Chapter 28: The City Church
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
IT is not hard to establish in the Bible that God’s Desire seems to be that there be but one Church in any given city. Not one on every street corner. Nowhere in the Scriptures does more than one “local church government” exist in any given city. While I could develop this point Biblically, I am much more inclined to ask you, “What would Jesus, our Messiah, desire? Separation? Division? Ambition? A contradictory Testimony to the community?” I think, in our hearts, we know the damage that has been done by the little parallel “kingdoms.”
God said clearly that the way all men would know that we are His, is by visible, supernatural love that we exhibit towards one another. Now, doesn’t it seem silly that each of us would be earnestly desiring to do God’s Will and yet be living in an environment in our cities that contradicts the “this is how all men will know”?
Now, I realize that, although some of these groups that we find on the different street corners were indeed started out of ambition or division (“We’re the only ones with pure doctrine,” etc.), others were genuine in their desire to do God’s Will. They longed to serve Him together in a higher way than would be tolerated by the moribund religious group that they had left. Others have begun “additional churches” in a city because they simply desired to obey the “Great Commission” (and felt as if other groups in the city were not doing a satisfactory job of the work).
After we agree with God that Oneness is His desire and we commit to obey Him in tearing down obstacles of fear, sin, pride, ambition, and prejudice, there still is a large obstacle to “one church per city.” The obstacle is this: We can’t simply subject ourselves to the “lowest common denominator” approach. We cannot just say: “Everyone who calls themselves a christian…we’ll all be one from now on.” To accept things that Jesus does not accept is to deny His Lordship.
“But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.”
“The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.”
What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?…
As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.
It is abundantly clear that it is not God’s desire to have compromise be the ingredient that we all submit to in order to “unite” His People. No! If not compromise, then what will draw His Holy Nation, all of His People, into the Testimony of Oneness to which He has called us, in every city and around the world? How will a glorious, beautiful church that “has made herself ready for the Return of Christ” emerge from the rubble of the fragmented mixture that wears our Lord’s Name in most every city?
It was the passion of our King and Brother, Jesus, to see all of His People ONE in the midst of “all men” — our communities. Do His Zeal and Priorities really live within us and consume us so that we have the same passionate desire as Jesus to be ONE?
How could it ever happen that we could unite? If not compromise, then what?!
Jesus answered…and demonstrated the answer.
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the Glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
We cannot possibly unite on the basis of the “lowest common denominator” approach. Yet that Oneness that God desires will be possible as we see God pouring out His Glory once again. His Glory will melt the fears and the misgivings and misunderstandings. God pouring out His Glory once again will cause those that love the dark mist of self‑will and self‑indulgence to flee (John 3:19-21). “Like Jannes and Jambres…their folly will be evident to all.”
He’ll deluge us with His Shekinah Glory and bring us to a unity that is visible, rather than imaginary. Not just a “worldly” religious counterfeit of Glory for which the wicked and adulterous generations drool. The world will see His Glory in the Agape that is expressed in our surrender to the Cross for others (John 13:34‑35). We’ll see His Glory displayed also in the presents of His Presence (Eph.4:11‑13). As before, He will manifest His Love and Compassion amongst the poor.
And we’ll be one. Like…
Two called “apostles” that, prior to meeting Jesus, had insurmountable differences:
Matthew: the repulsive “tax collector” — considered a “Benedict Arnold” by his Jewish countrymen. He collected Roman taxes and extorted money from his own people as an occupation.
Simon “the Zealot”: revolutionary Jew, bent on vengeance towards the Romans and their puppets — such as the “tax collectors.”
In principle, two sworn enemies. Standing before Jesus, the Christ, those differences didn’t really seem to matter much. There is no record of Matthew and Simon reaching any political detente. It was just that something much bigger than their finite minds could contain was now enveloping them and then melting them together. The full expanse of the Love of God was shining on them together. The radiance of God was now shining “the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ.” All questions were answered in the manifestation and personification of Truth and Love: Jesus Christ, “who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Jesus is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” When we’ve truly met Jesus, the Anointed One of God, foolishness melts, wounds are made whole, and darkness is exposed and driven out. And we are made One. May God pour out His Glory once again for the sake of His Beloved Son.
The Father brought Oneness in Caesarea, not by debate or compromise, but by His Glory (Acts 10:1‑11:18, 11:17). He brought Oneness in the face of tremendous doctrinal difficulties, not by perpetual argumentation, but by the testimony of His Glory revealed (Acts 15:12).
In our day, it will require all three of these things to see God’s Purposes (in making us as One Body, to demonstrate His Love and Power) accomplished:
“there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
2. And the willingness to live in the Light together — the Light of exposure and humility and holiness (John 3:19‑21; 2Thes.2:10‑12; John 10:4‑5). We can never have true fellowship with one another and “Him who is from the Beginning” as long as sin remains hidden in our closets, and defensiveness, fear, and distance (hypocrisy) remain between us:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
There must be the confession of, and the dealing with, sin in our assemblies. Not just some great “worship time” and skirting the real issues. Not just “preaching sermons” about it, hoping that the guilty will straighten up. Real dealing with it! With people, by name, as Jesus and Paul and John did. If we will not do this, the rest is, according to God, hopeless.
“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone who calls himself a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater [‘devoted to any object or hobby or pursuit that has more sway in one’s life than seeking God’s Kingdom and Purposes day to day’], or a reviler [‘foul tongue, railing, abusive, slandering’], or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.
“For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person.”
As another example (if that is even necessary after such clear teaching from God):
Joshua 7:4-6, 10‑15
So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.
So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.
“Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the idol from among you.
‘In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”
God’s People were bent on victory — but God allowed them to be crushed by inferior adversaries because of hidden sin “in the Church.” No matter what other good things we might do, we can not prosper in our desire to possess God’s Promises as long as we allow idols to be hidden inside the camp.
