Kings Need Territory

Territory is critical for the Kingdom of God. The main reason that the Modern Church Model cannot receive the kingdom is that it has no capacity to take spiritual control of territory.

Kings need territory. A king without territory is not a real king. If another ruler gains control of his territory, he is just a pretender.

The spiritual powers of evil understand the importance of territory. The powerful ones have become “principalities and powers” controlling nations and kingdoms by dominating the kings and political leaders with authority over them (government-spirits). Lesser spirits control smaller areas where they have been given authority.

In the last couple of centuries, the church has lost interest in territory. Jesus now has many followers in the world, but very little territory where he has authority. There are very few places where he is king. Instead, his followers are scattered throughout territory that is controlled by the enemy. Because they live and work in enemy territory, they are often battered, beaten and robbed.

If there are no areas on earth that are evil-spirit free, then Jesus does not have a kingdom on earth. He just has people who have given allegiance to him living as outlaws in enemy territory. This should disturb us. Jesus needs followers who understand the importance of territory. To establish the Kingdom of God on earth, God needs a church that can take spiritual control of territory for him and push the spiritual powers of evil out of it.

No matter how strong an army, it can rarely seize control of a big area of territory in one attack because it will become over-extended. A better approach is to attack a small pocket of territory, clear out all the opposition and establish strong defences, before pushing out from that stronghold to take more territory and repeat the process of establishing control over it.

Establishing Spiritual Strongholds

Territory is critical to the Kingdom of God. He has given humans authority on earth, so he needs places where people have given him permission to work. To defeat the spiritual powers of evil, he needs places where his people have given the Holy Spirit full freedom to operate. A single house or a church building does not give him much scope. The Holy Spirit will be more effective, if his followers establish a stronghold in a group of dwellings close to each other (the shaded dwellings).

Establishing a beachhead in a strategic locality and then expanding outward is the most effective way to expand the territory of a king. An army takes a city street by street and neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

Establishing a beachhead in a strategic locality and then expanding outward is the most effective way to expand the territory of a king. An army takes a city street by street and neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

The advance of the kingdom of God needs followers of Jesus to establish spiritual strongholds where his authority is accepted. The best way to take territory for Jesus is for a group of his followers choosing to live close together in one place. If they are committed to the leading of the Holy Spirit, he will sort out the housing issues, but they will need to stop seeking capital gains and start seeking kingdom gains.

Two or three families living close to each other in an area will have spiritual control over their homes. By standing together in unity, they have authority to force the spiritual powers of evil to leave the vicinity of their homes. They can establish a small territory that is evil-spirit free.

They must not try to try to get control over the people living in this territory. Rather they should love them and serve them while driving all evil spirits out of the area. Jesus has promised that where two or three of his followers come together in one place, he is there in the midst of them.

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt 18:18-20).
The word “gather” is “sunago”. It requires more than coming together for a prayer meeting. Living in love and unity in the same place expands their spiritual authority because Jesus promises to be there with them when they live in this way.

Those who live near each other and love one another will have greater spiritual authority because Jesus has promised that they will be able to defeat the spiritual powers of evil in the surrounding territory. They will be able to pray for the sick and cast out demons because they are united in Jesus. They can establish an evil-spirit-free zone where the Holy Spirit is free to work (the lightly shaded area).

Expanding Territory

When some more people in the neighbourhood have chosen to follow Jesus, and once they have cleared out all evil spirits, and established strong spiritual protection over the territory, they can send two or three of their number out to a new piece of territory close by and repeat the process to establish another spiritual stronghold.

If three or four families who are united by their love of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit move to a place, they can establish another Kingdom Community. By living in a cluster of dwellings, they can drive out the spiritual powers of evil that control that vicinity. They can stand together against the attacks of the enemy and establish another place where Jesus has authority. If one family had moved there on their own, they might struggle, because the powers of evil could concentrate to pick them off.

When a group of people who are united in love and empowered by the Spirit live in the same place, they can expand the territory that belongs to Jesus. A few different groups of believers living close together in the same general area, united by love and submitted to Jesus can resist the spiritual powers of evil and force them to flee some territory.

