Equipping The Saints

Purpose & Mission of Five Fold: To Equip The Saints…

 

Why Should/Shouldn’t My Church Embrace Change? Part XX

To understand the five fold relationally, one must understand its purpose and mission. Is the five fold to be offices to govern the church or are they passions desires and points of view of believers in Jesus? Let’s look at their purpose and mission.

                  To Equip The Saints…..

“….. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:12)

One purpose for the five fold is “for the equipping of the saints”. If it were for the structuring of the church, it would read “for the equipping of the staff,” but it doesn’t say that. It is not a “professional development” tool.

One definition for “equip” is “to prepare mentally for a particular situation or task.” For what situation are we preparing our believers in Christ? For evangelism? It takes a special mentality to infiltrate a hostile world that rejects Jesus and share the gospel. What “necessary supplies for a particular purpose” do we, as a Church, “equip” them with? One of the greatest tools we can give them is to “release” and “send” them with our blessing.

The organizational church tried to keep William Booth in his pulpit, not in the streets, and would not release him to evangelize. He resigned, went for it alone, and founded the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, many believers with an evangelistic passion find themselves alone because the church won’t bless their “independent” endeavors.

Evangelists do not have to be alone when embracing the five fold because they have others supporting and encouraging them. A believer with a shepherd’s heart, standing with him, he can nurture and care for any new convert. Another believer with a passion to teach could share the Logos Word and help make it a Rhema Word in a new convert’s life. A prophetic believer would seek the voice of the Holy Spirit for guidance. A believer with apostolic vision would network this new convert with others to strengthen his walk. What greater gift can we give an evangelist than release him to, “Go do your thing; we got your back covered”?

A believer with an evangelistic passion often gets burned out and discouraged if they don’t have the support of their local church. But in the five fold an evangelist has a shepherd to nurture, a teacher to instruct, a prophet to draw near to God, and an apostle to “see over” what the Holy Spirit is doing in his life. That is equipping!

If we would approach equipping through the Lamad method of experiencing a faith journey with a brother or sister rather then academically instructing them, we would be more effective in discipleship. Am I willing to “lay down my life for my brethren” by literally being beside him in a 24/7 relationship? Jesus did it! If so, this five fold will work. If not, I will be inclined to outsource it to a professional, which is our current structure. It is all about intimate, sacrificial relationships!

The same is true with the other four passions. Equipping means standing by each other while “laying down” your agendas, passions, and opinions “to serve” one another!

As a church we have no idea what equipping means until we “experience” it! When we “invest” in one another, believers to believers, “equipping” will flow naturally as it did in the first century.

 

What The Church Can Not Afford

 

Embracing the Five Fold– Part XVI

 

….. because we can not afford NOT to embrace the five fold and its benefits.

If the five fold is the passions, desires, and diverse points of view in the Body of Christ among its Priesthood of Believers that already exists in the Church, the Church can not afford to continue to be passive about ignoring these five giftings among its laity that is called to birth, care, nurture, and equip the saints for the works of service, then release them to serve!

Now is the time for the Church to again listen to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit sent from the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ to teach the Church, his saints, all things.

Now is the time for transitioning from religious traditions to building functional peer relationships for support and accountability.

Now is a time of building up the Body of Christ as a Priesthood of Believers, peers in Jesus Christ, to have believers grow individually into the image of Jesus and corporately unifying the Body of Christ.

Now is a time for equipping through care, nurturing, teaching, and drawing near to the Father; then recognize the time for releasing.

Now is the time to realize the need for some serious structural changes in the way we do and govern the Church by continually building relationships.

The present church cannot afford to continue to enable its laity and still expect them to be active. It cannot afford to keep the laity passive when they are to be salt and light to the world. It must not only recognize the clergy/laity divide, which is not Biblical, but begin to embrace one another as peers in the Priesthood of Believers.

The present church must also realize that it cannot be faithful to its traditions if it wants to embrace change, revival, and unity. Radical Christianity demands new mindsets!

The 21st Century Church needs to invest in its people, the saints, not in its staff, the paid professionals. God invested in His people through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the Cross. If believers in Jesus Christ have been called to lay down their lives for their brethren, then the 21st Century Church has got to start having its leadership be tolerant of other Christian camps and begin accepting and embracing one another, supporting one another, equipping one another, and releasing one another in their spiritual journeys with Jesus.

It is time for the Church to again embrace the Holy Spirit for its guidance, wisdom, and teachings., a time to again trust the Holy Spirit, and a time to learn how to trust one another.

If the 21st Century Church is in a time of transition, it’s people cannot afford to remain passive, stagnant, and inactive, for now is the time for “Acts”-tion, the returning to when the Church was alive, active, challenging through change, and influencing the world for Jesus.

Church, let’s embrace change, transition, redevelopment, a retooling, a revamping, a regenerating, responding to the call and voice of the Holy Spirit in individual Christian development as each believers strives to be more Christ-like, and the church becomes unified.

Church, let’s admit the five fold is already among us, part of our spiritual DNA make up. We can afford to embrace the five fold because! Jesus paid the price, now are we willing to pay the price of "laying down our lives for the brethren"? 

Let’s do it!

 

Home Grown Always Tastes Better Than Canned…

 

Developing Local Leadership For the Local Community– Part XV

 

….. because home grown leaders are birthed, nurtured, taught, equipped, and released by the local church, the priesthood of believers, to serve their local community. 

Today’s church leaders emphasize developing disciples out of the laity, but they do not promote developing lay leadership that would replace them. Why? They quote the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 which commands to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” They equate disciples with everyday believers who are the laity, but they believe that leadership does not lay with the laity but with the clergy, thus laity does not “qualify” for leadership.

The five fold is drastically different. The purpose of the five fold is to equip the “saints”, the disciples, the laity, for works of service. Jesus had twelve disciples, who were not Pharisees, Sadducees, or Jewish leaders, but common ordinary laity, fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Jesus “equipped” them for “works of service” and empowered them with the Holy Spirits. Their “Acts”-tions proved them to be evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles as they began to lead this new movement, first from their hometowns and Jerusalem eventually to all parts of the known world. They were homegrown boys raised and equipped by Jesus in their home country of Israel.

Later Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of Pharisees, gets literally knocked off his horse when confronted by Jesus, converts to becoming a believer, and spends time “deprogramming” his Pharisaical beliefs while “redirecting” his zeal, his passions, his drive into the five fold giftings of serving others through Jesus. He becomes an evangelist, a teacher, a shepherd, a prophet, and an apostle by the actions of service he does.

Paul goes into a city, visits the synagogue first trying to convert his fellow Jews, gets rejected and “redirects” his zeal toward the gentiles who receive him. He spends two years or less “equipping the ‘local’ saints for works of service”, then leaves them to begin a new work in another city. He develops homegrown people, new disciples in Jesus, into leadership to fully replace him when he moves on to a new location. He does not call in the “Big Boys” from the Church at Antioch” to come lead his new church as their “pastor”, their clergy, but raises local leadership from the local laity.

