2) We feel compelled to tell people we know why we feel this way, to convince them to agree with us.
2) We feel compelled to tell people we know why we feel this way, to convince them to agree with us.
Leadership by Friendship
We will have some meetings that are about nothing more than maintaining and enjoying the friendship we share.
I'm indebted to Graham Cooke for sparking this idea in me.
Let’s think about this for a minute, please. If you and I and a handful of others are gathered in a church on a Sunday morning, or a home group on a Thursday night, then we’d expect the presence of God with us, on the basis of this verse, wouldn’t we? We’re gathered together in His name, after all.
But if I walk to the far side of the room, or step outside the front door, is His presence still with us? How about if I walk across the street? Or down the block? What kind of distance does “together” encompass? If I fly to Djibouti and you remain at home praying for me, is His presence somehow removed because we’re not “together”?
My point is that it doesn’t make sense for us to interpret “together” as primarily a function of physical location. I can see two hindrances to a physical interpretation: a) if we’re defining “together” as “within physical proximity,” then there comes a point when nothing has changed except physical distance, and now God’s presence is no longer with us, and this isn’t particularly consistent with scripture, and b) this passage is talking about a spiritual principle (unity), but “distance” and “location” are physical descriptors, not spiritual ones: feet and inches don’t have significance in the realm of the spirit.
Or another application: what would happen if you and I met at Safeway? Does that qualify as “gathered together”? Do we still qualify as “in His name”? Is His presence still with us in something approximating the way it is on Thursday night at home group?
Here’s where I’m going: I think that “gathered together in My name” should perhaps be defined as a state of covenant relationship existing between us. After all, His presence among us doesn’t begin when the meeting starts any more than it somehow vanishes when the pastor says, “
If you and I are in a covenant relationship, then certainly we will meet together sometimes. We might meet at the same church, the same home group. We might meet at Starbucks (I have a friend who calls it “
OK, if all that’s true – if being “together” speaks of relationship more than location – then God’s presence is in our midst, even when “our midst” is on opposite sides of the city, or the world. If that’s the case, then the necessity of our Sunday Mornings together is reduced: if God is really with us when we are united in heart, then you and I “going to church” will happen whenever or wherever we are “being the church.”
There are some very significant implications from this:
· I can be refreshed, strengthened and equipped by God anywhere, anytime.
· I don’t need to invite people to church in order to introduce them to
· I can pray for the sick, or share communion, or instruct people in the Word in the mall or in the church building with equal effectiveness.
· I can count on the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit pretty much anywhere I go.
· Wherever I am,
So does any of this suggest that gathering on Sunday mornings (or Thursday nights) is irrelevant or unnecessary? May it never Be! The Book encourages to gather together “all the more” as time goes by: My responsibility to be the Church is increased, not decreased, by this.
So it’s valuable, it’s important and even necessary that we gather together as believers. But the time and place are maybe not so important. And wherever I am, whenever it is, I am a representative of
Nearly all of the ministries formed around these new young apostles follow the same governmental pattern: the apostolic leader carries the vision for the group, and is – functionally if not legally – the sole director or elder in the group. (It’s interesting that the ministries of more seasoned apostles do not seem to be limited to this model.)
Actually, this is clearly a biblical model for apostolic government: the ministry of Jesus followed that pattern: one leader (Jesus Himself) carried the vision, and everybody else (the multitudes, the 72, the 12, and even the 3 favorites) both submitted to His leadership and supported His agenda. I’ll comment on the relevance of this model in a moment, but for now, I’m just pointing out that this is the pattern that young apostles fall into: “I have the vision, and every one else gathers around that vision and supports it.” It’s not the only model, but it has been the most common so far among the young apostles I know.
