Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts


You May Say I'm a Dreamer. But I'm Not the Only One.

Some people experience God in pictures or visions (seers); others in dreams (dreamers). Some experience God by hearing things (hearers, I guess). Those are all relatively easy to describe to others. More socially acceptable, these men and women are often great communicators.

Some folks experience God and the Spiritual realm through their feelings (feelers). My experience has been that these feeler folk often experience more of the heart of God, and often perceive more deeply and even more accurately, but have more difficulty translating those revelatory experience into language. Therefore, their revelations are less often well-received and understood by the body as a whole.

Our earthly language has difficulty handling feelings well. That may be partly because our culture doesn't particularly respect taking responsibility for our feelings.

Folks who experience God in ways that are easy to describe (pictures, words, etc) have a much easier time talking about the revelation they receive. Because they “fit in” better, they also do better in schools and seminaries.

And so they become the pastors and teachers, the leaders of the churches. And since, as a culture, we’ve delegated responsibility for the state of our soul to the leaders of the church, they have also become the standard for how God’s children receive revelation from their father. We can describe them either in spiritual terms (seers and hearers) or in educational terms (left brained academics).

As a result, we have a church that is led by academics and left-brain leaders. I have no complaint against that fact, except this: the churches they lead are not made up only of academic, left-brained followers, even though their sermons and classes are primarily academic, left-brained lessons.

In fact, our seminaries and Bible schools, even our public schools, don't legitimize and hardly respect such emotive people, and so the leaders and peers that they turn out don’t understand, and often don’t acknowledge or respect the legitimacy or sometimes even the presence of the feelers among us, of our creative and imaginative brothers and sisters.

Our corporate church leaders are generally left unable to train feelers - people who interact with both the spiritual realm and the natural realm by way of their feelings. And so we are unable to pastor or lead the feelers among us, and instead, we see them, through the eyes of academia, as people who need us to fix them.

Most of the resources for the left-brain, logical prophetic folks don't fit real well for the right-brained creative, for the prophetic feeler folk. Much of our basic discipleship training is in academic vocabulary, leaving the feelers among us less capably discipled than we believed, and therefore more vulnerable to the ravages of the war that we are all engaged in.

I grieve for my brothers & sisters that we’ve disrespected and wounded. I’m thankful that God is addressing these disparities and bringing them back into alignment.

We have a ways to go, but we’re on the way. I look forward to our continued growth together.


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Decision-Making and Discipleship

I believe that every time we make a decision for someone else that they could make themselves, we hinder their growth. When I make decisions for my life I grow from them. When someone makes the decisions for me, they rob me of that opportunity for growth.

Even when we make the decision poorly, even when we make a mistake, we learn more than when someone “older and wiser” makes our decision for us. In fact, I suspect that we learn the most when we make those mistakes.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to children, and others who don’t have the capacity to make decisions on their own.

The Apostle Paul knew this lesson; in fact, this may be the primary lesson of his letter to Philemon: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you --being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ…”

Paul was clear: he could make the decision, he knew the right decision to make, and he had the authority to make the decision, but he deferred to Philemon to make the decision [about what to do with his runaway slave Onesimus]. Paul deferred to Philemon’s decision on the topic. And Paul gives every indication that he will support Philemon’s decision, even though the life of his “son” Onesimus hung in the balance.

Pastors make this mistake often, and congregants very often encourage the mistake. So many decisions are held for the pastor to make, decisions about what doctrines we believe, about how to handle certain difficult individuals, what we’re going to do in our worship of God when we get together.

We could go on and discuss how others make this mistake: either we make decisions for others (wives, kids, parishioners, employees) or we defer decisions that we can (and should) make to others (wives, parents, pastors, bosses, mentors, board of elders).

If we’re going to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, even Christ…,” then we need to make the decisions as for DOWN the chain of authority as they can be made, even if mistakes are made. And we need to be committed to the individuals making the decisions, supporting them before, during and after the decisions.

Frankly, it’s nearly always more important that believers learn to stand on their own two feet in making decisions, than it is that we make the right decisions every time. If we’re afraid to make mistakes, nobody can grow.

Hit the Trail!

They were the days of the westward expansion of the United States, the era that history books talk about wagon trains and pioneer settlers. If you were done with “the old ways,” or if you wanted to be part of the new movement, the new explorations, then you moved to Missouri.

In the nineteenth century, Saint Louis, Independence, Westport and especially Saint Joseph became departure points for those joining wagon trains to the West. They bought supplies and outfits in these cities to make the six-month overland trek to California, earning Missouri the nickname "Gateway to the West". This is memorialized by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

These weren’t the only places you could begin your trek from. But Missouri was the place where you could find like-minded individuals to travel with, where you could gather your supplies, where you could learn the safe routes, and dangerous places. Here, you could buy (or learn to build) a Conestoga wagon, hire a scout, consult with others who have made the trip before you, and come back to teach others.

You could actually leave from any place you wanted, but if you wanted to succeed best, you’d leave from Missouri. People didn’t move to Missouri to settle (usually). They moved to Missouri so they could move beyond Missouri. Or they moved to Missouri to equip others who would be going further.

In many ways, the people of God are in a season not unlike that one. There is indeed an expansion, though it’s not toward the west; it’s toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

But the model today is not dissimilar to the model then. If you want to discover the new territory that God is unveiling – and Oh! What territory it is! – then you’ll need to prepare yourself, to stock up, to learn new skills. It will be wise for you to travel with others who have been exploring further afield, or at least to learn from their experience.

Today’s exploration isn’t physical, so we don’t actually need Conestoga wagons (which is kind of too bad, because they’re really cool!). Instead, our exploration is primarily in the realm of the Spirit. But there are still launch points, cities, strongholds where knowledge – vital knowledge, if you’re going to explore – is far more accessible than it is in the rest of the “civilized” church.

Bethel Church, in Redding California, is one such departure point. It’s not the destination, but it’s a good resource point. The people of Bethel Church – not just the leaders, the people! – are often well experienced and well equipped, and willing to share their experienced insight regarding the trails we face: Yes, God is good. No, you don’t need to preach about people’s sin. Yes, you’ll want to develop key relationships. No, don’t pay attention to the detractors who won’t take to the trail themselves.

There are other departure points, every bit as effective, as knowledgeable, as well-stocked for traveling explorers. The point is not that we must launch from this city of Bethel, the point is that the departure city is for departing. Stock up, gather together, and hit the trail.

There are new lands to discover, new freedoms to explore, new aspects of the King of Heaven and the marvelous Kingdom he’s sharing with us to experience, and then to share with others back home.

Aslan said it best: “Come further up, further in!”


