LIFEMESSAGE by David Orton
A STATEMENT CONCERNING THE CITY-CHURCH
This tentative statement is merely the expression of one ministry and viewpoint. It is presented
as a resource paper for discussion trusting it may assist in the quest for the “city whose builder
and maker is God”. It cannot pretend to be definitive, particularly in view of our own
limitations, and the fact that the reformation, revival, and restoration of the church is still
underway. “The path of the just is a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect
day” - there is more light to come. The first century church only provides in seed form what is
yet to be revealed. And so, apart from union with Christ by the Spirit there are no models or
patterns sufficient for what God is about to do. We therefore send this statement out warning
against pursuing a slavish imitation of any particular first century model of the church,
especially the city-church. Our model is the pattern Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and our
principle, the “law of the spirit of life”. Giving heed to this we trust that our contribution will
add in some small measure to the quest as we approach that perfect day.
Article I The Restoration of All Things
We affirm the restoration of redeemed humanity to the image of Christ and of the whole of
creation beyond its original glory. This includes the restoration of the church, the Body of
Christ, not only from the effects of the historical fall, but also, from its Constantinian fall. From
the Reformation, with each subsequent visitation of His Spirit, God has been restoring truth,
gifts, and ministries to the church to the intent that she be ultimately brought to “the fullness of
the stature of Christ”, and so fill the whole universe with His glory. Given that God’s ultimate
purpose is cosmic, we also affirm the kingdom purpose of cities and the role of the church in
We deny the ultimate defeat of Christ, or His church, in a time-space world.
(Acts 1:6; 3:19-21; 15:15-18; Mtt 17:11; 28:18-20; Rom 5:12-21; 8:18-30; Eph 1:22-23; 3:10,
21; 4:1-16; 5:25-33; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 11:10; 12:22-23; Rev 21:2-3; Joel 2:25-26; Isa 49:6;
Jer 30:3, 17, 18; Amos 9:11-15; Ezk 33-48)
Article II Pre-eminence of Christ
We affirm the pre-eminence of Christ as head over all things to the church. While not denying
that God gives ministry gifts to the church, Christ alone is the head of every person in the New
Covenant so that all may know him and be guided by him.
We deny the legitimacy of any ministry or priestly intermediary as a covering between Christ
and his church.
(1 Cor 11:3; Eph 1:22; 4:15, 16; 5:23; Col 1:17, 18; 2:19; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 8:10-12)
Article III Law of the Spirit of Life
We affirm the ‘law of the Spirit of life’ as the operating principle in the emerging shape of the
church. It is a law of freedom and a law of love. No man can control it. The new wine, the
sovereign presiding presence of the Holy Spirit, will alone determine the shape of the
wineskin. This is according to the law of life. A seed provides the biblical illustration. As the
mature plant is as different to the seed so is the mature church as different to the first century
church. But as they are dissimilar so are they similar. While the seed does not bear any visible
resemblance to the mature plant it contains, in potentiality, the shape of the future, the life-
principle and the coding to take it to maturity. And so, the divine intent for maturity is present,
but not manifest, in the first century church. The seed principles are evident but the ultimate
shape of the mature church is not fully revealed. Therefore, abiding in union with Christ in the
Holy Spirit is the key to the emerging shape of the church. This principle is also one of life out
of death, explaining the first century church’s demise and ultimate raising to life again and
restoration to full maturity in a new wineskin. And so, the glory of the latter house will be
greater than the former.
We deny that a legalistic imitation of first century church formulas or patterns will bring the
presence of God or the church to maturity.
(Rom 8:1, 2; 14:17; Gal 3:2; 5:1, 18; Jn 14:15-18; 15:5,6; 16:13-15; Zech 4:6-10; Rom 13:8,
10; Jn 13:34; Jas 1:25; Lk 5:37, 38; Jn 12:23-26; Hag 2:9)
Article IV Geographical Basis of Unity
We affirm that there is only one church in any given city. The only apostolical ground for the
division of the church is the city. The civil jurisdictions and boundaries of cities (including
sub-cities comprising larger metropolitan cities) are the exclusive ground for the differentiation
of the one church that is in Christ.
We affirm that all those who have the Spirit of Christ comprise the church of that city. We
deny that God ever intended any distinction of the church other than by city boundaries.
Scripture does not sanction or model any extra-local configuration of the church whether
regional, national, or international. Neither does it sanction any division of the church
according to a particular theology, experience, leader, race, class, age, or gender. We deny that
the ‘modality’ of the local church excludes the freedom of ‘sodality’ for the trans-local work of
apostles and their teams (ref. Article VII for the division of the ‘church’ & the ‘work’).
