What is New Testament Christianity all about? The four gospel accounts tell the story of Jesus; Acts tells the story of the apostles He sent out; and the rest of the New Testament are letters of instruction to Christians. What kind of instructions are in those letters?
It’s all about relationships. First, our relationship with God; second, our relationships with people. It teaches us about our stewardships here on earth, including: how to govern ourselves; how to have a successful family; our relationship with civil government; our responsibilities within the church; plus, work ethic, financial stewardship, time management, and more.
Full stewardship is best taught through personal example and timely counsel, which requires the authentic relationships described in the New Testament. The first century church was continually devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42) because making disciples is a hands-on job. Jesus demonstrated it for us. Paul demonstrated it for us. This is needed today as much as ever!
Christians should be involved in the daily lives of each other, and those who are more mature should help others to mature in all of the areas mentioned above. People helping people. Families discipling families. This is how the meat of the word can really get taught. The milk of the word, The Good Story, is often preached publicly.
Paul reminded the elders of the church at Ephesus, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God… Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” (Acts 20:18-31)
Christianity is personal. Organized religion is not.
Organized religion shrinks from declaring anything that is not profitable for the organization, and admonishing each one with tears isn’t usually a crowd-pleaser. They can’t afford to admonish people because they usually have mortgage payments and a board of directors. So they find a niche and tell people what they want to hear. Some even conduct surveys to find out what people want to hear. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4 if you want to see Paul’s version of this warning.
When I share with people the New Testament’s description of an assembly (Each one has a psalm, a teaching, etc. – 1 Cor 14:26-40), those accustomed to organized religion often get a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on their face and they instantly form various mistaken assumptions.
Organized religion thinks that the clergy/professionals are supposed to put on a show for the laity/customers at specified times, and that Christianity revolves around these shows. This distortion keeps them in business, but it’s far different from Biblical Christianity.
Real Christian leaders aren’t in show business. They are personally involved in people’s lives to help them mature in all of the areas mentioned above. They lead by example and admonish each Christian, equipping them for unique works of service. Disciples start as spiritual children, but they are not to remain that way. Healthy development results in mature saints who can not only participate in the assembly, but who also use godly wisdom in all of their stewardships.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)
Our relationship with God comes first. Our relationship with one another, second. God gave us each a gift to serve one another, and we are to put our gift to work. Two examples of gifts are speaking and serving. Romans 12 lists seven different gifts. Leaders should help you discover and develop your gift. Nonetheless, each one is responsible for his stewardship.
The formal, hands-off approach can never equip the saints as well as the informal, discipling approach. Organized religion produces perpetual immaturity; the laity are always dependent upon the clergy. Power-hungry people like it that way.
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matt 20:25-28)