With Visibility Come Critics

I started this blog on a bit of a lark. Father was challenging me to write consistently, and I created a new identity for that writing just to separate my passion for the Kingdom of God from my family. (In my mind, one of the cruelest things a father can do to his children is make them “preacher’s kids.”)

But it seems that people are eager to discuss things of the Kingdom, and so this blog has gained more of an audience than I ever expected, and therefore more influence than I ever imagined. 

And as I’ve gained influence, I’ve gained critics. Whoa. What a new concept! Some of them have been enemies. I’ve never had enemies before! Some have just been passionate about their bondage, and hate the freedom in God that I’ve been writing about. Some want to advertise their products to the people who read my wall (in a word: no!). And some of them want to fix me.

Now let us be clear: I’m brand new at this business of having critics, enemies, fixers. I have clearly not responded with maturity every time: to become mature, one requires experience, and I lack that experience. (But I’m growing in it. I think that’s good....)

The last group confuse me the most: the people who want to fix me. Honestly, I don’t get it.

First of all, I’m not aware that I’m broken, at least not by Heaven’s standards, which are the primary standards I care about. But that’s normal: most people think they’re not broken. And for that reason, I treasure a large handful of relationships with men and women whom I have learned to trust. They know me, and they have both permission and invitation to speak into my life. I submit my doctrine and my practice of Kingdom life to them. I regularly seek out their criticism and course corrections, which they are kind to share with me. When they do, I try to I try to respond well, but I’ll admit to struggling sometimes. I’m as human as anyone else that I know.

But these “fixers” decide on their own that I have one glaring fault or another (usually related to the radical concept that God is actually good), and they find ways to barge into my life with an agenda of fixing me. Some of them have been relatively forthright about it. Some have been more surreptitious about it, not revealing that this was their goal until I stopped listening to their endless criticisms. Some complete strangers have offered to “mentor” me. Many have acknowledged that the only reason they’ve friended me was to fix me. Manipulation has been common.

Not infrequently, their attempts to fix me, a complete stranger to them, have been completely works-based, have been littered with abuse and accusation, and have been clearly targeted at bringing me back into the bondage from which Jesus has set me free. Many of them are clearly dysfunctional themselves, though that’s not necessary a complete disqualifier (Peter was pretty dysfunctional, when you think about it; Paul had a hideous past life!)

I bring this topic up for two reasons:

First, to state publicly that I am not currently seeking new mentors, and I do not, in fact, submit myself to complete strangers for correction. If you do not know me personally, you’re not a candidate to fix me; if we have not been friends for a number of years, you are not a candidate; if you don’t know my name, you are not a candidate; if you haven’t opened up your life in the process of building relationship, you are not a candidate.

This is not because I’m trying to keep correction out of my life (quite the contrary!). It’s because correction – or ANY ministry – must come through relationship. If we don’t have a relationship, then it ain’t gonna work, no matter how hard you try, and no matter if I invite your criticism or not. Ministry flows out of relationship. No relationship, no ministry.

The second reason I bring this up is because many other people around me are also moving rapidly and publicly into freedom. I’m not special: if the fixers come after me, in order to “repair” the freedom that I’m enjoying, then they’ll probably come after you, too, in order to “redeem” you from freedom, from grace, from the Kingdom.

So I’m trying to pull the sheet off of the deceiver, I’m trying to shine a light into the shadows: if you see someone skulking there, my advice is: Don’t invite them to speak into your life from the shadows.

Yes, it is wise to seek counsel, and counsel to whom we’ll actually listen and submit to. And since this kind of a relationship is foreign to most western Christians, we’ll have to be very intentional as we seek it out. But this needs to be a relationship-first kind of thing. Just because someone has a big ministry, or a big reputation or a big mouth does not qualify them to mentor you.

And anyone – ANYone – who is trying to take you or me back into the shadows is not worthy of listening to.


A New Wave of Rookies

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the teachers were so prominent, we saw the big name teachers (Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindall, RC Sproul, …) and when we thought of teachers, these names came to mind. But there were tens of thousands of gifted and anointed teachers popping up around the land, some filling pulpits, others leading home groups around the land.

Teaching gifts fit in well with existing church leadership, and in some cases, help existing leaders to lead better. The “office of the teacher” is a 5-fold leadership office anyway, but all believers are commanded to be able to teach, able to disciple others, so there wasn’t a lot of controversy.

Later, when God breathed on the prophetic, we saw big name prophets (Bob Jones, Bill Hamon, Paul Cain and others) come to the forefront. And while they were blazing the trail (and taking the hits) to re-introduce prophetic gifts to the entire church, prophetic gifts began sprouting among believers from coast to coast.

Prophetic gifts come in three biblical flavors: manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12), ministries from the Father (Romans 12), and the 5-fold gift of the prophet, from the Head of the Church, Jesus himself (Ephesians 4). There’s been confusion between prophetic ministries and prophets, but we’re figuring that out now.

Unlike the teaching gifts of the previous wave, prophetic gifts did not fit comfortably with church leadership, so most of the budding prophetic people lived in hiding, or masqueraded as worshippers, intercessors and exhorters; a few used their new prophetic gifts to support their teaching or pastoring or leading gifts. A very few brave souls began to confess, “God says I’m a prophet,” and model their itinerant ministry after the traveling evangelist.

More recently, the church has grown more comfortable with both prophets and prophetic ministries as maturity has been showing up in the gifts, as people are finding their place among other ministries, and as the strangeness is replaced by familiarity.

We’re now in the midst of God’s restoration of apostolic gifts. There are big name apostles (Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Che Ahn, John Eckhart, Heidi Baker) that have brought the church’s attention to the topic.

But as with the other movements, while the “big names” are pioneering the 21st century version of the office of the apostle, there are also thousands of un-famous apostles in, and outside of, local churches across the land. Some successful local church pastors are taking the title “apostle” for themselves, or having it thrust upon them by peers or congregants; many of these seem to think that an “apostle” is just a really, really successful or respected pastor.

Mostly, church leadership doesn’t know what to do with young apostles. Where immature teachers could themselves be taught, and where immature prophets could be shuffled off to the intercessors, young apostles aren’t as easy to push around or marginalize: that’s not rebellion, it’s part of the calling.

So if you as a leader, as an influencer among the people of God, if you find a young man or woman who’s bumbling confusedly about in what just might be a budding apostolic calling, what will you do with them? If you find a less-young man or woman who’s been walking with God for 30 years, but may be stumbling into a new apostolic anointing (and there are more of these than I expected!), how will you respond to them? 

If your job as a pastor, as a teacher, as a prophet is to “equip the saints for works of ministry…” then how will you equip these young apostles? How will you discern the real apostles from the wanna-be apostles? Will you receive them, rough as they are, or will you try to shuffle them off out of the public eye? (Hint: good answers to these questions will be more about relationship than about programs!) 