(One Church of the City - 2 Cor 1:1; 1 Thes 1:1; 2 Thes 1:1; Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; Rom
1:7; 16:1; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2; Acts 8:1; 11:25-26; Many churches of a region - 1 Cor.
16:19; Acts 15:41; Rom. 16:4; Gal. 1:2; One apostolic local & universal church - Jn 10:16;
17:20-23; Mtt 16:18; Acts 4:32; 20:29-31; Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:16 (AMP); 10:16, 17;
12:12, 20, 27; Gal 3:28; Eph 2:14-16; 4:4, 16, 25; 3:6; 5:30; Phil 2:1-2; The ‘church’ & the
‘work’ - Acts 13:1-3)
Article V Doctrinal Basis of Unity
We affirm that our unity is in God revealed in Jesus Christ. This revelation comes by the Spirit
and is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, which, in their entirety are the Word of God and wholly
sufficient for our salvation. They are the ultimate source of authority for all doctrine and
practice, providing the foundation for the church’s historic faith as expressed in her creeds. The
Apostles’ Creed, in particular, provides the most basic and ancient expression of that faith.
We affirm "Unity in essential things, freedom in non-essential things, and charity in all things."
We deny that true unity can be found outside of God in Christ and the historic faith of the
Christian church as revealed in Scripture. We also deny that agreement is necessary in the non-
essentials (eg various aspects of ecclesiology & eschatology) for unity to exist.
(Mtt 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Eph 4:3, 13; 1 Tim 1:3, 4; 2:7; 4:6, 7, 13,
16; 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14; 3:14-16; 4:1-4; Jd 3; 1 Jn 1:5-7; 2:3-6, 20-27; 4:6; 2 Jn 9-11)
Article VI Spiritual/Relational Basis of Unity
We affirm that the unity of the Spirit already belongs to those who have received the Spirit of
Christ. It is therefore a present spiritual reality, which can only be manifested and maintained
through brotherly relationships of humility and love. The relationship between the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit is the ground and demonstration of this.
We deny that biblical unity is organisational, institutional, or hierarchical. It does not occur
through denominational unions or institutional alliances.
(Jn 13:34-35; 15:13, 17; 17:20-23; Rom 5:5; 12:10; Gal 5:13, 22; Eph 4:1-3, 15; Phil 2:2; Col
2:2; 1 Pet 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 1 Jn 3:10-23; 4:7-21; Jd 21; Ps 133)
Article VII The Cross - The Only Path to Unity
We affirm that the Cross is the only solution to the scandal of division in the body of Christ.
Division is rooted in unbroken self. Therefore, the call to unity is the call to deny self and take
up our cross.
We affirm that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. Therefore, God’s route to unity is
foolishness and weakness to the natural and religious mind. Consequently, the path to unity is
not according to man’s wisdom and strength. We deny that unity without humility will work, nor
will it bring glory to God.
We deny that unity can be achieved organisationally or politically. We also deny that all
division is bad. God may use division as an instrument of judgement to frustrate the pride of
man, or to affirm what is right and true.
(Gen 11:4-9; Prov 15:33; Isa 53:6; 55:8-9; 56:11; Mtt 23:12; Mk 8:34-37; Rom 6:11-14; Eph
4:2; Col 3:1-17; 1 Cor 1:10-31; 11:19; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Pet 5:5; Jas 4:1-10; 1 Jn 2:19)
Article VIII Architecture of Unity - Jerusalem, Antioch, & Ephesus
We affirm that the New Testament provides sufficient modelling of the one city-church for its
restoration. To understand a particular operation of the Spirit and its line of development into
the present we may study its first occurrence. This is demonstrated through three model cities:
Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus. Together they provide the key ingredients for unity. From
Jerusalem we learn of the restoration of David’s tabernacle and observe the first principles of
the Christian life and community expressed in the rhythm of ‘temple worship’ and ‘house
fellowship’. In Antioch we observe the dynamic elements for the birth of apostolic ministry to
the nations (including the division between the modality of the ‘city-church’ and the sodality of
the ‘apostolic work’). We see citywide plural collegiate leadership, fasting, prayer, ministry to
the Lord, prophecy, and the laying on of hands. From Ephesus we learn of Christ as head of the
church, the partnership between apostles and citywide plural eldership, and the strategy for
multiplication and regional impact through the miraculous and apostolic bases of operation.
