Introduction to Part 3
Sometimes you might think it’s
easier to just ignore the events going on in the world because
your own life is so overwhelming. But our Father has called
some of us to sound the alarm to awaken His people! Be sure of
this: Alert watchmen aren’t welcomed by those who want to retain power
or status quo in their system, be it government or religious.
Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of
England two generations ago, warned his government time and
again about the insidious power of Adolf Hitler. Did they
gratefully receive his insight? No! He was ostracized by his
Even when witnesses escaped from the
concentration camps and traveled at great risk throughout
Europe to reveal the reality of the gas chambers and death
camps, few among either the citizenry or the governing
authorities were willing to believe or intervene.
In each generation there is a handful who
discern the nature of the evil around them and have the courage
to voice the warning. Initially, only a few, a remnant, heed
the warning and choose to take appropriate action.
Who are the ones today whose love for God
and His Word arm them to take a stand against Satan’s
ploys? Please heed seriously the warning of God’s Word: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
is a righteous man who gives way to the
wicked” (Proverbs 25:26).
Pragmatism, the concept that whatever works is justifiable, infuses both the government and
western Christendom today. As in the corporate world, any means
is acceptable as long as it sells. Neither the Hellenist/Roman
church institution nor the State is concerned with whether
their motives or actions are right before God. Government as
well as institutional religious leadership are single-minded: maintain power by keeping the system running
Masquerading as “benevolence”,
the government provides compulsory public education to divert
the loyalty of children away from their parents. Sadly, many parents are satisfied to be relieved
of their responsibility to raise up Godly children.
Paralleling government control,
congregational leaders assume a husband/father’s
responsibility. They teach not only your children but also your
wife! Far too many men compare themselves to the
“educated” clergy or youth workers and find they
fall short of their biblical knowledge. Therefore they’re
misguidedly glad to give over their families to be taught by
Most men have no idea of how heinous this
forfeiture of responsibility is to God. Nowhere in the Bible is outsourcing our families supported. As you’ll see in
Part 3, the home, supported by the extended spiritual family of
the home fellowship, is our Father’s means of raising up
Our Father is prepared to help His people
regain what has been stolen. All you need is the conviction of David when he faced
Goliath: “You come against me
with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied” (1
Samuel 17:45). With God as your focus, it just takes a precise
pebble launched and empowered by His Spirit in you.
Don’t despise those who enjoy
religious entertainment that’s emptied of conviction and
repentance. Keep your eyes on the “Author and Finisher of
your faith.” To Him alone do you owe your allegiance!
He’s been waiting for some time for you to take your
stand and begin to live as the Church He is building!
The Relational Connectedness of the Early
Please examine closely this diagram. It
embodies the relational priorities of the early Church that illustrate the KINGDOM
to which you belong. Look at it in the form of a tiered wedding
cake. The top and most essential layer represents your
trust-filled, ongoing Covenant relationship with our Father and
Jesus through His indwelling Holy Spirit. Your ongoing Covenant
relationship is critical to every other layer in the diagram.
Living in Covenant union with our Father
under the Lordship of Jesus must always be the primary
consideration in your motivations and in your actions. “Trust in the Lord with all
your heart and lean not on your own
understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths
straight” (Proverbs 3:
When you trust in our Lord Jesus and receive His guidance, you
accomplish far more than man’s reasoning ever could. As
the prophet Isaiah makes clear, our Lord’s ways and His
very thoughts are far beyond our finite ability to reason them
out through mental effort (see Isaiah 55:8,9).
The Hebraic foundations need to be experienced as your
response to His Spirit and His Word, especially your
trust-filled relationship with Jesus our King. As you live out
His commands in an obedient trust that’s grounded in
love, you demonstrate a lifestyle of ongoing experience that
evidences you belong to Him.
[For further detail see our Hebraic
Article: The Gospel Of The Covenant
Is The Pilgrimage To Salvation. Also, see Discussing How to Restore
the Early Church, Lessons 24 thru
Note from the diagram that next in
relational priority is your home, then your home
fellowship of loadbearing, extended
[These two relational priorities are
explored in Lessons 30 thru 50 of Discussing
How to Restore the Early Church; and
in The Home and The Home Fellowship portions of our video
series, Jesus In Your Home.]
Congregations of home fellowships who
gather periodically and congregations throughout your city are
the fruit of the inner three priorities. Every faith
community is linked by the Spirit to every other faith
community of Jesus-followers in the world. The health of each
fellowship is directly dependent on:
Individual and communal abiding in
union with Jesus.
Spiritually healthy marriages and
The determination of the fellowship
family to fulfill our Father’s goals and objectives.
When these three inner tiers of
foundational relationships are healthy and fulfill their
respective purposes as God would have them, much fruit can be
born to the glory of our Father as His Kingdom expands through
Our Founding Fathers Sought Tribal Wisdom. Why Didn’t the Church?
Were you aware that the men who were
responsible for forming the foundations of the colonial
government sought the wisdom of the Native people around them?
Benja-min Franklin invited leaders of the Iroquois Nation to
explain their system of tribal government and leadership to a
gathering of Anglo leaders in Albany, New York. The Iroquois
model helped the special delegation write “The Albany
Plan of Union”, which served as a pattern later for the
Articles of Confederation and, ultimately, the Constitution of
the United States.
The drafters of our Constitution embraced
the Native form of elder leadership, which formed the basis to this nation being
established as a republic.
Delve with us back into United States
history. The Founding Fathers had
warned repeatedly that the government of the republic should never become a democracy. As a republic:
leaders at the local or regional
level were elected as state legislators.
leaders at the state level were selected to
represent them at the federal level.
Leadership concern revolved around what
representative’s section of
the country as well as what was best for the nation as a whole.
