I've been in ministry circles for a long time. I started hanging around itinerant preachers when they came to our church when I was just 12 or 13. I probably drove them a little crazy, but they always seemed appreciative when I'd offer to run errands for them or bring them a plate from the dinner my mom had made, even when I just wanted to visit and ask questions. You see, I'd received a call to preach, in my spirit, as a little boy. I knew from an inner witness, a small soft voice deep inside of me, that God wanted me to serve him as a "preacher". At that time in my life I read a chapter or so of scripture every night at bedtime. One night while doing so after a service at the church my family attended, I simply followed evangelist Philip Coty's advice. I asked God what He wanted me to do. All He said was "I want you to preach". It's like it happened yesterday, as clear in my memory as it could possibly be. Anyways, this motivated me to be around ministers as much as I could; licensed, ordained, lay preachers, street preachers, you name it....... I wanted to understand what it meant to be a "preacher".
As I have grown, and thanks to an addiction to education, I have seen that this question can only be answered by the very book I was reading when I heard that small voice. I can't just ask a minister or go to a lecture. I cannot find the answer in someone's textbook for a college class. It cannot be answered by an internship or by working under a well established ministry which has gained a solid reputation. No matter how hard one looks anywhere else, they cannot answer this question except by seeking the God of the Bible and understanding that His Son is the incarnation of that Book. Yeshua is the living Word,
and without a deep relationship with Him - peeling away all our human frailty and exposing our deeply seeded need for His nature in us, we are simply religiously trained and not much good for leading others into a deeper walk with God. THAT is the primary job of the "preacher" regardless of which Ephesians 4:11 "office" they feel called to.
I have had the wonderful privilege of working with some people whose hearts were so broken and contrite before Father that they truly were like clay on a Potter's Wheel - being remade on a regular basis so they could be the size, shape and type of vessel He needed at any given moment. Folks like; Eddie and Sister Linhart (I don't think I ever knew her first name), Daniel and Pat Moore, Kent and Jenny Miller, Wilke and Sister White, Alan and Teresa Butte were instrumental in helping lay the foundation for the man God wanted me to become. They demonstrated what it means to submit to one another in love, each in their own distinct and varied ways. I saw them take the advice of others - including lay people. I saw them gently receive the hearts of people who disagreed with them and never felt the need to lash out. I watched them graciously accept criticism AND praise without allowing it to affect the way they treat others - for the better or worse. All in accordance with Ephesians 5:21 which tells us we should ALL submit to one another, not just leaders to leaders and laity to everyone. Which seems the usual pattern. In fact, a certain occurrence within the church greatly concerns me. Over the last 20 years or so, I have watched as leaders began to operate more and more like the corporate world and less and less like shepherds, servants, brothers and sisters. The family of God has increasingly become Church Business. Maybe busy-ness is the problem? Maybe it is because with the birth of mega churches in the 1980's people can easily slip into the crowd, pay their due diligence to God with attendance and tithes and as long as the bills are paid church leaders don't feel the need to mingle with the sheep any longer.....? I don't know if there is any one issue causing this more than another. It just causes my spirit to grieve that we are less like family than we have ever been and yet we think we have greater revelation and understanding of His Kingdom than ever before. I'll come back to this.....
I witnessed a situation once when a young pastor had been wronged by some "false prophets" which came in a mindset of judgement and an attitude of take over. The church lost a key leader in the mix of all the drama, and the pastor took it all quite personally. Who wouldn't though? Then as God tried to restore the body by sending some people who were sensitive to the Spirit and who began to minister to the congregation on an individual basis, it was seen (at least it seemed to be) as a repeat of the previous experience. So when those people became personally overwhelmed with life and said they could not complete some obligations which this pastor required for membership to the church, it was viewed as rebellion and a lack of submission to authority. Even though there had been a number of publicly seen acts of humility and submission through their acts of service to the body AND the pastor's family; the obligation had become a point of contention. This one thing became a wedge which the pastor felt precluded these people from any interaction which the congregation might view as leadership or ministry. The sad part of this is that the pastor simply seemed to want recognition for his place of authority, but he could not see the public prayers and tears from these people as submission to his office of pastor and to his leadership of that church. It had to be 100% his way or not at all. When confronted with the now clearly marked work of personal kingdom building, the pastor blew up in rage. He "turned" those people "over to God" and repented for ever allowing them in the pulpit of the church. He then banned them from attending any service or event hosted by his church by telling them they were not welcome any longer. Later a newsletter was written (and even posted on social media) about rebellion and some misrepresented situations were twisted to match scripture (some of scripture was also used out of context) to be certain the people of the congregation accepted the fact that these people would not be back and for good reason. In fairness to the pastor, no names were used but to the contrary, situations were described which made it clear to many or even most, exactly who the target of this negative "lesson" was.
Now, back to where this is meant to go. I just felt an appropriate illustration (above) was necessary to put what I am about to say into context.