Jesus loved sowing and seed parables because he knew that once a seed was sewn, takes root, it grows if properly cared for, becomes mature and ripe, and is harvested.  Why hasn’t the church learned that once a seed is sown and takes root (a person accepts Jesus as his/her Savior), they too will grow if nurtured and cared for properly (through the five fold). A purpose of the five fold is to “mature” a saint into the image of Jesus and have him/her ‘grow up’ in the faith. When mature, ripe, ready for harvest, the local church needs to release them to do the works of service for which they have been trained.

It is the job of local church leadership to “care & nurture”,  “equip”, and “release” fellow peers, believers in the faith, the Priesthood of Believers to do their calling of “service” to others. It’s local leadership training and equipping hometown believers in Jesus how to “serve”; then allowing them to “serve”! Like the woman at the well, when she met Jesus and realized he was not only a prophet, but the Jewish messiah, she ran and told her hometown friends.  Even the demoniac, once released of his demons, wanted to also go with Jesus, but was commanded by Jesus to stay in his hometown.

Through the five fold, we can “equip”, train, care for, nurture, develop and release hometown people to more effectively reach their hometown friends for Jesus! 

 

Trust And Obey; Who Me?

 

 

Trust And Obey For There Is No Other Way To Be Happy – Part XII

 

….. because it forces every believer, me, and the entire priesthood of believers, us, the church, to ask the question, “Do I totally trust the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and can I trust my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

In my youth, I remember singing the old Hymn Trust And Obey. The chorus rang out, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Wow, what truth! But…..

Who do you trust?

 I remember singing the old Hymn Trust And Obey. The chorus rang out, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Wow, what truth! But…..

Who do you trust?

Who are we to trust?

Can you trust your priest, pastor, or church leader to treat you as a peer, or will he be demanding and lead an abusive hierarchal structure?

Is the Bible, the Logos Word, to be trusted, or do you question its authenticity?

                 Can the Holy Spirit be trusted, or will following Him just make everything weird?

                  Do your trust your brothers and sisters who follow Jesus Christ, or do you mistrust them as being hypocrites and fear being hurt by them?

                  If one can’t trust the Bible, the Holy Spirit, his brothers and sisters in Jesus, and his church leadership, how can he obey them? In battle, you must trust your commanding officers who lead you into a conflict and obey their orders. You are not to shoot them in the back and disobey all orders, yet Christians are known for doing just that.

“Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.”

                The church isn’t happy because many have lost trust in their Bible, the Holy Spirit, their leadership, and each other!

                  The ffive fold is all about trusting four other very diversely different people in Jesus whose passions, drives, and points of view are vastly different from yours. Your natural desire is to not trust someone who is different from you, but by not trusting them, you produce division and skepticism. Trusting one another through the five fold will bring individual maturity in Christ and unity in the Body. Only the supernatural can do that, so the question remains, “Can you trust the supernatural”? Can you trust that which you can not see, touch, taste, hear, or smell because your trust has to be built on “faith”, that which is not seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled? To your natural sense of reasoning, faith makes no sense, so can it be  trusted?

                  So I sing the chorus again, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Really, can’t there be another way in spite what the chorus proclaims? But I want to be happy especially in Jesus? I guess my only option is to “trust and obey”, so I guess I better get start right now!

 

From Enabling Apathy To Promoting Equipping

 

Why I Would Want The Five Fold In My Church – Part VIII

 

….. because instead of enablement and inactivity, it promotes equipping and releasing of believers in Jesus to actively pursue service.

As a 21st Century Church we are not doing a very good job at what we call discipleship and promoting the Great Commission. American Christians have gotten lazy. Keith Green sang his “Asleep In The Light” song in the 1980’s; its prophetic message still rings in my ears. The average American Christian has chosen not to make Christianity its daily way of life, opting to be passive, and allowing themselves to be enabled by its leadership to the point of inactivity even while you are attending a church service or gathering. Like Keith called us out on over3 ½ decades ago, it is like we are a sleep in the light! What will be our wake up call?

The leadership team at the church I had attended is made up primarily of men who had Bible Degrees, not “uneducated” people, like Jesus’ 12 disciples. The Sanhedrin was amazed that these “uneducated” men of Galilee could speak with such authority. We, the church today, have made “education” a prerequisite to leadership, which is not what Jesus did. He had no Pharisees, Sadducees, or church officials on his leadership team of 12. He had men who may have come across as dumb, stupid, and always inserting foot into mouth, but men who were willing to follow Jesus, and later be taught by, and obedient to the Holy Spirit in all matters.

Jesus had poured three years of his life into building relationships with these 12 men. He walked, talked, and debated with them, took them of field trips of faith and a journey that would mold them into becoming leaders that would change the world. He never started a Bible College or seminary, not even built a church building; he invested in people by investing in relationships. Being Jewish, the 12 grew up being taught the Law, the Torah. They already had a Jewish Biblical perspective, but Jesus had to teach them how to make this written Logos Word, alive, relevant, a Rhema Word. He equipped them for their up coming faith journey, teaching them not only through parables but also personal dialogue, feeding the needy, healing the sick, taking care of widows and orphans, etc.  When they fought over position, he brought them back to relationships, emphasizing service, even washing their feet as an object lesson. He equipped them, and prepared them by giving them the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and then released them for ministry. He promised them that they would not do this alone, but sent the Holy Spirit to be their “suitable helper”.

The book of Acts is not boring, but filled with action; there is no apathy or enabling but is filled with constant activity. Jesus gives gifts to men, and they use them, effectively. Jesus’ preparations and the equipping of the saints for the works of service propels a spiritual movement that changes the then known world.

The five fold calling is to “equip the saints for the works of service.” The 21st Century church needs to refocus it direction of equipping the staff for professional development to equipping its saints for works of service. Building relationships should take precedent over building programs and staff. People serving people; peers serving peers through sacrificial service, acceptance, grace, and mercy are the keys. Equipping the saints is more than taking a discipleship course or doing a Bible study on discipleship, it is about involvement, practical everyday experience, and community life. There is no room for apathy or enablement. It is a call to act-ion. The Church needs the five fold!

 

What Does Equipping The Saints Mean?

 

Why I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church – Part VIII

 

….. because the purpose of the five fold is to “equip the saints” for what? Oh, “works of service”! Oh, janitorial and secretarial work or lawn care or building maintenance! But wait! To develop them into evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles? Inconceivable! That would require laity to become active, not passive or lethargic. That would require them to become active, not in church programs, but in service to one another.