In reality, the New Testament shows us several other models for the government of apostolic groups. Here are some that I’ve identified:
· Team Ministry: The Team of Two. For the majority of his travels,
· Team Ministry: Apostles and Others. Nearly every epistle in the NT begins and/or ends with greetings from a variety of people who traveled with
· The Apostolic Council: Jerusalem. Described in Acts 15, and led by the apostle
· Solo Apostolic Ministry: Apollos. It seems that much of the ministry of Apollos was solo; he appeared to generally travel alone. He’s not always recognized as an apostle, and his fruitfulness isn’t as well documented in the NT as apostles using other models: I’m not sure this is a model to emulate.
· The Apostle and Prophet: A model that is not uncommon today is an apostle teamed with a prophet; I can’t find a NT example of this team – though I note that the apostles Barnabas and Paul were called out to be apostles from a group of “teachers and prophets” – however the model is supportable by teaching in Ephesians and other places. Often, the apostle-and-prophet combination today shows up in married couples, but not often when leading a team of other anointed ministries. (Bethel Church, in Redding is one exception, though they don’t talk about it.)
· The Apostolic Father: Sometimes, we see the apostle as a father. If you read any of John’s epistles, you can hear the fatherly tone of his ministry. I don’t often see this in young apostles; though the “fathering” is often a part of their ministries, often it seems to come from other members of their leadership teams.
· The Apostle and his Disciples: As mentioned before, this was the model of
I understand that the current movement (which some are calling a New Apostolic Reformation) is young and therefore is not yet mature. I’m expecting that as the movement matures, we’ll begin to see more of these 20-something and 30-something apostles making use of more of these models, and no doubt developing new ones beyond these. That will be an exciting day: as the new generation of apostles begins to walk in maturity.
Simple, Powerful Tools
My wife – in addition to being a wonderful human being – is also a gardener. I’ve learned some interesting lessons from her gardens.
One of the most embarrassing lessons is about garden tools.
When Christmas or her birthday roll around, I often find myself in the garden aisle, looking at garden tools. Do you have any idea how many garden tools there are? There are thousands. There are whole, entire catalogs devoted to the latest, greatest, coolest and most high-tech gardening tools! Can you believe it?
Here’s the embarrassing thing: the latest and most high tech gift tools usually fail in comparison to the good old-fashioned tools like shovels and hoes. Best of all are hands; hands with gloves, yes, but hands are the best tools of all.
So the principle is that in gardening, simple tools are better than complex, new-fangled tools.
I think it works that way in the things of God as well, and that’s where I’m going with this. Years ago, one of my mentors taught me (well, “taught us”, a group of us) about a couple of really simple tools when praying – particularly when asking God questions, which is where our faith sometimes stumbles.
I have to admit that at the time, I thought they were so elementary that they were cheesy, simplistic, foolish. I went along with them mostly because I respect him and his team, and these tools work for his group, but secretly, I thought I was past them.
The tools – or weapons, if you like that metaphor – come from 1John:
The whole premise of 1John is that there are deceivers in the world, both people and spirits. Have you ever heard something in your spirit and asked “Was that God?” That’s really appropriate: there are (IMHO) four possible voices that I could hear when I’m praying (this is very basic):
1. It could be God.
2. It could be my own soul speaking.
3. There are demonic spirits that are eager to deceive, and
4. Under some circumstances, the spirits – or at least the desires and choices – of other people can influence us.
If you think about it, these two verses offer two tests for that very question, the question of “Is this God,” which implies “… or is this some other spirit?” So when they’re going to ask God questions, this guy and his team introduce their prayer time by addressing the Holy Spirit – and then to make sure they’re not being deceived (or "spoofed") – they ask two more questions:
1. “Whom do you say that
This is something equivalent of a test for the email that claims to be from your bank: is it really from your bank, or is it a “spoof” email. The idea is nothing new; the demonic realm has been “spoofing” the Holy Spirit for years! (How else do you explain Mormonism?)
If the answer they hear back is questionable, they know they're being spoofed: it's another spirit claiming to be the Holy Spirit, but it's been un-masked by the simple theology of First John. You can see that these questions necessarily require humility: I must acknowledge that I can be deceived – an admission that many in the Church have difficulty making.