The spiritual powers of evil always take the easy option, so they withdraw from areas where the Holy Spirit is strong (James 4:7). When followers of Jesus have established territory that belongs to Jesus, the gospel advance gets easier because the opposition gets weaker. As more and more people choose to follow Jesus, the territory that belongs to him gets larger. The evil-spirit-free zone gets bigger too.

No Territory

No matter how strong and army, it can rarely seize control of a big area of territory in one attack because it will become over-extended. A better approach is to attack a small pocket of territory, clear out all the opposition and establish strong defences, before pushing out from that stronghold to take more territory, and repeat the process of establishing control over it.

The Modern Church Model cannot take spiritual control of territory because church members live in homes scattered across a wide area in the enemy’s territory. Even the pastor-leader is isolated in the suburbs of their city and vulnerable to spiritual attack. Christians who live in isolation from other members of their church will struggle to spiritually defend their homes because they are standing alone and the spiritual powers of evil can concentrate to attack them. They are incapable of seizing spiritual control of territory beyond their home because they have insufficient spiritual resources.

People driving to a church meeting once a week cannot establish territory where Jesus has authority. The best that they can achieve is gaining spiritual control over a church building. The spiritual powers of evil do not care about that because they can dominate the surrounding territory. Jesus has authority in the church building where the church gathers, but once the meeting is over, the Christians are scattered throughout enemy territory. A gathered church has no ability to seize spiritual control of territory around their church building.

Because the Modern Church Model cannot receive the Kingdom, some pastor-leaders are tempted to collaborate with political leaders in an effort to use political power to establish God’s will. Their strategy will not work because it strengthens the human kingdom that the enemy uses to fight against God’s Kingdom. Political power relies on Imposed Authority. God will not use it to establish his Kingdom because he will not force people to do his will. Instead, he wants people to freely submit to Jesus and obey his Spirit because they love him.

The Modern Church Model has been prevalent for at least the last thirty years, but it has failed to advance God’s kingdom because it has no ability to take spiritual control of territory. With no territory under his authority, Jesus He is left as a king without territory. Unfortunately, most leaders of these churches are focussed on numbers of people, so they do not even see territory as important. The Modern Church Model cannot take spiritual control of territory, so it cannot receive the Kingdom of God, despite all the talk about it.

Two Obstacles

Some prophetic leaders are calling for a new vision and new strategy for the church to receive the Kingdom, but it seems to be stuck on two obstacles that it will not give up. Two aspects of church structure seem to be untouchable, but they limit the ability of the Holy Spirit to move.

  • Leadership by a single professional leader This person is usually called the Senior Pastor, but they sometimes take the title Apostle. They are often supported by various professional assistants, including worship leader, youth leader, assistant pastor, etc. If the church has elders, they are subservient to this Senior Pastor.

  • Sunday Meeting in a Church Building Everyone in the church is focused on getting as many people together as possible. The focus of the meeting is worship, often led by the worship leader and worship team, while everyone else responds passively. A sermon by the Pastor Leader is the second important element of the meeting. He tells the people what the Holy Spirit is saying. Much of the ministry of the church happens at the front of the meeting. Most of the members of the church are trained to sit passively and watch the pastor and his team perform. There might be various small groups, but they are temporary and subservient to the Sunday meeting. The meeting is called “church” because people consider it to be the church.

These two obstacles hang together. A pastor-leader cannot relate to a thousand or more people, so the only way that he can connect with all his flock is to bring them together in a large meeting. Maintaining a professional leader and his team is expensive, so gathering a big group of people is the only way to fund this structure.

If we do not willingly give up these obstacles, we will not get the new wineskin the Holy Spirit is calling for. Without that new wineskin, we will not be able to take spiritual control of territory and receive the Kingdom of God that wants to bring to us.

Priest/Temple Paradigm

The modern church model is a priest/temple paradigm. The professional pastor-leader acts as a mediator between the Holy Spirit and the people.
  • Christians must attend the temple every week to be sure of their salvation.

  • If a Christian wants more of the Holy Spirit, they should go to the temple and the priest/pastor will pray for them.

