A powerful spiritual experience is coming upon this Earth. One, the likes of which, has not been seen since the Day of Pentecost (Shavuot) approximately 2000 years ago. I believe God is challenging each of us to find our place in this move and prepare ourselves for an emerging Church Body with more spiritual authority than even the Apostles and First Century Church ever experienced. If you are tired of church as usual, please take a few minutes to read through the material below and see if you find yourself inside the words and between the lines.
Over the last 2 decades I have been feeling impressed to observe an evolution within the church. Unfortunately it has been more of a devolving in my personal assessment. The church has adopted the methods of the world in many ways. It has become corporate and the pastor elevated to CEO (maybe by necessity in the past) in place of the true interpretation from the Greek; 'shepherd-teacher', or more importantly 'the pasture where the flock can feed'. There is however, an emerging taking place, among those I have come to believe are those who are watching and praying with more fervor than the church has seen in quite a long time. There have been pockets of pray-ers (a noun describing the multitudes who are praying, not a noun describing a plural form of 'prayer'), since the foundations of the church were laid by Yeshua and passed to the Apostles then to the first century church.
No one needs to tell me that my voice doesn't carry very far. No one need point out that my sphere of influence is not large or that I do not have a large following. The miraculous thing about this is that I really don't care. What has become important is that as I observe the phenomena I mentioned before, my spirit is hearing the still small voice of Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) reminding me that to be great in the Kingdom of God we must be a servant to humanity. Humanity is broken. People worldwide are hurting, afraid and lonely. More stress and greater anxiety have driven people to more and more trickery and deceit in order to posture for promotion. The same has become true in much of the church. I remember a time when the input of every person in a congregation meant something. But with the onset of the professional preacher and the subsequent dominance of church hierarchy and a megachurch mentality there has been an even further walking away from the model left by the first century church. There is a moving in the spirit realm though and it is beginning to manifest in increasingly influential pockets, as mentioned above, throughout the body of Christ. People are beginning to see a glimmer of hope far removed from modern 'churchianity'.
Bill Hamon, Founder of Christian International (with whom we are licensed), defines the church as 2 distinct institutions which should, but often do not work in perfect alignment. These are 1) the Structural Church which is the global organized denominational and non-denominational bodies of local congregations; both Catholic and Protestant: and 2) the Spiritual Church which is the many member worldwide body of believers which make up the Body of Christ with Christ Himself as the head. I submit that the Structural Church has lost connection with the Spiritual Church in many ways. As is applicable to this text, specifically, in that it has structured itself right out of allowing Holy Spirit to be in charge of every meeting. It seems He must show up like on the Day of Shavuot (Pentecost) and come in as a tempest then land on every head in the form of a flame of fire before we will just let Him have His way. Men and women are stifled from operating in their God given gifts and talents and it is considered out of order if it isn't in the order of service or approved in advance. God truly is a God of order, but His order and ours do not always look even remotely the same. After all, He warned that His ways are as far above our own as the stars are the earth. Too often, it has been my observation that He desires to move and shows a glimmer of a hint through someone in the meeting crying out, worshiping in an intense way, people seeming entranced because of the depth to which they are feeling Him, the musicians are somehow riding on waves of His presence and it can be felt, or any other of myriads of expressions. He is boundless and so He may never show Himself the same way twice in the lifetime of anyone in the room, yet we seem to expect that He would display Himself similarly each time He wants to move in a special way. Sadly, I have witnessed many times that the agenda or order of service takes precedence because He did not move on the ones in charge of the order itself. So, because they had no discernment to allow Him to continue His work, He and those He is using are stifled. Ironic isn't it? That the very One we claim to seek is so dishonored, often in ignorance, simply because we have not spent enough time purchasing the oil of intimacy (through spending alone time with Him) that we can't even recognize when He shows up......? Continued below illustration.
Much of the church has become performance driven. It's not just church governments upon pastors or other clergy. This pattern continues on down the line to touch every attendee in the body. So much so that mandatory "volunteerism" is often required for membership to a local assembly. What happened to let each of us "work out his (her) own salvation"?