The point of this article is not to outline an Apostolic Training Program, but to acknowledge that you and I may very well have dozens of immature, rookie apostles within our spheres of influence, and to challenge us to get to know them, to not write them off as the proverbial bull in the china shop (which they appear to be). Maybe we can even give some thought as to how to encourage them as they pursue the mysteries that God is calling them to.

What are you going to do with them? It will affect the next generation of the church in your region!


Fishing Lessons

There’s an old saying:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

That’s actually a good saying. Roughly translated, it means, “It’s better to teach people how to overcome their trials than to simply meet their immediate needs.” The Book talks about “equipping the saints for works of ministry,” being the primary work of church leaders, not ministering to the saints’ needs.

(A smart aleck has pointed out that if you only teach him to fish, he may starve to death before he gets good enough at fishing to feed himself: I applaud the desire to not ignore the short-term need, but let’s not get off-track here.)

May I speak bluntly? This is a problem with the way we do church in the western world. We feed people regularly, and we put comparatively little effort into teaching people to feed themselves; we minister to people by teaching them, comforting them, counseling them, involving them in programs, but seldom requiring that they stand under their own strength, or fight their own battles for themselves. By default, we are teaching them to depend on us for their daily fish, for their daily bread.

There are two errors in this: those who keep handing out fish every time they’re together with other believers, and those who keep accepting and eating those fish, every time they’re together. Both are in error.

This has been pointed out about the Sunday Morning congregations: since these are very often led by pastors and teachers, whose gift it is to pastor and to teach, very much of those gatherings are about being pastored and being taught.

(In deference to the aforementioned smart aleck: there are some circumstances where young or wounded believers cannot take care of their own needs or feed themselves. Let’s acknowledge that they exist, and not get off track: those people are few and far between in a healthy community.)

But this is the 21st Century! This is the age of Social Media! Indeed. And since the weakness is in people, when people migrate from the Sunday gathering to the online gathering (including blogs, including Facebook), they bring their weakness with them.

It is just as easy on Facebook as it is in the hard pew on Sunday morning, to sit still and let others feed us day after day, week after week, year after year. “Another fish, please!” It's just as easy to always be the one asking for prayer, always be the one who needs the encouragement of the worship or the sermon or the other people's posts to keep me going until next week.

And frankly, it’s just as easy on Facebook as it is in the pulpit on Sunday morning, to keep feeding the folks around us, to keep digesting the Word, to keep listening to the Spirit, and keep spoon-feeding it to the folks nearby. “Here ya go. Put that fishing pole down, and have another fish!”

Now, neither in the Sunday church, nor on social media, is it safe to assume that everyone who consumes is incapable of feeding themselves. And neither in Sunday church, nor in social media, is it safe to assume that everyone who teaches, everyone who encourages, everyone who runs a program, is only handing out fish, rather than teaching the hungry man to fish.

Part of this malfunction is the tendency for human beings to follow other human beings. As we make disciples, it’s imperative that we teach people to follow Jesus, not to follow ourselves. And of course, it’s critical that we follow Jesus, not human leaders, as we grow.

A brief side note: this was God’s plan all the time. Exodus 19:5 was just before the covenant on Sinai, where God proposed this covenant first: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant (stay in relationship with me), then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” It’s been his plan from the beginning that we follow his voice, that we honor our covenant relationship with him, NOT that we follow laws and priests, which were only instituted because God’s people rejected this covenant (in Exodus 20:19) and asked for a priesthood.

For me, the real issue is this: how am I doing? How am I doing at feeding myself? How am I doing at being an equipper of saints, rather than a distributor of fish?

I invite you, dear reader, to take a few minutes to do a bit of self evaluation: How are you doing at feeding yourself? How are you doing at making disciples and equipping saints? 


Correcting Prophetic Inaccuracies

I was asked the other day, "When a well known prophet gives a national prophetic word and it ends up being completely wrong, how should the prophet address it?" Excellent question.

This strikes me as another way to ask the question, “Who is responsible for inaccurate prophetic words?”

If there was such a thing as an ideal world, everybody would take responsibility for their own stuff. But that doesn’t happen, and there are at least two ways that it doesn’t happen that make this a complicated question:

First, it has appeared that prophets with big public ministries don’t often take responsibility for their prophetic words. There are a few that DO take responsibility when they find out something was predicted correctly, but most don’t slow down enough to even recognize either when a word is fulfilled or when it’s proven inaccurate.

The other side is that I can’t really affect whether the national prophet will, in fact, acknowledge and respond to an errant prophecy. National prophets generally haven’t made themselves accountable to me, so my expectations have no real effect on their actions.

Second issue: so many prophetic declarations are worded in such a way (I make no statement about intent here: this is just the way it is) that it’s hard to clearly interpret and apply portions of the word, and therefore, it’s hard to judge the word (1 Corinthians 14:29). For example: the word is about an earthquake: but is it a literal, physical quake, or a metaphor for God shaking things up? And does a 3.4 quake that knocked a pencil off of a teacher’s desk somewhere qualify as fulfillment when we were all clearly expecting the earth to open swallow a region whole?

But let’s face it, the people receiving a prophetic word are more likely to be invested in the word than a prophet that’s travelling through, heading towards their next meeting. That’s not a criticism, it’s just recognizing how the “real world” interjects itself into the ideal.

This leads me to a third issue. I’ve long been an advocate of the concept that when a prophet gives me a word, it’s now MY word; it isn’t theirs anymore. And therefore I am the one who needs to take responsibility for that word: I need to nurture it, feed it, cherish it, and help it grow to fruition.

And I need to discern it. It certainly saves time and energy if I can successfully discern a word BEFORE I encounter the conditions stated in the word. I’d much rather recognize beforehand if a prophet was adding something of himself into the revelation, rather than wait till afterwards.

Note that it may not be the prophet that’s adding something to the word: it may be my own expectations. I met a woman who was praying for the death of her pastor’s wife. “But God said I could have anything I want! I want him, and she’s in his way!” And I’ve run into lots of prophecies that have been taken way beyond the original word that was spoken.

So yeah: if the prophet is aware of having given a word that turned out to be inaccurate, it would be appropriate for that prophet to take responsibility for the mistake, acknowledge it, and (how does one do this?) apologize to those who were misled by it.

But whether or not they take responsibility for a word that they’ve given to me (or to a group of which I’m a part), still I have responsibility for the word, which is now mine. I need to discern it (“judge it”) even if I’m late in doing that, and if it’s bogus, I need to toss it out.