Now I’ll grant you that in the majority of religious organizations today it is not practical or even possible to obey God and “get the leaven out of the batch” without a legalistic witch hunt, probably executed by the worst of the lot. In a “certain time at a certain place” kind of religious body, error-prone, hypocritical legalism is the only alternative to the normal practice (blatant disobedience to God’s Command to “get the leaven out of the batch”). Unfortunately, in a faulty religious institutional environment, we’ll tend to cut off the weak and keep the impostors.
But guess what?! When His Church is again an “organism,” rather than an “organization,” it is amazing how effective God’s Ways are! Do you realize the power and depth of relationship that men and women had in the early church? Even the weakest congregation of the Church of Jesus in the Bible had something that most of today’s world hasn’t come anywhere near to experiencing. Today in the churches “more sophisticated” than Corinth, such a thing as refusing to eat with a man would be scoffed at, and would be totally ineffective even if it were carried out as God said. Yet even in a weak church (built on the right Foundation) the relationships were so deep that just this refusal of God’s People to eat with a man drove him to his knees, and back to God. Would that happen where you are? I really want it to be so, and I know that you do, too. And, of course, it would please our Father very much if His children were so close to one another.
How would you describe the depth and reality of your corporate Life? Are you all truly “joined and knit together by every supporting ligament?” If not, you can never be the Testimony of Jesus on earth that He means you to be. You’ll be handcuffed. We can never show the world that we are His disciples without showing them how we love one another. Jesus is still saying: “THIS is how all men will know….” And without that depth of relationship that allows us to get intimately involved with one another’s struggles, we can never obey God and, in love, “get the leaven out of the batch.” If we cannot deal with the leaven, according to God Himself, we will all be leavened and the batch (church) ruined because the leaven remains.
God’s principle from the Garden to Eternity (Genesis 3:23; Rev.21:27) and everywhere in between (Numbers 25:6‑13, Psa. 106:28‑31; 1Cor.5:6‑13; 2Cor.6:17) is the same: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Get the leaven out of the batch.” You’ll not be able to bypass this point and know God’s Life.
The Life of our Lord, our “Pioneer,” is described by the Father this way:
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
What is the “therefore” referring to? Why did God anoint Jesus? Because He “loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” You live that way too, OK? Join your Lord!
3. And, beyond all of that, the Father will answer the prayer of His Beloved Son and fuse us together: By the GLORY of God revealed! Nothing in Heaven or on earth can bring us together, truly, short of God’s GLORY being poured out over the face of the earth. And He will do it. Jesus doesn’t have unanswered prayers. Amen.
“I have given them the Glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Live for the pouring out of that Glory once again. Live for the day that God tears down the walls in the Denomi‑nations in the same astounding “overnight” way as the walls of the nations have crumbled in the eastern bloc in the past few months (1989, 1990)! As the immovable Berlin Wall was dismantled virtually overnight…as the day of Pentecost brought masses of dozens of nations together under one Head in but a few minutes…so also will God destroy the dividing walls amongst those who seek Him with pure hearts. Live for the day that in every city the Testimony would be clear: “When you’ve seen Gary, you’ve seen me.” “When you’ve seen Linda, you’ve seen me.” One church, if even with mega‑thousands, in a locale. No more franchises of someone’s dream, genius, and flair. Unless it is that of Jesus alone!
Dare we settle for anything less than the heart‑cry of our Messiah? Forget the details and the “practical issues” — God will just have to show us how to work them out. But we’ll not lower the call of God in order to accommodate our lack of wisdom about “how” it could be. Sons of Abraham have the heart of Abraham when it comes to facing the “impossible”:
“Abraham is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’
“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
How badly do you want what God wants — a Testimony of Oneness in your city? Please don’t see all of this as an “optional extra” — like the monogram of your initials on your Bible. “That’s nice for you, if you want to do that.” Value to the point of death what God prizes, what Jesus fervently prayed for, and what He was willing to die for. Once again the “dividing wall of hostility” must come down! Is anything else “Christian?”
81 Not even many churches that are theoretically “one” because the Pastors all get together regularly. ONE church. Really! Back
82 Ezekiel 16:25. Back
83 John 13:34‑35. Back
84 Proverbs 29:18. Back
85 1Corinthians 5:6‑13, 2Corinthians 2:6‑8, 7:8‑11. Back
86 Because this is such a widespread difficulty for people, I’ll make a point (for those who are wondering) about Matthew 13:24‑43, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (weeds). Someone started the rumor that because of this parable, 1Cor.5:6‑13 mustn’t be obeyed. This is a huge problem. For us to call ourselves Christians and not obey God is a contradiction to the extreme! “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” We must obey 1Cor.5, which commands us to remove those who will not bow their knee to Jesus, in their every day lives, from the church. There are no choices.
So how does the parable of the wheat and the tares fit in? First, check your motives for not wanting to get leaven out of the batch. (Are you that leaven? Or, are you fearful to deal with others because you “love the praise of men more than the praise of God” and don’t want people to get upset with you?) Second, the “field” in which the weeds (that we cannot uproot) are sown is not “the Church.” According to Jesus, “the field is the WORLD,” not the Church (verse 38). In other words, it is not a “social utopia” on planet earth that we are after. The “enemy” has sown weeds on God’s earth in order to choke God’s Sons (Mat.13:22) and make them unfruitful. The “field” that we cannot remove all of the weeds from until the “end of the age” is, according to Jesus, “the WORLD.” Not the Church. “IN the world, but not OF it.” In the Church, we MUST do what God commanded and “get the leaven out of the batch.” We are not His Church if we will not do what He says (John 14:15; Acts 3:23; Rev.2:5, 3:16).
James 4:4“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”Back