title: CLF FAQ Sheet

Every local expression of the Body of Christ has its own divine calling and destiny. The congregation we've pastored for over 25 years is Christian Life Fellowship. Sometimes people have questions ("Frequently Asked Questions"!) about our local family here at CLF. We address a variety of things such as our guiding principles, current vision, helpful resources and "family connections". There's some more recent info here. Of course, feel free to ask us whatever else you would like to know...email the Swifts.

[Those interested in the spiritual roots of our local congregation and Em&M Ministeries in general, please read our page on John Huss.]

(Note: To skim the F.A.Q., simply read the emboldened lines. For further detail, read the complete text.)

Every local church has its own "variety" of ministry to its community. Jesus offers to each local church its own strategic opportunity to impact its community and world, and opportunity different from other, nearby churches.

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet describes how CLF may be different from other congregations you've known in the past. Everyone is welcome to consider becoming a part of our congregational family, but let it be known that we are a risk-taking congregation who long to "press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3.14)

God is bringing a new thing into existence here at CLF. God says in Isaiah, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Look at it! I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up -- Can't you see it?" (Isa 43.18f)

A few years back, God told us that since we had long since "given" CLF to Him, He planned to "kill it", then "raise it" anew! This difficult season lasted until recently, and we are now in the "raise it new" stage -- the ground floor of His new work, "Do you not see it?" It's crucial to let go of the "former things" and press into the new. It's part of the "hunger" that God requires of us. If we're satisfied with what we have, He can give nothing more to us. He only feeds the hungry! Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for I will feed them!" (Matthew 5) If we come to Him with a tiny, little "thimble-sized appetite", He'll give us a "thimble-sized" measure of His love and power. God gives to us in proportion to the measure with which we come to Him. God comes in full measure to the hungry. God's looking for people who are hungry -- dissatisfied with what has been in their lives and hungry for what must be.

1. What is the Pastor's background?

Emil graduated from Bethany Bible College (B.S. with double majors in Bible/Theology & Ministerial and a Minor in English Lit.) From 1980-82, he lived at Lighthouse Ranch, an alternative Christian community. He was ordained in 1982, by Jim Durkin (Gospel Outreach) as a Five-Fold Teacher in the Body of Christ. Jim Durkin then sent him to pastor this congregation. His first wife of 23 years, Janet, passed away in 1994 and exactly (to the day!) seven years later, Michele accepted his proposal. Emil and Michele married in February, 2002.

Emil's spiritual heritage is varied. Raised as a Baptist, he received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a senior in high school and participated in the Charismatic renewal with the FGBMFI for several months. In this connection, Emil began to drink at a River that had started with the martyrs, John Wycliff and Jon Hus and flowed for centuries through the Mennonite Brethren, Methodism and healing revivals of the 1800's.

"Missing" the Jesus People revival (!) Emil busied himself earning his degree at BBC, an Assembly of God Bible college. When he joined the Lighthouse Ranch ministry in 1980, in coming under Jim Durkin's impartation, he became part of that stream of supernatural restoration known as the Latter Rain movement -- popularly and inaccurately despised even till today. In 2002, after God miraculously united Emil and Michele in marriage, he opened a new "flow" of spiritual encouragement through Bill Johnson's ministries at Bethel Church in Redding.

2. Out of many important things in Christianity, what is most important?

Knowing Jesus.

Jesus said that eternal life lies in knowing God and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. The word in the original Greek for "know" is ginoskoa which refers to "knowledge grounded on personal experience." So, knowing Jesus personally is eternal life itself.

How can we possibly know Jesus personally? After all, He's in Heaven! It's the pleasure of the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us. (See Jn 15.26 & 16.14; and 2Cor 3.18: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.")

Usually, local church organizations and ministries try to transform people's lives through ideas and charitable activities. But in Reality, nothing generates an eternal result except what Jesus Christ accomplishes through people who dwell in an intimate, personal relationship with Him. The Church, the House in which God Dwells, is built on the Person of Jesus Christ -- not a teaching, not a ritual, but a Person. True Christianity flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The ideas we hold and activities we do have little impact in comparison to the mind and actions of Jesus in us and through us in this world.

At CLF, we cultivate passion for intimacy with Jesus. God offers Him to us as our Beloved, the Bridegroom and we are His Bride (that's Romance, folks!) We're not content to worship from afar. We yearn for His Presence. We are more interested in Him than in the programs that the church might develop or even the eventual destination to which He leads us. In truth, when we find Him along this journey, we have found our destination! "Draw near to Me!" He says, "and I will draw near to you!"

In our congregation, we don't have the "best" of every Christian program there is. We're "weak" on Sunday School, Children's Church, Men's Ministries, Royal Rangers, Women's Circle or whatever. Yet we feel that what people truly want is not more religious "programs", but more of the Presence of God Himself, demonstrated in our lives and this community in both word and power.

