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The Two-Winged Church by Bill Beckham

The New Testament Church combines big and small, and to see a spiritual revolution now, we need to do the same, says Bill Beckham

The Creator once created a Church with two wings: one wing was for large group celebration, the other wing was for small group community. Using both wings, the Church could soar high into the heavens, enter into His presence, and do His will throughout the earth.

After a few hundred years of flying across the earth, the Two-Winged Church began to question the need for the small group wing. The jealous, wicked serpent who had no wings loudly applauded this idea. Over the years the small group wing became weaker and weaker from lack of exercise, until it had virtually no strength at all. The Two-Winged Church that had soared high in the heavens was now, for all practical purposes, one-winged.

The Creator of the Church was sad. He knew the two-winged design had allowed the Church to soar into His presence and do His bidding. Now, with only one wing, just lifting off the ground required tremendous energy and effort. And if the Church did manage to become airborne it was prone to fly in circles, lose its sense of direction, and not fly very far from its take-off point. Spending more and more time in the safety and comfort of its habitat, it grew contented with an earth-bound existence.

From time to time, the Church dreamed of flying into the presence of the Creator and doing His work all over the earth. But now, the strong, large group wing controlled every movement of the Church and doomed it to an earth-bound existence.

In compassion, the Creator finally stretched forth His hand and re-shaped His Church so it could use both wings. Once again the Creator possessed a Church that could fly into His presence and soar high over all the earth, fulfilling His purposes and plans.

The New Testament Church
The design of the Church in the New Testament was the 'whole church' and the 'home church'. Leadership styles, methods of decision-making, and types of organisations appear adaptable in the New Testament, changing as they are described through the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistles. However, the basic design of the Church never changes in the New Testament. At no point did Paul and the other writers indicate that the Church was to cease meeting in the pattern established in its early daysboth in homes and as the gathered church.

Robert Banks, in his book The Home Church (Albatross Books, 1986), says it this way: 'Paul never retracted his understanding of how the church should operate. He never moved away from his view that the church is a genuine extended family in favour of a less personal, more institutional entity. He never suggested that the local church should occupy itself with only one aspect of activitythe allegedly 'religious'and only one aspect of the personalitythe so-called 'spiritual'. He never lessened his belief in mutual ministry and shared authority for one based more on liturgical order and hierarchical leadership.'

One design, two wings
Looking through our one-winged lens, we see a confusing array of 'churches' in the New Testament. Through the eyes of history, these structural differences have become even more pronounced in the minds of theologians and pastors. However, only one church design was operating in the New Testament.

Despite adaptations, the church design remained basically the same. Let us use the bird analogy. Birds are designed with two wings, the function of which is to enable flying. That is their design. Flight is their function. The flight design does not change, but the flight function may be adapted. Birds such as eagles and hawks soar and glide. Quails and turkeys fly in short bursts of energy. Swallows and other smaller birds dart as they catch insects. Hummingbirds hover by beating their little wings at unbelievable speeds. Geese and ducks fly in formation with smooth and powerful motions in their own flying functions. But all are based on the same basic flying designtwo wings.

In the New Testament, the basic design of large and small groups is the same. In the Early Church we do not see many different kinds of churches, but the application of the one church design.

A spiritual revolution in the 21st century cannot be achieved apart from the reconstruction of a structural form through which pure doctrine, spiritual power, and God's revelation can be expressed. Spiritual revolution must have a structure. That structure is the New Testament two-winged design of the Church.

This page was updated on 14 July 2000. Copyright 2000 Cell Church UK Magazine. All rights reserved.
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