A century later, with the advent of the popular vote —
the cornerstone of democracy — politicians who appealed
to the self-interest of the
individual found themselves
elected. The sense of connectedness with the rest of the
nation’s needs and greater good was diminished as each
man looked instead to how he might achieve his own special interest.
As this nation was formed, various
expressions of Christianity battled among themselves about
governing practices. Having only an organizational concept of
itself and little or no relational foundation, European Christendom was divided by
creed into many competing denominations. Hellenist thought and
Roman organization had removed it far from its relational
beginnings as extended spiritual
family. Over the centuries
Hellenist/ Roman leadership models have produced all manner of
church government forms, such as:
autocratic congregations in which
virtual monarchies such as the
democracies in the
The organizational, non-relational mindset
of colonial Christendom was also non-tribal. Unable to see beyond Hellenist/ Roman forms of
church government, leadership missed the relational beauty that
God had revealed through the Native people. God brought
Europeans to Native peoples who were already living out the
Hebraic relational pattern of the earliest Church. Perhaps together the
colonists and the Natives could have experienced more of
God’s KINGDOM if the Gospel and a biblical practice of
government had merged.
The sad testament to the failure of
western religion is readily apparent. For over four hundred
years Christian missionaries have tried to evangelize Native
Americans. In most tribes the Christian conversion rate has
been only 3-6% effective.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not lost
its power! Rather, the form of church
organization that the
Hellenist-influenced missionaries and clergy brought with them
alienated the Native people.
Hellenism’s influence throughout Christen-dom
introduced the Native American to the young, educated clergyman
who lacked the wisdom of life experience. If they were to
accept the Gospel on his terms, the Native people would have to
submit to his immaturity. The absence of wise older men in
authority to share with the Native elders made Christianity as
a whole suspect.
organizational format introduced
the Native American to impersonal, non-interactive forms of
government. Denominational leadership headquartered many miles
distant put control of creed and doctrine in the hands of men
with whom the Native could not sit in council. As a result, the
Native people were not permitted to apply biblical truth to
their own culture. Others from afar commanded them what their
beliefs must be.
The missionaries and clergy, influenced as
they were by Hellenist thought and Roman organization, failed
to realize that Native American society was an exact duplicate
of the biblical-tribal form — extended family.
[For more on republics and Christendom,
see our Hebraic Articles: A Time
for the Men of Issachar; The Unsteepled Church; and Discussing How To Restore the Early
Church, Lesson 21.]
The Chain of Authority: Tribal Cohesion
Most cooperative endeavors which require
large numbers of people are organized into smaller, readily overseen units. Smaller units of people make it easier to maintain
personal relationships and to succeed in meeting specified
goals and objectives because there is a direct line of responsibility. That direct line of responsibility is called a chain of authority,
or a chain of command, as it’s referred to in the military.
The chain of authority is simply the means by which one person
is responsible to someone else up the chain.
Consider the modern Army. The chain of
authority begins with an individual, who belongs to a squad,
which belongs to a platoon, which is part of a company, which
is contained in a battalion. Battalions make up brigades, and
brigades make up the Army Corps. The army’s success, in
part, is made possible by its recognized chain of authority
throughout the entire organization.
In Luke 7, the Roman officer whose servant
was healed by Jesus in absentia referred to this sequence of authority. Since
he himself was under authority, he clearly perceived Jesus as a
Man under authority (His Father’s). Both recognized in
each other the humble deference needed for a chain of authority
to operate. Jesus could say of the centurion, “I tell you, I have not found such great trust even in Israel” (Luke 7:
9). The chain of authority and the humility to serve in
leadership within that chain is what makes it successful.
The nation of Israel represented a
particular chain of authority as an integral part of its
An individual belonged to a family
A family belonged to a clan
The clan belonged to a tribe
The tribe belonged to a nation
At each level, appropriate elders led the
people and passed along wisdom to the next generation. Each
level would select the best of their elders to represent them
at the next level up the chain. This is the norm of leadership
in most tribal societies today. This
is a republic form of government.
connectedness of the earliest
Church paralleled that of Israel:
An individual belonged to a family
A family belonged to committed, extended
spiritual family — a
fellowship belonged to
A Congregation of Home
of Home Fellowships belonged to all
— citywide, nationally, internationally.
Whether it’s the army, Israel, or
the early Church, you’ll always find promotion and succession to
perpetuate leaders who serve as they lead with
A promotion of leadership. Men of maturity and wisdom
were recognized and given greater responsibility.
A succession of current leadership. Younger men were
trained to succeed the current leaders as the latter were
promoted or died.
Relational connectedness was the hallmark of Israel and the earliest Church.
Those in authority knew personally the men for whom they were immediately
responsible, and prepared them to succeed them in leading.
The Influence of Hellenism Destroyed God’s Chain of Authority
During the second and third centuries
Christianity became increasingly more Hellenist and
anti-Semitic. Meeting in homes to share fellowship in Jesus was
forfeited as Hellenists introduced meeting in pagan temples
— later called “churches”. As a result
Christendom relinquished the relational intimacy of its origins
as people began to gather for religious performances in
impersonal pagan-style edifices.
Steeples, pews, podiums and clergy were
part of the pagan religious performance that isolated the
sacred from the secular. The Hebraic spiritual responsibility of elders who knew the
people personally shifted to Hellenist young professional clergy who separated
themselves from the people. Lost was the understanding of why the home
gatherings that had existed among the Christians of the
earliest Church had been such a way
[For more on the Hellenist influence see
Chapter 6 of Restoring the Early
Church, “Greek Philosophy in the Church: How Did Plato
List what you believe the duties of
What is the biblical support for
what you’ve written?
Early Christians Were A Spiritual Tribe
During the time of Jesus, the earliest
believers were Israelites, descendants of the patriarchs
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Engrained in their heritage was a
tribal understanding of extended family. The first Hebrew,
Abraham, was a tribal leader chosen by the God Who had entered
into covenant with him. From the descendants of Abraham came
the entire Hebrew nation of Israel. As we’ve shown, the
nation was made up of extended-family relationships. At each
level appropriate elders collectively led their people.