The opposite of apathy is activity, so what should the church be doing to keep their parishioners, congregation, or laity active? You keep them busy. Is that the calling of the church? I have caught myself being “church busy” often in my life, but that came to a halt when I saw that the church is suppose to “equipping the saints for the works of service.”

What does “equipping the saints for the works of service” mean to the church today? Does it mean giving them opportunities to volunteer for janitorial, secretarial, or building maintenance work, or being involved in committees? Does it mean staffing the nursery, aiding in children’s ministry, ushering, parking cars, greeting, being “auxiliary personnel”, etc. to keep the Sunday morning program efficient and friendly?

How many people in your congregation actually go out and evangelize, or nurture the younger saints in their walk with Jesus, or passionately dig into studying the Word or listening to the voice of God for themselves, or work towards networking others in their diverse giftings to bring unity to the body but releasing the creativity that is already there?

What would happen if the attitude was changed from “call the pastor” to directly  ministering to one another within the local body, a thing called body ministry, by the saints to the saints? What would happen if God’s people began doing what they had required of their pastor because they want to serve one another, and he would have nothing to do but “see over” what the Holy Spirit is already doing amongst the congregation? Would he still be worth his wages, or must he be busy “doing” too?

Ephesians 4 doesn’t say to “equip the saints” to keep them busy. Being too busy can also be destructive. Americans are always busy; having time to do something is a precious commodity! We, as a Church, have been exhorted to “equip the saints for works of service.” We are called to serve; church leadership is called to equip us, not do it for us!

If my church keeps me busy by having me volunteer to keep a building looking nice and to keep programs running smoothly, then I think we missed the mark, and they will NOT be receptive to the five fold as passions to be released among the saints. The Church is about birthing, nurturing, training, equipping, and releasing through relationships between believers, not about programs, rituals, and traditions.

To truly equip the saints for works of service would require a radical mind set change in the way Christian leadership thinks, acts, and reacts. So until that mindset becomes a reality (through revival, a cocoon stage), my church will not be open to, nor want, the five fold.

 

Why I Would Want The Five Fold In My Church

 

Reasons To Embrace This Incredible Journey

 

I believe part of this metamorphosis, the change of physical institutional structures of the church, will come through the truth and understanding of the purpose of the five different passions, drives, and points of view found in Ephesians 4 (the evangelist, shepherd, teacher, prophet, & apostle). It’s purpose is to “equip” the “saints”, not staff, for the works of “service”. The “priesthood of believers”, the Church, is about to learn how to not only serve their God but serve each other. They will be willing to lay down their lives for their God and for each other. “Service” will be their motive, their passion, their desire, and they will use their personal passion to serve the body of Christ and edify their Lord and Savior, Jesus, whose fruits will be unity.

There will be a new accountability to each other in this new paradigm, not based on a hierarchal structure of dominant leadership, but based on horizontal leadership of walking beside the brethren in service; leading them by being in front of them, covering their back when behind them, and serving when walking beside them. This paradigm will demand intimate relationships of trust through service to be established among the brethren. Instead of being accountable to a hierarchal structure or titles and positions, the accountability will come through relationships and the willingness to “lay down your life for your brethren” and serving them.

So “Why Would I Want The Five Fold In My Church?”

….. because it makes the priesthood of believers, the laity, us, accountable.

….. because it releases believers in Jesus to serve others through their passions, giftings, drives, and points of view.

….. because it replaces enabled apathy with Holy Spirit led activity for believers in Jesus.

….. because it prepares the body, a priesthood of believers, the Church, to serve.

….. because it makes believers in Jesus accountable to one another through service.

….. because instead of enablement and inactivity, it promotes equipping and releasing of believers in Jesus to actively pursue service.

….. because it requires sacrificial service, the laying down of your life, for others.

….. because it equips the local body to serve the local community through Jesus.

….. because every believer is special, gifted, and equipped through Jesus to do the Great Commission, the Golden Rule, and to love one another.

….. because it forces every believer, me, and the entire priesthood of believers, us, the church, to ask the question, “Do I totally trust the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and can I trust my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

….. because it requires us to be our brother’s keeper through service and love.

….. because home grown leaders are birthed, nurtured, taught, equipped, and released by the local church, the priesthood of believers, to serve their local community.

….. because we can not afford NOT to embrace the five fold and its benefits.

 

Why I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church

 

Reasons To Reject This Incredible Journey

 

I believe part of this metamorphosis, the change of physical institutional structures of the church, will come through the truth and understanding of the purpose of the five different passions, drives, and points of view found in Ephesians 4 (the evangelist, shepherd, teacher, prophet, & apostle). It’s purpose is to “equip” the “saints”, not staff, for the works of “service”. The “priesthood of believers”, the Church, is about to learn how to not only serve their God but serve each other. They will be willing to lay down their lives for their God and for each other. “Service” will be their motive, their passion, their desire, and they will use their personal passion to serve the body of Christ and edify their Lord and Savior, Jesus, whose fruits will be unity.

There will be a new accountability to each other in this new paradigm, not based on a hierarchal structure of dominant leadership, but based on horizontal leadership of walking beside the brethren in service; leading them by being in front of them, covering their back when behind them, and serving when walking beside them. This paradigm will demand intimate relationships of trust through service to be established among the brethren. Instead of being accountable to a hierarchal structure or titles and positions, the accountability will come through relationships and the willingness to “lay down your life for your brethren” and serving them.

So “Why Shouldn’t I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church?”

….. because my institutional church values their traditions, their view of Biblically correct doctrine, and their desire for a professional hierarchal view of leadership over change, challenges to one’s theology, and having to give up control.

….. because the senior pastor heads our ship and his staff is onboard; the priesthood of believers, the laity, the saints are not “trained” professionally to lead.

….. because the five fold are positions and titles within the church, thus “leaders” exhibit these gifts, not the everyday priesthood of believers, the laity.

….. because our pastor reads scripture to us, prays for us, and instructs us through his sermon when in his pulpit on Sundays; the laity, or priesthood of believers, is intellectually incapable of properly doing that themselves, I guess.

….. because our senior pastor gives evangelistic messages in his sermon, he is an evangelist. Our Pastor is a pastor, duh, of course, thus the title! His sermons prove he is a teacher. His spiritual discernment and desire to draw near to God for us demonstrates that he is a prophetic priest, and his oversight of our church as a whole makes him apostolic.  If he is doing it all, no wonder the priesthood of believers is apathetic when enabled, and has the attitude, “that is what we pay him to do, and he does it well.”

….. because you will have a free-for-all if everyone runs the church. The church is not a democracy but a theocracy, a hierarchal structure, so a senior pastor is needed (hired) to run all meetings, head all programs, and lead in an orderly fashion. Order through control prevents chaos.

