I have lifted the numbered items in the left column below from a website, reformatting some and editing the punctuation to conform to American English standards. Victor Choudhrie, a former cancer surgeon and practitioner in India, is the author of the original material on the left; the comments in the right column are mine. -bc
|1. Rewrite the job description of the professional clergy from that of a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer, to that of a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing, by encouraging them to practice the priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. He must model a flat church structure wherein brothers and sisters submit to one another, pray one for another, serve one another, exhort, forgive and love each other. John 13:34-35; Matt.18:21-22; Eph. 5:21||This is packed with challenging, on-target ideas and pithy wording. Evangelicals are no strangers to the notion of “equipping,” but I’ve not seen an evangelical church that acts on that conviction over the long haul. Part of the problem—perhaps the biggest part—is the mere existence of the professional clergy. As long as it is present, there is less reason for the rest of us to be “equipped.”
To continue: the “flat church structure,” it seems to me, is manifest expressly, but not entirely, in the lack of “a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer.”
|2. Move from meeting in temples to gathering in “houses of peace.” “God does not dwell in temples made by human hands”; rather, He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matt. 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Cor. 6:16||The single longest conversation recorded in any of the canonical gospels is with the “woman at the well.” One of the take-aways from that conversation is that the location is no longer the thing.
I assert that the destruction of the Jewish temple in the 1st century CE involved the reality that God no longer was to be seen as dwelling there. In a sense, He was then seen in the incarnate Christ. In another sense, He lives in the “second incarnation” today—the church.
|3. Phase out programmed Sunday “services” while implementing informal, small gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day, not only for a couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful. However, discourage cross-gender disciple-making, lest chemistry foul things up. Acts 2:46-47; Heb. 3:13||I find programmed liturgies limited in terms of applicability, and I suggest that they should be used sparingly and intentionally, not thoughtlessly or habitually—perhaps primarily for special occasions or large-scale events.
In reading Choudhrie here, some may be concerned that corporate worship appears to be sacrificed on the altar of “intimacy.” First, take note that relationship with the Lord must be conceived of as a daily reality, not a weekly event. Whenever small groups meet, they may or may not engage in singing or group prayer or other activities typically associated with worship. And that is OK. I like high-quality worship opportunities as much as the most apparently passionate “worship leader” today, but I place a higher premium on the small group dynamic. Also see #6 below.
|4. Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous, financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes. Believe that God is going to work a work among the nations through you, which will leave you utterly amazed, and also provide resources for it. Deut. 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34; Hab. 1:5||Yes, tithing is Mosaic, and yes, it should be replaced. Both things are true. Exactly how it is replaced is up to the individual Christian.
See my extended critique of a brochure for more: https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/an-ill-conceived-brochure-on-tithing/
|5. Dispense with wafer-and-sip Holy Communion and promote breaking of bread with simple Agape meals (love feasts) from house to house, that believers take with glad hearts, “and the Lord added to His numbers daily.” The Lord served roast lamb, bitter herbs, bread and wine “in a house” for the Last Supper. Father God had lunch with Abraham under a tree and discussed Sarah’s pregnancy, Sodom’s ruin and Lot’s rescue plan. Acts 2:46-47; 1 Cor.11:20-23; Gen. 18.||Communion traditions and institutional dogmas aside, it just makes sense to have meals together. And it makes sense to remember Jesus during those meals, just as the “Last Supper” precedent suggests.|
|6. Replace professional music with believers speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord. OT worship required the sacrifice of four-footed beasts; the NT celebrates by offering two-legged Gentiles as a living sacrifice. The meta-church is a discipling hub and not a singing club. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rom. 15:16||I am a musician with high-level professional training, but I have no trouble whatsoever affirming Choudhrie here. All the efforts to “reclaim the arts for God” are well-intentioned, and I feel generally supportive of “the arts” “in church.” Still, I feel that simpler is better most of the time. A congregational, everyone-participates ethos is the thing to be pursued.|
|7. Shift from being a spectator-oriented church to a “metastasizing,” interactive, participatory, prophetic church. Empower men, women and youth, to get the dragon off the driver’s seat. We, the seed of Abraham, are blessed; “with multiplying I will multiply you and your seed will possess the gates of the enemy.” It is time Abraham’s seed got on the driver’s seat. 1 Cor.14:26-31; Acts 13:13; 18:4; Gen. 22:17-18; Gal. 3:27-29||“Metastasizing” is perhaps not the best choice of words here, but we get the emphasis (and Choudhrie is a former cancer surgeon, after all). We understand that the influence is spread. This particular advice is connected inextricably to #1 above, viz. the “pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer.”|
|8. For a powerful synergy, metamorphose mega-churches into city, regional and national networks of “meta” (beyond) churches. Instead of gathering under one roof, have them gather under a thousand roofs, just like the mega church at Jerusalem planted meta-churches across Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Corinth, Rome and beyond (Gk. meta) that grew in faith and in numbers (both quality and quantity), daily. Rom. 16:3-15; Acts 1:8; 16:5||Choudhrie’s advice has a fair amount of biblical support behind it. I cannot say that I believe with all my heart that this model will create a powerful synergy, but I figure most of us will agree that whatever is going on now isn’t working, so we might as well try something else.