The typical Jewish farming village at the
time of Jesus consisted of 10 or 15 close-knit families who
depended on each other. They were like one large family, and
what affected one affected the other. Their relational
dependence was vital for their survival.
Emanating from their Hebraic roots, the
earliest church could be most accurately depicted as a spiritual tribe. It
was within the small, clan-sized
groups of home fellowships that
individuals and families received the mutual support and
accountability that was needed for successful Kingdom living.
Authority among the Hebrews was entrusted
to elders who operated within a council. The council form of
decision making is Scriptural, as exemplified in the consensus
of town elders to give Naomi’s property to Boaz. The collective aspect of
council is also seen in Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the
elders of the land.”
We also get an insight into the role of an
elder from the Book of Job:
When I went out to the gate by the city, When I
took my seat in the open square...
the poor who cried out, The fatherless and the
one who had no helper. The blessing of a perishing
man came upon me, And I caused the widow’s heart to
sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe
and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, And I was feet to the
lame. I was a father to the poor,
And I searched
out the case that I did not know. I broke the fangs of the wicked, And plucked
the victim from his teeth (Job 29:7,12-17).
These older men of proven wisdom and
experience realized that close-knit relationships, especially
with each other, were conducive to community and
accountability. Close camaraderie was important not only among
themselves but also with those for whom they were responsible.
Shepherds were directed to “understand
the condition of their flocks” in the spiritual realm as well as the physical (see
To truly lead as a biblical elder, you
must know personally the ones in your direct care. Consider
philosophy/Roman organization is
impersonal. It defines people as “functionaries”,
that is, warm bodies needed to keep the religious system
operating and paid for. Leadership controls and directs, “lording it over the people.”
extended spiritual family dignifies
people as made in their Creator’s image. People are cared
for personally as if they were caring for the Lord Himself.
Leaders are “servants of
those they lead.”
People of western European ancestry often
have a difficult time understanding tribal relationships. The
concepts of extended family and family heritage are beyond the experience of many
westerners whose immigrant ancestors left these concepts behind
when they came to America.
For many of western European descent,
individualism and fragmented family relationships predominate.
However, the early Church and its relational fabric can only be
fathomed by understanding the tribal
family foundations upon which it
was built. Today, through the
Hebraic Restoration, the biblical sense of our
forefathers’ relational priorities is being restored to
The “Church” Is God’s
People, Not A Place
In the absence of tribal understanding,
Hellenism and its partner, Roman organization, have warped the
biblical definition of “church.” Most today who
hear that word think in terms of a place, an organization,
religious programs, or allegiance to a deno-minational creed.
The Greek word “ekklesia” which is often translated “church” really means
“called-out ones”. The “church” is
extended spiritual family who have been called out by Jesus to be
His family of ambassadors (see 2 Corin-thians 5:20) on earth
and in heaven.
The church are those whom our Lord called out from the
world as His own. “Church” refers not to a place
— “Let’s go to church” — but to God’s
people — “We are the church!” Paul penned a number of his
letters to the “called-out
ones” whose primary
spiritual support was the loadbearing fellowship they shared in
their homes as a “clan” of extended spiritual
In a sense, the tribal leader Abraham was
the first “called-out
one,” since God had called
him out of Chaldea to the land of Canaan. Abraham trusted and obeyed God as the “called-out ones” today are called to do. In Jesus, His followers are a
“spiritual tribe”. Unlike the biological tribal
identification that comes passively at birth, your
identification as “follower of Jesus” comes only as
a result of deep heart conviction in response to the Holy
Spirit. You live out that walk in obedient trust by serving God
in His KINGDOM.
Remember the words of Jesus as He
describes Kingdom living in terms of family:
“Whoever does the will of My Father
in heaven is My brother and sister and
mother” (Matthew 12:50).
Spiritual Tribalism: Succession of Leadership
Tribal understanding with its emphasis on
family-style relationships is exactly what is needed in order
for you to recapture the biblical, relational vitality of your
Who will succeed me in my
Who will care for the generations to come?
While Hellenism brings in educated
strangers from afar to lead faith communities, Hebraic
leadership is “home grown.” The people personally
know and can commit themselves to the men whom they saw mature
and grow in spiritual wisdom in their midst.
According to the pattern of tribal
thinking, the wiser and more courageous the person, the more
concerned he is for the well-being
of his people. This the essence of
Jesus’ teaching on leadership: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of
Man did not come to be served, but to
serve, and to give His life as a ransom
for many” (Matthew 20:
Home grown leaders understand that they
are representing their own spiritual kinfolk. Therefore, unlike
the positional rule of Hellenist/Roman religious systems, men lead by personal example and personal knowledge of those for whom they’re
A continuity of responsibility unites
current leadership with those who preceded them in the personal
sacrifice of caring for the people of their spiritual clan.
Think about the lists of genealogies that
are repeated in the Bible. Those very sections that most of us
are tempted to skip over in fact broadcast an area of
importance to our Father. They
reveal the intergenerational
connectedness of family that is
basic to tribal thinking. One
generation prepares succeeding generations to carry on
responsibilities on behalf of the people as a whole.
Our God is deeply concerned with the
spiritual heritage that’s passed along by one generation
to the next. Isn’t this connectedness affirmed by the
prophet Malachi as he extols God’s design for marriage?
Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh
and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not
break faith with the wife of your youth (Malachi 2:15).
Paul, too, had an eye on future
generations that they would walk steadfastly in commitment to
their beloved God: “Fathers, do not
exasperate your children; instead, bring
them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:
Tribal Strength Relies on the Clan
The clan was the primary support system
for the Hebraic individual and family, coming alongside those
who abided under the eldership of the clan leaders.