….. because the purpose of the five fold is to “equip the saints” for what? Oh, “works of service”! Oh, janitorial and secretarial work or lawn care or building maintenance! But wait! To develop them into evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles? Inconceivable! That would require laity to become active, not passive or lethargic. That would require them to become active, not in church programs, but in service to one another.

 

The Effectiveness Of Consensus In The Five Fold

 

Consensus And The Five Fold – Part III

Question: How do you get a consensus from five totally different passions, drives, functions, and points of view?  How can five become one?

Answer: 1) Allowing the Holy Spirit to be in total control; 2) each believer “laying down his life for the brethren”, individually and corporately; by 3) submitting in service to and from one another, giving away ones giftings to serve others, and receiving willingly the gifts of those so diversely different than from ourselves as equal peers in Christ.

How: Through consensus!

Consensus comes through the process of “giving” and “taking”.  Not only are we to “give” to one another, but we must also learn how to “receive” from one another.  This unconditional giving and taking can build a rich relationship of becoming equal peers, equal brothers and sisters in the Lord, from once shallow friendships. A person driven by the passion for evangelism needs brothers and sisters who are pastoral to nurture him/her, who are teachers to ground one in the Word, who are prophets to bring life to the Word, and who are apostolic to “see over” one’s welfare individually and as a group. This five fold process brings an unique form of accountability unknown to the modern church because it is built on a give and take relationship between believers built on trust: the willingness to receive and yield to another’s point of view diversely different from your own while giving support from your own gifting.  This gives all the confidence to move toward in the same direction together.

Consensus comes through relationships rather than positions. When a believer learns to die to self and is willing to lay down his/her life for their brothers/sisters, recognizing them as equal peers, they can begin to respect and trust one another rather than appose one another and always be defending their position. Diverse points of view can actually be productive, by creating a diverse support system around one’s own particular gifting.  In a peer believer five fold leadership model, no one is the “head” or “ultimate leader” as in a hierarchal structure, for Jesus is the head. No one gifting or passion dominates over another, not even the apostle’s. Any of the five fold giftings may rise and take leadership in any given situation and the other four will follow, not oppose, by standing in support along side them, not above or below them in stature, giving them a more diverse, unique gift that can produce a far different outcome than what we are use to today. This supportive attitude brings consensus. The pastoral/shepherd driven believer may rise with a “nurturing” solution, while the evangelist may have what is needed to “birth” the process while the teacher “grounds it in the Word” releasing the prophet to “activate” that Word into a Rhema, living Word, while the apostolic driven believer just sits back and “sees over” what the Holy Spirit is doing and how He wants it done through obedience. The group arrives at a consensus. The process may be totally different the next time if the process began with a prophetic word which sparks an evangelist to birth that word, the shepherd to nurture it, the teacher to ground it, and the apostle to release the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring yet another consensus, another resolution, another move of unity in the same direction in agreement with each supporting one another.

Consensus comes through accountability of the willingness to serve and be served. When someone serves you unconditionally for a long time, you naturally trust them, not because they have a title or position, but because of the relationship that has been built between the two of you. If you have faithfully served them, they trust you; it is reciprocal.  It is easier to arrive at a consensus when the parties involved have faithfully served and trusted each other through Christ-like relationships.

Consensus arrives when all these diverse passions and points of view point in the same direction, toward Jesus, the Head, and being obedient to the Holy Spirit to set that direction. Does the outcome of this group bring glory and edify Jesus is the standard. The bottom line remains “Who do you trust?” Is your full trust in the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ? No matter how irrational the steps may look that you must take to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, can you trust the Holy Spirit to lead you through those steps? Is your wisdom, rationale, or intellect greater than His?

Consensus’ goal through the five fold is “the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”  If we truly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and are willing to “lay down our lives for the brethren” by unconditionally serving and receiving support from one another, will that not be “building up the body of Christ,” reaching an “unity of faith,” and personally growing toward become “a mature man in Christ, becoming Christ-like and God-ly? This “fruit” produced by the five fold is exactly what is needed to arrive to a consensus.

 

What Others Say About The Five Fold And Supporting Scriptures

 

Consensus and the Five Fold – Part I

21/03/2006

Do you believe that God still uses the five fold ministry? If so please explain your answer.

Of course He does. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:11-12 that God has given His gift to the body of Christ, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry until we all attain for the unity of faith. The five-fold ministry is sent by God, people that are true bonafide apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to equip the saints so that the body of Christ, at large, is doing the work of ministry, evangelizing the world, caring for the hurting, healing the hurting and reaching this world for Jesus Christ. We’re going to do that, five-fold ministry people are going to equip the saints until we all attain to the unity of faith. Until we finish the work God has for us. Then, God won’t need the five-fold ministry on this earth any more.― Gregory Dickow Ministries

@ http://changinglives.org/tabid/2623/Default.aspx?cat=Five%20Fold%20Ministry

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BY GREG STIER, CHRISTIAN POST GUEST COLUMNIST

October 6, 2012|6:18 pm

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it." .― Greg Stier, The Christian Post @http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-best-method-for-sharing-the-gospel-82820/

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                  If you are a new believer, you have recently accepted that you were born with a sinful nature which separates you from having a full relationship with God and from having eternal life after this earthly life. You believe that Jesus died for your sins and have verbally confessed that He is Lord ( Romans 10:9-10).

As new believers, you need to know some basic foundational principles as you grow in your new life as a Christian.  .― One Flock One Shepherd Ministries, @http://ofosm.com/ministries/new-believers/

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Teaching Scriptures:

Titus 2:7-8 - Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Proverbs 22:6  - Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Luke 6:40 - A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

1 Peter 4:10 - As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

Psalm 32:8  - I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

 

In 1Corinthians 14:31, Paul wrote, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.”

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“While it is safer to start a church in the West, it may actually be simpler to plant one in Iran. Go to a church planters’ conference in North America, and you will hear about budgets, programs, marketing campaigns, and the need for a good worship set. Attend a conference for Iranians, and you get a very different picture. They’ll talk about starting by sharing Christ with friends and family, gathering new believers for a weekly Bible teaching and fellowship, and then encouraging and praying with them to go and share with their friends and family.”.― http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=33252 

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Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called to one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,

And HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

As a result, we are no longer to be children tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. – Ephesians 4:1-16 NAS

 

Question: What Does Ekklésia Have To Do With Consensus?

 

The Act of “Consensus” – Part III

Nowhere in the New Testament are strict guidelines given on how to form and run Church government. All agree that Jesus is the head of the Church and that “the government shall be upon his shoulders”, but how that works practicality is debatable? 

 In the United States of America, the Church as a whole finds it hard to understand how to govern collectively. Under the old European system, traditional orthodoxy was led by strong hierarchal structures that created Bishops, Cardinals, and a Pope. Secular kings and dictators aligned themselves with church movements: Henry VIII of England created the Anglican Church in protest against the Roman Catholic Church. Germany aligned themselves with Luther and the “Protestant” movement. Even Hitler made sure he appeared to be aligned to the Lutheran Church of his day. When the United States formed its new government, they made sure there would to be a separation between church and State.