  • If a Christian has a problem, they should come to the temple and get the priest/pastor to pray for them.

  • If Christian needs advice about life, they should go to the temple and listen to the priest/pastor preaching a message.

  • If a Christian needs healing, they should go to the temple and the priest/pastor will pray for them at the front of the church. Others might pray too, but the prayers of the priest/pastor are expected to be more effective.

  • If they have a friend who wants to become a Christian, they should bring them to the temple and the priest/pastor will lead them in a prayer to Jesus.

Under the Priest/Temple Paradigm, everything important happens at the front of the church meeting. People who need ministry are prayed for by the leaders while the rest of the people watch. People needing salvation or ministry must be brought to the church by their friends so they can receive the ministry of the pastor-leader. The reality is that the Holy Spirit cannot do everything that he wants to do at the front of the church. He loves to go out into the places where people live, but he needs a body of believers to carry him.

What God wants to do is so big that it cannot be done by one person in a church building. The Holy Spirit wants to be doing things in public places where the world can see. Something is wrong when people who have been Christians for twenty years are still sitting in the temple listening to a priest pastor telling them how to do what the Holy Spirit wants to do.

The Priest/Temple Paradigm operates in the wrong direction. Jesus said to “Go” whereas the modern church says “Come”. Jesus commanded his followers to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) once they had received the power of the Spirit. When Jesus had 70 disciples that he trusted, he did not form a big church meeting. Instead, he sent his first disciples out into the towns and villages where the crowds that followed him lived (Luke 10:1-2). The Holy Spirit did great things because he loves to go out where people live.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm calls people into a big meeting, but this is an Old Testament strategy. The Israelites had to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to meet with God because they had not received the Holy Spirit. The modern church has changed the frequency to weekly, but has not changed the direction, despite the Holy Spirit being poured out. The new covenant brought a change of direction. The Holy Spirit wants to go out because that is what Jesus told him to do. The church calls people together each week, when it should be sending people out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm draws resources to the centre. Most finance raised goes to paying for the church building and supporting the professional pastor-leader and his team. In the new covenant, money flows the other way. Resources go out to bless the poor and to pay restitution to people who have not received justice. This is a key feature of the Kingdom of God.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm scatters people into the world alone. They get overwhelmed by the worldly culture where they live and work because they spend most of their time in it. A church that gathers scattered people together in a big meeting cannot transform the culture of a city. When they go back out as individuals, they are overwhelmed by the culture of the world.

  • The Holy Spirit wants to go out in groups of two or three families. One person cannot be a powerful witness for Jesus. A family living in the world is not the best witness for Jesus because they look just like other families, just a bit nicer. Jesus is so wonderful that he cannot be represented by one person or family. He is best represented by a body of believers living close together in a place where the world can see. The best witness for Jesus is a group of families who share with each other and support each other because they love Jesus.

Because the priest-temple model cannot take spiritual control of territory, it cannot bring in the Kingdom of God, no matter how much pastor/preachers talk about it. Accordingly, they use the word “kingdom” as an adjective to describe what they are doing, rather than as a noun to describe an entity that God is establishing.

Fivefold Ministry

Under the Modern Church Model, dependence on professional pastors squeezes out the other ascension gifts. A pastor-leader is the chief executive of a large church, so the other gifts have to operate under him, or move outside the church. Prophets and Evangelists struggle to find a place in the church because the pastor-leader is uneasy about giving them too much freedom. They are expected to be subordinate to their pastor and submit to his control, which constrains their ministry, whereas in Ephesians 4, they seem to be equal. The pastor’s wife often becomes the prophet to the church because she is trusted by the pastor-leader.

Many prophets and evangelists are forced into travelling ministries, which is dangerous because they lose accountability to a body of believers. They move on before the consequences of their ministry become clear. Their ministry gets centred on meetings, when their role is to build up the body of Jesus. Of course, they continue to depend on pastors for opportunities to speak at church meetings, so they have to be careful not to rock the boat too much.

