Many years ago, a poem of sorts called “The Actual and the Ideal” caught my attention while visiting a friend’s home. I cannot give original credit to the author as I do not know who wrote it, and different sources attribute it to different people. Its profound implications on all of life, within and without the Church, are worth considering. The terms “incarnate and incarnation” used in this article mean: to give flesh to, to embody, to manifest or demonstrate. Put commonly: “Let’s see it, not just talk about it.”
In years past we have done quarterly and annual newsletters for those who have relationship with us, and who care about us personally and in ministry. I mentioned last quarter that it would be the last and we would be going video for the future. Here is a 15 minute personal, ministry, and family summary for those who are interested!
Thank you to so many who love us, care about us, and support us.
Blessings to you in 2014.
Steve and Rita
In a materialistic Christian culture that has been brainwashed by a prosperity-bless-me false gospel, the idea of suffering as part of normal Christian life, is as foreign as bacon at a bar mitzvah.
Being a life-long (now semi-lapsed) charismatic believer, I have seen a lot of things: some wonderful; some horrid. Many years ago I was imprinted by a powerful lesson about kingdom life beyond the boundaries of doctrinal understanding.
On the lighter side . . .
- Even the self-appointed tambourine player in the back plays tastefully on tempo.
- Everyone really IS dancing when we get to the bridge of “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.
- Our heavenly portals are so big, you don’t have to go to the front of the church to get in.
- The wooshing sound you hear IS NOT the pastor blowing into the mic.
- Cars in the parking lot leak anointing oil.
- Cyclists avoid our block because their chains keep on breaking.
- We’ve removed our nursing mother’s room. Our babies eat meat.
- When the strongman sees us coming, he ties himself up to save time.
- We have a balcony for the angels and orbs to sit in.
- We have an ESL class for people whose first language is tongues.
- We ARE the 8th mountain of culture.
- The demons in our sound system have left and moved in to yours.
- Money doesn’t “cometh” to us, we print our own.
- Gold bricks instead of dust hit us and slay us in the spirit.
Adapted, expanded, and reposted by permission, Jeremie Karan and David Moore.
If you would like to hear about a real-life example of what love in a gospel community looks like in action, the following true story is worth your time. It is a bit lengthy, but I encourage you to read it. Names have been changed and initials used to protect privacy. All other aspects are true. It is my privilege to know and walk with the family of God in this story.
Hi, if you are a first time visitor to this blog, or if you are just curious to know more about the ministry, we hope this ten-minute introductory video will give you a flavor for what we are about and the resources we offer at Stephanos Ministries:
I know so many who can speak quite elegantly and esoterically on the topic of revival, renewal, reformation, unity, oneness, city-wide unity, etc. However, these same individuals don’t exactly line up to be the first to abandon their beliefs and practices that hinder the very thing they wax eloquently about. There’s a bit of a con game going on. We are fooling ourselves in these things unless we get down to some bedrock issues that carry a lot of emotion with them.
These are great concepts when it is the OTHER church, the OTHER home group, the OTHER denomination, the OTHER network, who comes under discipline or whose “theology” is “off,” or who has to embrace “reform” and come out of “religion.” Religion is like spiritual halitosis. It is always the other guy’s problem.
We are very pleased to announce that we have a new, fully integrated, streamlined, user-friendly web store at www.stevecrosby.com.
All our books and DVDs are available there. Electronic media (Kindle, E-pub, pdf) are also available there and easily accessible by a direct-download from the store. Links to free samples are also there.
Please stop by www.stevecrosby.com and check it out some time.
At this time, we are only shipping to the United States. We will have some international shipping available soon! Of course, electronic downloads are available now for international friends.
Many of you, who have been impacted by the grace of God in us reflected in our material, have expressed a desire to more directly and practically help us, and wanted to know how you could.
Now there is a way you can, that could benefit you also.
We are offering an “Affiliate” program. That simply means if you help us sell and distribute our material, you can make a few bucks too!