I’ve done that with a lot of words recently. I find myself frustrated with a number of national and regional prophets who drop a prophetic bomb and move on, or who prophesy so vaguely that they are essentially mumbling gibberish in God’s name.

More than once, I’ve stood with a group of people (the prophet having never left their home, on the east coast, or wherever) and renounced a prophetic declaration that we’ve judged to be inaccurate, false, mistaken. Sure, it would be better if they did it. But if they don’t, then somebody needs to. I often find myself following these sessions up with prayers for the prophets whose work we were just correcting.


Your Town's Move of God

I'm hearing something in the Spirit, feeling an unction in the Wind. It's time.

If you've been seeing the move of God in other regions, and hoping for it, praying for it in your own community, I believe this is the season that God is blowing on that, encouraging that hope, encouraging that vision, because it's on his heart too.

May I encourage a couple of first steps that you might consider on behalf of your town, your region:

  • Pray for the leaders – especially pray for the emerging apostolic leaders – that God is raising up in your region (and note that it may be YOU that he’s raising up for such a time as this). When God does things, he often works through leaders, but those leaders are often not the people in “positions of leadership,” or the people you’d expect.

  • Expand your relationships with God’s people in your region. It doesn’t matter if they believe what you believe, or if they worship like you do, as long as they serve the same God you serve. Some don’t, you know. Some serve the agenda or structures of man. But don’t shy away from people who are within those structures, people who do things waaaaay differently than you do.

    (Note that "build relationships" is not related to "attend meetings." It probably has more to do with the local coffee shop, or the dinner table, than it does with church meetings.)

  • Give thanks for that which is not yet happening, as if it were. Give thanks for the barest little sprout of the thing that God has promised, even if (possibly especially if) it looks completely different than what you expected. The business of expanding the Kingdom is a work of faith, not sight. It’s when we can recognize and bless the tiniest hint of revival that revival is really planted.

  • You pursue God. Fan your own passion into a good, healthy flame. Set your own heart to pursue the Kingdom, to expand the Kingdom, regardless of whether anyone else comes with you.

    Interestingly, it’s often when we declare that we’re moving forward, whether anyone else comes with us, that people decide they want to come with you. They can’t follow unless someone is willing to lead the way.

  • Take ownership. Understand that you are God’s representative in your community. As you take that seriously before Heaven, your prayers will change, and you’ll have more authority in Heaven to move Earth. If you’re praying as a resident of the region, you have more authority than a stranger. But if you’re praying as Heaven’s representative in the region, accountable before God for what happens here, you’ll have both more authority and more passion.

  • Recognize the strengths of who and what is in your region already. There’s nothing wrong with driving to another area for a conference, or bringing guest speakers in, but God wants to raise up His voice in your region, not just to your region. Look for “the voice” of your region. Look for the gifts that God has given your community. You’re not above others in the purposes of God, of course, but neither are you below them. God is at big in your little town as he is in New York or Seoul or Redding.

I believe that there is a grace available for this, for spreading the fire, for infecting the entire Northwest (well OK: the whole world, but the Northwest is my focus!) with the move of God. I believe that the time is right to move from a region with a handful of campfires, to an entire region on fire in God.


Realistic Risk Assessment

There has been an accusation that has come against a number of saints who have been walking with the Lord for a few decades: the accusation is that you’re not as “cutting edge” or as “willing to risk” as you used to be, and the accuser probably will add that you’re “becoming lukewarm” because of that. He may add a sense of disappointment, failure, or hopelessness to that.

While there may be some believers for whom that is a true story, I believe that most who are hearing this accusation are hearing a lie. 

The truth is that we’re measuring wrong; the enemy is pushing us to measure our experience. It used to be that we could tell when we were taking a risk by the level of adrenalin (or fear, or excitement) that it produced. It used to be true that we could tell that we were “cutting edge” because the people we hung out with stretched us. That was the old way.

But this is not that day. Many saints who have walked with God for many seasons have learned the lifestyle of walking with God, and as a result, the decision to “risk” with God is no longer scary, no longer “edgy.” It’s just the way you live. It's like an old married couple: you're comfortable in that relationship, and comfortable deferring to your spouse.

“Risk” (particularly the risk of actually believing God, rather louder, better publicized voices) is part of your daily life now, so adrenalin or fear is not part of the conversation. Of course you walk on water (metaphorically, at least); that’s how you get from here to there. It’s just a commute now. Will I really trust God’s provision instead of either the regular paycheck or the unemployment check? Of course! Next question.

There are a few reasons why risk doesn't appear as risky as it used to:

The first is simply experience. You’ve learned that it’s safe to actually trust God, and you have a number of years behind that trust. I've known some people who base jump: they first time was scary; the thirty-first time is not so much. It's fun, but now it's comfortable. The risk isn't nearly as apparent as it once was.

You’ve also changed your perspective. As John put it, “You know Him who is from the beginning” (1John 2). When you’re used to seeing Him, the threats of the world aren’t as impressive. You're not apathetic, but "This could be it!" doesn't mean as much when you're used to walking with the Creator.

But there’s a purpose that’s bigger than you in all of this. Whether you are aware of it, whether you can even see it, you’re breaking trail for others behind you. There are others who are watching you, watching to see if the life of walking with God that you’ve chosen will actually work in this day and age. There are youngsters following you, some close, some at a distance, and a few from the bushes where they hope you can’t see them, but they're learning how to walk with God by watching you walk with him.

If you’ve been paying attention (either to the Spirit or to the news, or both), you can see that "the times, they are a changin’!" Let me be blunt: God has been preparing you for these times. You’ve learned how to walk in victory even when things are hard, even when the way is obscured. That’s how you developed confidence with Him. The young ones following you haven’t needed to do that yet, but they will. Some of them have considered it a great trial when their iPod battery wears out, and they don’t even know how much they need to learn about following God when the world goes sideways.

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), and he was quite serious. You’ve learned that the rest of that sentence is also true, and you can teach the young ones. “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

The exhortation is twofold:

First, reject the accusation that you're l
ukewarm. (Unless you are, of course.) Don’t even waste your time with the topic. You’re following God, and you’re pressing in, but it isn’t as scary as it used to be, because you’ve got history together. Keep up the good work!

Second, pay attention to the youngsters (of whatever age) that are following you. God has given you to them because they need you. And frankly, they’ll encourage you; they are, after all, part of your reward.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders… and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12


Training The Gifts


John Paul Jackson said, “Studying your gift will enhance its strength; it tells God you value what He has given, enough to spend time developing it.”

When someone discovers they have a teaching gift, they go to college or Bible school and they train their gift. When someone aspires to being a pastor, they train the gift, often in a school called a seminary. In recent years, schools for prophetic giftings have sprouted up all over the world.