This model might need an entrepreneurial eye that’s in tune with the particular demographic, e.g., rural America vs. rural Kenya, or urban Rio vs. urban NYC or London or Kuala Lumpur.
|9. Infect the barren Bride with the multiplication virus. A healthy mature female (Bride) implies that she is ready to have babies. Rebecca, the Bride of Isaac, was blessed by her family to have millions of children. The time has come for the Bride of Christ to stretch her tent to the left and to the right, to the north and to the south, to produce millions of meta-churches; and fill the earth. Gen. 24:60; Isa. 54:1-5; Acts 1:8||This “step” is the poetic language of a dreamer. Maybe we need hyperbole, but I confess that I simply don’t dream like this anymore.|
|10. Know your identity in Christ: You are a royal-priest, made so by the blood of the Lamb. Dismantle the “Reverend” culture that divides clergy from layman. Like Melchizedek, the royal-priest of Salem (City of Peace), who served bread and wine, took a tithe and blessed Abraham, bring godly governance to your city. Catch the vision of cloning royal-priests for every city, and run with it. 1 Pet.2:9; Rev.5:10; Hab.2:1-3; Isa. 9:6-7; Gen. 14:18||This step suffers from an identity crisis itself, ironically enough. Knowing my identity as a priest leads to my critique of the special clergy class, and I rest in that aversion. Here, another spiritual danger comes in the connection with “godly governance” of a city. I also see a strange kind of “evangelism” proposed here for our era. It would be odd at best to take such an amorphous figure from the pages of our scriptures for a model. Whatever Melchizedek represents etymologically or historically or spiritually, times are different now, and to take his mantle as though a “royal priest” today should be a governing priest is contra-indicated in New Testament scriptures and in the earliest history of the church.|
|11. Challenge purposeless churches to enunciate a clear vision and to lay out a road map to translate that vision into action plans to “do greater things than these.” Armed with maps, stats and the Great Commission, go two by two and teach the divine arithmetic of planting just one multiplying church every month. In ten short months, even the least shall plant a thousand meta-churches. John 14:12; Acts 16:5; Luke 10:1-2; Isa. 60:22||An appeal to multiplication for growth makes good sense. (Remember the Faberge organics commercial?) We should be careful, however, to avoid strict association of perceived, numerical results, on the one hand, with God’s approval, on the other.|
|12. Unglue from their pews all those Christians who sit, soak and stagnate, and send them to heal the sick, raise the dead, tread on snakes and scorpions (expel demons), bind the “strongman,” plunder his possessions, and demolish the gates of Hell. Doggedly pursue demon demolition drive until “the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.” Matt.11:12;12:29;16:18-19; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:19; Rev.11:15||See comment on #9 above. There is good stuff here, but it’s dangerously overstated.|
|13. Resurrect from being a dead organization to a living organism. Replace all extra-biblical, cosmetic titles like Director, Chairman, CEO, and Secretary by appointing five-fold ministry-gifted Elders, like apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, as equippers. Healthy feeding and leading will keep the flock thriving and fertile and build bridges with the “other sheep which are not of this fold.” Eph.4:11; Tit. 1:5-9; John 10:16||The call to life is well taken. (“Resurrect,” however, isn’t properly used in the imperative mood. English is not Choudhrie’s first language.)
I would append a caution against the mindless replication of any pattern, but throwing secular titles overboard is such a good idea I can hardly avoid hyperbole myself. So, let’s always throw all titles overboard, in every case!
|14. Empower every Sunday school, bible school, prayer cell, women’s fellowship, and cottage meeting, by calling them full-fledged, authentic churches. They must make disciples who baptize, break bread, equip laborers and send missionaries, and, like the school of Tyrannus, change the spiritual demography. 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Acts 19:8-12||A thousand times yes! Every group of Christians constitutes a viable body, and as such, is a “church.” Each group, of any size, has an important identity and a set of possibilities.|
|15. Filter out non-performing goats who come only for hatching (baby baptisms), matching (weddings), and dispatching (funerals), and replace them with sheep who take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and prisoners. Culling the non-productive sheep is an integral part of the “best practices” of sheep rearing. God chose David to shepherd Israel because he took care of “the ewes great with young.” Matt. 25:31-46; Psa. 78:70-72||“Non-performing goats” seems a bit harsh. Nah. I guess it’s not. Filtering might take care of itself, without the need for intentional cuttings-off, if the Christ-group simply become and is what it should be.
