In church, as in all things relationship trumps geography or in this case, the city church concept. This could be a small business success white paper or this could be a marriage and dating advice column the answer would still be the same. Relationship will always trump geography. Everyday people drive past many restaurants to get to the one where the waitress treats them right. Likewise, when a Navy wife is in love and her husband goes out to sea she can be surrounded by hundreds of other men and she will not see them. So it is with the church the Lord is building: love, not geography is the glue that is bringing it together.
Relationships and The City Church Concept
For years I pressed for the existence of the City Church and City elders only to see the Lord bring it crumbling down time after time like a house of cards. We thought like men and said let’s bring together the pastors of the large congregations. Surely, they must be the fathers of the city. What we found was the larger the congregation, the least participatory and real the pastor of the church was toward citywide unity.
The problem was that we didn’t really love each other. We were too busy posturing ourselves and playing to the crowds so we could be seen as fathers of the city. We prayed. We did citywide events
** until the cows came home, but we were not one in Him relationally. Sure, we quoted Bible verses about unity and brought in citywide unity experts to teach how to do it, but nothing would work and nothing would last.
Isa. 26:18 We have been with child, we have been in pain; We have, as it were, brought forth wind; We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth, Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen. NKJV Could it be we are trying to build something that God is not building? Can it be that our problem is we are trying to focus on our mutual geography as the reason why we should work together? Think about this: together geographically is not united relationally. The first disciples didn’t wait ten days in the upper room on a haphazard and whimsical God to arbitrarily send the Holy Spirit. Could it be that something had to happen IN and among them before anything could be imparted ON them?
History of Community
Community must exist before we can take cities and regions in His Name. In the first century, community was generally limited to as far as you could walk. This was followed by circuit riders or men on horseback. Then with the advent of the steam engine, railroad trains and ships became the carriers of the Lord’s sent ones. They were the first to connect the US and England with places like India and Africa and community grew as a result. In the last decades, we have seen the value of the airplane and Jet flight related to the expansion of the Gospel. This mode of transportation made room for relatively unknown men and women in their home towns to build huge works overseas. Again, Community had to be redefined.
Now, in the 21st century, with the expansion of the internet and technology, Community has to once again be redefined. Since love, not right doctrine is what unites His Body relationships are now being formed regardless of distance or geography through the use of these modern technologies.
Community in the 21st century must be redefined to provide for the possibility that we now have the means to create a platform which provides for the biblical existence of ONE global family (His Body). Are we changing the gospel? No! Not anymore than when the Guttenberg press was invented in 1452 which put a Bible in the hands of all believers. We are simply taking advantage of the tools the Lord is providing.
Doesn’t God care about cities? Isn’t most of the New Testament written to cities? Yes, but God cares for people not arbitrary (and contended) human created lines of division.
The Jurisdictional Nightmare
A popular word in this mess is the word jurisdiction. The dictionary defines jurisdiction as
The official power to make legal decisions and judgments. The other part of the coin in this geographical confusion is that those that have the jurisdiction have to have a position as legal representative. Who decides who will represent a people? What gives them the right to that position? Their title? Their location? The size of their congregation? We have as many bishops and apostles in my city as we have real disciples. That is what I call a jurisdictional joke!
As the body of Christ matures, positional authority (flashing your title like a policeman flashes his badge) is on the decline. The Body of Christ has been abused and burned by many charlatans and Jesus peddlers. His people are beginning to properly discern between worldly measurements of success and the true weight in the Spirit of a godly servant.
Any leader who is truly mature in the Kingdom, understands that the only time we really can have an effect on the Lord’s sheep is when we love them the way He does. The Father sent the Son and although as God He could have demanded positional respect and rights from His creation, He chose to humble Himself and serve mankind relationally. Should His people and especially His leaders do anything less?
Phil 2:5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death. Message Bible 21st Century Relationships
In the last few years with the help of internet technologies I have been blessed to participate in some beautiful, God-ordained relationships. I have come to love some people who I may never see face to face. Thanks to Skype and Facebook we have not only kept in touch but we have mourned our lows and celebrated our highs together. They know my heart and I know theirs. I would trust them with my life and I know the feeling is mutual. I have come relationally closer to them than to some brothers I see every day. Are they part of my community? Are they part of my church family? I feel a resounding yes in my spirit. Relationships are what you make of them. To those that know the value of real relationships in the Kingdom, there are no limits and no boundaries that can keep us away from each other. Distance simply does not matter. I am not saying I don’t long to hug them in the Lord. God knows I do!
Why make all this big deal with relationships you ask? Because we who have built on the sands of the religious system have chosen to not waste one more second of time or one more cent of the Lord’s resources. When the power of relationships is allowed to surface, theological debates and pet doctrines leave the table and division literally has no place to exist. That which has been dividing, weakening and conquering the Lord’s people for millennia is flushed appropriately and love abounds to build His Church.
I can state with all assurance that the Lord is building His church by love. I am not talking about the Sunday morning watered down local version. I am talking about relationships formed and shaped in the fires of life together. I am talking about relationships that can withstand a society on the move: changing jobs, accepting transfers, changing homes and addresses, changing phones and emails, changing partners and spouses. Surely the Lord’s church is not chained to human geographical lines nor has all this change caught our Lord by surprise. Let’s face it, the 21st century is about change and only true relationships will ultimately be able to withstand that change.
Are we throwing out the idea of local congregations? No! We are warning the Body that the influence of the local church and human ideas of membership are a thing of the past. We are also advising His Body that the Kingdom of God is not political or American, It is totally other. We are stating that the Lord’s Church today is being built beyond first century concepts of community. Do we have all the answers? No! We are likewise on a journey and are just voicing what we believe the Spirit is saying to His Church at this time.