Not all training, not all studying, happens in a specialized school. A lot of training happens in church; pretty much every pastor has taught on the gift of serving and the gift of giving, and I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds. There’s often pretty good opportunity to study an train our gifts in church.

But there are holes, gaps, in the equipping of the saints.

When was the last time you went to a training school on the gift of mercy? Who has ever attended a school for the gift of tongues? Or when was more than a passing mention given to the gift of the word of wisdom?

I observe that there are at least two significant motivators that contribute to which gifts we train, and which gifts we don’t:

1)     Some gifts have generated a whole lot of interest among people. When half of your congregation is asking about prophecy, an opportunity to learn will show up, whether in your church, or somewhere else within reach of hungry believers. (I believe as a principle, that God will answer his kids’ cry to become equipped saints.)

2)     Sometimes, leaders will teach on a topic – about a gift – that is needed in their community, because that really is an effective way to help people get excited about that gift.

And there are some gifts that miss out on both kinds of glory. They lack the flash and popularity of the more exciting gifts, and their lack is not as desperate in the local body as others. Both are motivated by a sense of urgency, rather than by what God is doing.

One problem with this approach is that, by nature, it tends to devalue the less urgent gifts. We don’t mean to teach that mercy is unimportant, but when we skip the gift in our training, we do communicate that. We aren’t intentionally saying that tongues is optional – we often believe differently than that, and Paul certainly emphasized the gift – but when we don’t help people to grow in the gift, if we only bring it up in our annual “You Must Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” sermon?

We, as leaders, have responsibility to equip saints, and the measurement of our success is pretty high:

…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:13

If we are well equipped in the exciting gifts, in the urgent gifts, then that’s really good. But it falls short of the “to a perfect man” standard, and short of the standard of “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

I guess I want to invite those who are involved in equipping others (which, according to 2 Timothy 2:2, should be all of us, to one degree or another) to consider equipping people in the full range of gifts.

That doesn’t mean just classes on the gift of interpretation of tongues, of course. In fact, it might begin with us asking questions. “God, how can I grow in the gift of tongues?” “Father, would you teach me how to use this gift of mercy you’ve dropped on me?”

Let’s go after maturity. In all of the gifts.


Prophetic Obligations

Prophetic Obligations

I’ve been reflecting recently… no, that’s a cop-out. Let me try again:

God has begun to speak to me about some things in relationship to the prophetic gifts, and about some ways that the church as a whole has let prophetic people down. We who teach others how to hear God – how to prophesy – we have in some ways failed the very prophetic community we train. This began, I believe, with good intentions, and with accurate instruction, but without enough wisdom.

When we teach people to prophesy, we have been very intentional about “lowering the bar” of hearing God’s voice. That’s a good intention, but it does a disservice to our brothers and sisters who are called to prophetic ministry. Let me explain.

When we teach prophecy, we generally teach newcomers how Jesus said (in John 10:27), “My sheep hear my voice.” So if we’re his sheep, we hear Him speaking to us. The challenge is not to learn to hear his voice, but learn to recognize it, learn to discern his voice from among the other clamoring voices. That’s good, and I still stand behind this teaching.

We teach them from Luke 11:11-13:

11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

When we are asking God for a manifestation from the Holy Spirit called the gift of prophecy, then we should be able to trust what we hear, what we see, what we “get” when we’re asking.

And as part of that training, we put limits on prophesying: we teach that (as 1 Corinthians 14:3 says), “He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” And so we limit the topics accessible to prophecy to this realm.

When we teach people the basics of prophecy, most of our teaching is in the context of personal prophecy. In fact, the vast majority of prophetic training I’ve seen or heard (and that’s a lot!) assumes the context of personal prophecy, in a public setting, and it emphasizes the limits of “edification, exhortation, comfort.” No predicting the future, thank you very much; no declaring judgment, no “You must marry this person,” no “Sell everything and move to Africa.” Just prophesy these: edification, exhortation, comfort. The end.

Within those limitations, there’s plenty of room for a whole lot of valuable prophecy. It is a significant and valuable venue for prophetic ministry, and there is much good that can come from prophecy within these limits.

Are these limitations on every exercise of all prophetic gifts? No, the Bible gives these limits for public exercise of the gift of prophecy. They’re pretty good training wheels for training rookies! But this isn’t the whole story.

There are actually three lists of gifts from God in the New Testament, and the prophetic is the only gift common to all three lists. The gifts from Holy Spirit are enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12, including the gift of prophecy, and the related prophetic gifts of the “word of knowledge” and “the word of wisdom.” The gift of prophecy is the focus of 1 Corinthians 14, and this is where the limitation of “edification, exhortation, comfort” comes from.

There’s another list of gifts, often called “motivational gifts” from God the Father, in Romans 12, and this list also includes prophecy. Here, the only limitation to prophesying is “let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.” I observe that this passage assumes that not everyone works in this level of the gifting; only some of the Body are gifted by the Father to minister regularly with the gift of prophecy.

The list of gifts from Jesus, the head of the church is in Ephesians 4, and it includes the gift of the prophet. The limitation here – a limitation on all five of these gifts including the prophet – is that the gift is to be used “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.” Here too, the passage assumes that not everyone has this gift: only a few members of the Body are called to be prophets.

So it seems the full range of prophetic giftings are not limited to only prophesying “edification, exhortation, comfort.” The calling of a ministry in the prophetic, and the calling of a prophet are not subject to those limitations at all times. (Though I would argue that the vast majority of prophetic words coming from someone called as a prophet should still fall into these guidelines, but “the vast majority” is not the same as “all,” which is how we’ve taught it.)

There come a couple of problems, when people take the prophetic gifts outside of those beginning limitations: we don’t make much room for other applications for the gift, and we don’t show people how to minister outside of those areas. Since most training for prophetic gifts has been designed as an introduction for everybody, the content has necessarily been limited to the aspects of the gift that apply to everyone.

And this is the exact focus of my concern: that when we have lowered the bar to include everybody in the prophetic training, we have failed to train two-thirds of the prophetic gifts described in the Epistles; we’ve generally failed to train any application outside of the prophetic outside the realm of rookies.

Where might gifted people appropriately take prophetic gifts outside of these rookie limitations?

1. Prophetic evangelism: prophesying to strangers on the streets and in shopping malls is becoming fashionable in many Christian circles, and it’s wonderful that the church is finally taking prophetic ministry to the streets, and I’m thankful for it.

The risk is small here, and there are usually (but not always) experienced leaders around to help temper the prophetic words given, and to train the givers of those words. There has been very little training focusing even partly on how to prophesy to non-believers, and this is a surprisingly different skill, a different (and appropriate) application of the prophetic gift. On the other hand, prophesying to strangers on the streets strikes me as a reasonable way to learn how to prophesy to strangers in the streets.