Being an affiliate means you can easily access this store at your convenience, on demand, as an “affiliate,” and obtain material at discounted/wholesale/book store pricing (including electronic media downloads), leaving room for you to make a profit on any sale you might make to others in your spheres of influence. You do not have to carry any inventory. There is no cost to you to sign up as an affiliate.
If this is something you might be interested in, call me or drop an email my way for details, and I can sign you up.
Blessings . . .
The Scripture uses many different metaphors to describe the ekklesia, the church. One common New Testament metaphor is the church as family. This is a vital quality of the ekklesia universal and local. Without it, the ekklesia will never be what God intends it to be, but if that is all it is, the church will likewise never be what God intends it to be.
Because of our society’s personal and social fragmentation, and in reaction to the sterile institutionalism of organized religion, damaged and disillusioned people are yearning for what they may never have experienced: a genuine sense of family. The cults recognize this and take advantage of it. Think of how many advertise themselves around a family image. Church statistics indicate merely putting the word “family” somewhere in the name of the church can facilitate growth. God’s Church is surely called to provide this value, not leave it to the cults.
However vital it is, family is not the end goal. It’s a necessary facet of God’s eternal intent for His bride, but it’s a subordinate value. Sadly, the condition of the church is often so nominal, that should people (in any meeting form, traditional, cell group, house church, organic, etc.) actually begin to touch the real dimensions of genuine family, we can erroneously think that we have made significant progress, or perhaps even arrived at a level of high spirituality. This is not necessarily the case. There is a revelatory progression in biblical metaphors for the eternal purpose for the church:
Let’s briefly examine these.
God loves individuals. We are saved as individuals. The gospel appeal must be extended and responded to individually, and the gospel is transformational: in the beginning, and all the days of our lives. In the beginning we are transformed from old creation, to new creation beings, and all the days of our lives were are progressively transformed into the image of Christ, from glory to glory. It is not possible to build anything representing God’s kingdom interest, if the raw “human material,” so to speak, is untransformed, Adamic nature, humanity. That is not workable material for God’s purposes.
The ekklesia is not merely a collection of individuals any more than a pile of bricks is a building. God knits and builds individuals into a family. In a family, a sense of identity and belongingness is established. It is in the context of family that care and relationship is developed and experienced. God touched Abraham the individual, but Abraham’s call and destiny was to affect his family and, to produce from him, a family.
This family ethic is the arena in which the pastoral grace should function. It should facilitate and develop the family identity of a group of believers. However, shepherding is a mean to an end: the equipping of saints for their ministry, not eternally holding a captive audience for one’s own!
It’s also premature/futile to talk about “pastoring” any one, before there is a bona fide, relational, family reality one with another. Only families are “pastorable” in Jesus’s kingdom. You can run an organization, but you can only shepherd a family. What we typically do in our “church planting” and “pastoring,” is put a layer of administration on top of a collection of people who are not genuinely relationally bound together by the Spirit, (who are often untransformed, old creation beings), hold it together with programs and activities, and call it “church.” It is not. At least not Jesus’s kind.
A people (a singular collective) is a gathering of many families. God did not just call Abraham and his family. He was after a people. A people results from the healthy and prosperous expansion of individual families. It speaks of developing a larger corporate identity that can be recognized by certain appearance and character traits. A family can be ignored, but a people can have power and influence. Abraham’s family and descendants prospered to become a people with a particular identity that became a threat to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was forced to deal with a people.
Israel left Egypt as a people, but at Sinai, they became a nation. A nation is a people that agree to embrace a common value system of order and guide to interactive relationship. They embrace government and authority. A nation speaks of code, order, and structure.
It is at this stage that great care must be exerted to not lose the family value established earlier. Just like a dominant family ethic will never accomplish divine purpose, a nation that loses the bonds of relationship is just as surely destined to fail.
There is much talk these days (particularly when apostles and prophets are concerned) about covenant, order, government, authority, structure, infrastructure, and the true ekklesia being a governmental entity, etc. It’s premature to talk about these things without the realities of bona fide individual transformation, an ethos of family, and an understanding of being made a people. Efforts to induce “God’s kingdom governmental order” into the “structure” of the ekklesia, without the experiential reality of the other qualities, will inevitably be coercive, and fail: normally with pain for everyone involved. Noble effort, good intentions–negative, destructive fruit.
