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The Glocal Church II

In my previous entry I discussed the secular dimensions of what I see as the next great revolution of our generation and how it is reshaping our definition of locality. My argument was that technological advancements in the realms of communication and transportation have affectively made the world a smaller place...and since locality is primarily about accessibility, as our accessibility increases our local spheres of influence and relationship also increase!

In this post I'd like to discuss a primary spiritual dimension of this next great revolution. My argument is simple: church is about to change! In fact, the transition has already begun, and if we are to catch the wave of the next great move of God we must shift our hearts and minds into alignment with what God is doing in the body of Christ!

So what is God up to, and how will it change the way we do church? From my perspective the answer to that question is found in Malachi 4:5-6.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

We have entered into the season in which God is releasing the spirit of Elijah within the body of Christ, and the role of the spirit of Elijah is to return the spirit of fatherhood and sonship to the body of Christ. God is removing the curse of fatherless from the earth by causing there to be a turning of the hearts of fathers toward their children, and the hearts of children towards their fathers. Where this does not take place, a curse remains on the land.

To state this clearly, God is reviving the role of the spiritual father in the body of Christ, and in doing so he is teaching us how to become his children, and how to become mature sons and daughters of God! This is the great revolution that is just now beginning to break forth in the body of Christ that corresponds to the social revolution that is happening in the world. Together, these two great movements will completely transform the way we see church, the way we see our role in the kingdom of God, and the way we grow in our relationships with each other and with God.

However, when I say this this movement is just now beginning I do not mean that people are just now beginning to speak of the realities of spiritual fatherhood and sonship. In fact, the concepts are as old as the body of Christ itself. Paul referred to Timothy as his true son in the faith, and in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy the concept of the spiritual father has always remained strong. However, Luther and the reformers threw it out because Jesus said that we should call no man father. The result has been an overly individualized form of Christian spirituality that has pervaded the Protestant world, manifesting itself most prominently in the tens of thousands of denominational entities that have cropped up since the reformation.

Yet, even in the past 100 years talk of spiritual fatherhood has begun to creep up in Protestant circles as many evangelicals (especially pentecostal-charismatics) have begun to sense the presence of this reality and have sought to trace its contours.

But the nature of spiritual fatherhood and sonship -- what it really means -- has yet to be adequately articulated and understood within these circles. We've known about it for a long time, but we're just now beginning to understand it. The next step is that we actually begin to practice it!

In the next move of God pastors will begin to see themselves as the spiritual fathers of their congregations and church members will begin to see themselves as the sons and daughters of their respective houses. The result will be an increase in the authority of the set man to bring freedom to the hearts and minds of the sons and daughters of the house and an ability to pass down the things that God reveals from one generation to the next (see Deuteronomy 29:29).

This will change the way we see and do church because what we will look for will be completely different from what we have looked for. The concept of the local church is a spacial concept and it is dependent upon transportational and communicational restrictions. But what will happen as those restrictions are being alleviated by technological advancement is that people will no longer look for a church in their region to join, but will join themselves to the man or woman of God who gives birth to them through their teaching. Sons and daughters are born through teaching, just as we are all born again through the incorruptible seed of the word of God which lives and endures forever (1 Peter 1:23).

This shift in my thinking has taken place gradually over the past few years, but has hit its tipping in just the past 6 months, and it was my experience with the Bermudez family in Oklahoma that brought my thinking on this subject to its present place of clarity. Rene and Naomi Bermudez live in Oklahoma just outside of Tulsa. Through a series of events, Rene discovered a couple of my sermons on youtube and was blessed by them. He them shared them with his wife, who was also blessed. Then he discovered Living Hope's website (one of the two churches that I pastor) and my podcast there and began listening to sermon after sermon with his wife. Then he discovered my blog and facebook fanpage and began digesting everything I communicated there. Finally, he discovered that Living Hope live-streams all of its services and began gathering his family around their computer to participate in our services from Oklahoma.

