I had the privilege to meet and learn from Ed Delph last week (see http://www.nationstrategy.com) and his talk confirmed so many things I have been struggling with for a long time.
His talk dealt with a topic he called “The Return of the Kings” and described what he called “the eleven-twelfth’s church.”
I am so encouraged by the aposolitic voices from churches and ministries around the world who share the concerns of spreading God’s Kingdom, not just through the “four wall church,” but also the “marketplace church” where the vast majority of Christians live and minister most of the time. Let me lay a little background information for our discussion here.
God’s desire for Israel was that they would go and teach others in the world about Him. Israel was to be a nation of priests, prophets, and missionaries to the world. God’s intent was for Israel to be a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God and eventually His promised provision of a Redeemer, Messiah, and Savior who would bring His kingdom to earth.
Israel was made up of twelve tribes. One of the tribes (the Levites) was in charge of ministry before the Lord- first in the Tabernacle and eventually in the Temple. The other eleven tribes were supposed to be “priests” through their day-to-day activities in the marketplace. All of them were kings and priests, their duties were just in two different places: one before the Lord (church) and the rest everywhere else (marketplace).
Through God’s grace, mercy and gift of His Son, Jesus the Messiah (Christ), Christians now have the same charge. WE now are to be a nation of priests, prophets, and missionaries to the world. First the natural Israel and then the spiritual Israel:
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
In the first years of the early church there was little or no confusion or problem here. Most, if not all, the apostles were “bi-vocational” (working in the marketplace AND ministering in the church). Even if a few were not, as seems was their right, Paul was:
My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6 (for more of this discussion in context of this Scripture, see * below)
I say this to say that most Christians in the early church comprised the 11/12 part of the church; they were “kings and priests” in the marketplace, not the church per se. I think we can all agree with Peter’s description of us as being the “kings and priests” in the marketplace today
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
This topic is HUGE! There is so much to talk about. So much to re-learn. Some call it “revival.” Others call it “reformation.” I think much of what needs to be done can be called “refoundational.” We need to get back to the basic foundation and continue to build from there again.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.… 1 Corinthians 3:10-11
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:19-21
We need to look at what Jesus Himself wanted us to continue as His church. What message did He preach and teach? What were the original foundation blocks laid by the first apostles and prophets? And what were the corresponding acts of the first century Christians?
Jesus came to preach the good news (gospel) of the Kingdom of God. So why do so many Christians only preach about the good news (gospel) of Salvation? (As I have said before, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus the Messiah should never be minimalized, but it is the entry to the Kingdom and so much more needs to be done when we enter!)
Jesus came to destroy the works of the enemy (devil). Why do so many of us act like we are powerless to push back the enemy’s advances…or take back what he has stolen?
We act like the world is the devil’s “tare field” and we have to sneak in and plant “wheat”!?! The world is God’s “wheat field” and we are to let the tares be and PLANT WHEAT! (for that Scripture, please see ** below). That parable is a description of the KINGDOM OF GOD, which good news (gospel) we are supposed to be preaching and teaching.
Since declaring, teaching and advancing the Kingdom of God is the “mission” or calling of EVERY Christian, I don’t think we will ever exhaust all the things we can explore in this area. Many more things will be written about this until Jesus returns and the war is over.
So, turning back to the 11/12th church… can you see how much more effective we could be if we equipped, encouraged and empowered this large percentage of the church who are “kings and priests” in the marketplace, especially on Sunday? Can you see how much more help the 1/12th leaders would have if they partnered with the marketplace leaders? Can you see how much more effective a “four wall” church could be if they came together to celebrate their week on Sunday, but went out into the marketplace in the other seven days!?! This can only be possible if we recognize the IMPORTANCE of MARKETPLACE Leaders who are both “kings and priests” in their area of influence… and start treating them accordingly.
*Paul’s Rights as an Apostle…
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
** The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Matthew 13:24-30