The Sending – Part 4
Since there is so much to say about this topic I have decided to add another part!
In the previous three posts I have shown how God calls, prepares, and sends people out for the work of building his Church. This has been shown through the history and examples we have in the New Testament scriptures. In this post I would like to draw from history to show that this “pattern” of his life has continued with groups of believers who have stood outside the religious system of “Christianity”.
Many believers have no idea that what some are calling “simple church” “house church” “organic church” has actually been happening throughout the centuries. In fact, God has always preserved a testimony to his true church. Of course, just because we call a group of Christians an organic church doesn’t mean it IS one! This needs to be made really clear because these labels are being thrown around all over the place and it’s causing lots of confusion among those seeking true organic body life. In this series of posts I am drawing from three sources:
The testimony of the written scriptures (mainly the New Testament)
The testimony of saints who have lived this way throughout the centuries
The testimony of saints who are currently living this way
In this post I will take short excerpts from various writings describing groups of believers throughout the centuries who have experienced the organic expression of the church in some way.
Also referred to as Waldenses.
Around A.D. 59 the apostle Paul visited Italy (Syracuse, Sicily, Naples, and Rome). About five years later (64AD) when Nero began his persecution in Rome, some of the believers fled to the Italian alps. Mostly to the areas near Lyons and Turin in the western alps between Italy and France. They settled in the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, one of the most inaccessible areas around. It was very steep, lots of snow, and 12-15,000 foot peaks.
In the quiet seclusion of the mountains they had remained unaffected by the development of the man-made church systems including the Roman church. It was said of them that their whole manner of thought and life was an endeavor to hold fast to the character of original Christianity.
Their churches would send out believers in teams of two to preach Christ and establish churches. These had been called, prepared, and sent to do the Lord’s work. They were called “barbas” which means uncles in contrast to the papacy and the idea of calling other believers “father”. These “sent ones” would receive food and lodging where they went to plant new expressions of Christ (churches) according to the pattern they saw in the New Testament. The barbas chose poverty but it was considered a principal duty of each church to provide for its poor.
These Waldensians (a name used only by their enemies) called one another “brethren”.
These saints were persecuted by the Roman church for over 800 years!
Their history is one of non-stop arrests, torture, imprisonment, beatings, hangings, and burnings!
Brothers and sisters, we stand on their shoulders!
In 1522, in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, a young man named Conrad Grebel gave his life to Jesus Christ. His life radically changed and he became an avid supporter of the new reformation and the teachings and reforms of Ulrich Zwingli. Conrad quickly rose to leadership among Zwingli’s followers. However, over time it became apparent that Zwingli and Grebel had different approaches to church reform. Zwingli wanted reform but was unwilling to completely break with the control of the government to achieve them. Grebel didn’t care about what the government wanted, but only cared about God getting what He wanted.
Soon Conrad Grebel, along with his friends Felix Manz and George Blaurock, broke all ties with Zwingli and the state supported reformation in Switzerland. The city of Zurich outlawed all Christian meetings except those of Zwingli. Grebel and his young radical friends soon became the enemies of Zwingli and the state.
The new group of “radicals” grew like wild fire! After a time, Grebel left the work in Zurich to others and traveled with co-workers to surrounding cities to preach Christ and establish new communities of believers under the spiritual principles of the New Testament. They were persecuted by both the Roman church and the Reformers! Grebel, along with thousands of others, lost their lives while still in their early twenties.
These young radicals believed in a total return to the experience and practice of the New Testament church. They believed in the scriptures but did not worship them like their protestant counterparts. The Word of God for the Anabaptists was a Man! And this Man speaks through the writings of the scriptures. They were not a people of the book, but a people of the Man! They also believed in knowing Christ by an inward fellowship and abiding with Him. They also strongly believed in the centrality of Christ and had a strong sense and practice of community life.
Sisters and brothers, we stand on their shoulders!
The Little Flock in China
In the early 1900s God moved sovereignly throughout China.
He apprehended a young man by the name of Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee). Watchman grew quickly in the Lord and began sharing Christ with many in his city and other surrounding villages. Soon, there were new groups of believers raised up by Nee and his young co-workers. This work spread throughout all of the coastal cities then eventually went inward when the Japanese began attacking the coastal cities. Some called them the “Little Flock” though they never adopted any name. They were heavily influenced by the Brethren in England during the 1880s with such men as John Nelson Darby, Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, and many others. Also, T. Austin-Sparks in England was a contemporary and considered a mentor by Nee.
They believed strongly in the organic expression of the church in Body life, functioning of all the members, the centrality of Christ, knowing Christ deeply and inwardly, and apostolic work in the sending out of workers to equip and establish churches. They also believed strongly in learning from the legacy of those who had gone before them throughout history.
In the 1960s several workers left China and came to the United States. These co-workers of Nee planted churches throughout the States and eventually throughout the world.
Saints, we stand on their shoulders!
Note: there have been many other groups throughout history that attempted to hold true to the apostolic pattern as seen in the New Testament scriptures. These resources will help you find out more if you are interested:
- The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent
- The Torch of the Testimony by John Kennedy
- The Secret of the Strength by Peter Hoover
- The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin
Stay Tuned! Next week we will present our first podcast ever on this blog!
It will include ten workers having a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?”