So I’ve begun using these “simple tools” in my own prayer times. I haven’t talked about it (until now) because it embarrassed me: I saw myself as more sophisticated than that. But I’ve begun to value “sophistication” less than I used to, and as I’ve begun to use these simple – even simplistic – questions in my prayer, I’ve found myself asking, “Was that God?” far less often, I’ve found myself becoming more humble in my prayers, and I’ve been learning more. I’ve discovered something of the Holy Spirit’s quick wit, and I’m discovering how much fun He is to hang around when I’m not having to question everything He says!
May I recommend simplicity in your relationship with God, and may I commend the use of these questions when you’re asking for yourself, “Was that God?” It really helps, provided you can get past the simplicity. Like simple garden tools: the simplest disciplines in the Kingdom are often among the most useful.
When we’re talking about real life, we’re not just talking about life in general. We’re talking about, among other things, your life and mine. And one of the dangers in that kind of conversation is the reality that you may see something in my life that needs to change. Maybe I’m not living up to the standards that I talk about, or maybe I’m disobeying the Word, and you see it.
But you can’t speak into my life unless I let you, unless I give you that authority. No, that’s not right: you can talk all day long, but unless I give you authority to speak into my life, I’m not going to be changed by what you have to say.
You can’t take that authority; it doesn’t matter if you are in the right and I am in the wrong. If I have not granted you authority to speak into my life, then your words are by definition without authority, and are powerless.
Likewise, I cannot take authority in your life if you haven’t given it.
There are people in “positions of authority” in my life. I must honor either the position, or the person holding the position, by giving them authority in my life, or else they have none. . The fact that you’re my boss means you should have authority to speak to aspects of my life and behavior, particularly during work hours. The fact that you’re my pastor means you should have authority in many areas of my life. The fact that I’ve invited you to speak into my life means that you should have such authority with me, but unless I decide that your word is authoritative to me, all is lost
I think we’ve lost track of this in our culture, though many foreign cultures seem to have a handle on it. Here, however, we have employees who disrespect their bosses and disregard their instructions, which leads to either fired employees or busted businesses. We have church members rejecting the instructions and teaching of their pastors and leaders, which results in stunning immaturity and moral failure.
Often, our employers, our pastors and leaders know the answers to our questions and failures, but whether they tell us the answers or not, it seems that the result is the same. The reason is that we have not submitted ourselves to their leadership, we have not given them the authority to have those answers in our lives.
And similarly, often times we can see a friend whose life is heading towards a shipwreck, but if they have not given us authority to speak into their lives, we cannot change their course, and their destruction is inevitable.
The challenge is that authority cannot be taken; it must be given, and in reality, it must be earned. Often, we expect that we already have the necessary authority based on our position, or on our superior knowledge or experience, and we speak up: “Let me tell you what’s wrong with you,” forgetting, or ignorant of, the fact that we must be given authority in someone’s life.
We cannot take authority; we can only be given authority.
This is an interesting story:
It seems that there were a bunch of needy folks there, enough that
This is going to be good: we have the Son of God, the Healer, the Great Physician Himself walking in among a crowd of desperately sick people. We would expect to see hundreds of healings, right, and dozens of people repenting from sin. A great revival is going to break out: we have the need, and the presence of the Son of God is there? What could be better?
But out of that multitude, only one person was healed.
I’m stuck by that: the normal pattern is the other way around: everybody who comes to
I know dozens of people like that: they have huge needs. Some of them have prophetic words promising a healing or promising that
And one or two get healed, get their miracle, but most of the people don’t. And often, I’m one of the ones who don’t.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that talks about this:
So we have people hoping for a healing, not being healed. We have people with huge needs, and even huge promises of God’s provision. But the hope, the longing, remains unfulfilled, and heart sickness sets in. Now the physical brokenness is accompanied by a brokenness of soul.
