holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
Who we invest the treasures of the Gospel for reproduction is a top priority for Jesus. As our passage reveals, if you invest in a potential worker of the Gospel who does not pass the test of family management, ultimately, they will turn on you and tear you to pieces. Betrayal of workers of the indwelling doctrines of God is as old as Christ Himself.
Secondly, a worker who is new in faith should not be given spiritual responsibility for others. Not until they pass the test of loyalty to absolute Truth – as a proven record. The person who has not grown through obedience while suffering will not be centered in the wisdom of competence to minister to others (Heb. 5:12-14). Also, keep in mind that an indwelt Christian who is seasoned as a believer but walking after their flesh most of their Christian journey is STILL to be classified as “new in their faith.” The reason? These individuals are addicted to the milk of the Gospel while finding it difficult to settle into the Gospel’s meat. The reason for this is the wisdom of obedience has not settled into experience.
First, the workers we should consider candidates for overseeing another soul need to be well-groomed in experiential knowledge of Truth – practicing what they are instructed to believe, from the Holy Word. The Life of a worker is to be characterized by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that these workers must be “perfect” in function and order? Absolutely not. It means that to be effective as a Christ-as-Life worker, they must show a record of a consistent and lengthy ability to walk in the Spirit. This person needs historical genuineness, authenticity, and evidence of the overflow of Christ flowing through them. Thus, how can they teach & demonstrate the overflow of Christ if they remain clueless of its modalities? We get the idea of a dynamic view of ministry by observing an overflow of Christ's Life into another. The obvious being that a life that is built upon the doctrines of Christ without overflow cannot function in overflow that is by walking in the Spirit through obedience to releasing Christ from within. The evidence is seen in the believer’s response to testing & admonishment. Remembering, God test whom He loves (Psa. 11:5). As for those of us who disciple others, this is found in day-by-day admonishment through watching their ability to withstand reproofs of Life that come from the hand of God.
After many years of counseling and discipling God’s hurting souls, I have come to embrace one clear factor in determining their measurement of Grace in understanding the Christ-as-Life doctrines. How does the believer respond to the reproofs of life? Are they willing to be involved in confessing and being fronted with distorted beliefs? Are they willing to do whatever is necessary for their healing to make one’s life more at rest and peace? Do they have a God-sized ability to respond, obey, and adhere to God’s governing authorities? These questions need to be answered by quality disciplers before handing them the peals of the Gospel. Overflow of Christ’s doctrines versus the theological elements of His words needs to be evidenced in the qualified worker to step into a Life of overflow – a Christ-as-Life worker. That way, the worker will not minister to others via theology about Christ but rather release the Person of Truth, who is Theo.
Folks, there is a massive difference between a Christ-as-Life church gathering and what the world views as a “church.” A Christ-as-Life gathering is a group of authentic born-again, indwelt believers who are passionate about the primary doctrines of Christ in you versus teaching members to replicate the teaching OF Christ Jesus.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom 8:9)
When I read this passage, here is what comes to mind. However, the gathering of the Saints is not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells within the members of the gathering. But if the leadership & its people does not have the Spirit of Christ, this group does not belong to Jesus Christ.
I refuse to judge authentic members within these so-called churches. But, I will rebuke these denominational corporate structures that propagate Christians ARE Christians because they belong to their church. The doctrines revealed in Romans chapter eight have made the testing template clear. I tell pastors/believers worldwide who tell me they cannot find a local fellowship that teachings Christ-as-Life, start your own gathering of the Saints who passionately desire the Grace teachings of Christ in you & Christ is my Life. Meet under a tree, meet in your hut, meet in your home, or meet in a building – it doesn’t matter where you meet. It does matter why you are meeting. The challenge? While most are hunting for an organized denomination/ministry to function under – it almost always comes back to money. Be watching for our up-and-coming article, The Paid Church.