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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : THE VISION OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CHURCH by Zac Poonen

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Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 39795


The Lord planted CFC in Bangalore in August 1975. We began then with just a few believers. When we first started meeting together, we were not very clear as to why God had brought us together. But gradually God revealed His plan to us.
It was this: To demonstrate and proclaim the new wine (the life of Jesus and the Divine nature) in a new wineskin (the local church as an expression of the Body of Christ, built according to the new-covenant pattern).
This then became our vision.

Our Specific Calling

Every prophet in the Old Testament was given a clear vision by God about what he was called to proclaim to Israel – and they preached only that message. They called it “the burden of the Lord”. They all knew their commission from God – and they focused exclusively on what God had placed as a burden on their hearts – and never got distracted from their primary burden.

In CFC also, we were given a clear vision from God about our prophetic calling as a church in India. And we have tried our best in these past decades, not to get distracted from it.

The Lord sent many missionaries to India and raised up many evangelistic movements in our land, during the past two centuries, to bring unbelievers to Christ and to proclaim many important Biblical truths. We praise the Lord for all of them. But there were other truths in the New Testament that we felt were still not being sufficiently emphasized in India.

These un-emphasized truths related to the new covenant: The conditions of discipleship, the security that comes from knowing God as our Father, walking as Jesus walked in His footsteps, the power of the Holy Spirit overflowing from within us, partaking of God’s nature, the way of the cross, overcoming all conscious sin, freedom from worldliness and the love of money, freedom from discouragement, fear and anxiety, total obedience to the sermon on the mount (Matt.5, 6 and 7), faith that God would do for us everything that he did for Jesus, building the local church as a Body, etc.,

CFC’s burden was to spread these truths to every church-group in India. God gave us the opportunity to do this – through public meetings, conferences, radio and literature; and also through the distribution of thousands of cassette-tapes, CDs and DVDs.

But the leaders of most churches opposed us and our message, and closed their doors to us.

Then God did a miracle. He opened up the Internet for us. We put hundreds of our messages there – through a team of dedicated brothers whom God brought to CFC. This brought in a flood of responses from believers in many churches – not only across India but from all over the world – who listened to these messages and whose lives were transformed and whose marriages were healed. New churches were born – and some of them were eager to be closely linked with CFC.

Thus the truth of God bypassed prejudiced church-leaders who had closed their doors to us, and reached hungry members of their congregations. Today there are many believers in many churches around the world who are gripped by these wonderful truths and who are even preaching them to others. We praise God for this – for this is exactly what we had prayed for and desired. Thus we saw a little bit of the purpose with which God had raised up CFC. God’s ways are truly amazing. He works wonders when we seek only His glory and seek nothing for ourselves.

Paul said that his goal was “to present every man perfect in Christ” – and he worked hard towards this end (Col.1:28, 29). That is our goal too. We strive to make everyone in CFC a true disciple first – one who loves Jesus more than his relatives, more than himself and more than his earthly possessions (Luke 14:26, 27 and 33). We then seek to teach all of them to obey ALL that Jesus commanded (Matt.28:20).

We know that this way is a narrow way and that very few will find it. We also know that even in Jesus’ ‘church’ there was one hypocrite sitting in the midst of the twelve. So we believe that there will be hypocrites in CFC too, until the day Christ returns. But we are determined to do our best to ensure that the preaching of the Word keeps such hypocrites convicted and uncomfortable constantly­ – with the hope that they will repent.

Evangelism and Disciple-Making

In CFC, we have encouraged all believers to share the gospel with others personally. Thus many have come to Christ and been added to our church in past years. And thus God has also planted new churches in the cities and villages of India, as well as around the world.

Because we have a specific calling from God in CFC, we do not get involved with other ministries (such as social work) that might draw away our energies from our primary calling. We don’t want it to be said of us in the last day that “we took care of other people’s fields but did not care for the field the Lord had given us” (See Song of Solomon 1:6). So we leave such other ministries to those who feel called by God to engage in them, recognizing that the Lord has a different calling for each of His children. We have no desire to appear “balanced” in the eyes of other believers, by engaging in multiple ministries. It is God’s calling and approval alone that matters to us.

