I’m reading an ebook called Houses That Change the World, by Wolfgang Simson. It’s available as a free download from www.openheaven.com. It’s about the house church movement and its potential to change the face of Christianity, with an emphasis on the example of the burgeoning church in China.
The translation grammar is a bit fractured, but there’s a lot of thoughtful stuff in the book, and hopefully I’ll review it more thoroughly later. But for now I wanted to get out this powerful excerpt on the role of the Apostle, especially with reference to the broken state of the church. I can assure you, the implications of this excerpt are all too real.
If we ever do get our act together, we are going to see a move of God that will be unprecedented in scope and power. The world is ripe for harvest, but it is looking for something real and permanent. I believe it is going to happen, because it has to happen.
The predominant role of apostles and prophets for church planting
As important a role spiritual hospitals have to play, they cannot replace what apostles and prophets are uniquely gifted for: to build a supernatural base and foundation for a multiplying church movement, to accept nothing as impossible, to respond strategically to visions and supernatural revelations, to be prophetic talent-spotters.
They are not so human-centered and felt-need-oriented ”tenders” like good Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists, but God-centered: they have the God-given ability to see beyond things, beyond human needs and problems, and take hold of the tasks and visions of God. They do not want to just build ”a church”, they want the whole city or nation! They live very much in the future, for the future, from the future, going constantly pregnant with future developments, and can therefore pull and lead the church into the future, and prevent it from becoming a traditional institution only celebrating the past, or a fossilized monument of history long gone. The church is ”built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph.2:20), writes Paul. Jesus writes to the church in Smyrna ”that you have tried those who call themselves apostles” (Rev. 2:1-7) after almost all of ”The Twelve” had died. This suggest simply the continuation of apostles even after the ”age of apostles”, says Watchman Nee in his book ”The Orthodoxy of the Church”. Like with a foundation for a house, much of the work of apostles and prophets is not always seen but felt. That is why they are called ”first of all” (1 Cor. 12:28), because they are also ”called in” first of all to do the foundational work for ”founding churches”, the site spotting, earth moving, excavating, foundation laying, so that others like carpenter and plumbers and electricians can build on that foundation. Would you like to live in a house where the foundations are laid by a carpenter? I admire carpenters, but I would not like to live in a house where the carpenter has laid the foundation. That is simply out of his brief.
Instead of pastoral, evangelistic and teaching-models of church, apostles and prophets build prophetic and apostolic churches. The apostle, mentioned first in all the biblical lists of ministries, is one ”sent to attempt to solve the unsolvable for the purpose of facilitating the increase of the Church of Jesus Christ in quality as well as quantity”, says Barney Coombs in his excellent book ”Apostles Today”….
How God works
“God’s method is a man. Are you that man?”…
Healing the church trauma
Many apostles and prophets today are not in church at all, because they have not much room in traditional churches. They have been pushed to the side, they are often feared because they seem so strong, radical and different, and many have not only been marginalized, but truly rejected, and as a result have given up on church almost completely, maybe with a last flicker and a spark of hope still burning in them. Many of them are in business today, or have become medical doctors. More and more of them know deep down that they are made for more than just earning 10.000 dollars a month or operating ulcers, avoiding the church that hurt them, spiritually surviving by TV and Radio, and attending an occasional conference or a Christian businessmen’ ”Chapter”.
Those rejected, undiscovered or underemployed apostles and prophets suffer from what I call the ”church trauma”, a very deep and tricky wound inflicted to them by the very institution of healing, the church, which did not live up to it’s own calling and, an almost devilish scheme, has badly hurt those whose ministries it needed most. Many of those Christian businessmen therefore heavily support anything but the church, invest into parachurch ministries and missions, as long as they can stay clear of the church which have hurt them so much. The tragic of this is, that the church is God’s mission. Someone needs to find them, go to them, apologize to them profoundly, heal the ”church trauma”, speak to that glowing spark and fan it into a flame, and then recruit them, helping them to see how God sees them, and release them into their apostolic and prophetic potential for the building up of the church.
I’ve come across a trove of Nee material at sermonindex.net, a site which I’d like to commend to you. There are articles there of varying lengths that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve begun downloading them, transferring the to Word, and then annotating them with my own reflections. It’s challenging and very rewarding to match wits with the great brother Watchman!