I see a principle: Being needy in the presence of God doesn’t change anything. Let me say it another way: making my needs known in God’s presence doesn’t change anything!
That’s not heresy, you know. It’s actually an accurate description of hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the Church.
And, I’m becoming convinced, there’s a reason: Here in the crowd, at the pool of Bethesda, nobody brought their need to
So what’s going on? Unfortunately it’s simple: people were needy in
Some of the people who have unmet needs, who have a heart growing sick, have been in God’s presence with their needs, and they’ve talked about their needs in His presence, they’ve taken their needs out, they’ve taken their sick heart out and looked at it in His presence, but they haven’t actually captured His attention. They (we) haven’t brought the need to Him in such a way that His attention is brought to our place of need.
Being needy isn’t enough. Being needy in His presence isn’t enough. We need to ask. We need to bring our need to Him, and we need to leave it with Him. If we take it back then it’s ours again, and we don’t want that.
That’s hard to hear and it’s hard to say. Sometimes the very act of looking at the wound in our heart, the disappointment, the heart sickness of never having this need met is so painful that it’s a terrifying and exposing experience just looking at the wound, whether in the body or in the soul.
I’ve done that before. I’ve brought my need out and looked at it, talked about it, wished things were different, and some of the times that I’ve done that, I’ve done it in God’s presence. But that isn’t praying. That was whining. I brought out my need, but I never released it to Him.
I’ve done it in worship, too: I’ve been there in an environment of worship, and I’ve been in His presence there, but my attention, my focus, was on other things, some of which were my wants and needs. I missed worship; I had the opportunity to worship Him, but I hadn’t connected with Him. I was in the place where He was, but I missed His presence.
Disclaimer: I am not saying that the only reason that our prayers aren’t answered is because we never actually bring them to
And then, in that context, ask for His outpouring, ask for the oil, and look for it: what is He anointing? And when His anointing comes, take that anointing to the marketplace: give it to the people in the neighborhood, in the marketplace, and live on the rest. Find out what’s on God’s heart for your neighborhood, and pour the anointing of God into that move.
And have a blast doing it!
The church has been aware for some time that God is calling us, His church, out of a slave mentality, and into the fullness of our inheritance as sons, heirs, co-regents with
Galatians 3:29 And if you are
Ephesians 1:20:…He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Ephesians 2:6: …and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in
The current common understanding is that the time is nearing when we the church will not be begging God as if we were servants, and not persuading him as if we were friends, but speaking to the mountain and commanding – not requesting – that it be hurled into the sea. We’re seated with
This is a world-shaking paradigm shift, really. For centuries, the church has held on to the perspective that the Lord is our master, and we are his servants, that we wait for Him to reveal His will and we submit to that will. Yes, there is a measure of truth in that, but it is stunningly incomplete, and in this season, God is re-emphasizing the royalty of His bride, not her servanthood. (I’d go so far as to say that who we are is royalty; what we do is servanthood.)
The new metaphor is that when we’re joined with Him, when we’re seated on that throne with Him, when our hearts have become one, then He is as interested in our will as much as we’re interested in His. We’ve been waiting for God to take initiative. God waits for the church to take initiative.
Several years ago when the prophets began speaking of this, it met with some resistance in the believers; not so much now: we’re beginning to understand that even if we aren’t there yet, that’s where we’re headed: we’re co-regents with
(If you aren’t on board with this point, you might as well stop reading now, and go back to whatever you were doing; my whole article today depends on this: we’re moving beyond servanthood to co-regency. We may not be living it out very well yet, but that’s our destination.)
Recently, I became aware that this has significant implications on the “Christian” concept of marriage. Ephesians 5 has been a key passage for defining and understanding the relationship of husbands and wives:
Ephesians 5:22-24: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also
For the last several generations, the church has looked at her paradigm of “
Just apply the new metaphor of co-regency to the relationships between husbands and wives, between men and women in the church. If
We could go further: we’ve already discussed how in some measure,
The practical implications of this are substantial in both the Christian marriage and in the leadership of the body of
So, bottom line: it's time for the women to step out of the shadows and into the limelight, and it's time for the men to help them do that.