It would appear the Structural Church has some choices to make. Do they wish to continue in the pattern/model they currently operate in? Or do they wish to follow the moving of Holy Spirit and return to a Biblical model? You see, many in churchdom (my name for the fantasy world professional preachers sometimes live in) do not realize that more of what they do resembles the model set by Constantine when he paganized “The Way” (Christianity's original name following the crucifixion) than it does the 1st Century Church model. I am certainly not the first nor am I in the minority in seeing this. Many have been attempting to guide the Structural Church to see it's ways of departure from the Spiritual Church. It would seem that many simply feel as though giving the Spiritual Church the place of authority, that chaos would ensue. But in seeing the great masses of people who are dissatisfied with the status quo of the Structural Church; and whose lives are simply not being changed radically enough to remain a part of the disillusioned attendees of well organized professional church services, I must ask, “should we not consider there might be a better way”? Perhaps a way in which God can move freely among His children during group gatherings? A way in which He will be recognized regardless of what method He chooses to reveal Himself. A way which allows everyone to have a voice and not just those chosen for leadership. A way which will cultivate the leaders who are waiting to be birthed and raised up. A way which honors everyone equally and does not promote a hierarchy which God Himself says He hates.
Revelation 2:15 and 16 Now some of you are following the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Turn back! If you don't, I will come quickly and fight against these people. And my words will cut like a sword. (The word Nicolaitan is a compound word. It essentially means 'defeated laity'.)
NEVER BEFORE in my 35 years of serving Abba, have I witnessed or heard more people telling me how beat down they feel. When I first started noticing this, I would encourage people to stay strong and endure the testing of their faith and this season would end with a great victory. Often, I was even committed to praying for them regularly. I counseled that they would soon be given greater authority and be able to speak into the lives of those who were enduring the same battle. NOW I recognize they were forerunners already showing great courage. You see, I was “trained to be a leader”. So in looking at their situation through the lens of a Structural Church leader, I was missing the Spiritual Church answer. I was advising in a way which kept them strong in the sense of the Structural Church: faithful to attendance, faithful to the local congregation, faithful to service and volunteerism, faithful to paying their tithes and offerings. In other words, faithful to the organization. None of this was “bad advice”, it was just not the “correct advice”. Biblically, that is academically, it was spot on. The problem is, it lacked spirit. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. So while it was correct according to the WORD, it was so only as it fits within the operation of the Structural Church. What I was missing was that a phrase I have hated for many years was staring me in the face and I was too blinded by my Structural Church leadership training to see it. We were entering a “new paradigm”. God was beginning a shift back to a New Testament model and I was stuck in a rut keeping me on a single path without the necessary visionary skills to get out of the rut. One of my wisest mentors (Wilke White who is of blessed memory) once told me a rut is a grave opened at both ends. He went on to explain that when we walk in a rut, eventually someone closes one end and life will often cause the other to cave in. He was right.
It has taken approximately 20 years for God to remove the blinders which kept me only seeing straight ahead. I was like a young racehorse who lacked the experience to understand that no other horse is the issue. Just the race set before me. I needed the ability to look around and see that the others in my life needed someone to help them see that their pain of feeling neglected, rejected, abandoned and forgotten wasn't them. They were in a Structural Church but their spirits were yearning to be part of the Spiritual Church. While these two are historically, often and even currently at odds with one another, it need not be so. He is trying to open our eyes to see a better way. A way in which His Son Yeshua (Jesus) can be the head of the spiritual and Structural Church. It started that way, and as I mentioned in my blog (Is Jesus Really Returning Soon? - link) He is restoring all things to the church. This includes our rightful head. As Bill Hamon says, “The day of the one man show is over”. I can say with surety, God wants ALL of His CHILDREN to SHINE. To remove the self exalted piety and the defeated laity from the Structural Church and transfer them into His Spiritual Church where as Ephesians 5:21 instructs we submit one to another, not just “laity” to “leadership”. Instead, where we are all one body with Christ as the Head. Then the Structural Church and Spiritual Church will have merged into One Body In Christ.
NOTE: I've learned to ask many of these wonderful women and men of God (mentioned above) what a 1st Century Church model looks like. They all seem to have no more idea than I. But He has restored so many other truths and gifts to the church since its Dark Ages. Why would He not show us the way to move back to His intended model for us?