Because we are a growing church, we have a great responsibility towards the new believers who have joined us and also towards the many children who have grown up in our midst and become adults. All of them need to be made disciples. New converts and growing children are both signs of a healthy, growing church. The new believers whom God has brought into our midst and our grown-up children are now our new field of work.
God and Money

In CFC, we adopted a radical attitude in relation to money, because Jesus said that we could not serve both God and money (Luke 16:13) – and we were determined to serve only God. In order to be absolutely above reproach in this matter, we made these practical decisions with regards to money in our ministry: We decided not to have any paid preachers and not to collect offerings in any meeting. We would preach against the old-covenant law of tithing. We would teach that all giving of money for the Lord’s work must be done cheerfully and voluntarily. We would put no pressure on anyone to give any money. We would send no reports of our work to anyone and we would never make our church’s financial needs known to others. We would stand against the giving and receiving of dowry and we would encourage everyone to live free from debt (Rom.13:8).
By the grace of God, we have held to these new-covenant standards, right from the beginning. We have faced much opposition and criticism from other Christian groups and churches because of our strong stand on these matters. But we know what we are standing for – and we will continue to stand firm for these principles until the Lord returns.

All our elders support themselves financially just like the apostle Paul did. Paul did receive occasional gifts from some believers. But he was never dependent on anyone’s gifts for his personal needs or for his ministry. He trusted his heavenly Father to supply all of that. This is the stand we have taken too – and it is an integral part of our vision.

It is perfectly right for those who are engaged in the Lord’s ministry to be supported by others – for the Lord Himself has ordained that those who preach the gospel can get their living from the gospel (1 Cor.9:14). But Paul supported himself, because he saw the dishonour that was coming to the Lord’s Name in his time, through preachers who were using their spiritual gifts to accumulate wealth for themselves. So he wanted to be a pure witness for the Lord himself, in the midst of such corruption.

In India, we found a similar situation. So in CFC, we felt the need, like Paul, to be different from the corrupt preachers around us, in money matters – as a testimony for the Lord in our land. This stand that we took has saved us from numerous Balaams, Gehazis and Demases who might otherwise have joined us and corrupted the Lord’s testimony in our midst.

We never tell CFC believers how to use their own personal money. They are free to use that entirely as they wish – whether supporting missions or orphanages, or even giving to beggars on the street. But the offerings given to the Lord in CFC, we use only in line with our vision – to make disciples and to help poor believers (Gal.6:10).

Ministries, Titles and Authority

Ministries: Ephesians 4:11 states that Christ has given gifted men to His church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and shepherds. The Lord in His goodness, has given us all these five ministries in CFC.

But we do not call any brother by these titles or label any brother with them. (Paul called himself “an apostle” only because he wanted people to accept what he wrote as God’s Word. But there is no such need for anyone today).
We believe however in the exercise of these five ministries – and we have seen the glorious results that have come from these ministries being exercised in our midst. That is what is most important for us – and not who fulfils each ministry, for we are all one Body and only servants of each other.

Titles: The only titles that the Lord has permitted us to have are “Brother” and “Servant” (Matt.23: 8, 11). We are all to be “brothers” and “servants”.
Jesus said that when we have obeyed every command that He has given us, we can then call ourselves, “unworthy servants who have only done what our Lord commanded us to do” (See Luke 17:10). This is the title that we must all yearn for.

Submission To Authority: The Bible teaches us “to obey our leaders and to submit to them” (Heb.13:17). And so, we teach those who want to be part of CFC to obey this command of God and to submit to the local elders in church-matters. We do not compel anyone to do so, for such submission has value only when it comes voluntarily.

In some other churches, people are compelled to submit to the authority of a Pope or a priest or a pastor. But in CFC, we do not impose authority on anyone. We give freedom to believers to choose whom they wish to submit to. They can then voluntarily choose to submit to an elder in whom they have confidence, because they want the wisdom and protection that can come to them through such submission. Confidence in an elder is developed as believers observe the way he lives, the way he has brought up his family and how God bears witness to his ministry.

In the Acts of the Apostles, new converts were all added to local churches. The apostles then appointed elders (plural) over each church (Tit.1:5). Every church had at least two elders, in order to provide a balance in the ministry. These elders were to be spiritual fathers who shepherded the believers and enabled them to grow up to maturity. The elders themselves were in turn guided by the apostles or (in the absence of an apostle) by other more mature elders. This new-covenant pattern is what we have practised in all the churches linked with CFC too.