We deny that a return to apostolic foundations, to the seedbed of the first century church,
necessarily inhibits the church’s contemporary relevance, movement forward, or freedom to
respond to the ‘law of the Spirit of life’.
(Acts 2:38-47; 4:32-37; 5:12-16; Acts 13:1-3; 15:1-21; 19:1-41; 20:18-38; Heb 6:1-3)
Article IX Foundation of Unity - Christ, Apostles, & Prophets
We affirm that Christ is the foundation of the one true church. This is the case both historically
through His incarnation, passion, resurrection and ascension; and experientially through the
believers’ revelation of, and relation to, His person.
We affirm that Christ appoints present-day apostles and prophets, as foundational ministries,
who articulate and incarnate (through their teaching and person) His will and ways. To the
degree they do this they have spiritual authority to serve the household of faith. Discharging
their apostolic / prophetic commission they relate to the elders of the city through a filial and
charismatic connection. Their ministry is to lay the foundation of Christ in the city-church.
We deny that the authority of apostles or prophets is based on a positional office, or that they
are to function independently of the elders of a city and the other ascension-gift ministries.
(Mtt 16:18; 1 Cor 3:10-11; Mtt 23:33; Lk 11:49; Eph 2:20; 4:11; 1 Cor 12:28; 1 Tim 1:18;
4:14; 3:1-16; 4:16; 5:17; Filial connection of apostles [see Article X below] - 1 Cor 4:14-21;
9:1-19; 2 Cor 6:11-13; 7:2-16; 11:5-20; 12:11- 21; Phil 2:19-22; 1 Tim 1:2, 18)
Article X Elders of the City - Plural Servant Leadership
We affirm the plurality of elders (as an identifiable functioning leadership team) for a city.
With a diversity of ministries, graces, and measures (some fellow-elders being apostles,
prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers) they serve co-equally in a collegiate style of
leadership as shepherds and examples of the flock knowing they will give an account to the
Chief-Shepherd on the Day of Christ. They are divinely called, biblically qualified (as to
character and gift), and apostolically appointed. Their measure of grace for city eldership will
have been proven through an evident commitment to the whole not the part, to the larger body of
Christ and His kingdom in that city. They will be free of denominational and sectarian loyalties.
They will be appointed under the presidency of the Holy Spirit through prophecy and the laying
on of hands on the basis of divine calling, character, and a process of relational-functional
emergence in the citywide sphere. This will not necessarily occur through a democratic process
or on a representational basis. The sole consideration apart from character is divine call and
the consequent measure of grace for the citywide sphere. It is recognised that only a small
minority of congregational and ministry leaders of a city will have this call. This is not an issue
of ‘lesser or greater’, but of ‘division of labour’ according to the will of God.
We affirm the principle of ‘first among equals’. According to spiritual seasons and specific
needs at any given time we believe that God may raise up, under the presidency of the Spirit
and the confirming counsel of the elders, a particular gifting and ministry to provide a
facilitating lead role. There is no permanent office or title for this fluid role. Christ alone is the
head of the church.
We affirm the division of larger metropolitan cities into zones or sub-cities according to civil
boundaries and jurisdictions. The overseers of these zones will relate and function as
described above, but as a part of the whole relating into the elders of the larger metropolitan
city. Each zone may (or may not) have an elder/overseer sitting on the wider metropolitan
eldership depending on divine call and gifting.
We affirm the distinction between organisational authority and spiritual authority. The former
is positional and imposed from above based on power, the latter is relational and received
from below based on love. The authority of citywide elders is purely spiritual.
We affirm the relationship between elders and apostles. While elders are free to accept or
reject apostolic personnel or policy they will normally discharge their responsibilities in
partnership with the fatherly support, counsel, and direction of apostles (whether local or from
We affirm the relationship between elders and deacons. The city-church diaconate serves, in
cooperation with the apostles and elders, primarily but not exclusively in the administration of
the ‘naturals’. This will be multi-faceted, including finance, care of the poor, networking, and
communication. The elders, on the other hand, will steward the ‘spirituals’. They serve as
faithful shepherds feeding and overseeing the flock through their various spiritual giftings.
We deny any place for overbearing, coercive, abusive, or hierarchical authority; and the
interposition of any mediatorial office or class of person between Christ and the congregation.