Recently, a friend of mine was sitting in a restaurant after hearing a very bad report from her doctor; she was questioning the promises that God had given her, which the doctor’s report had just challenged. Then a man she’d never met came up to her, apologetic and nervous, and told her, “God told me to tell you, ‘Never question in the darkness what I have told you clearly in the light.’” It rocked her world, and put her back on course, though her battle is not yet over.

I judge that this is an excellent use of prophetic gifts which falls outside of the traditional “personal prophecy in a public meeting,” but generally within the traditional limits of “edification, exhortation & comfort.”

2. Daily guidance. I don’t subscribe to the theory that God must tell me everything to do in my everyday life, but I know people that do expect God’s leading them in each little detail of their daily life. (We’ll leave the very appropriate questions of the degree in which personal guidance is appropriate for another day.) More to today’s point is the issue that very little training is given to the topic of daily guidance for believers. And yet, I believe that hearing God say, “Today, I want you to do this,” is a very valid use for prophetic gifts. Our initial verse tied the two together: “My sheep hear my voice,” is linked with “they follow me.”

Jesus said of himself, “…whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19 So I suppose if we’re going to be like Jesus, we’re going to need to know what Father’s up to, so we can (like Jesus) join him in that work.

There have been times when I have heard God say, “Turn around and go back and talk to this person,” and that experience has been the turning point of an amazing new season in my life. This application of the gift has certainly been valid in my experience, though it, too, is outside of traditional prophetic training..

3. Public prophetic declarations, especially on the internet. It seems that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of websites nowadays where someone, eager to prophesy, and (usually) with some measure of a prophetic gift, makes a public presence. Many of these start posting “prophetic words” – just like the big name prophets – addressing everything from what they think is wrong with the church, to “God’s word for this year,” to prognosticating when Jesus is going to come back and what He’s going to do when he gets here. (I confess to thinking that some of these outbursts may be an example of individuals falling short of the instruction, “let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.”

Let me hasten to point out that having a website or making public declarations in no way either validates or invalidates a person’s prophetic gifting or calling. My point is that while they may have been trained in “how to prophesy,” they have not been trained for this kind, this level of public ministry, and that knowing how to “hear God’s voice” is not a sufficient foundation for a public prophetic ministry.

And I must add that while there are a lot of eager little rookies foolishly prophesying their guts out on their blogs or on Facebook, there are some individuals who are called to a larger realm of ministry, and whose assignment it is to make such decrees. (I include a very small sampling of them – public words that have been judged by other prophets – on the Northwest Prophetic website.)

4. Prophetic correction. I have far more stories than I wish I did about people learning to hear God and suddenly recognizing that other people are doing things wrong. There are many, many people who have received prophetic words, generally uninvited and unwelcome, which outline just how badly they’re screwing up.

It is fair to point out that most of the “prophetic correction” that is sweeping the internet is in error (certainly by motivation, if not by content), and while that may be a symptom of the topics in this article, it is not to our point today.

I don’t deny that correction, on very rare occasions, becomes a very tiny part of mature prophetic ministry (1 Samuel 13:13 may serve as an example). I point out that the training we give is insufficient for this work, and that this is occasionally a legitimate exercise of the prophetic gifts outside the traditional limitations.

But on the other hand, I know of a few leaders who have fallen into sin, whose sin was revealed prophetically, and nearly always to their own great relief. In every single successful case, the revelation was presented to a small group of leaders, and the leader in question had been invited to be present. This is clearly not an application for “proclaim it from the mountain tops!” Matthew 18 guides us in this process.

5. Directive prophecy. Most teachers on prophetic gifts are clear: personal prophecy is not for the purpose of correction or direction. And again, this is a tiny part of the greater arena of prophetic ministry, but it is a part, and traditional prophetic training makes no preparation for this: neither for teaching us how to prophesy direction, nor teaching the body how to discern, judge and respond to directional prophecies.

While there are models of this kind of prophecy in the Old Testament (Samuel’s is one of the more exciting); in fact, it made more sense in the Old Testament, since only a few people had the Spirit of God and could access God’s perspective on the future. By contrast, we now live in a day when the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, and every one of God’s children has the Spirit living inside them and directing them. Therefore the most effective use of directive prophecy today is generally in confirmation of what a person is hearing already, and in fact, I generally counsel the recipient of such prophecies to ignore them if they are not confirming something already in their heart and mind.

In my own life, there was a season where Papa required that I pray 1 Corinthians 14:1 before I pray for anything else that day; I petulantly prayed the verse every day, but told nobody about it. Some time later, a prophet called me out and said, “God says you’ve been asking him for prophetic gifts, and he says that it has been his plan to give them to you.” It changed my world.

6. Direction for our personal lives. “Shall I marry this person?” “Do I accept this job?” “What is my calling in life?” Certainly, this is similar to “personal prophecy,” but these questions are waaay outside of “edification, exhortation and comfort in a public gathering.” But they’re powerful and vital questions that cannot go unasked, and theoretically should not go unanswered. And it seems that there are never any good experienced, prophetic leaders around when people are asking these powerful questions in their private times with God.

I have often been frustrated by the emphasis some of us put on having God tell us what we should do, when he has given us a powerful free will, and when our own desires measure so strongly in the subject. In fact, when I asked Papa whether I should marry the woman who is now my wife, his answer was, “Son, you may marry her.” The emphasis was that my choice was very valid for my marriage.

Having said that, there are a very few occasions where God clearly points out who a person will marry, though if such a word is not a confirmation of something in our own heart, I would seriously question the word. (That woman, now my wife, heard God say to her, “He will be your husband” while I was engaged to another woman; she very wisely said and did nothing on the subject until after our second anniversary.)

7. Working with apostles and apostolic teams. While I know a number of prophets who do work with apostles, I don’t know a single one who has had any significant training in that line of prophetic work. But I judge that this ministry, when done well, is likely one of the most valuable parts of the prophetic ministry of someone called as a prophet.

My favorite example of this ministry was a few years back when Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets were called by God, as a prophet and an apostle, to visit all 50 states and make declarations about them. Their declarations were powerful, and their interaction was wonderfully instructive.

I realize the mixed message here: Yes, the limitations commonly taught (of “edification, exhortation, comfort”) are valuable, but no, those limits are not absolute limits.

My focus is about some concerns about prophetic ministry today, about how well we have trained our people to hear God’s voice, and how that is insufficient for many of the prophetic tasks and responsibilities before us.