It breaks my heart when leaders forget they are to be servants. It breaks my heart even more to see servants attempting to serve and then be accused of attempting to take over or of a lack of submission, by leaders who are guilty of not serving. Or even worse, leaders who have come to expect being served or exulted. Where did this come from? When did Shepherds become corporate leaders? What happened to a cooperative 5-Fold ministry as seen in the 1st century church? Honestly, lets examine that phrase (5-fold) just a little here.... In a car, an exhaust manifold takes the exhaust from each cylinder (say a 4 cylinder car) and combines it all into one exhaust port which is attached to the appropriate exhaust pipe/muffler/tailpipe. This makes the exhaust of many cylinders get compacted into a single stream. Most modern cars use this and other gadgets in the exhaust system to create back pressure which, through a series of other technical events, increases horsepower and fuel efficiency in the engine. So, the manifold (or many-fold) helps to increase horsepower, decrease fuel consumption and can actually reduce toxic emissions (to a degree), though there are other things needed to make that happen.... those may be part of another parallel in a future blog. Back to the 5-fold.... is that not many into one? Were they not from One and made into many? Christ distributed the 5 Offices to the church at His ascension (refer to Ephesians 4) and the "5-Fold" became the manifold for the church. Many into one act of service, preparing the church to be a mature Bride. They are the horsepower and their "oneness" in service creates the back pressure necessary to make it possible for the church to do more with less - thus the fuel efficiency too. He was the one and only human being capable of being all 5 at one time; and to promote unity/oneness in the Body of Christ, He distributed the 5 into the Body for the perfecting of the saints so the saints could do the work of the ministry (already covered in some blogs and will be discussed at length in the future). So then, 5 working as one body of leadership to the church through servant-hood, humility and submission IS the plan for the leadership of the Church. As Bill Hamon the founder of Christian International, our ministry covering, has said "The Day of the One Man Show is Over". He is referring to the pastor dominated church model. It is no one's fault the church came to this state. It was only natural that this might happen since the offices of Shepherd and Teacher were the first restored to the church after the Dark Ages of Apostasy. However, it is the fault of every person who cleaves to this model and does not allow God's restoration of all offices into "their church". Christ is the head of the Body and any body part which does not allow the others to do what they are called to do (in mutual submission of course - just not through religious obligation) will be replaced or lose any influence they currently have. After all, to whom much is given, much will be required. If we cling to our perceived and self appointed authority given to us by a church model God never ordained, we run the risk of being seen like the servant who buried his master's money Matthew 24:14-30. The church is quickly moving into a new part of the restoration process (also discussed in a previous Blog post). Dr. Hamon calls this the Saints Movement. This movement, and this part of God's restoration to the Body of Christ, REQUIRE the body to be "firing on all cylinders" (to use the previous analogy) and "every part to be in it's rightful place"(1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Churches which choose to follow the current pattern of a pastor at the helm with all authority (even to not take the advice of the elders/board) will still likely have a measure of success. But the question is, what will their reward in eternity be if they choose to follow man's church model instead of humbling themselves to make room for all of God's servants to have their rightful place in ministry? NOT just leadership ministry from the 5-fold, but the saints too!
I think we need to understand just how literal the Word is when it says we are all part of the Bride of Christ and that to be a partaker in the Marriage Supper we have to be a mature Bride. I don't know about you, but I think that at least partly means laying down the worries of someone taking over (until they actually try to), someone fleecing our flocks (they aren't ours anyways), false prophets (the real ones outnumber the false ones by several to one), etc. The church HAS to get over petty differences. The church HAS to get passed the past. The church HAS to raise up a people who are mature in their faith. The church HAS to let all the Offices and Gifts have a place. The church HAS to stop doing church as usual and get back to God's plan, heaven's agenda and preparing for the return of Christ.
Ephesians 3:20 &21
and that he may send Christ Jesus, who was ordained for you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets.
Some translations/versions say "He must remain in heaven until the time comes" in verse 21. He is NOT held back waiting for the Gospel to be preached in every nation or to every person. Scripture clearly records that happened during the lifetime of Shaul (apostle Paul). I cover this in another blog, but the scripture reference is Colossians 1:23. He is waiting for His Bride-Church to get her act together and grow up. I dislike being so frank, but that's the bottom line. He is anxiously awaiting enough of the Body to catch this vision of intimacy and cooperation so He can prepare His Esther to finally take the throne and reign with Him throughout eternity. We all have a job to do in this Body. If the Church is not going to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry by letting every Office have its place, then the least it could do is just get out of the way and let God's people (those who love Him with total abandonment) do that for them.
PLEASE - may we all just examine ourselves and see if we are a help or a hindrance to the return of our Bridegroom? Let's do some self policing and root out offences, bitterness, competition, self promotion, fear of man, self kingdom building, bickering and back biting, beating the sheep, misrepresenting the Word for self gain, control issues, and all the other JUNK that His Bride must be free of....... Selah?