New Covenant Publications - A Counter Cult Ministry

 

A Proposal to the brothers and sisters
of the Phoenix Church

 

The ministry and administrative staff would like to propose that in each region of the Phoenix church, an interim representative group be selected by the brothers and sisters to serve during this time to assist the region leader couples. This group would serve for a set time until a Deacons group and/or Elders and Deacons group be appointed - ideally in every region - to oversee the affairs of the church. We want to be proactive both in addressing the problems and sins that God is bringing to light as well as moving forward to meet the needs of the church.

This proposal comes as an attempt to address some of the problems, as we best understand them at this current time. Here are just a few:

  1. A level of trust has been broken between those working for the church and the members - the degree of trust that has been broken and is in need of repair varies greatly from one believer to another.

  2. Although those in the ministry are called to be servants of all, the use of a discipling hierarchy has created a top-down style of leadership that has left many feeling like those in the ministry are not getting a proper perspective of how the church is really doing and what needs are out there that need addressing.

  3. When you have ministry staff discipling and overseeing other ministry staff, there is a closed system that creates and perpetuates blind spots. The church members that spend the most time with those in the ministry should feel the responsibility for being their brother's keeper and offer input, guidance, encouragement, and admonishment to those who work for the church. Yet people don't always feel the freedom to offer input or correction for fear of being discounted or even worse labeled. This must change. Although those of us in the ministry may have tried our best to solicit input and have said we welcome a Matthew 18:15-17 approach, this hasn't always been an avenue that some or many brothers and sisters have felt comfortable with. Or perhaps they have tried and again have been made to feel not heard or understood.

  4. There has been a lack of Deacons and Elders and perhaps even a lack of biblical understanding as to the appointment and functionality of these roles. Thus, an evangelist has been asked to fill shoes that he cannot fill and there has not been a proper arrangement to prevent the continuation of one man's weaknesses. So those who are called to preach the Word may not be aware that needs within the church are being overlooked or that some have been caused to stumble.

This is not an exhaustive list of our shortcomings, but it begins to describe some of the issues that a newly formed representative group would help to safeguard. The Phoenix staff would like to continue to offer our sincerest apologies to those that have been hurt by these systemic sins that we have perpetuated, allowed, and promoted. We are committed to continuing one on one talks, group talks, or whatever else might be necessary to repent and renounce our sins and to help in the healing process. We, the ministry staff, are asking you the disciples to choose from among the body those who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to work with us as the Spirit continues to burn off the hay and straw that has crept into the house of God so that we can strive to build with costly stones. The staff wants such groups to help rebuild trust and to serve as a mediator for those who have felt apprehensive when approaching those in the ministry with their concerns. We also want the additional help with our weaknesses, our families, our marriages, etc. Not only has the closed-system and top-down leadership style hurt the body of Christ, it has hurt many in the ministry because such avenues of communication and accountability were not defined and so were not always available. And working with leaders that we as a staff have chosen hasn't always proven to be the most effective way to break out of the closed-system either.

Is there a biblical precedent for what we are proposing? Yes and no. The early church responded to problems as they arose and a process for rectifying those problems evolved depending on the need. We are facing problems that may feel very unique to us, but are not unlike issues that the early church dealt with. So we look to the scriptures for answers but must also ask the Spirit for discernment to help us in our situation.

As the early church grew in numbers and in maturity, tests arose that presented the brotherhood with some significant opportunities to respond in a Spirit-led way. From Acts chapter 3 until Acts 5, the majority of these challenges came from opposition to this new gospel from the Jewish elders and rulers - a persecution of sorts that came from outside the church. However, in Acts chapter 6 we see a different challenge - a test that arose from within the body of believers. Needs were not being met and the apostles responded in a proactive way.

Acts 6:1-7 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." 5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

It appears that up until that time, the leadership of the apostles was sufficient to meet the various needs of the believers. At some point it became obvious that pockets of the church were being overlooked and the complaint was significant enough that the Spirit inspired Luke to write this part of the church's history in the Bible. Perhaps this was in fact the first substantial occasion that challenges or pressure from outside the church was not the main problem facing the body of Christ, but instead a leadership issue and felt needs from within the body. The apostles appealed to the disciples to choose seven men with distinct qualifications - men who were known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We are not sure how these men were selected, but we know that it was the brotherhood that oversaw their selection and the seven were presented to the apostles who then prayed for them, laid hands on them, and turned over responsibility to them. It appears that God blessed this decision and the end result was a broader base of leadership, the spread of the gospel, and even priests - spiritual leaders themselves - became obedient to the faith.

The second and more crucial crossroads that faced the early church was the conversion of the Gentiles and the realization by the Jewish Christians and even the apostles as to the full magnitude of God's saving grace to all people. There is much to say on this issue and the process that the early church went through to arrive at their conclusions. In fact, it took revelation from Jesus himself and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit just to convince Peter and the others - yet still some were not convinced! After the household of Cornelius responded to the Gospel, Peter returned to Jerusalem and defended his actions in Acts chapter 11. After Peter explains himself, Acts 11:18 states, "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."

However, the issue was not put to rest and would instead be revisited once God continued to abundantly bless Paul's missionary journeys to various Gentile cities. The circumcised believers who may have been originally convinced by Peter's explanation began to again question the validity of the Gentile conversions and questioned whether or not circumcision - a sign of God's covenant with Abraham and then ratified by the Law of Moses - also applied to these new believers whom God was grafting into the body of Christ. The issue ended up requiring a Council of elders and apostles to meet in Jerusalem where the issue was discussed. It is interesting to note that once all was said and heard, James the brother of Jesus - who was not one of the original apostles nor was he associated with Paul and his companions - was the final decision-maker. Although James was a Jew, he seems to have been trusted by all to be an impartial mediator of what must have been a major source of disagreement amongst the believers. Following James' decision, the church together with the elders and apostles again chose some representatives to travel with Paul and Barnabas to deliver the decisions made in the Council.

Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.

So we are asking you the church to select capable representatives from within each region to help oversee the needs of the region and work with the ministry staff. We in the ministry would like to remove ourselves from the selection so that an impartial choice can be made. We would like to ask you to pray about it and then write down your selection(s) on a piece of paper and turn that in to a trusted mediator in the fellowship. It would be good to have representatives from the various ministries in our regions - marrieds, parents, parents of teens/preteens, single parents, singles, etc. We will use this midweek and next midweek to gather your selections, for some are out of town or are even tonight serving in children's ministry. From your selections, a representative group will be chosen and if they are willing they will begin to serve. It is our hope that this will promote a healthier leadership and begin to make right was has been wrong. Our ultimate hope is that God will bless us as we strive to please Him and that within the body of Christ there will exist a genuine love for one another, genuine concern for one another, and a genuine unity experienced by all.

 

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