This is the biblical metaphor for possessing the authority and power to conquer and expand, and enduring the difficulties associated with expansion. That is, the extension of the nation’s value system and government beyond its original borders–the Great Commission mandate–the extension of Christ’s kingdom on earth before his literal return.
However, it is naïve to think we have any authority in the spirit-realm, when the preceding elements are absent. It takes more than claiming a Bible verse and doing prophetic declaration to make a real difference in the heavenlies.
Once a land has been conquered, it must be ruled. The church is called to eternal co-regency with Christ, expanding the rule of God, the nation of God, throughout the universe. Jesus is coming for, and expecting, a Bride, who is a fully fit, perfect match for himself to share His regency of the universe with, in, and through.
Now, let’s examine some of the risks of being satisfied with, or settling for, a preeminent family ethic in a local church.
SELF- CENTERED/ SELF- FOCUSED
A family is intimate, and there is great enjoyment in sharing intimacy. However, when enjoying an atmosphere of intimacy, passion for divine mission can be easily lost. Indifference toward the plight of the lost can creep in undiscerned. We can have a great sense of family, enjoy one another, and never experience kingdom expansion. The kingdom is expanded not through intimacy alone, but through pain, discomfort, inconvenience, cost, and labor.
If our goal in Christian experience is to participate in a local church (the form, traditional, house church, cell based, etc. is irrelevant) that maximizes my sense of personal well being, where my friends are, where my children have friends, and where we can relate intimately and enjoy one another’s company, we are on unbiblical grounds. What has this sort of value system got to do with reaching our unsaved neighbors? When our desire for relational intimacy, with God and one another, dulls our passion for divine mission, and its associated inconveniences, we have succumbed to a spirit of selfishness elegantly dressed in the robes of Christianity. We have become a self-absorbed religious fraternity rather than the Lord’s conquering and expanding Church.
RESISTANT TO CHANGE
Often times a dominant pastoral anointing will try to make spiritual progress without discomfort to people. This is not possible. Change is inherently disruptive to the family. In the natural, if a parent loses a job, or if a family moves, it is disruptive to relationship both within the family and without. Yet, progress is not possible without disruption. When a dominant family anointing is present, it will be nigh unto impossible for the people of God to move forward unto purpose. Many people are deeply frustrated and discouraged because they are trying to move a family-centered ekklesia forward with a family anointing only. That is a formula for an ulcer or nervous breakdown.
A SPIRIT OF FAMILIARITY AND DISHONOR
Often in a family, it’s common that dishonor prevails because, in close environment, we see each others’ weaknesses so clearly. The old song said, “We always hurt the ones we love.” Infighting, gossip, criticism, and judgmentalism will pop up and prevail if a family paradigm does not expand and engage in mission. Eventually a spirit of contentiousness will corrupt what was originally a wonderful “family feeling.” If we are engaged in a greater purpose beyond family, there will not be enough time or energy for internal feuding. A strategic anointing is a divine necessity to move a local ekklesia into and beyond the family stage of development on to ultimate purpose.
I know someone who works in a mental institution. His testimony is that of all the different occupations and professions represented by the clients in the institution, Christian ministers/pastors are the number one statistical category. Failure to understand how impossible it is to be a “leader” of, or in, the ekklesia, if these issues are not understood, has real and often tragic consequences in the lives of God’s people. It’s impossible to get God’s intended results when these issues are not understood. If good, legitimate, biblical concepts are attempted to be implemented without the necessary relational infrastructure to support the biblical ideals, disaster and pain will result, as surely as the sun rises in the east.
 Ex. 5:1, Ex. 3:7, 10; Zech. 8:8
 Ex. 19:6
 2 Tim. 2:3-4
 Rev. 21:2, et. al.
 Matt. 28:18-20
Copyright 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.