It strikes me that
Let’s think about our fruitfulness. If we aren’t fruitful,
Luke 13:8 “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.”
I see three options here:
1) no fruit with fertilizer,
2) no fruit and cut down, and
Let’s look at each.
Option 1: The Stink of Fertilizer
If we aren’t producing fruit, we can expect a bunch of fertilizer dug in around us for an extended season. I have a vegetable garden, and my wife has several flower gardens. We fertilize those gardens fairly regularly. I don’t know of a single fertilizer that doesn’t smell bad, and some of them are really awful.
Let’s think about first century fertilizer for a minute. They don’t have Lilly Miller or DuPont to make chemical fertilizers. Fertilizer comes from the cows, the camels, and the donkeys. When
Think about the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Where do these grow best? Where, for example, does the fruit of the Spirit of longsuffering come from? Doesn’t it grow in places where we have to suffer long? Doesn’t peace grow in places where it’s real hard not to worry? That’s the same for all of the fruit of the Spirit: they grow in circumstances where
Because if we don’t develop fruitfulness during the season of crap, our fig tree is cut down and thrown away:
Option 2: Complete Destruction
If we continue not bearing fruit when we’ve had our season of fertilizer, then we get cut down.
I’ve learned something interesting about fig trees: cutting down a fig tree does not kill it. If you need to kill of a fig tree, and you take a chainsaw to it and burn if for firewood,, then next spring, you’ll have sprouts coming up. In fact, the experts say that the stump – even if you cut it down to ground level – will “sucker profusely,” and any one of those suckers can, if pruned carefully, grow into a new fig tree. Any of those suckers can be grown into a new tree, or they can be cut off and transplanted (carefully) to produce several more trees. The process is sometimes called “Rejuvenation pruning.” (“Rejuvenation” means “to be restored to a former state; made fresh or new again.”) This kind of “prune it to ground level” is very drastic, but sometimes the new growth is more fruitful than the old tree was.
If you really want to kill a fig tree, you have to do more than just cut it down. So when the Lord is threatening to cut down the fig tree that is me, He is not talking about killing me, or writing me off, or anything that smells like He’s giving up on me. (This is the guy that said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” remember?) When
If I resist bearing fruit, even when
Option 3: Pruning the fruitful branches
As I read this parable, I thought to myself, “Well, I’d better be fruitful if I want to avoid all that nasty stuff.”
John 15:1,2: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Sorry. Not gonna happen. If I am fruitful, then I will be pruned. If the tree – or in other parables, the branch – that is me is bearing fruit, then
The goal of pruning a fruit-bearing tree is twofold: The first is to produce more fruit, and the second is to improve the quality of the fruit produced.
I live in
Fruit happens in seasons, in our lives, just like in the apple orchards or the fig tree in the garden. There are seasons where the only thing going on is deep inside, like fruit trees in winter. And there are seasons where it’s reasonable to expect fruit. The goal is not to be producing fruit every day, but as we make our way through the seasons of life, we have regular seasons where we’re producing fruit.
We could look at it this way: if I’m fruitless, I get His spade, digging His fertilizer (which I call “crap”) into my life. If I continue in fruitlessness, I get a chainsaw. And if I choose to be fruitful, I get Heaven’s pruning knife.
So make your choice: do you want a sharp knife working in your life, or a spade full of manure, or a chainsaw?
Personally, I’m beginning a season of fruitfulness right now. I like it; it’s certainly more fun than the dead of winter. But because I’m making fruit, I can look forward to a season of pruning, and I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like my life has way too much stuff in it, much of which takes energy away from the fruit of making disciples and the fruit of character. I’m looking forward to the
It would be easy enough to look at this as “something God’s doing to me in order to accomplish His plans for me” and feel backed into a corner. Most of us (the healthy ones among us, anyway) prefer to avoid pain when we can.
