The last essay identified 2 catechisms. Those who study theology in the 21st century know the Global Western Evangelical catechism well [A catechism more in the Catholic sense of rote learning than the literal sense of the word]. We now have the task of laying out the context of learning and teaching the principles that Paul taught to all the new believers, as well as identifying the unique content. These Pauline principles form the foundation from which all of Christianity that we have today begun, so every denomination finds its roots within it – essentially, this is the dynamic tradition from which all traditions have come from and many are a perversion of, and therefore the tradition that we must and can all find our way back to in order to be a fresh and vibrant entity throughout 21st century Australia and the world.
Paul’s major teaching is the oneness we must maintain in Christ and he dogmatically emphasises that every believer has a unique and essential contribution to make to the strength of the churches and to the communities that surround the churches1. Therefore, at the beginning, we must note that this learning is not only for the professional pastor, or for leaders of the church; there is a teaching that is for every believer; young, old, male, female, husband, wife, children, leaders, church workers, etc. Everyone must learn to offer their gifts for the service of others. This service must strengthen the oneness
(comprehensive unity) of the whole body of Christ. Paul was not pleased that the Jewish believers did their own thing and the Gentile believers theirs – even across vast cultural divides each ‘group’ had gifts to offer each other2. Paul was not willing that some follow him and some follow Peter or Barnabas. Paul was not willing that Euodia and Syntyche remain divided. Paul was utterly convinced. There is one body and one Spirit and our one collective hope is found within this [His] body!3
Each believer has to learn [renew their mind] to contribute to the one body of Christ – not each one doing his own thing. Each church was to contribute to the mission of the whole, not separate off and have their own little mission isolated from the whole. Every nation of churches was to be united as a global body – no Jew, Gentile, Sythian etc. Each believer was to live out their role within their nuclear family to facilitate all of this – training up our children in the [body/family/community of our] Lord. Every believer, as a matter of highest priority was to contribute their God given unique strength to the churches4; One global church5 but not in the manner of Papal authority. Biblically this global authority resides in self-sacrificial, persecuted, mobile, apostolic teams who are doing their uttermost to be unified with one another.
Our contemporary context into which we are seeking to build this unity is a complex and often fiercely opposed to these ideas because our history. I think the most significant almost undetected effect of the reformation is autonomy, which crept in as a ‘necessary’ philosophy to guard against the possibility of another papal regime developing under which everyone would be again controlled by erroneous theology. This ‘autonomy’ philosophy has developed over time undermining the unity of the churches at every level; separating denominational authorities, separating church authorities within denominations, separating families within churches, separating individuals from one another. The 21st century form of this philosophy is ‘God will be my only authority’, and is most often spoken through phrase ‘led by the Spirit’ which in evangelicalism means, ‘God will speak to each one of us individually’. The anti-unity of autonomy is obscured by its equal yet more palatable error anti-authority – again, the fear of being erroneously governed by an authority. Our fear of being ruled again causes us to hold this position as a matter of philosophical/biblical conviction, yet is it utterly opposed to Paul’s Master-plan, and are clearly opposed to what Luther tried to achieve. Christ commands us to be under human authorities – commands that we often reject or dismiss for the sake of our own fear based philosophies. The task of innovation is to bring all of these pieces back together in an attractive and Christ glorifying manner – not a papal manner.
So as leaders we need to facilitate the learning of the believers – Paul calls it ‘renewing our minds’ to think about the whole body, not just themselves6. The Apostles catechism to achieve this can be gleaned by collecting together all of the practical instructions that they give the churches. C.H.Dodd has grouped all of this instruction into the following categories, given for all those who have understood and believed the gospel of Christ.