Many years ago, shortly after I began to understand how to hear God’s voice, my young family and I were given an invitation. A friend of ours was moving to Canada to plant a church, and he invited us to join him. Of course, we took this to prayer, and in response, I heard God saying, “What do you want to do?” which I interpreted as permission to quit our jobs, sell most of what we owned, and start over in Canada. What resulted was a two-year exercise in persistence in an endeavor that God was clearly not blessing, followed by a decade of recovery from that failure.

Had I learned the skills that I needed to discern far larger issues than “personal prophecy, in a public gathering, aiming at edification, exhortation, comfort,” I believe I would have been better equipped to make that decision, and better equipped to handle the consequences of it.

This is my hope: that we as a maturing prophetic community would move beyond the valuable but baby-steps beginner’s training of “personal prophecy, in a public gathering, aiming at edification, exhortation, comfort.” I envision training schools (a few have already begun) and competent mentoring (I’ve seen greater advances here) where we are addressing not just beginner issues, but real-world issues of those called to prophetic ministry. I look forward to regional communities of mature prophets, raised up as sons and daughters by mature prophets and apostles, ministering in the “gates of the city” in every city or region, at least in the Northwest, and ideally, in the world.


The Plank in the Eye

A number of believers have been influenced heavily by this passage:

Matthew 7: 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

I believe this verse has been used inappropriately in a number of different circumstances to silence the prophetic voice in the church, and to silence the voice of leadership in the church. Even more often, reference to this passage has been used to silence people that want to stand up and say to a group or an individual, “Mommy, the emperor has no clothes!”

Functionally, it’s often been interpreted as, “You may not speak to a brother on a topic of correction until you yourself are perfect and without fault in that area.” Of course, that’s not actually good exegesis of Jesus’ statement, but saying that doesn’t actually solve the question: if he didn’t say that, then what did he say?

Of course, the opposite issue occasionally shows up: the person who has nothing positive to say, but only the negative. I find them online commonly, arguing with every post in a thread of conversation. It’s hard to respect, but at least, they haven’t fallen into the religious prison made from Matthew 7. I admire that much!

I was reflecting on this recently, reflecting on how I’ve felt the pressure of “don’t rock the boat” that has been based on this verse. As I was repenting for having received the religious muzzle that fearful people had justified with a disapproving scowl and a reference to removing a hypothetical plank from my own eye, when I was interrupted by a thought: “This isn’t about speaking or not speaking. It’s about self-awareness.”

Clearly, this is true: the last part of the teaching gives specific instruction about how to go about removing the spec from my brother’s eye, and in that, it’s consistent with Passages like Matthew 18 and Galatians 6. Jesus clearly expects us to be involved in removing specks from each others lives, but he apparently wants us to see clearly enough to do it well. (We could have a conversation about when it’s appropriate to speak into someone’s life and when it’s not, but that’s another conversation.

Long ago, Socrates’ stated that the unexamined life is not worth living; while I’m not sure I’m qualified to determine whether someone’s life is worth living or not, I can agree that self examination is valuable. A wise man once prayed, “Search me, O God, and try my ways, and see if there be any wicked way in me.”

The statement, “Do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” isn’t saying “don’t speak until certain conditions are met.” What he is saying, apparently, is “Do be aware of what’s going on in your own life. Don’t be unaware that there’s a glaring area that needs attention. Don’t look to fix other people’s sins as an escape from addressing your own sins.”

And the clear implication is this: when you can see clearly, your brother will need your help.


Receiving Testimony

After Jesus died and was resurrected, things were different. And as that resurrected One, he joins the boys for dinner:

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14)

So here’s the resurrected Creator Son of God, freshly back from kicking hell and death in the teeth, sitting down with the eleven survivors of his intense 3-year training. Functionally, this is their graduation ceremony: he’s just about to commission them to go into all the world and represent him. So what does he say to them?

He rebukes them! And he rebukes them, not for what they’ve done, but for what they’ve not done. So what is this big sin that they’ve done, big enough that it needs to take center stage at their graduation? It’s not believing the testimony of others who had seen him.

The previous verse is one example: the apostles didn’t believe the boys who had encountered Jesus on the Emmaus Road: two guys have an experience of Jesus that is both outside the apostles’ control and outside of their understanding of how Jesus does things. Naturally, they’re cautious about a couple of country bumpkins stumbling in well after dark, shouting, “I seen ‘im!”

They had already rejected the testimony of the ex-prostitute who first discovered his empty tomb. And after they had rejected these testimonies, Jesus appeared to them personally. Their reaction was marked by fear and unbelief.

I do not say this to my credit: I understand why the apostles didn’t believe. I know that place of emotional weariness, where I really don’t want one more strange person telling me one more strange experience; I just want to process the grief I’m overwhelmed with. And I know that place of pastoral caution, where I’m thinking violent thoughts about the next freak that feeds my sheep lousy food based on screwball experiences, and I’m about ready to pull an Indiana Jones on the guy. I understand why they didn’t receive the testimonies.

Jesus, however, is not so patient. He clearly expects better of them. He rebuked them for not believing the bumpkins and the ex-hooker.

Our translation doesn’t do justice to the Greek word “oneidizo,” which is being translated “rebuked” in this verse. Here are some of the definitions for the Greek word:
  • to reproach someone, with the implication of that individual being evidently to blame.
  • to speak disparagingly of a person in a manner which is not justified - 'to insult.'
  • to upbraid, to throw it in one’s teeth.
  • In a more literal translation, the same word is variously translated, denounce, insult, insulting, reproach, reproached, reviled.
My point is this: Jesus was pretty serious about the topic he was “rebuking” them for: this was a big deal to him; he was clearly chewing them out!

If Jesus is that serious about it, I probably ought to be. I observe a couple of principles from this verse:
  • The Head of the Church expects me to believe the testimony of experiences with God from disreputable people. Since Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds and foreign astrologers, I guess we should not be surprised that he continues to use freaks and outsiders to tell his story.
  • But freaks and outsiders have other stories to tell than just God’s story. There is nothing in this verse – or in the rest of Scripture, as far as I can tell – that suggests that we need to believe every story. We still need to discern. We still need to eat the meat and spit out the bones.
  • I don’t like this one: If I reject the (true) testimony of freaks, then I’ll not recognize him and his work when it’s my turn for a powerful experience with him. The boys rejected Mary’s testimony, rejected the bumpkins’ testimony; it’s my opinion that this rejection led to their unbelief and fear when Jesus interrupts their grief-filled dinner party later.
  • But Jesus doesn’t leave them in that cold, scary place. He breaks into the party and corrects their mistake, which leads to:
  • Learning to learn from others’ testimonies appears to be preparation for fulfilling the Great Commission; note that verse 15 follows 14 in the same conversation in Mark 16.
One last note: I suspect that in the 21st century, discernment may be even more needful than the first century. Bumpkins and ex-prostitutes are mixed in with demoniacs, heretics and Pharisees online, and we can’t look for drool in their beards to identify them. But we still need to draw the sacred from the profane.