An apostle is a leader who pushes out with some other followers of Jesus to expand the territory of the king by establishing a spiritual stronghold beyond the existing one. In the Modern Church Model, this role does not exist, so “super pastors” or “regional leaders” are often given the title “apostle”.

God wants to push the fivefold gifts back down into the body of Christ, so it may grow up fully into Jesus. A team of leaders with balanced giftings who have submitted to each can join and knit together the body in unity with every part doing its share. One elder will be a prophet, another will be an evangelist and several will be pastors. Working together in unity, they can help the body to grow by edifying itself in love.

Multiplication of Leaders

As God brings in his kingdom by taking territory for Jesus, he will need a huge number of new leaders. Unfortunately, the Modern Church Model has been ineffective at developing new leaders. Most attendees are trained to sit passively and watch the pastor-leader ministering. Many will find a role in assisting with running a church meeting, but few will discover a five-fold calling. A few will get to preach, but it will be rare for a person to get to be a pastor-leader. This approach cannot produce the leaders that are needed to support a rapid advance of the gospel and bring in the Kingdom.

If each of the leaders of a body of believers has strong relationships with a dozen followers of Jesus will grow to maturity quickly. The prophet will release vision and ensure that issues are sorted out keep. The leaders with a shepherd’s heart will solve problems and encourage people into their callings. The leaders will replicate their ministries in those that they are discipling. The evangelist will teach them how to share the gospel and heal the sick.

When their existing stronghold is secure, the leaders will send some of their number out as apostles to push out to establish another spiritual stronghold for Jesus. Potential leaders will have discovered their calling and be ready to step and replace those who are sent out. This multiplication of ministries is essential for the advance of the Kingdom of God by taking territory for Jesus.

Spiritually Vulnerable

The Modern Church Model is vulnerable to spiritual attack. Once the leaders of churches lived in a house on the same site as their church building. That had problems, but it was a spiritually safe place to be because the spiritual powers of evil had no authority on the land belonging to the church.

These days, pastor-leaders prefer to live separate from their church and their people, so they can have a private life. Because they live in isolation in the world like other Christians, the spiritual powers of evil can concentrate their attacks on the spiritually-vulnerable pastor-leader and overwhelm him by diverse attacks. If they can divert him or disrupt his family, they constrain his entire church The pastor leader of a large organisation/church will be frequently tempted to slip into manipulation and control to keep their church on track. This gives the spiritual powers of evil a point of entry to attack the church.

The spiritual powers of evil can use persecution to shut down the Modern Church Model. The most effective way is to arrest the pastor-leader and lock the church doors. This would cripple most modern churches. However, they do not have to go that far. Political powers can control the preaching of the pastor-leader by placing particular topics off-limits. History shows that most pastors will comply with the requirements of the political authorities to retain their status and authority.

Stumbling Block

Dependence on professional pastor-leaderships operating through big church meetings is a serious obstacle to the Kingdom of God.
  • I cannot see professional pastors willingly stepping down from their role. They have invested so much time and energy into their church that they believe it cannot survive without them. They believe that they are essential for the advance of the church within their city.

  • I cannot see the church willingly giving up their big Sunday meetings because they have invested too much in their church buildings. Their ability to recover the wealth invested in these buildings is limited because these buildings have few other uses. Consequently, the market for unneeded church buildings is very small.

Unfortunately, this prevents them from taking spiritual control of territory for Jesus. It leaves him as a king without territory.

New Wineskin

Some prophetic people have announced that God is giving a new wineskin to his people. I don’t know what people think when they hear a word that God wants to bring in a new wineskin. I presume they think that their church might change a little, but most other churches will have to change more to be like theirs.

I presume that most pastors assume that they will lead the transition into the new wineskin, but if they are established and shaped the old wineskin, it is hard to see how that could happen.

I presume that most people in ministry assume that their role will be the same or enhanced in the new wineskin. But that cannot be true because then the wineskin would not be new.

The coming of a new wineskin must significantly change two things.

  • The role and structure of the leaders.
  • The way that members of the body relate to each other.
They will need to form together in a way that will enable the Holy Spirit to expand the territory where Jesus is King.

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