Now, I want to establish very clearly, I am not abdicating that there should be no leadership. I am saying they should not be honored above any other member of the spiritual or Structural Church. If they have been placed into an office by the call of God, then what God places together let no person tear down. However, by the same token, those in leadership must begin to recognize that their leadership is not the same as in the world. A leader in the Spiritual Church must be a servant to all who attend the meetings. Their honor is their service. Their success is gauged by how well they love (the same as anyone else). Their reward is eternal, even if it also comes with some means of temporal increase as well, but it may not and that cannot be the goal. If they desire this, they may simply need to take on an outside job. The goal must be to point people to the completed works of the cross and spending eternity with God. It must be to meet their spiritual needs while in this life and empowering them to be His Body reaching out to those who have yet to hear or make a positive decision for relationship with God through His Son Yeshua (Jesus). The “offices” given to the spiritual and Structural Church were established to “perfect the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ”. Without getting into a huge exegetical work (interpretation of scripture) here, may I point out just a few things about this scripture reference? Ephesians 4:12 is clearly referring to the purposes of the “offices” given to the church as mentioned in 4:11. So the “5-fold” (in the Greek there are only 4 because pastor isn't really there and instead is shepherd-teacher) are to perfect the saints so they can do the work of the ministry and edify the Body of Christ. It has long been held by those in the Structural Church that the “5-fold” are to complete these 3 tasks. But a closer examination makes it abundantly clear that this list in Ephesians 4:12 is a progressive statement regarding the saints too. If this were not so, then verse 13 would make no sense: “till we all come into the unity of the faith...”. When read from a proper perspective of equality among all believers and without the Structural Church's Nicolaitan practices influencing our understanding, we can clearly see that Shaul (Apostle Paul) is advocating for the “5-fold” to prepare the Body of Christ for their ministries, NOT to lord over them as spiritual superiors. As I have said so many times “we must look at the WORD in it's totality, not in segmented scripture references mostly taken out of context and without understanding the historical/cultural relevance of the chosen passages to those to whom they were originally written”.
Members of local bodies of believers must step up and mature in their gifting(s) in order for a successful succession of the current hierarchical church model to abdicate to a more “member leader/servant leader” model as seen in the first century church. Loren Cunningham has once again taken a bold leadership step in hearing from and acting upon this current mandate which God Himself seems to be spreading into the pockets of reform springing up, partly from and somewhat geographically between the revival centers we are seeing rise up from California, to Arizona and even in the Northwest of the US. He (Loren Cunningham) disbanded all “titles” within Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a few years ago. What do you think of it? Imagine it, the largest missions organization in the world completely removing EVERY title beyond that of YWAM Base Leaders. No more CEO, or VP of this / VP of that! An all level playing field and only honoring the grassroots, in the battlefield for Christ, planters/leaders of local works. Nothing fancy, not pastor this or prophet that, just who runs this base. Can you believe that this happened a few years ago and the whole of society didn't come crashing down around them? Can you believe that YWAM is still the largest missions organization in the world and this revolutionary concept from scripture hasn't damaged their perpetual growth with one iota of negativity? This CAN be successful. But current leaders and members of the Structural Church must catch the vision of the Spiritual Church and meet in the middle. Those leaders must train THE members (not their members – Christ is the head) to step into their roles and the members must step up to the plate as mature men and women of God and begin to step into whatever God calls them to do. We have a church-bride to see mature and a lost world to reach all as part of our mandate to occupy until He comes.
I am just now beginning to get a small glimpse in my spirit of what is happening. Our heavenly Father is so gracious, loving, patient and kind that He has waited for a time when enough truth has been restored to the Spiritual Church to begin unveil His plan for maturing Yeshua's Bride. It seemingly began with Martin Luther and his 95 Theses. A time marked in eternity past, which when it had come to fruition birthed a moving in the spirits of the people of Europe. That birthing brought the first of restorative truths to the Body of Christ, the universal church. It was a first step toward unifying the broken paths of the Structural Church and the Spiritual Church. In his book “The Eternal Church” Bill Hamon does a wonderful job of laying a parallel between church history and this restoration of all things to His Body. I recommend every believer, regardless of faith or creed, read this enlightening book which is very affordable in Kindle format.
This first step of faith by Martin Luther opened a spiritual gateway for mankind to step out of the Dark Ages and begin a trek which will ultimately result in the maturing of the Church-bride and preparing her for the Bridegroom she longs for. So often, it seems, we say such things because they sound like the right thing to say. As ministers, we often say them because we know they will move the crowd. It is well passed time we begin to say them from an intense burning desire to see the Bride perfected and fully prepared to meet Yeshua. This family of the church has been disjointed for far to long. It has worried about pet doctrines and procedures more than intimacy and relationship; not just with God but with one another. If a city divided against itself cannot stand; then how much more dysfunctional and unprepared for marriage, is a Bride whose own body parts refuse to function together and honor one another? A time of awakening is indeed upon us once more. We are moving into a final “reform-ation”. He is reforming this Body to honor every part equally just like the workers in the parable. Those hired early in the day were jealous off those hired just an hour before quitting time. All were paid the same, all received the same honor. Quitting time is approaching but the workers still engage in trifle battles over who is in charge, who is greatest among themselves, leaders keeping members in their “rightful place”, members rebelling against the status quo. Many of the believers I have had the great honor of knowing, both leaders and members, are starting to see this. In fact, on our recent furlough back to the United States, Naphtali and I met with 4 or 5 groups of people who in the last 6 month – 2 years have been seeing the same things in the spirit. They are noticing a growing dissatisfaction with churchianity (regardless of denomination of lack thereof). They are seeing small groups within congregations beginning to hunger for far more than the church can offer from within the confines of the current church model. A few things weave a consistent thread through every group.