Knowledge Puffs Up. Love Edifies.

I have a principle, a value that influences me, that shapes me, in the area of knowledge and wisdom. The value is this: there are better tools that knowledge, than learning, to work with in accomplishing the goal of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” This might sound controversial; hear me out.

1 Corinthians 8:1 says. "... Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." This doesn't say that "secular knowledge puffs up" or “ungodly knowledge puffs up;” it says that knowledge, any knowledge - apart from love - brings a puffing up, an inflation, a pride that prevents useful ministry, useful relationship, or even a meaningful life: this comes from knowing, from building up knowledge.

It is not by chance that Father said, "Don't eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." It isn't about good and evil; it's knowledge itself that kills. Knowledge of good and knowledge of evil are equal in this tree: the fruit of knowledge brings death. We were meant to eat from the other tree: We were meant for life, not knowledge. (Now, don't take this too far; don't assume that knowing stuff is bad. That is not where this is going.)

2 Corinthians 3:6 says "[God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." Same story: knowing - by itself, apart from the Spirit, even knowing the truth - that kills. It brings death.

We have a lot of knowledge in us. It's killing us, killing the people we minister to. To be fair, I have a great deal of knowledge in me; I'm beginning to learn how to exercise it in love, how to be led - really led - by the Spirit of God. I have a whole lot of un-learning to do; I'm getting a start.
There are some forerunners helping. When I listen to them, I'm listening for the life in their words, the Spirit in their words. Their knowledge is good, but it's knowledge: I'm allergic. I get all puffy with too much of it. It's not good.

The goal here, is to move from the tree of knowledge to the tree life. To move from knowing good and evil to experiencing life. To never (again) minister the letter of the law, the letter of truth, even the letter of the Word. There really is much done with the Word that brings death; a lot of it is online; a not insubstantial portion is done from pulpits.

I say again, knowledge is not evil. It's only evil by itself. With the Spirit, led by love, knowledge is a tool. Frankly, it's a minor tool, but not an insignificant one. There are other, more powerful tools. Paul disdained knowledge, even knowledge of the Word, choosing power instead, for his preaching of the gospel, and he valued love over power.

My purpose is not to judge them, these ministers of the tree of knowledge. Nor is my purpose to disdain or diminish the Word of God; it is the fount of our lives.

My purpose, instead, is to depart from the Tree of the Knowledge, to move to the Tree of Life, to minister the Word with life, but to minister love more.

Care to come with me?

Hands on!

I was reading through Acts 6, and my attention was drawn to verse 6. 

The story is the appointment of the first deacons. Our verse:

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The next verse points out “So the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied.” There was a connection between this action and the spreading of the gospel. This is a powerful thing.

The New Testament Model

The Bible is thick with examples of God’s people laying hands on folks. Matthew 19:13 is the first NT example of someone laying hands on: “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.”
Mark 16:18 says that we will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Acts 13:3 speaks of the commissioning of the world’s first missionaries: So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Acts 19:6-7 shows another application for laying on hands: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
So the Bible shows us we lay hands on people for four purposes:
1. Imparting a general blessing, such as our modern practice of baby dedication.
2. Healing the sick. In fact, Mark 6:5 suggests that healing is easier if we lay hands on in the process.
3. Commissioning people to an office, or consecrating them to that service or office. This one appears to be more dangerous than others (see below).
4. Imparting an increased manifestation of Holy Spirit’s presence and gifts. See also 1 Timothy 2:8 and 2 Timothy 1:6.
Luke 21:12 talks about a fifth kind of laying on of hands, but I don’t think we want to adopt this practice: “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.”

The Danger of Laying on Hands

Some will correctly point out that the Bible gives a warning to the topic as well:

1 Timothy 5:22: Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.This appears to reference #3 above: commissioning people to an office. And of course, a warning against laying hands on someone hastily is also an affirmation that while we must not rush, we are expected to lay hands on them.

There are members of the Body who – out of fear of error in this matter – have become unnaturally cautious, perhaps fearful, about laying on of hands. As a result, we have, intentionally or otherwise, come to the place where it is not acceptable to lay hands on an individual and consecrate them to service without at least a Bachelor’s degree in ministry. Preferably this is combined with a number of years of successful ministry, where “successful” is defined as “without significant moral failure.”

It is not my intent to minimize the danger. It is also not my intent to react out of fear and miss out on what appears to be a powerful weapon available to the sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God. I understand that there is a real danger; let us not fear to use the weapon because of fear of the danger.


The Invitation to Lay on Hands 

We are, in fact, clearly expected to lay hands on people in order to manifest the kingdom of God in them. I consider it similar to “painting the target” in modern warfare: “Holy Spirit, this is where to strike!”

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

As I read the verse, I had the distinct impression that Holy Spirit was saying that we’re authorized to use laying on of hands more than we have been, and that we’re missing out on a fair bit that God wants to do in us, and on a fair bit of what we want to accomplish in him, because we’re missing out on the resources available to us.

Multiplication From Laying on Hands

I have been observing that the church is finally making a wonderful transition. For many years, we would work on increasing the effectiveness or range of our gifts. Evangelists would travel to more cities and host larger events. Pastors gathered larger churches. Teachers spoke to those larger congregations, and then to television and radio audiences, and then began to distribute tapes and CDs of their ministry.

It was a season of effectively adding to their ministry to increase the good things that were being accomplished in God’s name. More recently, churches, leaders and ministries have been offering training schools to raise up a new generation of leaders, to multiply their ministries. Growth always happens faster by multiplication, of course, than by simple addition.

The Book of Acts, the beginning of the Church, started the same way: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) When the twelve apostles laid hands on seven deacons, the next verse points out “So the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied.”

This is actually the second time the New Testament speaks of the number of disciples multiplying: the first was verse 1, which led to the appointment of the deacons. It was because the crowd was multiplying that they started laying hands on others, and it was because of laying hands on others that the numbers were multiplied.

It is clear that laying hands on individuals is both a response to revival and a means of maintaining it. From this point forward in Acts, the spotlight moves from the apostles who had been doing the miracles to the deacons who were now the focus of the miracles. The twelve were not removed from the picture; they continued to teach (that was their main reason for appointing the deacons), and they governed the burgeoning megachurch. Later, the focus moves to the apostle Paul, who was healed and commissioned through Ananias laying hands on him.

The church grows when we lay hands on.