Under the authority of the clan elders,
the male heads of each household exercised collective
responsibility for preparing the next generation to walk as
righteous men and women.
Widows and orphans came under the care of
the clan elders when they had no other family to care for them.
Paul reinforced this concept of family
interconnectedness that would uphold the dignity of the needy
Give proper recognition to those widows
who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren,
these should learn first of all to put their religion into
practice by caring for their own
family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to
God (1 Timothy 5:3,4).
The elders made sure that families took
care of their own widows. Widows who had no families came under
the care of the spiritual clan.
Everyone in the clan shared responsibility
for all the children within the clan. The entire extended
spiritual family of a home fellowship were involved in training
succeeding godly generations. We’ll discuss this further
in Part 5.
Keep in mind that the clan also provides
the vital link between family and tribe. Families which are in the Domestic Stage of
semi-autonomy place great stress on the individual family unit. Tribal individuals and families, however, are more like the Trustee
family. They’re linked by strong allegiance to their
clan, for they find much-needed support within it (see Part 2, Appendix B).
In Nigeria, for example, the young men
call all of their uncles “father.” Each older man
exercises paternal responsibility to train and confront his
nephews. This relational mentoring helps a younger man form the
character qualities that help him to be fully responsible not
only for his personal well-being but also to succeed the elders
in caring for the people. The same relational responsibility
applies in the interaction between older women and younger
If you ask many Native Americans about
themselves, they’ll tell you which clan they belong to
in their tribe. The clan is the critical relational mechanism
for tribes as the home fellowship is to that which our Father
is restoring to us today.
Today’s spiritual clan equivalent, the home fellowship, carries
the same function as the clan. Sadly for Christianity, this
much-needed relational tier was eliminated when the Hellenist
philosophers entered the church. Spurred on by the prevailing
Roman organizational hierarchy of government, Christendom lost
the relational connectedness that individuals and families had
so enjoyed as extended spiritual family.
As we mentioned earlier: In place of the
intimacy of bearing one another’s load, Christianity
adopted the pagan temple worship format of their conquerors.
They “boxed” God into the framework of religious
services and programs which were far removed from the
inter-relational pattern of daily life.
The Vital “Spiritual
Clan” Linking Family and Congregation
Several of Paul’s epistles mention
faith communities within the personal, interactive framework of
the home setting.
“Greet also the church that meets at their house” (Romans 16:5).
“The churches in the province of
Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly
in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” (1 Corinthians 16:19).
“To Apphia our sister, to Archippus
our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home” (Philemon 2).
“Give my greetings to the brothers
at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house” (Colossians 4:15).
Note that the practice of meeting in homes
as a fellowship of Jesus-followers was widespread, stretching
from Rome to Greece to Asia Minor. Content to be known as His “called-out” ones, they were identified by their fellowship locale:
at whose house did they meet as brothers and sisters in Jesus?
24/7 Commitment to One Another
The home fellowship of the early church
was a seven-day-a-week relational
commitment to fulfill our
Father’s goals and objectives as His beloved called-out
[In Part 4 we’ll continue discussion
of God’s goals and objectives for His people in home
What a contrast to congregational
“home groups” that have contact only through weekly
or even monthly scheduled meetings. Compare this with the tribal-based
understanding of the Hebraic home fellowship: a caring
commitment for one another shown through many unscheduled contacts
with each other all during the week, as well as corporate times
of sharing, worship and prayer. Followers of Jesus who gather
together in each other’s homes are “extended family”, spiritual relatives who are deeply committed to:
Jesus as the Lord of their lives
caring for each other as family in
fulfilling our Lord’s Kingdom
goals and objectives individually and collectively as His
instruments of righteousness.
Many Christians today don’t realize
that long before the coming of Jesus, God had been nurturing relational commitment as the Hebraic Stream of Judaism used their homes to
encourage one another to serve and obey God. In fact, all of the church practices seen in the Newer
Testament were already part of the faith enactment of the Hebraic
Stream of Judaism before the coming of Jesus.
God had been preparing the faith practices
of His Church for centuries before Jesus was incarnate. All
that was needed to fulfill their faith walk was the
long-anticipated Messiah and the empowerment of the Holy
[For more on the differences between the
Hebraic Stream of Judaism and the Judaizing Stream, see Discussing How to Restore the Early Church, Lesson 8.]
A few verses after Peter’s Pentecost
message we’re given a glimpse of some practices of the
earliest Church that had carried over from their walk as Hebrew
followers of the one true God of Scripture:
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with
glad and sincere hearts, praising
God and enjoying the favor of all
the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who
were being saved (Acts 2:46,47).
The earliest followers of Jesus were so
accustomed to sharing their lives as family because that was
the pattern of the God-loving, commandment-keeping descendants
of Abraham from before the time of Christ.
The early Hebraic home gatherings were
characterized by personal
participation. These men and women
came prepared to share the bounty of that which the Spirit had been
doing in their lives throughout the week. These were times of
exuberant worship and testimony — a time for family to be
edified by one another.
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a
word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an
interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the
church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
A home fellowship was also a wellspring of
support for married couples, families, singles, and widows. The
earliest followers of Jesus understood that marriages could not
make it on their own. (Tragically, so many couples today
quit their covenant because they have no one to come alongside
them with the loving wisdom of experience.) It was within the
spiritual clan that older people could help couples while their
problems were still bite-size.
Personal dignity was upheld as people
genuinely cared for each other as brothers
and sisters. This sense of intimacy
is why Paul could so freely address fellow followers of Jesus
in such endearing terms. John patterns these close-knit
relationships in his epistle references to his beloved children and dear friends.
Another intergenerational facet is evident
from Scripture. Hebraic people treasured
children as gifts from God.