The New Testament Christian is enjoined to reform his conduct
The typical virtues of the new way of life are set forth
The proper Christian relationship within the family, the primary unit of the Christian community are reviewed
Right relationships within the Christian community are set forth
A pattern of behaviour towards pagan neighbours is described
Correct relationships with constituted authorities are defined
There is a call to watchfulness and responsibility7
The intent of these 3 essays is to make a call to the churches to learn these core principles together, so that as we innovate, we not only  build and grow on the stability of these principles but that we also  transition together. Some reflection on this will illuminate that both of these principles and the stable unity of the church are one and the same – and completely inseparable. Wholesome unity is not possible without the believers being grounded in these principles, and to say it another way, these principles outline the essential practices of biblical unity – they are the practicalities of discipleship that we are biblically mandated to teach the believers and will enthusiastically undergird ever-contemporary innovation. It is as we learn these principles together that the church will powerfully lift its image from a stalwart symbol of the past, to a mighty God ordained solution to all the complex problems of the future and through these principles bearing all the vitality of the gospel out as a unified and alive light within this world / pillar and foundation of the truth / city on a hill - consistently attractive within our ever progressive cultures.
These principles are for every believer. As leaders at various levels of leadership we must not ensure that we have adequately learned the principles themselves [the true test of righteousness] but also the biblical design for stabilising these principles within families, churches, whole networks, regions and nations.
The best implementation system that I’ve seen is developed by BILD International whose philosophy, curriculum and network build a platform for innovation – based on Paul’s Master Plan. BILD International8 has a completely integrated system allowing whole networks and organisations to be learning together at 5 different levels of discipleship/leadership. This system is not prescriptive – it will not tell you what to do – but rather assists believers to learn the principles that undergird Paul’s Master-plan and encourages each disciple / family / church / etc to find their own expression of that within your churches and families.
The Christian Community is to be constantly innovative with these dynamic principles – master artisans in contemporary culture. We are to consistently develop theologically sound and attractive artefacts such as songs, businesses, arts, community assistance projects, and strong families, all of which will promote community admiration for healthy and respected churches. Collectively, these churches [not individuals] are the centrepiece of Christ’s plan and Paul speaks of them as the ‘pillar...of the truth’, ‘the body of Christ’, and although it’s a massive evangelical stretch, ‘the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way’9. According to Christ, She is the centre of His universe. Christ gave His life for the Church (the churches). The Apostles gave their lives to strengthening and planting new churches on the principles identified above, all for the glory of Christ. We also have the privilege of doing the same – investing our lives in the bride of Christ – His rich and glorious inheritance.10
So we have some work to do; Innovative work; Difficult work; Work that will undoubtedly re-define leadership. Work that may not be well received, but is, none-the-less, essential work for the survival of the churches. And I’m convinced it’s imperative that within our innovation, every opportunity is taken [as much as it depends on us] to remain unified with all the churches. Our task is not different to Luther’s, as he sought to remain unified with the entire church throughout a mammoth process of innovation, nor Peter and Paul’s as they sought to implement whole new God-glorifying practices.
Innovation must come out of learning together. Sustainable innovation will come from those who can defend their actions and lead others into ‘a new order of things’, for undoubtedly difficulties will come against the innovator and his party – just as ungodly Niccolo could even predict. The innovator must be able to defend himself comprehensively from the highest authority – the Scriptures, and ideally, those around the innovator would be able to make a reasonable defence also.11
...he insists that every believer has a unique and essential contribution to make to the strength of the churches
The Christian community is to be constantly innovative with these dynamic principles – master artisans in contemporary culture
Just as Christ gave His life for the Church...
...we likewise have the privilege of doing the same, and that for His glory
1 Rom 12.1-8 esp. 4-5, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4.7,
2 Rom 15.27
3 Eph 4.4
4 Rom 12.1-8
5 Eph 4.4 take special note of the words ‘just as’ or ‘even as’ equating our singular unified hope with a singular unified body. Our Hope in Christ is not individual, nor separate from each other. Our hope in Christ is in and through His body.
6 Rom 12.1-8 – see footnotes in the second paper of this series.
7 C.H. Dodd, Gospel and Law. Kevin Perotta builds on Dodd in his work ‘Leading Christians to maturity’ esp. Ch7