We speak often, in CLF, of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is that place over which God rules as King. You are in the Kingdom of God if God is ruling over you and through you. Jesus said, (Lk. 11.20) that driving demons out of the oppressed proved that the Kingdom of God had already come upon them -- then He warned that anyone who is not "with Him" in the work of the Kingdom is actually "against Him". (Lk 11.23) Living and working in the Kingdom of God will be seen in the word and works which come from Jesus' followers. John says of Jesus, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1Jn 3.8) When the apostle Paul said that he had "fully preached" the Good News of Jesus Christ (Rom 15.19) he said he had preached not only in word but action, "in power of miracles and wonders, in power of the Spirit of God," And Paul warned the Corinthian believers that "the Kingdom of God is not mere words but supernatural action (dunamis)." (1 Cor. 4.22) We pursue intimacy in the Spirit with Jesus so that by knowing Him, we become His Body, His hands and feet in this world -- going about doing His works in power beyond the supernatural. (Mk 16.17)

Because of the utter priority of knowing Jesus (which "comes from the Lord who is the Spirit"), we encourage every person in our church family to be committed to certain, spiritual disciplines: These include assembling together regularly for Worship and the Word (as commanded in Heb 10.25); times of "soaking prayer" in which we learn to "wait on the Lord" (Isa 40.31) and quiet or "still ourselves" in the Presence of the Lord (Psa 65.1 & 131); opening Sunday morning worship with times of quietness in order to "draw near to God" (James 4.8) ); intercession for our church, its leaders, the community and the temporal and spiritual world around us; putting off the flesh-life and putting on the Spirit-life in order to more fully live Spirit-led lives (Rom 8); and spiritually training and equipping every member to serve in the Spirit in love for the needs of others -- that as we build up one another, we are building up the Body of Christ (Eph 4). In these and other ways, we encourage every member to fearlessly "enter the Holy of Holies" (Heb 10.19).

3. What is the goal for this particular congregation?

Our goal as a local congregation is to manifest the Love and Presence of Jesus Christ in the world. In order to accomplish this, and in light of Eph. 4.11ff and Heb. 13.17, the spiritual leaders and overseers will "mend" and "prepare" every member of this local church body who trusts its leadership (and does not resist spiritual direction!) to enter into that place of Spirit-ministry given by God, participating passionately in the building-up of the Body of Christ.

4. What is the Vision for CLF?

The sermon by the Pastor, Abide and Dwell, helps impart current vision for our church family. It answers the questions, "Who are we, as CLF, and what is our destiny?" Key to understanding this is understanding that God has called us to be "a House of God" rather than "a heap of stones".

In light of this divine calling in our lives, we ask for each member of our church family to offer their "living bodies" (Rom 12.1) in obedient worship to God's purposes, and commit themselves to His good works through this local congregation.

Two fundamental areas of personal commitment are expected of all -- faithfully supporting the church's ministry in tithes and offerings, and readily accepting the call to be "equipped for the work of the ministry". (Eph. 4.11ff)

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that "everyone is violently pressing into the Kingdom of God".

There has been a widespread cheapening of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Gospel for which men and women through the centuries have laid down their lives now hardly moves people to lay down their remote controls. In Mk 4.24f, Jesus warned -- "Consider carefully what you hear, because with the measure you use, it will be measured to you -- and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." James tells us (1.22) -- "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." And the apostle Paul tells us (2Tim 3.7, Weymouth) that in the last days there will be religious phonies who are "...always learning something new, and yet... never able to arrive at real knowledge of the truth." Robertson's Word Pictures says this warning refers to people who, "though always learning scraps of things... never come into the full knowledge... of the truth in Christ. And yet they even pride themselves on belonging to the intelligentsia!"

What, then, does spiritual commitment "look like"?

First, faithfully supporting the church's ministry:

If you're committed to the elders and spiritual overseers of this local church, you'll be supporting them financially -- well-supported and thus released into ministry on a full-time basis. Most of the people in CLF faithfully support its elders and overseers. Such a commitment is Biblically sound, as in the following: Gal 6.6 [NIV]: "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor"; 1Tim 5.17-18 [KJV]: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn.' And, 'The laborer is worthy of his reward.'" (Note: Robertson's Word Pictures explains how in Bible times, the Romans commonly used the phrase "double honor" in reference to soldiers receiving double pay for unusual services or even hazardous duty.)

Also, consider Paul's lengthy exhortation in 1Cor. 9.7-14 [NIV]: "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the ploughman ploughs and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?... Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."

Second, accepting the call to be "equipped" or "prepared":

Each person in our church family is urged to give themselves to God's purposes and pressing into "being equipped for the work of ministry". This equipping -- by God's Spirit -- makes us competent to minister. In Eph. 4.7-8, 11-13, Paul urges us into maturely caring for one another with the words, "Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it is said, 'When He ascended on high He made captivity itself a captive; He gave gifts to his people.'... The gifts Jesus gave us were "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers" and the purpose of these "gifts" is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ."