The home signified the spiritual training base for the Jewish
family, the place where parents shouldered the responsibility
for training up their children in the wisdom and will of the
Lord. In this endeavor they were supported by their home
The extended spiritual family with its intergenerational communal responsibility supported the home as the primary building
block for training the next generation. Paul reinforces this
frame of reference repeatedly for Gentile believers who may not
have been familiar with the Hebraic sense of belonging to one
another relationally through their trust in the one true God.
How Can We Regain What Our Spiritual
First, Your Home Must Be The Basic Building Block For Spiritual Development
Preparing the next generation to be our
spiritual successors is critical if you yearn to follow our
Father’s commands. As you read the passage below, note
the strong emphasis by our God that each generation ensure
that succeeding ones follow in His way.
These are the commands, decrees and laws
the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the
land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long
as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give
you, and so that you may enjoy long
Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that
it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a
land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of
your fathers, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God,
the Lord is one. Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today
are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the
road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on
your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the
doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
These oft-quoted verses call for consistent, intentional interaction between parents and their children each
and every day. A few “quality-time” moments before
bedtime are insufficient in God’s sight. Even if you must
drastically alter your current time commitments to parent your
children, the benefits will astonish you!
Testify daily among your family in what ways you’ve
seen Him at work in your character, your relationships, your
decisions, your Scripture study and your prayer life. Then your
children will learn that our Lord is part of every aspect of their lives — every decision, every relationship, every
opportunity — not just “church activities”.
God doesn’t live under the steeple!
One of our Hebraic ancestors reinforced
the importance of a spiritual heritage that continues for a
thousand generations of those who fear the Lord and love Him:
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power,
and the wonders He has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and
established the law in Israel, which He commanded our
forefathers to teach their children, so the next
generation would know them, even
the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in
God and would not forget His deeds but
would keep His commands” (Psalm 78:
Are not the above passages, along with a
host of others, the basis for Paul to exhort fathers to fulfill
their responsibility to the next generation? “Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the
Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Even if you haven’t been diligent
thus far, go to each of your children (adult ones included!)
and ask their forgiveness for not
having been the parent that God wanted you to be. Then ask them to let you into their lives to
start walking in righteous parenting!
Intergenerational awareness and
responsibility are threaded throughout the Bible. Examples
abound in Proverbs. Why are grandchildren the “crown” of
their grandparents? “Children's
children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of
their children” (Proverbs
17:6). What changes must you make in your life to be a crown
for your grandchildren, or the pride of your children, even if
Other than the few in the United States
who are obsessed with their genealogy, most westerners are
unable to trace their ancestral heritage back more than three
or four generations. This lack of heritage awareness is a blind
spot for many of us. God’s commands are for all generations, and
each generation must be diligent in training the next.
The generation of Americans born in the
mid-1900’s for the most part experienced frequent contact
among grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins as
they were growing up. Such a reality today seems as remote as
black-and-white TV. To our culture’s detriment we have
lost access to the wisdom and solidity and reliability of
people who really cared that we succeed and uphold the family
name and traditions. Our culture has lost both the respect and the need for
the wisdom of elders.
Important Thoughts to Consider:
1. The virtues of Christ-like character
are learned in the crucible of your home. How you as parents
live in service to your King is more important than what you
say. You are the first picture of living for Jesus that your
child observes. That first impression will ultimately affect
your children’s concept of themselves as adult followers
2. Unlike religious systems in which
children are outsourced to others for spiritual
development, and government systems of compulsory education for
academic and/or vocational training, our Father established
home fellowships to support your home in raising your children.
Coming alongside to undergird parents, the extended spiritual
family of a home fellowship helps your child spiritually and
vocationally become a responsible adult in service to their
The Hebrew word avodah means both
work and worship. A young person who has been guided into the
calling God has prepared for him will work with thankfulness. A
person who is grateful in his workplace is better able to
fulfill his King’s purpose in his being there, and to
bring God glory as he works.
Detail how spiritual development
takes place in your home. How is it supported by others outside
Would Jesus commend you for the
earnestness of spiritual training in your home? Why or why not?
Would you be embarrassed if He arrived unannounced?
If you have children, list the key
character qualities and motivations of each.
If you have children, how is your
fellowship family helping you raise your child(ren) spiritually
and vocationally to serve our Lord? How is it falling short in
this “clan” responsibility?
If you’re an adult without
children in your home, how are you helping the families with
children in your fellowship family to raise theirs in loving
service to our Father?
How Can We Regain What Our Spiritual
>We Must Intergenerationally and Communally
If you listen closely, you can almost hear
the urgency in the prophet Joel’s proclamation: Loving
God and serving Him in obedient trust is the communal responsibility of
all the people! The entire faith community is responsible to
listen and to act.
Follow Joel in Chapter One: “Hear this, you elders, listen all who live in the land” (v.2a). The elders addressed here are the zakens, the older
respected men of wisdom who corporately rendered account to God
on behalf of the entire community. Elders also represent the
shepherds who “pastored” the faith communities of
the early Church.
“Has anything like this ever
happened in your days or in the days
of your forefathers?” (v.2b) Without the collective memory of earlier
generations who have experienced the consequences of sin and
the blessings of obedient trust, the young will blindly plunge
into self-gratification and lawlessness. “Tell it to your
children, and let them tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” (v.3).
The curses and consequences for
disobedience that afflicted Israel came upon the whole people.
Therefore, the responsibility to train up the succeeding
generations also fell on the people as a whole community. This is a common thread among tribal societies,
and this responsibility is borne by the clan as a whole.
The spiritual body of Christ as a family is
as interconnected as was the whole of the Israelite people
called to love God and to serve His purposes.
The responsibility for training up
succeeding generations was primarily contained within the
family and extended spiritual family of home fellowship.
