BLESSINGS AND PROBLEMS
IN A SMALL CHURCH
Principles and Logistics
The New Covenant Church is both young and small. At the time of writing it is just three years old and has a membership of less than fifty souls, most of whom are located in just one country. And yet it has a theological and practical development which far outranks any other church that has existed for a comparible period of time, having a complicated yet harmonious structure designed to cater for all kinds of people, a scriptural canon that has mushroomed with several new books of scripture coming forth including some 525 modern revelations on practically every aspect of life (both past, present and future), and a vision of the Kingdom of God that at present far exceeds its ability (in human terms) to realise it. Moreover, its code of discipline is so strict that many of its members have already departed. What, then, is the future of so strange and unique a Church? There is one thing that is for sure: were it to rely on its own (human) strength it would utterly collapse. But the New Covenant Church is not a human invention -- it is a Restoration and Reformation made at the command of God and sustained by Him. Without Him it is nothing, doomed to the ash-heap of history. But with Him, despite its present microscopic size, it is destined to achieve great things.
I remember witnessing in Bergen a couple of years ago when a man told me that he would join our Church when it was a little bigger. In fact, I've heard several people say that. And there are several reasons why they said this, not least because of a lack of faith. Without a doubt membership in this Church requires a tremendous faith, not in the Church's ability to fulfill its commissions, but in God's ability to do so through willing, obedient people. To be a member of this Church requires a tremendous faith in Almighty God.
The New Covenant has a key role to play in prophetic history and so important is it that I don't think that even its members have begun to grasp the tiniest particle of its mission. And why is that? Because they are still thinking after the flesh and not after the Spirit of God (Matthew 19:26). Having said that it is important to confess that we as a people are still "fleshy" and it would be an error not to take this into consideration in any equation of the Church's course in the immediate future.
So what is the situation in the Church today? Is it strong enough to bear the weight of playing the key role in prophetic history that we claim it to have? The answer must be that though New Covenant Christians struggle under many burdens, God, by His grace, is preparing us here in Norway (and soon, hopefully, elsewhere) in ways both obvious and not so obvious, for the tasks that have fallen to us, will certainly fall to us eventually.
Spiritually Underdeveloped Countries
Whether people like it or not, the world is spiritually underdeveloped, and that includes Norway where this Church is currently based, as well as countries like Denmark and Great Britain where this work is being prosecuted. Despite a Christian past and despite very real developments socially and politically when compared against the periods of history that have preceded our own, when compared against the holiness of the City of Zion, the world is third rate. The importance of a first rate Holy City becomes all the more imperative.
Perhaps I can use an economic illustration to convey what I mean. The thing about economically underdeveloped countries, beside the obvious fact of low income levels (which too has its spiritual analogy), is that they lack a good economic infrastructure. The grocery store runs out of staples because of inadequate transport; electricity is supplied to only half of the country, with power-cuts occurring often; traffic signals are rare and often not working due to the unavilability of spare parts and competent repairmen; business skills, especially in management, are lacking.
A similar thing happens spiritually. Countries with many believers in a particular denomination and a long history of belief in Christ (such as in England or Norway) have a well-developed spiritual infrastructure. In the case of the Church of England (in the UK) and the Lutheran Church (in Norway) there are churches on every other street corner. Schools, seminaries, Bible camps and counselling centres abound. The Gospel (in the parts of these Churches that are evangelistic) the Gospel is proclaimed to old and young, rich and poor, athletes and handicapped, business men and street people. Tens of thousands of books based on Christian teachings can be bought in easily accessible religious bookstores or borrowed from well-stocked libraries. Above all, there are well-trained, experienced pastors and leaders.
Most large Christian churches take these things for granted, but we in the New Covenant Church have virtually none of them. Whilst we can avail ourselves of some of these Christian ministries (where they overlap with our own calling) for the most part we cannot because we have a different mission. It is true that for our size we have an enormous output of literature and in this we are truly blessed (most members, I think, could honestly say they have not read everything printed in their own language, and that would suggest that we are sufficient in this area to a certain degree) but where we truly lack is in experience. The last three years has seen us devoting enormous energies to learning our way through the revelations and implementing them in our lives, at least in some rudimentary form. It has also seen us desperately trying to train up a priesthood to be ministers for the larger numbers of people who will come to us in the future. This has been particularly difficult because most people are not willing to change, at least not without a fight, and this has often led to conflict situations. Unlike Noah who had a hundred years to construct his ark and gather in the animals, we live under a much tighter schedule.
Economies of Scale
"Economies of Scale" refers to advantages that accrue to a large enterprise simply because of its size. Our congregations are tiny, and for this reason we do not have economies of scale. A typical protestant church in America with a thousand people drawing on its membership for counselors, teachers, bus-drivers and janitors can still have plenty of troops left to participate in prayer meetings, evangalise, sing in the choir and organise potlucks. But a little Mission or local Colony of the New Covenant Church with from two to twenty souls carrying on a comparible range of activities lives in a constant state of exhaustion. Everyone in a small congregation is hard pressed just to maintain the group's ongoing existence. And any new plan or revelation that requires an output of energy can be met with groans! It can be very depressing. On the other hand, it can be richly rewarding, as we shall see.