Discipline of Believers And Elders: In all good families, fathers discipline their children where necessary. In CFC-related churches also, we believe in disciplining those who continue in sin (as taught in Matt.18:15-17), so that “a little leaven does not leaven the whole lump” (1 Cor.5:6,7).

If two or three believers bring an accusation against the elder of a church, then the senior elders (and those with apostolic responsibility for that church) will investigate the charge carefully. If the accusation is found to be true, then they will follow the instructions given in 1Timothy 5:19-21:

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning…….Do nothing in a spirit of partiality”
This discipline is exercised without showing partiality to anyone. The elder will be disciplined in a way appropriate to the offence – and the whole church will be informed about it (as taught in the above verses). [As an example of this, we see the Lord telling the apostle John to inform all the churches about His rebuke of the five backslidden elders of churches in Revelation 2 and 3.]

In this matter of discipline, if a brother was given authority by God to appoint an elder in a church, then he can exercise the same authority to discipline and remove that elder if and when that becomes necessary. In the absence of such apostolic authority, the other elders of the church can also exercise this discipline.

However, all discipline is exercised in the spirit of love (as a father would), with the hope of finally restoring the believer (or elder) to the Lord and to the church (2 Cor.2:6-11).

Fellowship Between Local Churches

Churches linked to CFC are not a denomination. We are a fellowship of churches who work together because we all have the same vision. We have no central headquarters. We have no elections for leadership. We have no Superintendent or President. We have no central control of any church-property. Each church is independent under the Lord Himself. So, all appointed elders are answerable directly to the Lord Himself first of all. [This is the new-covenant pattern, as we see in Revelation 1:20, where “each star is in the Lord’s Hand”]. We do not have any dioceses or groups of churches that come under any “bishops” – as some denominations have. No local church-elder has responsibility for any church other than his own. And no elder is asked to submit to the elder of another church.

Paul did not make the churches he planted into a denomination. CFC and the churches linked with us are not a denomination either. Every church that the Lord has planted and linked to CFC, is totally independent – and is led by its own local elders. No-one controls those elders or tells them what to do. The Lord alone is their Head.

Elders may however seek the advice of more mature elders in other churches or from those with an apostolic ministry, when faced with problems in their own church – just like the believers in Corinth contacted Paul when they needed help with problems they had in their midst. Paul’s advice helped them to solve their problems at that time.

We constantly seek to build fellowship among ourselves in CFC-linked churches so that our unity becomes stronger, as one family in the Lord. This is one reason why we have frequent conferences for all churches linked with CFC.

Importance Of Family Life

In CFC, godliness in the family is of fundamental importance. So we have frequent meetings to encourage families to have good husband-wife relationships with mutual love and respect and to bring up their children in the ways of God.

Wives are meant by God to be helpers to their husbands. In CFC, we value their help immensely – to help their husbands in building their families and in the husband’s ministry. In CFC, we teach husbands to be good shepherds to their wives, by going in front of them as examples in every area.

Since the daughters of God also can now prophesy, we encourage all sisters in CFC to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to seek for the gift of prophecy (Acts 2:17; Eph.5:18; 1 Cor.14:1) – that is, to share words that encourage and comfort and bless others (as we read in 1 Cor.14:3) – first of all in their own homes to their husband and children, and to other women.

CFC’s Future Leadership

In CFC, we encourage all our younger brothers to be wholehearted, so that God can give grace to some of them to become leaders for the churches in the coming days.

Jealousy has been a big problem throughout human history. Cain was jealous of his younger brother Abel, and Saul was jealous of young David. And Christian history is full of examples of “elder brothers” who have been jealous of gifted younger brothers coming up – and have suppressed them. In CFC however, we encourage all elders to look out for godly young brothers with leadership potential and to encourage them and train them.

Since there is no such thing as retirement in God’s work, an elder brother in CFC never retires. But just like fathers bring up their “sons” to maturity, and then pull back and let their “sons” run their own lives, older elder brothers in CFC also do the same. Such humble, godly, fatherly elders will continue to be respected and esteemed and consulted by their “spiritual sons” until the end of their lives.
“How good it is to see brothers dwelling together in unity….It is only there that the Lord commands the blessing of eternal life” (Psa.133:1, 3).

“Pay close attention to the specific ministry that you were given by the Lord and make sure you fulfil that” (Col.4:17).

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