There are three distinct churches being built. This is also reflective in three distinct types of ministry styles that have been birthed from these influences. Though each has things to offer, only one is truly the more Biblical approach. These three styles are seen in Acts as the Church at Jerusalem, the Church at Ephesus and the Church at Antioch. Let’s make this more real. These three are the people assembled to conduct spiritual government and implement the intentions of God at Jerusalem, Ephesus and Antioch. These are not necessarily structures but are people.
Jerusalem was the place the Church was birthed but it was not until Antioch that they received their identity. As grand as the birthing was, the people were not without problems. They were reluctant to spread the gospel of the Kingdom being more focused on their city than even their region. Yet the command was to be witnesses to Jerusalem, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. Jesus had given them their assignment but also was describing the transitions that would be occurring.
The Church in Jerusalem was single culture focused. They went ever deeper in their own culture and never truly reached out in the community. Yes, the outpouring came and yes, many were added, but the Church in the years following never did have another major move of God. You see we become stagnate when we interpret through cultural perception and not through scriptural interpretation. If a ministry is singular in culture or focused on culture itself such as blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc., they have taken on the Jerusalem model of church.
This means it is personality centered and relies on the person who has the greatest charisma or ability to hold the church or ministry in place. The people are followers with very little activity and influence affecting the future destiny of the Church. Most of these models are pastoral driven under a central form of government. Board meetings and meetings in general are the norm. Conformity and not creativity is a major pressure point. Unity as a goal, programs to engage and relationship that are more obligation than genuine. Most in this model are looking at temporal solutions and not permanent ones.
The Jerusalem church was very weak in developing leadership and leadership teams. We see this in Acts 5 of not being able to meet the needs and having to resolve it by putting into place leadership that they had not raised up but God has raised up. Mostly the focus is not on raising people beyond thier problems through a death process, but more so trying to restore them out of an unrepentant heart. Over time, they lost the Kingdom lifestyle and even more so, world missions outlook. This is why there was a scattering from Jerusalem instead of a sending. God waited long enough and stepped in.
Perhaps one the biggest things I see overall today is our constant desire and longing for another outpouring like we see in Acts 2. I believe this is due to us not reaching towards maturity and longing for another experience to solidify our faith. For the most part, denominations fall into the Jerusalem model. But so do many charismatic, Full Gospel, and Pentecostal churches. I see most of the ministries to homeless, jail ministry, and especially pastor group meetings falling into this model. It is easy to see the lack of response when a God- inspired moment comes and even less response when something is required of the people.
Building around its own activities, dates and programs, the Jerusalem church spent all its resources and manpower to maintain the existing church as a caretaker. Today’s pastoral driven churches either fall under the Jerusalem or Ephesus model, both are churches we should not be modeling to build after.
The Ephesus church was a church in proper focus but not properly aligned with apostles and prophets. There may or may not be a willingness to align and relate. We see the Ephesus Church doing much warfare and had much demonic activity allowed in its sphere of influence in the region. The Temple to Diana was set in strongly along with other occultism. Perhaps the meaning of Diana could best describe the Ephesus church. It means ‘fully enlightened but flow restrained’.
We see this in the Epistle to the Ephesians that Paul wrote where he addressed their spiritual enlightenment, their activation, demonic battles, Kingdom government, stewardship of grace, the power of God for transformation, and a host of other things that were lacking. These were things not so much in place but lacking! The Ephesus church is a church who will hear the heart and direction of apostles and prophets and be slow to implement it or possibly not at all. The apostolic thrust of Paul was available to shift the culture and impact society, but it hinged on them becoming active in the instruction given to them.
The Ephesus church is rebuked in Revelation 2. They are hardworking and many times have made it on their own merits. They have preserved and even tested the apostles and prophets and when they found a false one, they rejected not just that one but all of them from that point forward. But they have lost their first love. The excitement of God is hard to find and the zeal has been replaced with programs. The Spirit is no longer leading but is found along the way. The passion has been lost. The apostolic has come to bring renewed passion if accepted.
Many times the Ephesus type church will hold to a past move of God or a past truth that was brought forth to be dominant for a season. They are reluctant to embrace new revelation and will pick and choose what to embrace and what prophetic words to engage with. They focus more on the dominant gift and gifting that is present and dismiss any others. Under the Ephesus structure, an apostle will not be effective in bringing these churches together for instruction to establish them in greater faith and truth. The apostles’ hands are basically tied and the gifting is dismissed. The prophetic gifting will be embraced as long as it affirms the vision already in motion.
The Ephesus church today is the Spirit filled churches not connected or aligned with apostolic and prophetic voices. This again is the House of Prayer movement, many missions’ organizations and especially Spirit filled churches under pastoral leadership. Many times these types of churches have experienced great growth and success and believe they do not need any governmental guidance from apostle and prophets. Yet these foundational gifts have been given to expand and advance the works already in place. The Ephesus church again is not the model by which we should be building.
This leads us to the Antioch model. Antioch is where the Church or ecclesia received their identity and were called Christians or Christ like or little Christ. To have this name, they were required to be flowing in revelation, performing healings and miracles, casting out demons and to be connected in Holy Community with a culture of love and honor. If a person slipped from one of these things, then he was no longer looked at as being a Christian but being a disciple again.
Antioch had a defined ordered structure and a way of advancement that all could participate in. Plurality of leadership and a defined mandate were present. World mission and Kingdom advance require everyone to work together for the common cause of Christ. When it was time to send out people, they did not send who they could get by without having around but they sent the best they had to offer. This was reflected in the lifestyle lived and the functional expression of it.
They were a group that prayed, fasting and ministering to the Lord. They worked as a team that heard the Holy Spirit and then acted on it. The structure allowed for team expression, growth and development. There was no fear of others, no restrictions or limitations placed upon people. This enabled each ministry gift to develop more fully and move in their calling at a greater capacity than any other model of Christianity.
They had not only a culture of honor for each other, but also respect and honor for leadership and their authority. They were break through believers who broke free of cultural restraint and fear of men. The believers became the force to implement the vision and assignments laid out by the apostolic leadership. They had a “let’s make this happen” attitude.
As Antioch grew, it birthed other apostolic expressions. Each was autonomous and was allowed to have an individual expression but all related to Paul as an apostolic father they were in covenant relationship with. Paul helped bring a holistic spiritual perspective and brought in the ministry gifts based on need. The relationships were not in name only but functional and accountable. Antioch churches became regional bases of resources and have a region and even a state focus, not protecting its local expression but reaching out to others to bring the Kingdom. Antioch churches carry the burden for an entire region and will release people to impact where they are planted.
The commitment level is deeper than an Ephesus or Jerusalem model and since it is apostolic driven, the Antioch model requires a response to the truth spoken, the assignment given and the vision presented. Antioch churches know the destiny of each other is interconnected and will only be released through a corporate means.
Antioch churches are functionally connected and aligned with prophetic and apostolic oversight. They are regionally focused and many times much of the real work is not done within the walls of the local gathering but outwardly. They will travel anywhere there is a desire for the Kingdom. This final model is the pattern we are to build with to advance the Kingdom. Though small in number now, perhaps this teaching will enable us to drop the Jerusalem and Ephesus patterns and portions we have allowed to attach to us and fully come into the Kingdom expression we know is deep in our hearts!