members are burned out on affirming those in 5-fold offices but not being affirmed in their own giftings
members are tired of programs which are intended to be the “next big breakthrough”
members are dissatisfied with the constant giving of their time and effort (which takes them away from their families) and not seeing fruit – mostly due to a lack of support from leadership
leaders are tired of volunteerism being at an all time low – or simply ineffective
leaders are dissatisfied with the things they implement starting with a bang and going flat
leaders are burned out no matter how much encouragement they get
May I ask 2 questions? 1) if both are dissatisfied, is it the others' fault? 2) could it be they are both dissatisfied over the same thing but simply cannot see it?
Before I begin to answer those questions, I want to make a simple statement. We need to start meeting one another's needs before seeking what we can get from one another. I realize that may sound like rhetoric, but let's process it just a bit. All too often leaders and church goers alike tend to seek out what we can get from those around us. I'm not talking about selfishness or narcissism. I am talking about just wanting to be fulfilled and looking for a place where that can happen. There is nothing wrong with this. As far as anyone in the world would be concerned about this, they'd probably all agree this is a healthy approach. They'd be right. With one exception. In the Kingdom of God things often, if not usually, operate diametrically opposed to how things in the world operate. Since the church has begun to conduct itself like a worldly corporation, this approach isn't necessarily unhealthy, but it may not be God's perfect way. I propose that He is looking for a people who seek to serve one another so completely that the first things they ask themselves is how can I help this person/ministry/minister/congregation achieve everything God has in store for them?
Back to my 2 questions........
In my somewhat limited perspective, I'd say yes to both. But not in the way you might imagine. I do believe it is the fault of both that this is happening. The leadership may not be properly recognizing the gifts all around them and letting God show them a vision based on the available spiritual gifts and natural talent also all around them. Those leaders may be seeking a vision which fits their personality and dreams, based on their own gifts and talents. They may be seeking to build THE KINGDOM by building THEIR KINGDOM. These are all currently common errors in the Body of Christ. They are not irreparable. But it will take an humbling of leadership to slow down, smell the roses, see the blessings surrounding them. To truly listen to the people, not just hear them. To take wise counsel from those whom God has placed in a flock you feed, does not remove the authority of the office to which you are called. In fact, quite the opposite is true because it is His order of things. We are to be accountable to one another and submit to one another in love, each preferring others above themselves. These instructions were given to all the church, not just the “members”. All too often our Bible Schools train this right out of us. They tend to produce a leader who is afraid to be too close to the Body. This “professional detachment” creates an isolated target for the enemy. Alone they attempt to battle until ultimately their gifts, talents and anointing for service have driven them to what appears to be a high place of success. But their character is lacking due to a stunting in personal growth along their path of “success”. In this way their gifts, talents and anointing took them where their character cannot keep them. Then the Church receives another black eye by the public announcements that follow the fall of this “great” man or woman of God.