Democracy became a vertebra in the backbone of American politics and government. In a country with a two party political system, government gridlock is the norm; having an “unanimous” decision on anything seems impossible and only happens rarely. 51%, a majority, brings “agreement”, although 49% can be in opposition. Biblically, there is no support for democracy as a form of church government; the Bible clearly does not support majority rule.

Ordained Old Testament government was a theocracy, headed by God. Although it started with strong leadership from Moses, it yielded to judges, then kings, and even established a high priest and a Levitical priesthood to set the religious bounds for Israel.

 All that changed when Jesus became the “messiah” and “king” establishing his “kingdom of God.” “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)  The Old Temple system of worship would be abolished. God’s Spirit would indwell in any and every man or woman who believed in Jesus Christ. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  Animal sacrifices were now archaic since Jesus had become the sacrificial lamb. Even the Levitical priesthood demolished. A new priesthood, a royal priesthood was birthed. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you ay proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” This priesthood of believers would form what would become known as the Church.

Those operating under this new kingdom differed from those under the Old Testament style of government. They governed by “consensus”.  The Bible uses the term “with one accord”. Told to tarry in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come, they obediently “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1)  The promise of the Holy Spirit came, and this spirit of consensus continued. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” (Acts 2:46)

Steve Atkerson’s article “Building Congregational Consensus” shares an insight into the word ekklésia. “The Greek word ekklésia never refers to a building or place of worship, and it can refer to much more than just a meeting, assembly, or gathering.  Our understanding of Christ’s church will be much impoverished if we fail to factor in the dynamics of the original Greek word. With so much emphasis today on the separation of church and state, the last thing people associate church with is government. Yet, this was exactly the original meaning of ekklésia.

During the time of Jesus, ekklésia was used outside the New Testament to refer to a political assembly that was regularly convened for the purpose of making decisions. In the secular ekklésia, every citizen had “the right to speak and to propose matters for discussion.” [1]

Why did Jesus choose such a politically loaded word (ekklésia) to describe His people and their meetings?[Matthew 16:13-20 & 18:15-20.] Had Jesus merely wanted to describe a gathering with political connotations, he could have used sunagogé, thiasos or eranos. Perhaps Jesus intended His people, the Church, to function together with a purpose somehow parallel to that of the political government. If so, believers have the responsibility to propose matters for discussion, decide things together, make joint decisions and experience the consensus process.

God’s people have a decision-making mandate. A church is fundamentally a body of Kingdom citizens who are authorized (and expected) to weigh major issues, make decisions, and pass judgments on major issues. Though decision making will not occur at most church meetings (there aren’t usually issues to resolve), an understanding that the church corporately has the authority and obligation to settle things is important. Churches where the congregation never grapples corporately with problems or resolves issues may be failing to fulfill their full purpose as an ekklésia.”

Atkerson continues, “An important caveat is that the church, in its decision making role, should be judicial rather than legislative. Christians are subject to the Law of Christ. The church’s job is not to create law – only God can rightly do that. This is one point where the ekklésia of God’s people would differ in function from the ekklésia of the Greek city-states. Our responsibility as believers within Christ’s ekklésia is to correctly apply and enforce the law of Christ as contained in the New Covenant (Mt 18:15-20). Church members are to be like citizen-judiciaries who meet together when necessary to deliberate and decide issues or to render judgments. This form of government works tolerably well in a smaller church where people love each other enough to work through their disagreements. It is virtually impossible to operate this way in a large church setting.”

Atkerson concludes, “Not all occurrences of the word ekklésia in the New Testament involve a decision making body.  The word ekklésia is actually used several different ways in the New Testament. Yet its most fundamental usage remains that of a group of people gathered for the purpose of making decisions. In this sense, the ekklésia is not merely the coming together of God’s people.  It is also what occurs when God’s people come together. The church is authorized by the Lord to make decisions about the correct application of Scripture. It is expected to enforce the law of Christ (within the family of God) and to deal with issues as they arise. There will not always be issues to resolve, but God’s people must ever bear in mind their obligation to function as an ekklésia when necessary.”

[1] Lothan Coenen, “Church,” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, Colin Brown, General Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971), 291.

 

The Principle Of “Reigning With”, Not “Ruling Over”

 

Prepositions Define Leadership Style & Relationships

God established a Priesthood so that He would have men “draw near TO him.” God’s design was never to have a “distant” relationship WITH mankind, but an intimate, close relationship. God had walked IN the garden WITH Adam and Eve; they all communicated as close friends. Sin separated man FROM his God; distant relationships came THROUGH sin.

Relationships were mutual BEFORE the fall; Adam and Eve did everything IN one accord, together, IN unity WITH God. Sin brought distance IN Adam’s relationship WITH Eve, and as part OF the curse the male would dominate or “rule OVER” the woman who would cling TO him. This intimate mutual relationship OF equal peers could only be restored THROUGH the shed blood OF Jesus Christ ON the Cross, as an atonement for the sins OF mankind. Now, IN Jesus, a mutual relationship as equal peers to be united as one was restored not only TO the institution OF marriage but also TO the Church as a whole. God’s design was never to have a “distant” relationship WITH mankind, but an intimate, close relationship.

Jesus told his disciples that the gentiles “rule OVER” one another, but that is not the way IN the kingdom OF God. God’s people “reign WITH” one another by being “BESIDE” one another IN a linear relationship OF equality. Even though Jesus had to return TO the Father IN heaven to intercede FOR His believers, He promised that he would not abandon them as orphans. He does not believe IN distant relationships. Instead they He made them “children OF God”, and their physical bodies would become the “temples OF the Holy Spirit.” God’s personal Holy Spirit would not be “ABOVE” them in the far distance, nor descending as a dove had upon Jesus when he was baptized, but would be “IN” them. How intimate is that?  All mankind has to do is allow the Holy Spirit “IN” their lives, and He chooses to dwell or live there forever! How awesome is that?

Unfortunately when we diminish relationship, we establish religion. As “God’s people” became known as “The Children OF Disobedience” IN the dessert, a religious institution replaced those relationships WITH an Old Testament Priesthood headed by a High Priest, a man, who oversaw animal sacrifices and a Levitical priesthood. By the time Jesus appeared the Ark OF the Covenant, God’s Presence, was missing IN a Temple that had replaced the Tabernacle. God wanted to reestablish relationships, to again “draw men near” him, thus he faced the Cross, death, that led TO his resurrection. God had already established a “Priesthood of Believers” according TO the order of Melchizadek who was without genealogy, tradition, and IN the likeness of Jesus Christ. Fallen relationships had been restored THROUGH Jesus.