(Mtt 20:20-28; Lk 22:25, 26; Mtt 23:8-10; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 18; 1 Tim 5:1, 2, 17-19; Tit 1:5;
Heb 13:7, 17; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1; Filial connection of apostles [see Article IX above] - 1 Cor
4:14-21; 9:1-19; 2 Cor 6:11-13; 7:2-16; 11:5-20; 12:11-21; Phil 2:19-22; 1 Tim 1:2, 18;
Elders & apostles - Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 21:18; Apostles, elders, & deacons - Acts 6)
Article XI Discipline
We affirm the responsibility of elders to exercise discipline in a spirit of gentleness over the
household of faith. This includes members and fellow elders. The Scriptures enumerate various
sins and sinful lifestyles that require discipline. They generally come under three heads: moral,
behavioural, and doctrinal. This includes all kinds of sexual immorality, covetousness,
idolatry, drunkenness, extortion, disorderly conduct, division, sectarianism, evil speaking, false
teaching, and heresy.
We affirm the process of discipline as outlined in Mtt 18:15-20: First step - Private Appeal
(one-on-one); Second step - Peer Admonition (two or three); Third step - Public Admonition
(the whole church); Final step - Excommunication (to be treated as an unbeliever).
We affirm the restorative purpose of discipline for the individual and its protective purpose
for the church. Disciplinary rulings of the city-church, therefore, need to be binding and
honoured from one congregation to another.
We deny the use of civil authority to enforce church discipline.
(Mtt 18:15-20; Gal 6:1; Doctrinal - Gal 1:7-10; 1 Tim 1:20; 4:1-3; 6:3-5; 2 Tim 2:17-26; Tit
3:9, 11; 1 Jn 4:1; 2 Pet 2:1-4; Jd 4; Rev 2:12-17; Rom 16:17, 18; Moral / Behavioural - 1 Cor
5:1, 11; 1 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 6:4; Col 3:8; Eph 4:31; 2 Jn 9, 10; 2 Thes 3:6-15; Rom 16:16-18; 1
Cor 3:1-3; Eph 5:12; 2 Cor 7:11, 12; Acts 5:1-11)
Article XII Strategy & Timing of Unity - ‘Saul-David Transition’
The strategy and timing of city-church emergence can be illustrated by two analogies:
1. Saul and David, and,
2. The remnant returning from Babylon.
They both represent the transition from an old order to the new - from human government to
God’s. There has been a system of human government, rooted originally in Babel, but entering
the church in the first and second centuries, mainstreamed through the Middle Ages, slipping
through the Reformation, and inherited as normative by the contemporary church. However,
with the work of restoration begun approximately 500 years ago human control over the church
is being irrevocably shaken and dismantled. The Reformation is coming to its maturity and the
church is coming out of its Babylonian captivity.
But how the transition occurred from the old to the new in the ‘Saul-David transition’ is
instructive. The Scriptures present four representative men to whom we relate: Adam
(racially), Abraham (redemptively), Moses (corporately), and David (regally). If we are
desirous of a greater understanding of the emerging kingdom David provides its typical
representation with Christ, the son of David, as the anti-type.
David’s life, therefore, becomes a lesson for the increase of the kingdom.
Once anointed at Bethlehem David did not embark on a campaign for the Kingdom. He did not
politically recruit or organise. Surely, we say, he should have ‘networked’ the important
influencers - the courtiers and princes of Saul’s palace, and brought them into his confidence!
Wouldn’t it be commonsense to form an ‘alliance’ of military commanders and young warriors!
But God’s ways are not ours.
David is thrust into obscurity. Through his fugitive stronghold of Adullam God sovereignly
gathers and prepares, in anonymity, a forerunner group who will establish the new kingdom
In the fullness of time he is directed by the Lord to go up to Hebron, is anointed the second
time, leading Judah for 7 1/2 years. After which, he is anointed the third time with all Israel
gathering to him. He then takes Jerusalem and receives the fullness of the kingdom.
And so, the kingdom did not come to David through any political initiative or skill, but through
various anointings, each according to the Lord’s timing. This is why Jesus said, “My kingdom
is not of this world, or else my servants would fight."
This is a work of God. He will not share his glory with another - and so, no man will be able to
lay claim to it. No amount of ‘networking’ or ‘organisation’ will do it. Saul lost the kingdom
because of unbroken self - self-will, self-seeking, and self-promotion. This explains David’s
oft-perplexing circumstances - they were designed to break him and deal with his self-life. For
the new order to work David had to be moved by a different spirit.
The Saul-nature will disqualify us for the increase of the kingdom. This may explain some of
our own journey and the apparent self-selection of many leaders who begin with the city-church
journey but do not continue.