In biblical times, the purpose of learning
was to train up individuals to love
and to serve the Lord their whole
lives. Learning was not confined to childhood; rather, pursuit
of God’s truths in order to apply them to every situation
in life was an endeavor for every person in the community,
young and old. “Wisdom begins
with the ability to see and evaluate all of life from God’s point of view” (Proverbs 1:
7). People who have journeyed longer in faithful trust have
much to share with those just behind them or barely starting
out on their life pilgrimage.
Dr. Ron Moseley, founder of the Arkansas
Institute of Holy Land Studies, writes about the educational
life stages each male passed through in biblical times. At age
five, the youngster was ready to begin actual study of the
Hebrew Scriptures with other young boys. By age ten he was
ready to explore the Oral Law, which interpreted the written
law into life application.
By thirteen, armed with knowledge of
God’s Word and the means to apply it, he was ready for
his bar mitzvah and the inherent responsibility of following
God’s commands. In other words, at that point the young
man needed to approach God himself to discern His will and
At the age of fifteen he was ready to
study the writings of the wise sages who had passed along
wisdom in times past, and at age eighteen he was ready for
marriage. (Given the self-focused, individualist mentality of
today and the disconnectedness from relationships that would
commit to helping a marriage covenant succeed, few
eighteen-year-olds whom we know are ready for this step!)
At the age of twenty, the well-trained
young man was prepared to seek a vocation. At age thirty he was
mature enough to pursue spiritual responsibilities that
benefited others, even while engaged in his occupation. At
least by then, people felt he had something worthwhile to say!
At age forty, the maturing man was considered to have adequate
understanding of God and righteousness and justice.
However, it wasn’t until age fifty that
both men and women were regarded as having the wisdom and
experience to counsel others.
[See Chapter 3, A Hebraic Perspective: The
Foundational Thinking of the Early Church in our book Restoring the Early Church for more on the stages of manhood.]
Access to intergenerational contact,
load-bearing and personal connectedness are so vital to
families today. Each person is at a different stage of decision
and of progress in his pilgrimage with Jesus. Role models who
come alongside those in their spiritual family bring fresh
insight, encouragement, and course redirection if need be.
Our Father intended that His people be
those who understand, who are able to discern His commands and obey
them wisely. One of our Father’s purposes for His
children to know and apply His Word is that others would take
Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who
will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this
great nation is a wise and
understanding people’ (Deute-ronomy 4:6).
This is what the world needs to see from
the followers of Jesus today! Those who have sought their
Lord’s counsel and applied it throughout their lives are
a repository of encouragement to the next generation. As Job
declared, “Is not wisdom
found among the aged? Does not long life
bring understanding? To God belong
wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His” (12:12,13).
While an old axiom states that
there’s no fool like an old fool, those in the faith
community who have learned from
their mistakes are invaluable
resources because they’ve experienced the compassion of
our Father’s forgiveness and His power to press on, as
did Paul, without mourning the past.
bringing joy to children as they learn God’s Word is an
effective means of instilling a reverence and a delight in
God's Word. Having a number of people involved in this
responsibility enhances the probability that little ones will
stay interested and retain what you’ve taught.
Why should it matter to you if someone is
prepared to replace you in the faith when you’re gone?
One reality affects all families: Everyone dies at some point.
As our society has moved off the farm, succession, or who will
serve in place of another, has been forgotten. Except for those
in some family-owned businesses, few of us think about
succession. But God wants His people to be diligent about the
spiritual inheritance we leave to succeeding generations!
[See the August 2002 Newsletter, “Covenant Communities”.]
Again, a tribal
view of spiritual heritage
emphasizes that each family and faith community face two
Who will succeed them in the
How well are potential successors
being trained to lead?
Moses understood the importance of succession. For many
years he personally trained Joshua to succeed him. At last, the
succession was complete when Moses passed on the mantle of
leadership to the younger man in front of the whole nation.
When the elderly prophet died, his successor had already been
prepared to be the new leader:
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must
go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their
forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as
their inheritance’ (Deuteronomy
Elders: Older Men Responsible to Our
Father for Ensuring Godly Successors
When you think about preparing the next
generation, you probably focus on the children. But our Father
focuses on the ones He ultimately holds responsible for
ensuring that successors are biblically trained: the elders.
[See Chapter 4. Shepherding by Elders, in
our book Pastoring by Elders, and Segments 7 thru 10 of the Home Fellowship
portion of our Jesus In Your Home video series for
more on succession.]
If you recall, an Israelite belonged to a family which was
part of a clan which was part of a tribe which was part of the nation of Israel.
Responsible leadership at each level was provided by the
appropriate elders. Men who showed exceptional leadership
qualities as elders of their families were recognized and
promoted for the good of the people. They became elders over
clans, then tribes, and ultimately the nation.
This same leadership progression was true
for the earliest Church. As an extension of the home, the home
fellowship of Jesus followers were committed to one
another’s growth in Christ’s likeness as extended
spiritual family. Qualified older men served with authority and
leadership in the lives of others. This is why Peter could
command young believers to submit to those who are older (see 1 Peter 5:5).
In the fellowship family that gathered
together in homes, elders personally cared for each individual
even as they had cared for members of their immediate family.
[This is analogous to the Trustee Family in Appendix B of Part 2.]
An elder or shepherd was a gray-haired man
of compassion and leadership who imparted wisdom and counsel to
a specific group of people. As we noted, the Hebrew word for
elder, zaken (zah-ken’), connoted men who had proved
themselves worth following and emulating. The role of elder was
a life’s goal to which men who sought wisdom aspired.
definition, means “gray-bearded,” and suggests
wisdom gained by many years of life experience. Over the course
of their lives these men exhibited servant-like character
qualities that took into consideration the welfare of others
within their family, clan, and tribe.
Because the nation of Israel saw itself as
a singular “extended family,” each body of elders
possessed an inherent interest in the directions and decisions
that were made. Their own kin would be affected.