“Best practices” is too corporate for my taste. I’d prefer “healthy sheep rearing.”
|16. Simplify disciple making. Get a Bible and invite a couple of truth-seekers for a meal where the main dish is the Lamb. Redefine authentic church as wherever two or three friends meet to eat, to gossip the gospel, and to multiply. Meta-church is the most cost effective strategy for city penetration and reaching the ends of the earth. Acts 2:46-47||I love the phrase “redefine authentic church.” I almost want to re-appropriate part of this as my own. A couple minor things bug me, such as the pairing of “gospel” with “gossip,” which strikes me as unfortunate alliteration by a non-native English speaker.|
|17. Replace seminary training with sharing the whole wisdom of God from house to house. Sound doctrine is the ability to convince those who oppose. The lost of this world do not need scholars as much as they need spiritual fathers and mothers who bring many spiritual sons and daughters to glory. Acts 20:20, 27; Tit. 1:9; 1 Cor. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; Heb 2:10||Seminary training itself is not always bad, and I imagine parts of it to be quite good. However, I’d tend to agree that it ought to be replaced in most churches with something else. Any training that does not have biblical texts and text-based theology at its core is suspect. For example, church growth and church history and systematic theology and so-called “ministry” courses should in many cases be replaced. If replaced, more churches would be more relevant. This Rx is not in any way intended to downplay the need for good Bible training, biblical language training, and good work with texts in churches.|
|18. Reorient your personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home—wherever you spend most of your time—is your “primary nuclear church.” It matters little whether you are the CEO or the janitor or the kitchen queen; you are a full-time minister there and accountable. Adam and Eve were accountable for the Garden of Eden, and they failed.||Yes, paradigms need to be reoriented, and there is no such thing (in God’s mind) as a special clergy class, so, yes, we are all to be full-time ministers. Still, I don’t connect with the idea that my workplace is my “nuclear church.” “Nuclear church” brings to mind “nuclear family,” and members of a nuclear family are members of said family by nature, by constitution. I don’t see the parallel in most workplaces. Again, there may be a language barrier here.|
|19. Recognize Hi, there!/Hello/handshaking, Sunday church as your “secondary, optional church.” A church that does not send you out to “raise your holy hands to pray everywhere” and equip you to make Christ “high and lifted up” in your home, workplace and neighbourhood is not worth going to. 1 Tim. 2:8; lsa. 6:1
20. Re-set your priorities to preach Christ where He has not been named. For this you do not have to go to church from Sunday to Sunday nor work from paycheck to paycheck. You are “ordained” to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill your home, workplace, neighborhood and the city with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Matt. 6:33; Rom. 15:20; John 15:16; Gen. 1:28; Hab. 2:14
|This seems important for those of us who try to influence traditional church people. We can go to their meetings and participate to whatever level seems best. Even a “membership” (gasp … this screams “club,” not church) or “covenant commitment” may be indicated in some cases. But “church” is not primarily resident in traditional church settings for me.
I have merged #19 and #20 and find the latter more clear.
|21. Adopt a “completion mindset.” Evaluate your ministry by the Great Commission as its mandate, and for benchmarks the numbers of disciples made, baptized, equipped and sent out. Aim to become a millionaire of souls. Why not? After all, you believe in a great, awesome God for whom nothing is impossible. At the very least, like Peter, shoot for 3000 baptisms by every Pentecost. Or like Paul, plant a multiplying church every day, till you can claim that there are no more places left here for you to “fully preach the gospel,” not just with words, tut with signs and mighty deeds.” Acts 2:41; 16:5; Rom. 15:19, 23||The so-called Great Commission may well be evaluated as “great” without respect to any direct applicability today. Numeric goals (1) are patently shallow, (2) may be important for some, (3) are not important for all, and (4) may in fact divert attention from essentials to apparent growth.|
July 18, 2010
*Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a Senior Fellow of the American and British Colleges of Surgeons. He left his position as Director and CEO of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, in 1992, to take up a full-time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife, Bindu, is also in a full-time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house-church leaders and trainers. They now have disciples making disciples in some forty countries. Theirs is presently amongst the fastest growing movements deploying volunteers with no paid workers in the field. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. In the year from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010, over one million underwent a ‘holy dip’ through their ministry partners. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained, who, subsequently, have planted tens of thousands of house churches across India and abroad.
Books written by Victor Choudhrie include The Ekklesia, the Church in your House; The Apostolic Gardens; The Prayer Warrior; Teaching Cards and From Mega Church to Meta (Beyond) Church, soon to be published. Electronic copies are available on payment of US $10 via PayPal: email@example.com