Therefore, like Paul turning from the Jews to the Gentiles, we submit that the Lord is turning
from the leadership of the current system to a new breed and a new generation. This is not to
say that many will not still come from the system. Many of the priests still turned and believed
despite Paul’s withdrawal. And despite Paul’s primary call outside of the established order, it
did not preclude his involvement with it.
The Lord is creating a new wineskin. This is in preparation to receive the new wine of the next
visitation of God’s Spirit. He is the master strategist and the outpouring of the Spirit sent to
usher in the fullness of the kingdom will not be wasted. There will be a forerunner people
readied by God to receive it - a remnant that will prepare the way for the larger body of Christ.
There will be a Joseph people sent ahead for their deliverance. (Note: Both David and Joseph
were sent ahead through the betrayal of their brethren, and yet through this returned to them for
their salvation). Jesus suffered outside the camp. So let us be ready to bear the reproach outside
the city gates if necessary. This is the record of revival history. God seems to come at the most
unusual time and through the least expected people. He doesn’t need a majority (“He doesn’t
save by the many or by few”). God works initially with a forerunner-remnant group. And as no
respecter of persons turns up and dwells where he is welcomed, regardless of religious or
But how will this dwelling of God in the Spirit grow across a whole city?
We have written this Statement on the premise that the restoration of the city-church is on God’s
agenda. If this premise is true it follows that there is a specific timing and way forward to be
When the remnant returned from Babylon to rebuild the Temple there were two items on God’s
agenda: first, the rebuilding of the altar, and second, the relaying of the foundation. And so, in
rebuilding the temple of the citychurch, our Lord who said, “I will build my church”, will
restore the altar and the foundation - the altar of the cross and the foundation of Christ. Paul
emphasised that, “No man can lay any other foundation than has already been laid which is
Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11). But it is not Christ alone - it includes “apostles and prophets, and
himself as the chief-cornerstone” (Eph 2:20-22). As Paul explained, “God sets first apostles,
second, prophets, and third teachers…” (1 Cor 12:28).
And so, intimacy with Christ and his cross goes hand-in-glove with the foundation of apostles
and prophets, which brings us to Antioch.
To discover the line of development of a particular work of the Spirit we must go back to its
first occurrence. The apostolic ministry to the nations was birthed from Antioch (ref Acts 13).
And so, it is to there we must go. There were several elements to this:
3. Ministry to the Lord with fasting,
4. Prophetic utterance,
5. The Pauline revelation, and
6. The city-church wineskin.
God used a particular man, with a particular message, and a particular method. The Holy Spirit
prophetically selects particular people in the context of relationship, worship (prayer), and
fasting. Through the plurality of the team in Antioch the Holy Spirit separated Paul and
Barnabas from the city-church to the larger apostolic work. Paul was an apostolic (sent) man.
His apostolic message was that all things are now restored under one head in Christ, and that
the church is his body. His apostolic method was to raise up this corporate Christ city by city.
Paul as the prototype apostle illustrates that the apostolic will only be restored to its fullness in
the context of a particular message and method - of the revelation of the one body of the city
(see Eph 1-4). If this is true it will call into question how many apostolic networks currently
For the apostolic foundation to be laid in a city we are seeing that there will be a Holy Spirit
initiated season of citywide:
1. Covenant relational links and team-building (underground networks akin to David’s
Adullam & Ziklag group),
2. Prophetic teaching (seminars defining the process & principles of the apostolic wineskin),
3. Continuous worship, prayer, & fasting,
4. Prophetic ministry & apostolic commissioning, and
5. Plural collegiate leadership (elders) over the city.
The city-church leadership will begin underground, embryonically, but with the DNA for
citywide catholicity and multiplication. Through a growing citywide team and strategies the
ministry will be given back to the saints, restoring the heartbeat of koinonia as the believers
multiply, meeting ‘house to house’, and daily in the ‘temple’.
In this whole process more prayer and deliberation will need to be put into the theological and
practical objections/obstacles to the city-church, including:
Ø Basis of unity,
Ø Basis of authority,
Ø Local church autonomy,
Ø Denominational loyalties & structures,
Ø Biblical orthodoxy, and
Ø Failures of previous unity movements etc.
It is understood that this endeavour is impossible apart from the supernatural leading of the
Holy Spirit. We are confronting 1,800 years of entrenched tradition, human fallenness, and
demonic power. We therefore issue this Statement trembling before Almighty God assured that
he is head over all things and that before the end comes he will display his multi-faceted
wisdom to angels and men through the church.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to
his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, forever and ever!
Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV
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