EVERYTHING He does is intentional – and that applies to His timing.
Father God chose to dispatch Jesus to the earth at a time in history in which the architecture of Jerusalem was dominated by one building: the Temple. In addition, the Roman Empire was littered with temples to all sorts of demonic “gods”.
One main purpose of the Temple was to give all Jews a chance to interact with God even through it would be filtered through a formal priesthood who interacted more personally with God on their behalf.
Basically, this is what happened in the pagan temples but in many, any adherent to the worship of the building’s “deity” might serve as a “priest.” For instance, in the Temple of Artemis (or Diana) in Ephesus every female “worshipper” served the deity by spending time as a temple prostitute. These women were, in essence, priestesses to Diana.
Jesus was born into a world in which people were used to the idea that involvement with the real God (or with a pagan “god”, for that matter) was a relatively impersonal thing.
That’s very sad, isn’t it?
It was into this approach to God that Jesus began His ministry by connecting with a single person: Andrew who then went to his brother, Simon Peter.
“One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone).” (John 1:40-42)
Then Jesus found a third man, Philip.
“The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’” (John 1:43)
Philip found a fourth man, Nathaniel, and told him about Jesus.
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” (John 1:45)
This is how Jesus began what would become His Church all across the earth. He started in a very personal way.
He located those the Father had for Him to disciple until the twelve original disciples were assembled. For the next three years Jesus spent a LOT of time, one-on-one with these men as a group.
I would imagine that in the three years they spent together each of the original 12 disciples got to have one-on-one time with Jesus and all of them had a chance now and then to be in a small team of people with Jesus. We know, of course, that they also functioned as a 13 man team a lot with Jesus as the one leading, teaching, modeling and doing the actual discipling.
Sometimes, though, it was Jesus and just two or three others. In one recorded event it was Him and Peter, Andrew and John (Mark 13:3). Another time it was Peter, James and John with Him (the Transfiguration – Matthew 17:1) and then when Talitha was raised from the dead (Mark 5:37ff).
All this was in stark contrast to the comparatively impersonal interaction with God one received at the Temple. After all, whether they knew it or not, the very first disciples were spending face-to-face time in an intimate small group way with God Himself - (Jesus) on the earth.
“… ‘and they shall call His name Immanuel’ which is translated, ‘God with us’…” (Matthew 1:23b)
There came a point in their training (“disciple” means “student”), though, in which Jesus added another element to His personal style. He sent the very first disciples out in small, intimate teams of two.
“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.” (Mark 6:7-9)
Jesus wanted them to be together and to depend upon God individually and through one another. Otherwise, He would have sent them out each alone.
The picture that emerges, then, of Jesus countering a world filled with impersonal interaction from man to God (or false “gods”) by being VERY personal with His small group of disciples and encouraging them to practice very personal fellowship among themselves.
His next step of training or “discipling” is in the same vein.
“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.” (Luke 10:1)
I find it very significant that these seventy people did not include the original twelve. They consisted of “seventy others”. Lest people be able to say, “Well, it was easy for the original twelve disciples because they got one-on-one time with Jesus and that’s why they were so successful when they were out two by two….” Jesus sends seventy different people out two by two.
Why did He do that?
He wanted them (and us) to know that spreading the gospel and, later, His Church was not going to be limited to some special inner circle of somehow “exalted” people who had gotten special and exclusive training.
This was something that Jesus always intended to be an honor and joy that any believer could experience if they were willing to “go”.
We all know that at the end of the time Jesus spent on the earth He was tortured to death, was buried, and rose from the dead. When that happened He completed His primary mission, which was to become our sin, die on our behalf and provide a way that we could be co-crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:6 and following) and rise with Him free from slavery to sin.
It was time for His secondary mission to kick into high gear: the mobilization of every Christian to spread that message and continue to enjoy the very same intimacy with Him that the very first disciples enjoyed.
When He was still with those first disciples He prepared them for the day when He would no longer be with them in a merely physical manner.
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.’” (John 7:33)
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19)
He was telling them, as we can see from our perspective in history, that there would come a day when He would no longer be with them physically. In truth, He was telling them (and us) that they would get to experience Him the way that we experience Him now: not physically, rather in a more intimate way……spiritually!
In fact, that is what He tells the very first disciples just before He says what He does in John 14:19:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and (He) will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
The reality is that Jesus is still making disciples….whenever people cooperate with Him in that. He has placed His Holy Spirit in each Christian and there are many purposes for that but the one that is so evident to me right now is that He lives in us so He can make disciples through us. That is why He said this to those very first disciples (minus Judas who had died) gathered together on a mountain in Galilee:
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Some have said over the last 2000 years that it was only Jesus’ inner circle of specially trained disciples who became the first apostles that was given what we call The Great Commission, but the truth is that they were the first to administrate it. We know this because when Jesus gives His parting words as recorded in Acts 1:4-8 and ascends into heaven they obey Him and go wait for Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
There those eleven men immediately join one hundred and nine or so other men and women and wait in the upper room. What did they do in that room?
Well, in the “church language” of modern day Christians they “had church”.