Religious “institutions” have built pyramidal organizational structures WITH a man AT the top. I don’t care if it is the High Priest, the Roman Catholic Pope, or the Protestant local Pastor who lord “OVER” their flock or group. The foundation OF the clergy/laity schism is built ON this pyramid of church power and politics of who will rule “OVER” the church. OVER the centuries the clergy have made sure power has become entrenched WITH them while the laity are to be only followers.

This is not how the kingdom of God works. Leadership “WITHIN” the Church is defined by who is “BESIDE” you, “NEXT TO” you, “WITH” you, not who is “OVER” you. When Jesus was ON earth, He never lorded “OVER” anyone. He did not establish a pyramid structure where he was “ABOVE” his disciples but always walked “WITH” them, “BESIDE” them while teaching them AS a peer, a man, a teacher teaching only what the “Father” was telling him. In fact, the last thing he taught his disciples before going TO the Garden OF Gethsemane and the Cross was how not to be “ABOVE” them, but stooped down “BELOW” them and washed their feet. He was preparing them to learn the principle OF how to “lay DOWN your life FOR your brethren” by literally “laying DOWN his life FOR them.” When you lay something DOWN, it is “BENEATH” you, not “above” you.

The Church needs to learn to lay “DOWN” their lives FOR one another; Christian husbands need to learn how to lay “DOWN” their lives for their wives, not lording “OVER” them. They are your equal peers, your Eve’s, restored TO oneness “WITH” you so that you can be IN agreement IN all things! They are not to be controlled but served! You are to present them TO yourself “without spot or wrinkle”, pure, holy, blameless, as a restored equal IN Jesus!  Leadership needs to not be “ABOVE” those they are to serve, but be AT their level: “AHEAD” of them to lead, “BEHIND” them to cover their backs, and “BESIDE” them IN their personal journeys, and they need to begin to “equip the saints”, not the staff, for the “works OF service”, teaching them to serve one another THROUGH personal examples!

As believers IN Jesus, God is “WITH” us, not distantly “ABOVE” us, out OF our reach, but actually “IN” us; His Holy Spirit choosing to “IN”dwell us! The church needs to rethink and restructure its leadership models. Institutional hierarchy models are not scriptural, not the plan of the kingdom of God, and not relational as equal peers IN Jesus Christ. If the Church wants true revival, radical changes will have to occur IN its mindsets, IN its methods, and how it handles relationships, especially between leadership and the rest OF the body of Christ.  Leadership MUST begin to get off its pedestal “above” its congregation, and not only mingle, but be equal peers WITH them THROUGH service.

 

Have I Missed The Mark? I “Think Not”; I Just “Experienced It!”

 

Having Second Thoughts About The Next Movement Of God?

I had forgotten an important principle in my life: In order to learn a spiritual kingdom of God principle, I usually have to experience it! Head knowledge for me is never enough!

Although revivals usually work outside the boundaries of the institutional church, I believe the next major movement of God will directly affect present day Church structure.  I sense God will work within his own body, the Body of Christ, to reinstitute the Priesthood of Believers as peers, equals, brothers and sisters in the faith where linear relationships built on trust, service, honesty, and integrity will be solidified. The clergy/laity schism will finally be diminished. Like every other revival or movement of God, this must be orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, and obedience to what the Holy Spirit reveals is mandatory.         

I believe that this move of God will be a “metamorphic” transformation of present day church structure that is professional, clergy driven, and pyramidal in structure (caterpillar stage) to a laity driven, linear structure of peer relationships among believers in Jesus built on acceptance, equality, and accountability to “one another” (butterfly stage). How does the Church get from Point “A”, the caterpillar stage, to Point “B”, the butterfly stage?

On this path lies the dynamics of this next movement of God, the cocoon stage. As God covers, masks, and builds this cocoon around his Church, unobservable by the outside world, the Holy Spirit will supernaturally reconstruct what was once natural into a butterfly. The butterfly’s structure will not resemble anything the traditional church has ever seen; the old structure will be totally reconstructed. “The old has passed, behold the new!”  Infamous for not embracing change, the Church will embrace structural change and how it functions. Since butterflies function differently from caterpillars, this new Church structure will demand new ways, new forms, and new mindsets.

My dilemma: I have believed that my local church, which has embraced drastic changes in the past, would be open to embracing this new movement of God. I became shocked when leadership opposed it, not wanting to hear about it, so conflict arose which has forced me to break ties with that body. It became a power play. Why would a strong, pyramidal leadership structure relinquish their control over the Priesthood of Believers? I have looked “unsubmissive” to their leadership by questioning them. Some have even accused me of “slandering” their office and “defiling” their sheep. One elder advised me to accept their strong, pyramidal leadership style that he thought biblical or leave the fold, the family, that which I have been grafted in for almost twenty years. I told him I am seeking leadership who will be in front of me to lead, behind me to cover my back, and beside me to walk relationally through my faith journey with me, not a leader who dictates what I should and should not do and can and cannot do over me. I am looking for an equal brother in the Lord, not a leader who renders me voiceless, threatening severe church discipline if I make one more mistake.

While what was my local church keeps choosing the path of institutionalizing, empowering clergy and staff, while enabling the Priesthood of Believers into passivity, families are leaving, numbers dwindling, with many of the faithful no longer faithfully attend. I still believe God is working in their midst, for they are entering their cocoon of introspection, and it is painful because inside the cocoon at the center of all this activity is the CROSS!

The Cross is a painful place that brings death. Without death there is no resurrection. Great opposition led Jesus to the Cross. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day could not hear nor see what God was saying or doing. Today is no different, for Pharisees are always spiritually blind and tone deaf. I know; I am a recovering Pharisee. Like Saul, now Paul, I have been there! At the Cross God reconciled himself to man (John 3:16) and reconciled man to mankind (IJohn 3:16). The Cross is the only place God can teach his faithful, his Priesthood of Believers, how to “lay down your life for your brethren,” bringing transformation from dominant leadership to peer acceptance through reciprocal service to and from “one another” as equals. There are no classes of distinction, no offices nor titles in the kingdom of God, only equals, a Priesthood of Believers.

In spite of the opposition, the darkness of the hour, facing the emotional feelings of rejection and abandonment, I still believe God is faithful and moving, and revival IS happening IN the CHURCH right now as it approaches this metamorphic stage. God, give us, the Priesthood of Believers and church leadership everywhere, strength as we go through this dynamic transformation! 

 

Small Groups And The Five-Fold

 

The Need For The Five-Fold In Small Groups, Cell Groups, Home Groups

Pastor Cho discovered the necessity of small groups in his church in Korea that became the backbone of establishing the largest in the world. The reason is that in small settings, interactive relationships are established forcing one to make the Logos, the written Word, a Rhema, or living Word.  One has to live out their faith when rubbing elbows with others in very practical day-to-day experiences.