Notice that these "equipping ministries" (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) are building up the saints, building up the Body of Christ. This matches other places in the Scriptures such as Jesus saying, "I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Mt. 16.18) The task of these equipping ministers is not simply building up individual Christians -- which certainly is part of the process -- but building up the Church, the whole Body of Christ by "equipping" all the saints -- every Believer -- for the ministries God destined for them from even before He created the world.

5. How does one become a member of CLF?

God has changed CLF fundamentally over the last few years. Previously, people were encouraged people to come to a service on a Sunday morning, participate in singing, respond to a collection of monies, and listen to a sermon. Then leave.

The old way of "doing church" accepted that Sunday church was mostly "entertainment". It was an event to which people came, observed, paid and left. The hour or so was filled by listening to "good things" about God, and thinking "good thoughts".

This new church is not the same as the old!

Today, in CLF, people may come and visit and (theoretically) remain a "visitor" for however long they desire. As a "visitor", they can simply come to a service on a Sunday morning, participate in singing, donate to a collection plate and listen to a sermon. Then leave.

To be a member and a full participant in CLF, people must trust and follow the leadership of its elders who are committed to preparing them to become Spirit-led servants of God in this community. People commit themselves to taking their divinely ordained places in the Body of Christ. Through a love-engendered exercise of Spirit-empowered gifts, each one expends personal time, resources and energy in building into the lives of others to help fulfill their God-given destiny and dream.

Members honor God and each other through several commitments: (1) a commitment to faithful and accountable attendance to Sunday morning services as these are the primary time and opportunity for building the Body as a whole in spiritual Focus, Vision and Ministries; (2) faithfully supporting its elders and spiritual overseers financially through tithes and offerings as taught by Paul in Gal 6.6, 1Ti 5.17-18 and 1Cor. 9.7-14; (3) seeking regular times of prophetic counsel and personal accountability with the pastors to perfect one's ministery in love in building up others in the Body and evangelizing the lost.

6. What denomination is CLF?

CLF is not a denomination nor is it technically an "independent". Our church is one of many having a nontraditional structure best described as a "new apostolic church".

Helping to avoid a dangerous independence, we draw much upon the ministry and aid of Bill Johnson (Bethel Church, Redding; Mt. Chapel, Weaverville) and others associated with that spiritual family. Truly, we are amenable to Bill's spiritual counsel and oversight. Over the course of time, many people associated with this larger spiritual family have "poured" into our lives here in Willow Creek.

7. How is CLF governed?

On the congregational level here in CLF, elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. In traditional Christianity, "pastors" are regarded both as "the Ministers of the church" and as "employees of the church". Biblically, the congregation is overseen by elders and they are established in that place of ministry by the Spirit of the Lord -- not by voting or being hired by a "church board" (which did not even exist in biblical times.)

Following the admonition of Heb 13.17, the members of the CLF family are encouraged to trust the elders "who rule well", as it says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." The words, "the rule" translate the Greek word, peitho which means "to allow one's self to be persuaded; to listen to; to trust. And the word "submit" is the Greek hupeiko meaning "to resist no longer, but to give way, to yield to authority and admonition, to submit." In contrast, traditional congregations trust boards and committees. The difference between the two is enormous.

On the trans-local level, CLF has long been part of a growing regard of many in the Body of Christ for contemporary apostolic ministries. This includes not only the gift of apostle (as in Eph 4.11) but the office of apostle as well. One reason we draw upon Bill Johnson's ministries and Bethel ministries is the sense that in the Vision he speaks, we find a degree of apostolic insight and oversight for our elders and for our congregational ministers as well.

Understand this -- even though the spiritual leaders of CLF are fervently dedicated to leading this congregation, we are equally dedicated to empowering the people to do the ministry of the Church in this region. Members are taught that part of being a mature Christian is to discover the spiritual gifts God has given each of them and to minister to others through those gifts as well as through any natural talents they might also have. The Body of Christ will never be built by traditional "pastors" and hired "ministers" -- but by the preparation of each and every saint to do the work of ministry as appointed and led by the Holy Spirit.

Leaders and elders in CLF are homegrown. As all the believers in the congregation become active in spiritual ministries, certain ones become evident to the elders and the rest of the church family as ministry leaders, elders, deacons and many other recognized functions. The key to such recognition is primarily rooted in tested, personal relationships which attest both to character and proven ministry skills. Since every person in Christ has Spirit-gifts, what we look at primarily is not a person's gifts but their character. An amazing giftedness accompanied by poor character is not acceptable in those responsible to watch over the Family of God.

Site Scripted by Emil Swift

Em&M Ministries

Emil & Michele Swift

Overseers, Christian Life Fellowship

Willow Creek, CA 95573 USA

© Copyright 1985, 1998

by Emil B. Swift.