I think he’s on to something.
I was meditating on this recently, and two stories – connected stories – spoke to me on the subject.
The first is the apostles’ answer to the Sanhedran when the were questioned about their work: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
I see this as a standard for how we define our own ministry: we obey God. It’s pretty simple actually. Whatever God tells us to do, we do that.
More specifically, we don’t look to religious leaders (or other people, for that matter) to approve of the thing that God is telling us to do. We have one judge, and it’s not you or me, or the guy down the street leading a lot of people.
I think I might go further: you don’t need their approval, and you don’t need their permission to obey God. If God is calling you to do something, to start something, to take a risk, do it!
(I need to insert the obligatory warnings here: “Don’t be stupid!” “Don’t do it in rebellion.” “Don’t build your own empire.” OK? Let’s move on.)
The second story is in the next paragraph. Let me quote it for you:
34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” Acts 5:34-39
This story addresses how we define the ministry of others. The short version: we don’t. As Gamaliel points out: we can’t always tell if someone is moving in the power of God or in the power of man: wisdom is to step back and Let God sort it out.
But what if we get people going off and starting their own thing in rebellion? Then we have people going off and starting their own thing in rebellion. It’s OK. God is not thrown off by that. As Gamaliel points out, those eventually “will come to nothing.”
God will take care of it. He promised to build His church, and I think He means it.
The danger of course, is that if we take on the responsibility of preventing people from starting illegitimate ministry, then we – who are not omniscient – are in danger of preventing legitimate ministry.
Some said – back in the day – that young upstart Loren Cunningham should not leave the Assemblies of God church where he was youth pastor to start Youth With a Mission (YWAM). In the 50 or so years since then, YWAM has become the largest and arguably most effective missions agency in history of Christianity. Millions of people have come to faith through the men and women of that ministry.
Would you want to stand before God and say “Oops…” for having prevented Loren
from starting YWAM? Would you want responsibility for preventing millions of salvations because you thought Loren was missing God? Me neither.
So my recommendation is that we put our efforts into obeying God. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t worry about what others do.
Like Nike says: Just Do It.™