Here are some interesting tidbits of Nee’s life that I gleaned from a search of the SermonIndex. I’m really interested in what made this guy tick – I know it’s the same Lord Jesus Christ, but it’s instructive to see how the Lord builds up His Body, especially one so fruitful.
If you’re not familiar with Nee’s works, I heartily recommend them, especially The Spiritual Man and Release of the Spirit. There is only one work that I don’t recommend, in which I think he was far off the mark: Spiritual Authority. I can’t explain how he could have missed it so badly there, when he usually is so astoundingly insightful. Or maybe one day I’ll see what he was getting at…
Here are some photo blurbs. Two things struck out at me. First, the value of godly parents. Although Nee didn’t give himself to Christ until his latter teen years, all those years of praying and “training up” must have had an enormous influence. Second, astonishingly, Nee is not a product of any theological school. He learned by people and books, study and devotion, and by obedience to the Light he was given.
Maybe it’s a cliché, but if so it’s still worth repeating. Theological schools can be the worst places to develop one’s faith. The emphasis on the intellectual, on artificial deadlines and on careerism, have stymied many a soul’s spiritual advancement. I had my own brush with divinity school, and while I don’t fault anyone there at all – they were teaching truth and it was all good stuff – I’m sorry I did, because it was not what I really needed to get closer to the Lord. it ended up being a waste of time and money for me.
I really think the church needs to take a big turn toward the organic. It needs to raise up its leaders from within, and place less stress on position and careers. We all need to have a stronger sense that the Lord wants to use us just as we are, in whatever life situation we are in, and he doesn’t need us to be Hebrew scholars in order to do it. Watchman Nee was a stellar living example of that truth.
Now, to the blurbs:
This amazing tale comes from Voice of the Martyrs, USA’s Facebook page, which I follow. Always good, they’ve been having some very interesting stuff lately. Following VOM on Facebook or Twitter is a good way to stay connected to the church persecuted in other lands and to check one’s own discipleship quotient.
Watchman Nee has long been one of my top favorites. No one, and I mean no one, explicates the Gospel as he does. Though his writing is intellectually advanced and satisfying, its real strength comes from his deep submission to the lordship of Christ. Simply put, he walked the talk.
Nee began writing at only twenty-three years of age, if my memory serves, and his writings are unparalleled for depth and clarity. But this is the first I’ve ever heard of his doings later in life while in prison in China for the Gospel. His dedication, insight and power in the Gospel amaze and humble me.
Watchman Nee, the Chinese church leader, had only six hours. He must lead the guard in front of his prison cell to Christ so that his letter of encouragement to Christians outside the prison could be delivered.
Chairman Mao’s government was infuriated by the spread of Christianity in China. In order to stop the spread of this “foreign cult,” they had forced out or killed all foreign missionaries and had sent thousands of Chinese church leaders to prison or to “re-education through labor” camps. But the church still grew.
When the police discovered that Nee’s beautiful, powerful letters of encouragement were making their way out of the prison and into the hands of Christians, they doubled the number of guards and never allowed a guard to stand outside Nee’s cell more than once. They shortened shifts to six hours, hoping Nee would not have time to convert the guard.
Nee told the guard about the Father’s love and willingness to give up his own flesh and blood so the guard could live forever in heaven. “Communism cannot get you to heaven,” he said. “Only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that.”
Five hours into the sermon, with tears streaming from his eyes, the guard accepted Christ. Yet another soul was won for the kingdom, and yet another of Watchman Nee’s letters would be safely delivered.
If Christian martyrs teach us anything, it is that we must use creative energy in order to promote the gospel. Their ingenuity, courage, and even craftiness ought to awaken our own spirit for spreading the Good News. While not everyone has the opportunity to smuggle Scriptures into restricted areas, we can still be willing servants for the kingdom. It might mean having a cookout in the driveway for neighbors. It may mean signing up for golf lessons or another community class in order to meet nonchurched people. A new method of witness always risks consequences. But we should always be willing to take the risk instead of settling for mediocrity. Which describes your evangelistic life today? Mundane and mediocre? Or creatively energetic for Christ?