An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow
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The kingdom of heaven is like a net …
Do the followers of Jesus know how to make nets? Did Jesus teach a net-making vision? Yes! And Scripture provides the necessary information to fulfill Jesus’ vision!
The Net is an organizational vision for the church of tomorrow based on scriptural evidence of the vision Jesus may have had for the church—a vision that the church of today does not reflect.
Far from a dry approach to organizational issues, this book is both visionary and revelatory in nature. It is an essential perspective on organizational issues if we, as God’s fisher people, want to live out the words of Jesus’ parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a net . . .” (Matthew 13:47 NRSV)
Part I of The Net is devoted to the process of discovery. Through a series of visual illustrations, an organizational model is retrieved from Jesus’ boyhood tradition of law and applied to the miracle feeding of the 5,000. During the feeding of the 4,000, an important change to the traditional model is made through Jesus’ perspective on the laws of love. Hence, a new organizational vision is born through the teachings of Jesus – a vision of Law and Love. Part I also discusses organizational insight gained through some of the parables of Jesus, the opening words of Acts, and several visions in the book of Revelation.
Part II of The Net is devoted to the art of net-making as an organizational endeavor. Future net makers are encouraged to embrace the spiritual symbolism of a model rooted in Scripture. The concept of geographic netting is discussed, followed by ideas for constructing future nets. The concluding chapters of The Net invite all people to determine their spiritual willingness to become future net makers in the kingdom of God and to be aware of their own spiritual readiness to embark on the net-making vision.SEE EXCERPTS BELOW
THE NET: Contents Page
Excerpts from “The Net – An Organizational Vision of the Church of Tomorrow”
These are not ordinary times. The spiritual air is swirling. Shifting winds are causing uncertainty and bewilderment, which can be both frightening and exciting. Some people ask, “Why can’t things be the way they used to be?” Others whisper, “Thank God, things are changing!” To be certain, something is happening on a grand scale. As God’s people in the Christian faith tradition, we have many things to ponder. Will we fight against the spiritual gusts that push at us from differing directions, or will we allow our spirit to be carried to the place of God’s desire? Time will tell. Hopefully, many souls will feel the presence of God’s Spirit and submit without hesitation. For those who are willing to be carried along, God’s guiding hand is sure to provide the best way to travel! It is conceivable that this spiritual shift, perceived by so many people, is in its early stages with much stronger winds to come. The overall period of intense change could occur over many generations. In truth, significant transformations can take hundreds of years to complete. When all is said and done, however, I think history will look back on the present time and say, “God’s Spirit intervened in a powerful way. Radical change occurred.”
Prologue: The Winds of Change
Three concepts seem important to mention in preparation for the information in this book: (1) a transfiguration of the church is underway and irreversible, (2) we are entering a season when spiritual roots will deepen, and (3) the Bible may have more to teach us through a different lens. I’ve chosen to use the word transfiguration because it infers a change beyond what human effort could cause, manipulate, or imagine. The use of this term invokes the image of the transfigured Christ, which is my intention. At the time of the transfiguration, the disciples, who witnessed the phenomenon, described a change in Jesus’ clothing! “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3 New Revised Standard Version). In the same way, I believe that the church will be transfigured during this time of intense spiritual change. I believe she will appear newly clothed in a heavenly way as time unfolds. The clothing worn by the church is her image in the world—her dress. Thus, a transfiguration of the church would involve a change in the outward appearance of the church universal. Since the church is made up of God’s people, we should probably expect to see an adjustment in human activity—not a change of fleshly appearance—but a modification of direction, mission, language, organization, and discernment of time.
1: Feeding the Multitude
Jesus asked, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When the disciples found out, they said, “Five—and two fish” (Mark 6:38). Thus, the miracle begins with the nourishment that the disciples had. (For the purpose of this discussion our focus will remain on bread.) At this point in the story, symbolism begins to play an important role. Mark mentions that the disciples told the people to sit down on the green grass. While the color, green, may seem like an insignificant detail, the green grass indicates the presence of living, growing, fertile, vegetation. It’s one of those visual clues in the Bible that is full of spiritual implications. The shepherd-less people sat down on a living, growing surface—a spiritually fertile environment! The detail, gleaned through the lens of light, color, and image, foreshadows the multiplication of bread that was about to take place. Furthermore, Mark provides us with another exceptionally important detail. He reveals that the people sat in groups of 100s and 50s. We don’t know if Jesus initiated the grouping, or if the people chose to group themselves. Nevertheless, this numeric arrangement points directly to the ancient words in Scripture that illuminate The Net—the original organization of God’s people. The groupings of 100s and 50s reflect the tribal organization in the Sinai Desert during the Exodus. At this junction, therefore, we must leave the groups of 100s and 50s on the green grass, while we go back in time to the sacred stories of Jesus’ boyhood tradition. We will return to the miracle feeding after examining some key organizational factors within Judaic history. Let the flashback begin!
2: Feeding the Multitude, Again
As mentioned previously, the feeding of the 5,000 is often thought to be more important than the feeding of the 4,000. If Jesus was able to feed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread, why couldn’t he feed 4,000 people with seven loaves? Think about it! A smaller crowd . . . more bread! On the surface, the feeding of 4,000 just doesn’t seem as impressive as the feeding of 5,000. But perhaps Jesus wasn’t trying to impress anyone. Perhaps he was in the process of teaching something powerful—something that required two lessons rather than one! Perhaps the two feedings indicate an important aspect of growth, change, and spiritual fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose on earth. To comprehend the full value of his teachings, I suggest that the two feedings must be deemed inseparable. I’ve discovered, however, that the feeding of the 4,000 requires a greater depth of discernment regarding organizational issues. Let’s revisit the second miracle.