The Lord ensured that this role would be
an integral part of preparing His children to walk in spiritual
maturity: “It was He who gave some to
be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and
some to be shepherds and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service,
so that the body of Christ may be
built up” (Ephesians 4:11,12). All of these anointings were already in place
among the Jewish people before the new covenant was initiated.
The Greek word poimen (poy-mane),
translated as “shepherd”, is a far cry from the
modern concept of pastor. Today’s hired clergy
administrates, counsels, visits, and generally fills in for
every need that is supposed to be fulfilled by the body
However, poimen was understood to be
the equivalent of the Hebrew role of elder. Older men of wisdom
represented the Father’s loving concern for His children.
[See Chapter 2. Nicolaitanism, Repression
of God’s People, in our book Pastoring
by Elders for more on this
Walking in the role of an elder within a
home gathering setting allowed these older men to edify the
body through accessibility and wise counsel. It was within the
context of committed loadbearing that the relational responsibility of Hebrews
13:17 was worked out:
Obey [literally, let yourself be
persuaded by] the ones leading you
and submit. They keep watch on
behalf of your souls as men who
must [in the future] render an
account. Obey them so that their
work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no
advantage to you.
Elders will render account to our Father
for each person for whom they are spiritually responsible. That’s why the size of a fellowship family
that’s gathered in a home must be limited to the
elder(s)’ ability to render account to our Father.
Biblical elders pastored (instructed,
nurtured, confronted, trained) the men of the faith community,
who then “pastored” their own families. An elder
must lead through personal example in the way he walks his own relationship with
Jesus. He also needs personal
knowledge of the believers
he’s leading, including awareness of the spiritual
gifting of each person to help each one fulfill God’s
particular purposes for the fellowship as a whole.
Instruments For War for discussion
on spiritual giftings.]
When you’re in committed
relationship with brothers and sisters in Jesus, you need to
consider how you can make the work of those elders a joy, or
else your presence in a home fellowship is “of no advantage” to them.
Ask yourself: “Am I a burden or a burden-lifter in my
faith community?” How is the Spirit prompting you to help
fulfill our Father’s purposes among your extended
Elders of Home Fellowships
Lead Through Example
God has created men and women to process
information in very different ways. Anyone can be taught data
that will add to his knowledge but do little to alter his
character, his life choices or world view. Numerous studies
have revealed that males are changed not by what they hear or read but by two
interaction with role models
confrontation by older, wiser men.
Education only adds to a man’s
knowledge. He’s not changed by what he knows, Rather, knowledge only
tends to puff up his ego.
Women, on the other hand, are changed by role
modeling, education (such as what they read or hear), and, to a
lesser extent, by confrontation.
Within the Christian community at large
today, education is the most commonly used form of passing along
information. Think about all those sermons and Sunday school
classes you’ve sat through! The education format has made
it difficult to nurture and develop mature men who will be
capable of succeeding the older men in the body.
How did education rather than role modeling and confrontation
become the pre-eminent method of discipleship in the church?
The converted Hellenist philosophers who entered the church
after the first century introduced an emphasis on academic pursuit and knowledge acquisition. Since character development and the character
and life experience of the teacher himself were considered
unimportant, imparting character qualities was minimized.
This is why many “teachers” in
today’s Hellenist-influenced religious system rely on
prepared study guides in order to convey content. Scriptural
search for answers to relevant
problems of people in the faith
community seems odd to most leaders. The impact of a Christlike
lifestyle which is role modeled through personal relationship outside the
classroom environment (even such as getting together for early
breakfast and discussion) is practically nonexistent.
We visited a congregation of about forty
who were meeting in a school classroom. As we entered the room
we noticed that few people were sitting together. Most were
scattered in their own small row around the room. Except for a
small worship team and the pastor, little participation was
Since we had just met the pastor, we got
together with him and his wife to share some of the Hebraic
concepts of applying the Word to life situations. In that way
awareness of our Lord could be continued outside the meeting
place walls. We also encouraged him to invite the congregation
closer to the front so they could be near each other.
The next Sunday he took the leap.
Encouraging the people to move up and to chat with each other
briefly, he then read briefly from Scripture. Pausing, he
scanned the congregation and started asking them questions
about the passage and how it might apply to their own lives.
Hesitant at first, the gathering quickly erupted into
enthusiastic participation that extended for two hours! Even
the teens and young people took part!
One couple we’d met briefly earlier
had been visiting the congregation for the first time. As they
came up to us the husband declared, “If this is the
typical Hebraic teaching style, let’s have more of it!
This is great!” People lingered long afterward to talk.
Invitations to get together were extended. What a change!
During the week, however, the pastor must
have been talking to other clergy in the community. Feeling
that he’d lost control over the people, he was
threatened. He sent us a letter stating in no uncertain terms
that he didn’t want his church turning into a synagogue! The next
week we were told that the “old” format was once
again in place. He preached and the people sat there
uninvolved. Not too many weeks later the congregation dissolved
and the pastor found himself selling insurance for a living.
Biblical Hebraic teaching can be summed up
by this: “Do as I do.” The Hebrews recognized that the only
valid form of learning was that which could and would be
applied to life. To see this concept become reality calls for
wise, older role models: elders. Through role modeling,
instruction and confrontation, elders help younger followers of
Jesus walk with increasing wisdom as they apply what has been
How important the criterion of intimate relational care was in determining leadership in the early
Church! Even forthright Paul could remind the believers in
Thessalonica that his conduct among them had been as intimate
as that of a mother or father.