But think about it: who among us aspires to meaninglessness? Who wants to look back from the end of their life and boast, “I had absolutely no effect on anyone!”? If we were to look at fruitfulness as God’s issue for us, as His plan for our lives, that would be correct, but it would be correct only because it’s really our own heart’s desire. One of the most desperate searches of any human being, and that would include you and me, is the search for significance; God is – yet again – making plans to fulfill the deepest longings of our heart.
How Do I Avoid Troubles?
So given that we’re facing three painful options, how do we go about avoiding hurting in this process?
The short version: Give up. You can’t. Any way I live my life, I’m going to find that God is doing something toward the goal of making my life count for more than it does now. If I bear fruit, I get pruned to bear more. If I haven’t borne fruit for a while, I get manure dug into my life so that I can bear fruit. If that doesn’t work, he cuts me off at the ground and takes one of the branches that grows up from the roots in the spring to train into a new tree, and the process starts all over again.
It seems to me that the “pruning” of fruitfulness is a lot less troublesome than is “cut it off and start over” of fruitlessness. But that’s not really the main reason I want my life to be fruitful: I have a
Oh yeah, and His pruning knife hurts less than the chainsaw. That’s good too.
I think by now we’ve figured out that it’s the saints (that’s us) who are responsible for doing “the work of ministry.” We all have the responsibility of continuing the work that
Does that mean we’re all the same? Heck no. The Bible certainly recognizes different gifts and even different offices. Individuals with different gifts are instructed to use those gifts. Individuals with different offices have a different instructions. (Watch out: the apostle
There are five offices: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; sometimes they’re referred to as “the five-fold ministries” simply because there are five of them. Look at the job description of this group:
· Equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
· Edifying (building up) the body of
· Bringing us all to unity in the knowledge of
· Bringing us to maturity, etc.
Some preachers point to their sermons as the fulfillment of this passage, and indeed a good sermon can both equip and edify a congregation. But wait just a doggone minute: who’s supposed to do the “work of ministry”? It’s the saints! That’s you and me! The job of the pastor (and the rest of that team) is to equip you and me to do the ministry. Think of the Fivefold (pastors and prophets and the rest) as consultants, not as the “ministers.”
Some years ago, I worked for a medical company. We were growing pretty quickly, and the medical field was changing fast, so we invited a consultant in to help us develop the business in light of the changing circumstances. The consultant never did do any of our work for us, but he did help us to prepare for the work that we needed to do: he taught how to do it better and more efficiently, he showed us how to make sure that what we were providing was what the community needed and the insurance companies were willing to pay for.
The five-fold ministries are like that consultant: they don’t do the ministry, they equip us to do it. It’s not the pastor’s job to do the ministry, it’s his job (or her job: we’re not sexist here) to equip you and me to do that work. His job is consulting. Our job is ministering.
(By the way, some groups have been teaching that apostles and prophets went away ‘way back then, with the canonization of scripture or something. Get over it. First, they’re here until “we all come … to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
I don’t care if the person with the title is on the payroll of the church organization or is just (“just?” as if this were less??) the leader of the home group. His job is to equip and edify you and me. It’s our job to do the work.
That means it’s our job to visit the sick and imprisoned. It’s our job to teach the young believers and to discipline the rebellious ones. It’s our job to collect the offerings from the saints and distribute it to the needy. It’s our job to discover, develop and deploy our gifts.
This might be “preaching to the choir” given the radical nature of those who read this blog, but it’s still worth reminding ourselves of. If we have a title, an office, then our job is to train others. And whether we have a title or not, it’s our job to do the work of the ministry.
So let’s be careful to stop looking to leaders to do our work for us. Let’s look around and pick up the work that He’s put before us!