3. The Problem with Yeast
Jesus wasn’t feeding people with yeast-filled ideas. In fact, many times Jesus asked people to return to their homes in silence after they had been with him. Nevertheless, the leaders and rulers of Jesus’ day were obviously afraid of his growing popularity. Even though a physical overthrow of the social order was never intended, the authorities evidently believed that Jesus’ teachings could provide a pathway toward a militaristic uprising. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that the authorities of Jesus’ day began to fear his teachings and view his growing popularity as a potential threat. In truth, Jesus merely tried to empower individuals for personal good. He provided them with an organizational structure from his own faith tradition, and he taught a bread-passing method that could improve the lives of everyone in their communities. The organization of people was a grassroots effort designed to bring neighbors together for the good of their neighborhood—period. It was designed to help average people see a pathway toward a better life, in spite of their social status in the religious or secular landscape of their time. His teachings elevated those of low degree to the point of equality—not superiority! He taught personal empowerment for the collective good of society—not for the purpose of overthrowing their religious leaders or their secular governments. Jesus knew that the pathway toward spiritual wholeness and well being starts within the tribal community in which each individual is born. If The Net of 144 could supply spiritual nourishment to local tribe of 1,000s, then the whole of society would become healthier. Nevertheless, Jesus said, “Watch out.” Yeast is the one ingredient that could spoil the bread-filled miracle. And it did!
7: Geographic Netting
Another facet of net making is the art of casting, throwing, or spreading nets over a geographic area. Geographic netting is a basic concept—not entirely foreign to the institutional church. Local congregations have always sought to serve the needs of local communities. However, the institutional church sought to plant herself in a geographic area, build a house of worship, and call kindred spirits to assemble in the building. This model of attraction satisfied people in the past, but the model has ceased to be effective. It no longer works because it was built on insular thinking that fostered exclusivity. It was built by human beings who had no net-making desires. Therefore, the present institution doesn’t look like a net, nor does it model egalitarian thinking or the inclusive teachings of Jesus. In contrast to this model, The Net of 144 would not rely on buildings or call people to assemble in a particular building. Rather, she would cast herself outward as a spiritual covering over a specific area. The Net would openly disperse spiritual nourishment to a geographic area, instead of keeping the nourishment behind closed doors, through which people must walk, in order to be fed. The difference in vision does not imply that the church of tomorrow won’t gather together for worship. The difference only implies that worshiping and serving God does not require a building. Changing the organizational vision for the church of tomorrow begins by casting a single net in one tiny village, or one little town, or one small neighborhood. This chapter will discuss a big-picture perspective for geographic netting by first looking back in time to an ancient organizational model; then, looking forward in time to a possible future model.
8: Constructing a Net
Communicating the net-making vision will be challenging to say the least. It’s difficult to change people’s perceptions. However, understanding the depth of spirituality that under girds The Net of 144 may be the key to its acceptance. Ordinary people hold The Net of 144 together just like the 144 gold rings that held the ancient tabernacle together. Spiritually speaking, it could be said that each of the 144 people who serve in The Net, is an embellishment on the church’s bridal dress. This is her adornment, as she reflects the image of a bride who is dressed for her husband, in Revelation 21:1–2. Those who volunteer to represent their community of 1,000s may also want to learn about the original tabernacle and its spiritual presence for the tribes of 1,000s, 100s, 50s, and 10s. Such insight would naturally connect God’s people to the richness of their spiritual heritage, when volunteering to serve within The Net—a legacy that was first passed to Jesus; then, to us. The people who serve in The Net would also symbolize the 144 knots that tie The Net together. The knots could be thought of as embroidery on the church’s bridal dress. The knots are located at the intersection of each vertical and horizontal line in The Net. When each person chooses to represent a specific age group and a specific commandment, their focus on that particular aspect of ministry ties the knot at that intersection. Thus, every knot in The Net ties God’s Law to God’s people. A well-tied net is critical to the overall success of The Net.
10: The Work of the Church of Tomorrow
This particular parable also offers the church an ordered sequence of tasks that she is to undertake, at appointed times, during her homeward journey. In my opinion, the parable of the net embodies the work of the church as Jesus envisioned it happening over time. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they [fishermen] drew it to shore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous” (Matthew 13:47–49). We may not think about the passage of time when we read the parable of the net, but we should. The sequence of events within the parable transpires over a period of time. Although the duration of time is undisclosed, the words offer a sequential order of tasks that Christians must consider! Discerning an accurate progression of activity over time, is critical to the church’s success in mission. The activity is as follows: 1. Throw a net into the sea. 2. Catch fish of every kind. 3. When the net is full, pull it to shore. 4. Sit down. 5. Collect good fish and put them in a basket. The traditional church has been engaged in a fishing expedition for 2,000 years, yet by her own admission, she hasn’t discerned that her net is full. This is an important realization. The church gleefully announces that there is room for all! Such statements suggest that the church is attempting to complete the first and second tasks in the list above. She is trying to fill her net and it isn’t full, yet! Discerning a full net is the third task. So, we can conclude with certainty that the church is currently working on the first and second tasks.