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:14a)
In reality, they WERE the Church and they did what Christians do in groups and individually: they prayed and petitioned God (supplication.)
On the Day of Pentecost Holy Spirit manifested on and in every one of them (Acts 2:3) and every one of these first Christians (the original disciples and the ones who came after them) spilled out of that upper room and brought the risen Jesus to Jerusalem, through them.
The Bible reveals that what happens because of all this is that 3000 people are born again immediately. Three thousand people are saved because of the preparation twelve men received in an intimate way through being disciples of Jesus, sharing their everyday lives with one another and with Jesus. Those three thousand people weren’t ministered to only by those original 12 minus Judas. There were 109 other Christians who had been touched by Jesus and who also had spent intimate time together.
This all happened in Jerusalem in which the most prominent building was the Temple. This was all done in the shadow of that building in which interaction with God had been reduced by professional ministers into just an impersonal routine.
Pentecost, in great contrast, was experienced by people who had spent intimate time together with Jesus and with one another. When Holy Spirit filled them (an intensely personal spiritual experience with God) Jesus flowed freely through them and into the souls of lost people.
Can you see why it is so essential that, as Christians in this time, we practice a form of Christianity that is intimate and personal?
In Matthew 28:18-20 we are told that as we are going we are to accomplish 3 things: make disciples, baptize and teach. Reading the book of Acts we can see that the very first Christians ALL did that.
We can also see that they began to meet in small, intimate groups of people.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-27)
What was the result? It affected the lost around those who lived like this. Look at how Acts 2:47 ends: “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
The intimate, “everyone matters and can participate” style that was and still is a part of true New Covenant (in other words, true Christian) worship does so much to lower barriers between people. This makes it easier for Holy Spirit to touch human hearts.
Unfortunately, that intimacy has been very effectively scrubbed out of almost 100% of all Church gatherings. One can easily see how threatened the devil must be at the prospect of thousands being saved on a regular basis because of the effect the intimate Christian lifestyle has on people that have been isolated from one another by satan.
That's why Jesus operated that way with His original disciples.
It's why Holy Spirit designed the early Church that way for the first Believers.
It's why Father God is bringing the Church BACK to His original intended design in this season.
Jesus was born into a world in which people were used to the idea of going to special buildings in which their interaction with God (or some false “god”) would be funneled through priests.
God designed Old Covenant worship just like He designed the Law: always with the intention of fulfilling it through Jesus. No longer would it be required that people come to one place on the earth to have an encounter with God that would, eventually, be minimized through man’s meddling.
Man’s efforts only caused there to be a veil, if you will, placed between people and God’s face. This was not good, in God’s opinion, so He sent Jesus to reestablish a personal relationship between God and man that had exited in the Garden of Eden and was lost there.
We are here to introduce people to Jesus and make them into disciples of Jesus. When that happens in an organic, no additives way, something amazing happens:
“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)
We, as a people, get to look God in the face again.
What some of us refer to as “organic” or “simple” church is not at all a matter of the style of how we gather. This goes a LOT deeper than the form. This has to do with the substance of Christianity.
The focus some have on the form of gathering in terms of a huge building or someone’s living room reveals the damage that has been done to the purity and simplicity of Christian worship since 300 A.D.
We get hung up on the format but it’s not about the form at all.
This is, in reality, a movement that God has ordained to bring back the intimacy that man-made religion has stolen from the Body of Christ.
The de-evolution of Christianity has brought us to a place where we have so lost the personal touch of the Holy Spirit of God that it has been reduced to relatively rare experiences across the entire Church on the earth. It has also given rise to gaudy impersonations of Pentecost that are almost always nothing more than emotional events engineered by people walking after the flesh.
That will only ever, ultimately, yield death.
And it amuses the devil who has tempted people to drift from God's original pattern for the Body of Christ.
Jesus started with one person.
He assembled a small group of people. That spread to others. Pentecost happened through a relatively small group of people and it resulted in thousands having a life changing encounter with Jesus ministered mostly by people who met in homes daily…..whether they also went to the Temple or not.
I believe the Lord is directing us as the Lord’s Church on the earth to cluster in small, intimate gatherings on a regular basis. This is true whether or not we gather in large groups intermittently or regularly.
He is calling us, as He did in the beginning, to share our lives and our stuff.
He will meet us there. He will continue to save our souls through the intimacy and humility of that.
He will build HIS Church.
For me, the realization of all God has revealed to me about this has made me question my own plans for what I wanted to do with the ministry He has entrusted to me.
For instance, instead of producing a curriculum to use to train people to be disciples and then to lead others to be disciples I have decided to model what we do as much like the way Jesus did it as possible. I don’t believe this means everyone has to move about Israel for three years together. Rather, it would involve listening to Holy Spirit and allowing the Father to guide us to what He would have us know.
After all, this was how Jesus conducted Himself during those three intense years.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19)
Following Jesus has ALWAYS meant that we must be ready to abandon what we want….to be obedient to what He, the Lord…the OWNER wants. Faith in Christ always puts some human desires and plans at risk…but it’s always worth it.
It is my intention to fully populate His intentions for my life.