Many small home cell groups have been tools for evangelistic expansion as they divide and multiply producing growth while cementing old relationships and establishing new ones, calling on talents of older experienced members, but living on the freshness and motivation of new ones. Many small home cell groups have stagnated, keeping the same participants and becoming cliquish. How can a group prevent this from happening? The answer lies in embracing the five fold in the midst of the group.

Every small group needs a member driven evangelistically, always winning the lost, bringing new members to the group.  This newness brings vibrancy to the group, and propels it forward evangelistically. If the group is missing this link, stagnation can quickly set in.

Every group needs someone as a five fold teacher to walk out one’s faith scripturally but practically, not as a theologian, but through relationships in practical applications in one’s daily life, like Jesus did when walking and living with the twelve disciples. This way it does not become a religious exercise or class or course with only academic training, but practicality becomes its main principle.

The group needs someone prophetic to bring the practical reality of worship to the group, the challenge of allowing the supernatural to work amongst them, and to challenge each member individually and the group corporately to be drawn into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Someone apostolic, who sees the big picture of the corporate group, and naturally networks the talents of the group within itself to minister to one another in sacrificial love is also needed.

These are not formal offices, nor even positions, but passions within believers in the group that just motivate them to serve one another from their passions as well as receive from differing passions differ that augment them. These passions just surface when needed or all called upon to help mature the saints within the group, or call the corporate group to action as a body. If they all are “released” to flow in freedom and to also receive from the other diverse passions, a synergy is created strengthening the group to be more Christ-like individually and as a group. The Word becomes “life”.

If your small group is struggling, ask yourself, is there someone in the group that likes to “ignite” the group, the catalyst, one who “births” things, then release their “evangelistic” spirit and let they go, let them flow. If some nurtures, mother-hens the group, becomes spiritual parents to everyone, release them to “shepherd” their pastoral gifting. If some live to study the Word, the Bible, allow them to share their spiritual truths in practical ways to produce an “Emmaus Road” experience of walking out their faith with everyone. If some are prophetic in nature, release them to minister spiritual life, releasing supernatural faith in very natural situations. Finally if one is like the eagle of the group, soaring above situations, keenly observing with wisdom, always seeking to allow others in the group to minister, release them to release others through networking to bring the group together in purpose, direction, and unity.

If you release the five fold in your group in this way, you will have newness in life through the evangelistic, nurturing through shepherding, spiritual growth grounded on the Word, living faith, and proper over sight and coordination; the five fold. There will be balance in ministry, constant flowing of the Holy Spirit, and a freedom to “release” one another, yet draw from one another.

As the group expands, mentoring new members in your passions, prepare them for their callings, as the group “equips the saints for the work of service” for the next spiritual generation of the group. There will be a time when the group realizes that it is time to “release” the once new, now “equipped” members to begin their new group, and the Church expands, grows.

The five fold is a very practical way to bring and keep life to your group and growth to your church.

 

What If You Tithed Your Time?


A Different Mind Bending Concept About Tithing

Being a church member, unfortunately, usually breeds passivity. Sadly, we need only “attend” church services to be looked upon as a Christian in most cultures. Attending Sunday morning worship and one activity listed in the bulletin per week satisfies our stature.  We are so dependent on the professional staff to do everything, that they “enable” us by doing their job effectively. No wonder we do not feel part of the life of the local church.  Usually churches that are professionally programmed driven usually ask only one major form of activity from their casual members; their financial giving.  The offering is a central piece of every Christian program. Sometimes pre-offering speeches can be longer than the sermon, and “tithing” is a quarterly sermon theme.

What would happen if we Americans would tithe from what is most precious to them; their time?

What would the church staff do if each and every member in your church was willing to volunteer 4 hours, 1/10th of their 40 hour work week to the church? The staff would probably generate more programs for them to attend! Really, if you have 100 members in your church each giving four hours, what would they do with 400 hours of volunteered time each week? A 500 member church with 1,000 free hours? Sounds like a cell phone plan!

If I would ask that question during a staff meeting I may get suggestions like: janitorial work, building maintenance, shrubbery trimming and clean up, painting, secretarial work, running off bulletins, up dating data base of members for email, newsletters, and mailings, etc., all institutional chores, but what happened to feeding and clothing the poor, caring for the widows in the congregation, hospital and jail visits, etc.  Most staff hired by churches are program related where they are highly visible, but who does the invisible tangibles that empower a church?  What they would list on a whiteboard as suggestions would show the priorities of that church.  With 400 hours a week of volunteering would force a change in priorities.

What would happen if the members spent their volunteer time forming nonprofit businesses in a service sector like a lunch time deli where they would feed and serve their community in a nonchurch financially profitable atmosphere?  How about a “Foot Wash”, fancy name for a car wash reflecting the foot washing passion of Jesus to the community, not as a fundraiser for more church activities, but for community benevolence. How about a moving company to help low income families and church families in moving to a new residence? These business would not only produce financial profits, but “help equip the saints for the works of service,” the Ephesians 4 principle as well as produce entry level jobs for young people, the homeless, and those wanting to start a life of financial independence while serving. Actually these acts of service are great evangelistic efforts, touching the secular community, and grafting them and the local church into stronger community bonds.

What impact would volunteered tithing hours have on the elderly if church members did not just visit them for ten minutes on a Sunday afternoon during visiting hours, but instead took them to their doctor and dentist appointments, or helped maintain residential housing that is beyond the physical capabilities of an aging widow, so she can still have the freedom of living in her home instead of being forced into an assisted living situation?

What freedom would it give a parent of a physical or mental handicap child if volunteers would spend time with that child, freeing them to go shopping alone, going to the athletic club for their own health, or just have a badly needed date without the pressures of caregiving 24/7?

These possibilities only scratch the surface; allow your imagination to soar at the possibilities of how “active” how “alive” a local church would be if we tithed from our most sacred resource, our time. I cannot find in the scriptures where Jesus asks for our money, but he does request our time when he says, “Follow me.”  “Following Jesus” will always change the way we think of doing church, the way the community sees church, the way the “staff” would have to operate, and the way we would chose church leadership.

What do you think? What impact would “tithing of our time” change the way your church would do “church”? What would “church” then look like? How would the church manage all those volunteers and hours without hiring a “case manager”, another full time professional position? Let’s hear from you! 

I Have Been Replaced, So I Am Now Free To Move On!

 


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XIII

It is easy to find the Senior Pastor during the majority of Christian church services: they are up front, on a platform elevated in front of all, or by the exit door shaking hands receiving compliments, “Nice Sermon”, or in a formal procession at the beginning of the service but is the central figure of everything that happens during the service.  He/she, and only he/she, is entitled to give the sermon, the official interpretation of the Word of God.  He/she is considered “a man/woman of God” unlike any other in the congregation, so he is revered, honored, held in high esteem. When he/she dies or decides to leave “the ministry”, there becomes a huge void, causing a search for another professional out side the confines of the local congregation to be brought in to “fill” the vacuum left by his leaving, but this is not the model of leadership during the first century of the Church. 

