John and Carol Arnott are the Founding Pastors and Presidents of Catch the Fire (formerly known as the Toronto...
More and more we hear the term, “church without walls” but what does this mean? While it can mean sending teams from a local church outside the church’s walls to minister in homes and in the marketplace, I believe it is much more than that. If we are going to reach this world for Jesus, we need a completely new model of “doing church.” I don’t know why we can’t have “church” in homes, offices, schools, coffee shops, or even outside for that matter. Why can’t we have church meetings that are facilitated by an army of non-professional yet anointed Christians and have them meet whenever and wherever it works for them?
Maybe we need to take a hard look at what has happened to the Church in the last 2,000 years and see how we can return to Jesus’ model of “doing church”?
Jesus said, “Where two or three meet together, there am I in the midst.” The word “church” in Greek is the word “ecclesia” meaning “called out ones.”
Let’s consider the words of Christ to Peter in Matt 16:18. “I also say to you that you are Peter (petros meaning “little rock” in Greek), and on this rock (petra, meaning “big rock” in the Greek which is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Jesus is building His kingdom of “called out ones” based on the solid foundation of His powerful anointing as the Messiah. He alone is the Christ, the Anointed One. He was not saying that He wanted to build His church on men, even Peter, as some have assumed.
This is very reassuring and makes me feel a whole lot more comfortable than supposing that His church is built upon a person or group of people and their organization. It is built upon all that Jesus is, His Person, His character, His authority, His values, His power, His ministry, His loving heart. Thankfully, it is not built either upon a man or a man-made structure.
In spite of man’s attempts to organize and institutionalize the Church, it has thrived through the centuries because Jesus’ eternal life is in its people. But I believe that the church fulfilled the mission of Jesus better when it was unorganized and decentralized and even persecuted. Back then it depended more upon the foundation of Jesus as Anointed One, rather than on structure, and it was a supernatural church!
The early church advanced at an unbelievable speed.
Within approximately 200 years after Jesus’ resurrection, the known world was essentially converted to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because it was empowered by Jesus, the resurrected Son of God who delegated His love and power to every Christian in the person of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:12)
But once Christianity became acceptable and developed political status, a man-made hierarchy developed and religious form began to replace its dynamic, supernatural life. Therefore, it is a tragic historical fact that whenever a new ‘revival’ emerges, church leaders and established denominations usually oppose the new work of the Spirit. Very often their negative reaction is completely unjustified and can be traced back to little more than a complacent unwillingness to let go of the ‘status quo.’ They resist healthy change and the new life of the Spirit because new movements and revivals unsettle the religious equilibrium and the financial security it has provided.
Then control issues surface along with conflict over who will be in charge. “Little rocks” try to replace the Rock, Jesus, the Anointed One, as the foundation of Church. Established organizations like to run things and perpetuate them indefinitely after their kind. The thought of the Holy Spirit running things, especially through unproven exuberant youth, unsettles and even threatens them.
Today around the world, our evangelical faith is experiencing a massive revival. According to information obtained on the website, World Christian Encyclopedia, China, Africa, and Latin America are exponentially growing with new converts.
This is the church without walls, boundaries and borders. The article went on to graph the amazing gains that are taking place all over the world. South Korea is 40% Christian. Astonishing, since only 100 years ago it was totally Buddhist. Africa is 50% Christian which is also amazing when you realize that only 100 years ago it was almost totally Animist. Similarly Latin America, 100 years ago was steeped in a syncretistic, pre-Reformation form of Catholicism, but today evangelicals are making huge gains in countries like Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. And there are many Catholics who have chosen to remain within their church and have caught the fire of renewed personal faith in the living Christ and are living and ministering in His supernatural power.
I recently read an article in a leading French magazine entitled, “Evangelical Sects Are Taking Over the World.” The writer was alarmed at the progress of the Church wondering about the source of its amazing growth. He pointed out that the many “evangelical sects,” as he called them, were not “organized” or “centralized” at all. I am certain that as a secular humanist, he wouldn’t believe that each one of these success stories was being orchestrated by Jesus Christ, the Solid Rock Himself.
What is happening? It is His Church without walls, without central government, moving in His authority and power to see supernatural miracles and conversions happening at an unprecedented rate.
Isn’t it interesting that the weaker we are in terms of finances, political power, central government or ability to move forward through self effort, the more we rely on Him, the true source of Kingdom power and advancement?
It is no secret that the Church in developing nations is advancing rapidly. The Lord is filling the earth with the knowledge of His glory. (See Habakkuk 2:14) But in North America and Europe, the historical strongholds of the faith, many people have been inoculated against the Church because they have seen the sins and the failures that arise when the Church turns into an institutionalized political system, and they have rejected that.
Many people have criticized the fact that there are so many hundreds of different denominations in the US and Canada alone. But I often wonder if God has allowed it to happen in order to weaken our political, organizational and financial power so that we will return to prayerfully depending upon Him. Thankfully there is hope. Things are changing. I believe that God is decentralizing the Church.