At the time Rene contacted me he and his family had already been following our ministry for three months. They listened to every sermon, read every blog post and every facebook status update, participated in every service. The only thing they were missing was a connection to the community. Rene finally contacted me with a request that confronted me with a hole in my paradigm: "Can we become members of Living Hope from Oklahoma?" I didn't know what to say; that request didn't fit into my paradigm...so I told him I'd have to pray about it and get back to him.

But how could I turn him and his family away? I had this sense that they had been born into my house through the teaching they had received! I was now responsible for this family just as I am responsible for the teaching. But how could I receive them? They are in Oklahoma, for God's sake! How could they be a part of the community from Oklahoma?!?

Then I realized that the technological advancements in the realm of communication had already begun to answer that question. One of the most powerful community builders that Living Hope has is a facebook members group. As soon as we receive people into membership we add them to that online community, and the interactions that happen there are nothing short of amazing! When someone feels down, they let the group know and the members encourage one another right there on the wall! So much love, so much care, so much encouragement is communicated there, it causes me to marvel!

So we accepted the Bermudez family and livestreamed them into the next membership course. We gave them a Barnabas Partner (I ministry we created to help integrate people into the life of the house) and introduced them to the body. We welcomed them into membership along with the others who went through the process, and then added them to the facebook group. The result is that they are more connected to the life of the house than some people who live around the corner! The community loves them and they love the community! In fact, they are so interactive in the facebook group that someone invited them to their home for dinner, thinking they lived nearby!

How is it that a family in Oklahoma watching a computer screen can be more connected to the life of a church than people who live around the corner from it? Because the life of a church is not regional life, it is spiritual life, and the Spirit transcends space and time. Where the life of the Spirit is imparted between a spiritual father and a spiritual son, there we have a manifestation of "church" that is more family oriented than regionally oriented. The idea behind the local church is that family and community can only happen within a particular locale. This is not true even in the natural! When I moved from the Bay Area to Pasadena to go to Fuller Seminary my parents did not say, "Its been great having you as a Robinson, but now your first priority in Pasadena is to find a new family to be a part of." No, I was always a son of Peter and Diane Robinson, and that sonship has never been a spacial phenomenon. So why do we send off church members to new cities and instruct them to find a new spiritual family? Because our concept of the local church is communal, but not familial. When you are a son, you are a son, and that transcends location.  And how do I know who my sons are? My sons are those who receive my teaching! And my spiritual father is the one whose teaching I receive as a son. Wherever this occurs in the world, we've just begun to experience church the way God intends it in the days to come. Locality, from this perspective, is a spiritual phenomenon, not a regional phenomenon.

In the next post I want to flesh out spiritual fatherhood and sonship with greater detail in order to reach for greater clarity on this all-important reality! Thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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Author: admin
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  1. PB I loved reading this blog and it has brought so much clarity where Jesus is taking His church!

    It's interesting that you've been thinking how we come to understand membership in a house. I told you at Thursday Thunder months ago ever since I went to the Abba Conference in 2011, I've been blessed by your podcasts and it has been a catalyst to great revelation in my life. I would ask myself has PB become a spiritual father to me even though I'm not physically present at his church? God brought me to the same conclusion that this is a spiritual matter and the real sons are the ones who receive the Father's teaching.

    Can't wait for greater clarity on fatherhood and sonship!

  2. Yes Chris! Its a completely new way of thinking for all of us, and God is doing it even faster than we are comfortable with. But the key to understanding parenthood in general is that when it happens, it happens...and you are responsible at that moment! Much love!

  3. Every time I try to write something on this post, my eyes swell up. It's worse when my wife Naomi is around. Truth is, I'm lost for words. I've never been a spiritual son let alone a father. I'm in love with Christ and the church He's called us to serve. I've been learning in Satellite school that a son knows his father, somehow I knew, from the start that PB would be my father. It's hard to hold my emotions even while I respond to this post.

  4. The familial model is crucial grounds for evangelism to those who see the "church gathering" as an outdated form of Christianity. Being a part of a family leads a person to desire gathering. People are empowered in the context of family.