The Necessity of Conferences
With so few members, it becomes vital for the people to fellowship together as a whole and so long as we are small the General Conference will take on added significance. But gathering once a year is not enough, even if this presses are already strained economies, for it is really a choice between the Kingdom and no Kingdom. Characteristic of all newly founded Restorations is the need for sacrifice.
The Necessity of Sacrifice
Without 100% committment and a willingness to sacrifice in all areas of life no new work of God can succeed. This one is no exception. Without the phenomenal sacrifices of the first apostles and disciples in the First Century there would be no Christianity. We owe what we have -- the foundation upon which we have built -- to the sacrifices of thousands who went before us, men and women who were even willing to lay down their lives for the Body. We therefore owe an enormous debt to Christians of the past and need to ask ourselves the question: what are we willing to do for the Christians of today and those who will come after us?
These are not, moreover, rhetorical questions but are very real, even though the vision of what we have been called to do is weak. We, as a tiny amount of leaven, have been called to not only leaven the whole loaf of Christendom but to do some very specific things. "Impossible!" someone might cry. "You're being hopelessly naive and unrealistic," another might proclaim. But is anything impossible for God? Is our adventure a human one, or a divine one?
I would like to give some specific advice to both members and investigators of this work as to how they should approach the whole problem/blessing (depending on your spiritual perspective) of the smallness of this Church. I would suggest that without considering these things there is no future for the Church, for unless its people march to the divine beat, chaos will reign and the enemy will easily pick us of, as he has already done with some members who have left the Church.
Steps to Realising the Church's Mission
I would suggest that the following are amongst the essential steps that each member must take if he or she is to play a meaningful role in the destiny of this work:
I recommend this as a good start. And remember not to allow human weakness to drag you down. This means you must lean on the arm of the Lord for everything. It is He who empowers us for the tasks that we are to do, not the arm of flesh. And learn this important lesson from early Israelite history about overcoming fear.
- 1. Receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and commit yourself to him 100% by being willing to find out through scripture study and prayer what He wants of you and by being obedient to every commandment. This includes repenting of every sin you are aware of, by making right every wrong you have in your power to do, including (most importantly) repairing broken relationships (where the other parties are willing to enter into dialogue and partake of the healing process);
- 2. Present yourself for service in the Church -- to your Pastors, and to the General Church. All of these are desperately hard-pressed. Most are making great sacrifices for the Body and getting little thanks or practical support. Show your love and support for them by asking them what you can do for the Body;
- 3. Seek for advice from those in authority in the Church to assist you with personal problems. Though they are certainly hard-pressed, they will never turn you away and will find great joy and satisfaction in talking, praying and practically helping you. The Body exists for you as much as you should exist for the Body. Come and talk.
- 4. Visit with other members and investigators both informally and in Church functions to build the bonds of friendship and love. It is only by frequent contact that trust and holiness can be built in a people. No man is an island. Be prepared to work with personality differences in the knowledge that everyone's personality is flawed and that God desires to mould all of us into new creatures. Treat everyone alike whether you "get on" with them or not. Living Christianity is learning to get on with everyone until we like those we don't like and love those we don't love. Let the Church family tie be stronger than any other ties -- blood ties, interest ties, clique ties -- otherwise the Church will factionalise and become even weaker.
- 5. Whatever your area of responsibility, whether earning an income or building a home, work hard at it. Give it your best. Learn to take pride in all you do and give glory to the Lord for it. Develop a positive attitude in life by being responsive to the needs of others before yourself. Live in the present and dream/hope/have faith in the future.
- 6. Witness.
I want you to recall the time when Moses sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). Only two -- Joshua and Caleb -- returned with good reports, encouraging the people to go in and conquer the land; but ten (that's 83% of the spies) had bad reports, describing the inhabitants as too strong to be defeated. As we know, the people believed the ten and refused to enter, even though God wanted them to. Why did they refuse? Think about it. They had a choice. They chose to cater to fear rather than faith. I am giving you a good report about the spiritual land of our inheritance, Zion. Go in and conquer it!
Learn this lesson also. The majority isn't always right, especially when it comes to prophetic matters where they lack the eye of faith and of vision. Democracy, which has become our western god, isn't necessarily the best solution to all problems. Look what people have democratically chosen for themselves in our world. So if 83% of the Church is murmuring about something, don't listen to the voice of fear but have faith in the promises of God. This means you must study His Word and rely on that, not on the weaknesses of men.
I say this because right now the Church is spiritually at its weakest and at its most strong. One party has chosen to doubt and fear but the rest have chosen to have faith and rejoice. If the doubting party doesn't change direction, then the Church's mission will be delayed further, just as the Israelite invasion of Canaan was postponed because the people believed the report of the ten and not the two. What will you choose to do?
We have enormous obstacles to overcome but they are only enormous to human flesh. To God they are nothing. When the Lord finds a faithful and believing people, He will open the floodgates of grace and you will see a mighty miracle being worked for the salvation of Zion.
Now is the time to act quickly for the redemption of the Church but in order to do this we need something of the awe of God that Paul expressed so magnificently in his letter to the Romans:
May this spirit be ours, brothers and sisters, for we have been called to serve in thre most worthy cause ever. Let us not sell our inheritance as Esau did for a poor bowel of the world's spiritual pottage!
O the depth of the riches
and the wisdom of the knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are His judgments!
How unsearchable are His ways!
For from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever!
Amen. (Romans 11:33, Jewish NT)
This page was created on 6 June 1998
Last updated on 6 June 1998
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