This is no cause for alarm, but rather rejoicing. He has not withdrawn His promise to any Christian that each one can move in His anointing and power to bring the Kingdom of God to people. Here in Toronto, we are a comparatively small movement without denominational organization and backing, yet over four million people have experienced revival here because their hunger for God has superceded the need to feel safe within the parameters of a well-known denomination.
Why is this? Hungry people understand that it is not the structure or the organization that causes the growth and advancement of the Kingdom, but it is in a personal relationship with the living Jesus Christ, the true Rock of Ages. We need to hide ourselves in Him. If we are in Him, we are Christians; and the very word, “Christian,” means “little anointed one.”
So what is every Christian’s role? To disciple and equip others to be Christians, to be partakers in His anointing. One of my favorite scriptures is John 14:12. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Most assuredly, the anointing to minister is given to every believer. All of us can be “little anointed ones” carrying God’s Kingdom wherever we go to whomever we meet. This is the real Church He intended, His Church, His body of called out ones, moving in His anointing and power. And indeed, this is the phenomenon that is now sweeping the world.
So how does this work then? Seemingly, the Holy Spirit has no problem coordinating hundreds and thousands of different individuals and congregations for His eternal purposes. Things really do work much better when Jesus Himself is the head. Once we understand that there is not to be only one or two who represent Christ as His vicars on earth, but in fact, every believer is to be His representative, we will each more clearly demonstrate Jesus to a needy world.
We are a Kingdom of kings and priests.
We relate directly to King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We pray directly to Him. We hear His word directly to us and are each His divinely appointed ambassadors. This is not to say that there are not offices in the local churches of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. However, these are not titles, but functions. These are servant leaders who equip others to also become anointed ones. How often we have interpreted these ministries to be hierarchical positions. And notice how the more we grow with political and financial power, the less dependent we become on Him.
While we are becoming more dependent on Him, we must learn to live as peaceably as we can with the diversity of movements and denominations that we now have in body of Christ. Amazingly, most of them stand firmly and agree on the essentials of Christian faith established in the Word of God. But we must also be free to run with that fresh “new thing” that God is saying to us. Without first having to change the traditional paradigms of staid leaders.
Look once again at China, Africa and Latin America. In China every day, it is estimated that thirty thousand new believers are added to the Church. How is this possible? Because the Church is underground and decentralized, the few cannot tell the many what to do. I recently heard a report of a young Chinese girl, seventeen years of age, who pastors a church of 20,000 people. How is this possible? There is no central system to tell her ‘no’ because she is female or too young, or not trained well enough, so she simply obeys the direction of Holy Spirit who brings her instructions from Christ the Head.
Another amazing success story comes the church in Nigeria where a group of doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects decided to plant independent churches. There was no one to tell them “non” because they did not have the proper theological education. (See Peter Wagner’s new book, Out of Africa.)
It is time for those of us who live in the West to take a reality check. Church as we know it is not really working here. Many of the so-called “success stories” of church growth are merely transfer growth, people who are already Christians moving to a new church. We need some new models for having church which allow ordinary “lay people” to easily and quickly get involved in ministry.
Somehow the point of entry into ministry has become too difficult throughout the centuries. It is so different from the way Jesus equipped His followers. He first took twelve, and then 70 willing men and women, trained them enough in one year to start sending them out into the surrounding territory to spread the news of the Kingdom of Heaven. They ministered very effectively and came back rejoicing that many healings were taking place, and even demons were subject unto them. (Luke 10) After one to two years of equipping, those fisherman and tax collectors who were considered uneducated and untrained, began changing their world with the power of God.
This is what is changing Africa, China and Latin America today. In Mozambique, Africa, under Rolland and Heidi Baker’s ministry, relatively new converts eagerly receive a minimal amount of training and are then sent out to plant churches. And it is working. They have planted over 6,000 churches in a four year period of time. I suppose someone forgot to tell Heidi that women can’t be in the ministry!
I believe the vision God gave us here in Toronto for Soaking Prayer Centers all over the world is a great response to the Great Commission. In just over one year, we have had over 4,000 people order our “Soaking Kit” and begin a small group of “called out ones” in their homes. They span forty-two nations around the world.
Why the interest? Because it is a quick, simple way to get involved in the supernatural ministry of Jesus and start helping people receive healing, deliverance and freedom, to come into the joy of the Lord and be filled with the Spirit. The Soaking Kit includes all the basic information you need to start your own “soaking center” in your home or business.
The motivation of each group is so pure. It is no longer necessary to obtain an expensive facility. Nor is it about the leader using the anointing to have a salary or to make a career move.
And it is not about title or turf. It’s an opportunity to care, serve and be involved in bringing the Kingdom of God to the broken, the hungry and the thirsty. I believe we will see thousands more of these Soaking Prayer Centers spring up in every nation of the world. Hundreds of willing servants are responding to the discipleship call of Jesus to go and make disciples of all the nations.
This is church without walls.
Why don’t you start one? The Church’s finest hour is upon us. Don’t disqualify yourself any more. Stop listening to people telling you that you can’t. Jesus is saying you can, and I am telling you that you can. Follow your desire as a “little anointed one” who carries Jesus’ love and power and just go for it. Just do it!
This archived article was written by John Arnott for release in Aug, 2004. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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