So where do members fit into this? I believe they must start with love and encouragement like never before. Perhaps you didn't see that coming..... It is with purpose that this is in this location of our discussion. You see, a solution often stares us in the face from the strategies of our own enemy. He is not an innovator or creator, he is an imitator. So, he counterfeits every good thing in the Kingdom of God and then attempts to smuggle it into the church. The church in many parts of the world has retained much of the exaltation of the clergy. It is not uncommon in some parts of the world for clergy to be treated like kings and queens. But, Yeshua told us to never even let anyone call us by a title (in the KJV He says rabbi), much less exalt us above themselves. Yet I can count on one hand the number of “pastors” I know who refuse to let people call them Pastor So and So. There is no shame in being called to a 5-Fold office. But it is a spiritual vocation not an identity. If I am called to be an Evangelist and I travel to many nations and win many millions to Christ, I am no greater than the widow who gave her last pennies. In fact my many millions of converts will yield a lessor reward. That is unless I won them by the same intense love with which the widow gave those pennies. She gave to worship. She gave in absolute trust. It wasn't a give to get kind of thing. She wasn't seeking financial gain and this was not her seed. It was worship. I can imagine she had gone through all the same formulas we all have in our giving. Giving to increase, so we can give more to increase more, so we can give......I'm sure you get the idea. Some of us give because scripture instructs us to. It might not even be out of religious obligation, but just because we are following instructions. This too has it's reward. Neither of these two ideals or doctrines are wrong. But what He wants is relationship. Intense worship from so deep within us that it may have taken thousands of hours alone searching Him out to find the level of worship He deserves. Well it is from that same place that we learn to be honest with our encouragement. All too often, that comes from religious obligation or seeking to gain something in return. Usually we don't even realize it, because we haven't gotten close enough in an intimate relationship with our Creator-Lover to recognize our own selfish motives hidden in the encouragement we share. It is exhausting to stand in the gap for others; to research and deliver a well orated message; to practice on an instrument so as to perfect that talent for God's glory; to hone singing talent to a level that touches the soul of mankind and can sing the rhythms and frequencies of heaven; to intercede against fallen angels/demonic forces and for the broken world or children of YeHoVaH. The place to start is to purposefully seek out your Heavenly Abba (Daddy). To intensely chase after Him and learn to love your neighbor as yourself – this after all is our First Commandment as given by Yeshua Himself. Then truth will pour from you in a way which will tear down the walls of fear that the building of kingdoms creates in the leadership God has appointed in local body. Once those walls fall and the insecurity of letting every one have a voice begins to take hold, God will guide each of us into that unity of the Spirit needed to mature this Bride-Church to whom we all belong.
Before I close this thing, let me just add, this need for intense intimacy is required on both sides. But, so does the humility to hear the others' heart. There is so much more. Far more than can be placed into a single article. Far more than I alone can see or know. This is a beginning. A jumping in spot. If the two sides of this dilemma will each commit to BOTH of these two Biblical suggestions, we will begin to see fruit quickly. The soil has been prepared and this is a prophetic season of seed-time/harvest. Not seed-time and then harvest. But a time of reapers overtaking sowers. As quickly as we begin to plant Godly intent into honoring one another, it will produce lasting and self perpetuating fruit. Try it and see. We are witnessing it from Beijing, China to Flagstaff, Arizona, USA and hearing about it happening in small pockets all over the world.
How about we all lay down our egos, hurts, frustration, bitterness and any other weight or sin which easily besets us and just get to work so He can come back. He is waiting on the restoration of all things. A topic I already covered in “Is Jesus REALLY Coming Back Soon” (link). Which may be worth a read if any of this article doesn't make complete sense to you.
I believe that as leaders catch a vision of how they are to fit into the Plan of preparing the members God has given the privilege to serve, train, activate and raise up and as those members mature in their gifts a great army will naturally rise. It will be spontaneous and will not require any prompting. They will each find and know their place in the body and their individual authority for breaking chains off of the bound. They will overrun the enemy of the Body of Christ and route that enemy while razing his kingdom of darkness with God's glorious light. Then those in the 5-Fold will be in their rightful place of authority as well. They will stand WITH the members of the Body of Christ and not over them. The authority of each 5-Fold leader will cause a manifold increase upon the members whom they have faithfully served and trained. The people themselves will thrust those leaders into places of honor, because they have spent their ministry lives honoring those members. In this way, the fruit of the labor of those leaders will become lasting and perpetual. In this way, the authority of every believer will be activated and the gifts will operate in the way they are intended, with each member of the Body preferring one another above themselves and submitting one to another in love.
As you can see, I am not against leadership, except where it has become un-Biblical. I am not against the church except where she has left her responsibilities up to leaders who were never supposed to do everything anyways. I am for balance and Biblical leadership leading mature or maturing bodies of believers so that the Bride of Yeshua can finally be ready to meet her groom – it's time to see a mature warrior princess awaiting her husband while ruling and reigning in the dominion she is supposed to have and give to Him as a wedding gift. THIS IS HER DOWRY – that she be successful, healthy and wealthy while her Groom tarries in His return.
FYI - I am doing a survey of several respected ministries who have begun to see the same things God is showing Naphtali and I. As I find good material from theses sources, I am posting both written and audio teaching on our Teachings page. My goal in creating this page is not to feature our "teachings", though I may add a few from time to time. The primary goal is to feature the teaching of others who are gaining insight into what the 1st Century Church model may have looked like. How did the 5-Fold offices cooperate without causing disorder and chaos? How did the people and their gifts fit into the picture? You can find that page at this LINK .