The way a man
lived, not his head know-ledge,
reflected his true measure. The writer to the Hebrews
reaffirmed this critical link between “talk” and
“walk”. Elders lead by example. What they want to
reproduce in others must be seen in their own lives:
Remember the ones
leading you, who spoke the word of
God to you. Consider the result of their conduct and imitate their
faith. Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews
Since elders are the undershepherds of
Jesus (see 1 Peter 5:4), and Jesus is the same yesterday,
today, and forever, the same qualities of caring and attentive
leadership should be expected in any era or culture. Our Father
loves you too much to allow you to remain unconfronted in your
sin. So, too, are biblical elders compelled by the Spirit to
confront those in the fold who are straying from the Lord.
Confrontation can run a gamut from mild
chiding to strong rebuke. Appropriate confrontation by an older
man who has intimate knowledge of a disciple is vital because
it can incite a younger man to change his course:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who
are working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the Lord
and confronting you in order to
help you change. Treat them with
the highest regard and love because of the work they are doing. Live at
peace among yourselves (1
Thessalonians 5:12,13, Jewish New Testament).
Some might call confrontation “tough
love”. Others recognize it as fatherly concern that
clearly exposes foolishness and sin while pointing the way to
wisdom and righteousness. Unconfronted irresponsibility only
adds to the burden of others.
The Role of Older Women
While older men of wisdom served as elders
within their faith communities, older women played an important
role among early believers as well. The biblical precedent for
a righteous woman of virtue to influence others is found in
Proverbs 31:10-31. This passage was recited every Sabbath in
the homes of both Jews and Jewish followers of Jesus to affirm
a wife as a vital part of a man’s reason for existence. A
husband’s admiring recitation also elevated her in their
Just as every devout man aspired to the
wisdom of an elder or sage, so every righteous woman looked to
the Proverbs 31 matron as her role model of an older, virtuous
woman. Younger women could receive counsel from her, and could
be helped to grow in that Godly pattern.
A contemporary insidious scheme of Satan
sets a snare of immorality in the path of vulnerable younger
men who might want to come alongside women to counsel them in
their distress. To forestall temptation, the apostle Paul
wisely instructed women to guide other women. The widows and older
women of each congregation whose husbands served as elders were
perhaps the likeliest candidates to fulfill this assignment:
Teach the older
women to be reverent in the way they
live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled
and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:3-5).
The Greek word for
“self-controlled” used in verse 5 means “to
be sober-minded, or to voluntarily
place limitations on their own freedom.” A woman herself makes a deliberate choice to
submit to God’s order in her household. An older woman
can reinforce and encourage a younger woman’s decision to
follow this decidedly counter-cultural path.
If the biblical pattern that was designed
to discourage sinful choices were followed today, how many
adulterous affairs between clergy and vulnerable, discontented
women could be avoided? Even within fellowships that are
extended spiritual family, keep in mind that this culture, and
the media in particular, exalt lifestyles and role models that
are incompatible with righteousness.
Be aware of other demonic ploys within
segments of “Christian” teaching. Ration-alizing
destructive behavior that stomps on the Bible under the
deception that “God wants me to be happy” crushes
your children’s faith and disheartens your faith
community family. How great is the need for older women in your
home fellowship family to come alongside younger women to point
out potential pitfalls and encourage them in righteous living!
Scripture often warns women against being
idle busybodies and quarrelsome nags: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the
foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs
14:1). How needful it was in biblical times (and even more
essential today!) for women to have access to mature, godly
women who were willing to speak lovingly and forthrightly about
righteousness and obedient trust as a lifestyle.
The home fellowship family, as an
extension of the home, provides this type of support and
access. Granted, some of that contact may have to be in the
form of e-mail or phone calls from the workplace during breaks.
But the accountability that comes from knowing someone will be
impacted for good or for evil by your choices may just tip the
balance toward walking as Jesus would!
Today’s pattern of discontented
women who tear down their husbands and families through phone
calls or bad reports disguised as prayer requests is a sad
reflection of worldly infiltration into the church. If you are
an older woman, you need to step forward as a responsible
voice. Nip the self-destructive trend that isolates women from pressing on together to
fulfill our Lord’s purposes.
This requires deliberate choices on both
your part and that of the younger women to be accessible and
willing to initiate contact, particularly with women who are
fearful to commit to accountability or a deeper relationship of
obedient trust in Jesus. Are you willing to ask our Father to reveal the
particular woman or women with whom He wants your life to be
Hebraic home fellowships were an integral
part of extending the Kingdom of God. They came about as
individuals and families intentionally lived in love and fear
of God, and responded to His Word through their choices and
actions. In this manner home fellowships multiplied throughout
neighborhoods because the changes that God was making in
believers’ lives were so evident, and their love for one
another was so obvious. Kingdom expansion resulted as the
Gospel was proclaimed through Spirit-transformed family in
The relationally intimate gatherings in
homes branched out into a corporate
sense of connection with other
Jesus-followers within their town or city. Evangelists and
merchants who were followers of Jesus journeyed to other towns
and even nations. They carried with them their identificational connectedness with those back home as well as with new family
members in Jesus they encountered along the way.
If you’re ever going to experience
the love, understanding, and acceptance that God is restoring
to His people, you must, by His grace, leave behind the depersonalized Hellenist
forms of associations to which you may have grown accustomed.
You can’t expect God to work
mightily in your life if you’re complacent in your
relationship with Him and content to sit in religious services
and programs as your only (or chief) expression of that
You may need several months to
purposefully press on before you’re authentically walking
in the increased personal responsibilities of a home fellowship
family that’s committed to extending the Kingdom.
When you hear the word
“church”, what goes through your mind?
Since the true meaning of
“church” is “the called-out ones”, how
does that understanding change your view of yourself and your
relational responsibilities to our Lord and to those you
Describe in your own words your
understanding of the tribal nature of Christianity.
As you understand the relational
nature of “tribal” Christianity, what do you need
to change in your own life and faith practice?
Have you ever been in a home
fellowship which had a 24/7 commitment to each other? If not,
do you feel you could be part of one? Are there changes in your
faith practices and priorities you would have to make? Describe