I do not know historically when the Church strayed from its Ephesians 4 calling to “equip the saints for works of service”, but it must have happened early in Church history.  By the end of the first century the Church was entrenched in the Bishop clergy/laity hierarchy model, diminishing and eroding the power of the saints ever since.  Although the Church claims “to make disciples of all men”, it has failed in “equipping” them for “service”. A Sunday Church “service” is still basically a “clergy” led “service” with the laity, the saints, being reduced to enabled followers. That is not the Biblical model set out by the 12 apostles in the first half of the first century.

I have yet to belong to, or even visit a church, where the “senior pastor” just sat in the midst of the congregation with “apostolic oversight”, just seeing what the Holy Spirit is doing with His people because the Senior Pastor had trained and equipped his congregation to do everything that they once expected him to do!  What! A laity giving the sermon or homily that had just been revealed to him through the Holy Spirit! A laity singing a prophetically motivated new song that ministered immediately to congregation in the unity of the theme being laid out by the Holy Spirit instead of “special music”, or a choir anthem, or being led by a worship team!  A member of the congregation taking the microphone, telling of a testimony of what Jesus was doing currently in their life that just so happened to go along with the Holy Spirit’s theme!  Someone sharing an originally written poem!  Someone painting, drawing, etching, or molding an original piece of art during the service!  Members of the congregation not having to be ushers to “collect” offerings, but every member of the congregation giving into containers during the time of worship as their “acts of worship”, their “acts of giving”!  The gifts of the spirit flowing among the congregation to minister to the hurting, to meet needs, to give directions, to give encouragement and edification, to make the Logos Word, the written Word, now become the Rhema Word, or the living Word, among them!  Members of the congregation “breaking bread” together and “sharing the cup” as a communal body of faith rather than a religious rite or practice!  All this happening while the Senior Pastor and his laity leadership team just blend into the congregation, “seeing over” in amazement what the Holy Spirit is doing in their midst, bringing unity through worship and purpose among themselves!

If leadership has “equipped the saints for works of service”, then leadership needs to “release” their congregation “to serve”.  Where is the safest place to release them to serve? Amongst the body of believers when they are gathered, for if they fall and stumble, which often is the best way to learn and practice, then “grace” and “mercy” can be extended so that they do not look at their stumbling as a “set back”, or “back sliding” as carnal Christians call it, but as a positive teaching method, to show them correction, to “equip” them to get up and stand strong so they do not stumble again!  We claim “Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven”, but in our church services we propagate a climate of perfection: everyone smiles, everyone hides their hurts, everyone shakes hands and pats each other on the back as if they are old buddies. If the service is planned to the “T”, basically controlled, there will be no evident problems. If anything “unpredictable” happens, we will subdue it, for if someone is “out of line” we bring immediate judgment and condemnation to bring correction instead of allowing mercy and grace to weave their healing balms.  We claim that Jesus’ precious Holy Spirit is the pilot of our program and we the co-pilot, but we fly the plane, not allowing the Holy Spirit to break free or through our scheduled, protected, well-organized programs.

Why do God’s people, Christians, fear, as in fright, not reverence, the Holy Spirit? They are afraid if they release the Holy Spirit amongst themselves things will get “out of line”, “out of order”, people will “swing from the chandeliers” even though the church has only fluorescent lighting!  We fear chaos and confusion instead of expecting peace and unity, and we forget that the Holy Spirit’s goal is to bring “all men” to Jesus Christ, producing unity, not division!  We belittle the person of the Holy Spirit because of our lack of trust in Him, thus we belittle the person of Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit IS the SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST!

Leadership complains about how much is expected of them, and no one is going to do it if they don’t! That’s a lie: equip your saints, then release those saints which will also release leadership to move on to the next things Jesus through His Holy Spirit has for them to do!  Paul operated this way when starting churches: equipping the new saints over approximately a two year period, then released them to stand on their own so that he could move on to the next place the Holy Spirit was leading him toward to birth, equip, and release even more!  Church, maybe we should step back and examine Paul’s example as an apostle to understand the power of the laity, the saints, if they are properly equipped, trained, encouraged, nurtured, guided, then released to do ministry.  If you do that, you are blessed when you just sit amongst them and watch them “do it”! Wow! What a blessing that would be!

 

Surrounded By Care; The Five Fold Phenomenon

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XII

We have been looking at what it means to “equip the saints for works of service” as out lined in Ephesians 4.  Part of equipping is surrounding a person with those things that will make them successful.  That is the power and beauty of the five fold; the strengths of many support the weaknesses of one.  Because the five fold is a team effort, a family effort, a community effort, no man is an island.    Personally, I have learned to realize that several attempts at ministry in the past to which I have been involved were not as successful as they could have been because I did not have that support of diverse passions, desires, and ministries around me. My weaknesses help hinder the success of ministry, but I had no one around me to support and lift me up through their diverse passion in the time of my weakness.

Let’s say that you have the pastoral passion of shepherding; you love to care for others and nurture them physically, emotionally, and spiritually toward maturity in Jesus Christ.  To get the full potential results of your ministry, you need the other four (evangelist, teacher, prophet, & apostle) components of the five fold to aid, abate, support, and equip your ministry.  You need an evangelist to birth “babes in Christ” so that you have someone to nurture.  You need the aide of the teacher to “ground” these new believers in the Word of God, the Bible, the aide of the prophet to teach them to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves and how to make the Logos Word a Rhema, or Living, Word, and the aide of apostolic oversight to monitor their spiritual growth from birth through maturity.  Shepherding is only one part of the entire picture in equipping a saint in his spiritual journey!

Without added support, one can feel swamped, over extended, and eventually burnt out trying to be all things to all men. Often in the current pastor/laity model of most small churches, the burn out rate among clergy is staggering because the congregation expects their pastor to be strong in all five areas when he/she may be gifted in just one or two of them, and we expect him/her to do it alone because he is a professional.  We need to change our perspective of ministry from a solo effort to a team approach of five.  Ministry should be a “team effort”: the strengths of those around you should shore up your weaknesses and free you to minister in and through your strength.  Ministry should be a “family approach” where all are members of the family of God; as in most families, members count on one another in order to succeed. Ministry should be a “community”: a community is made up of many different, diverse components that aide each other for the good of the group.

The key word of “equipping the saints for the work of service” is the word “service”.  We have to learn not only how to serve, but also be served.  If we become too arrogant, to independent, rejecting help from our brethren, we will rob them of the joy of servicing us. The reciprocal serving back and forth is the key to the success of the five fold ministry as a team ministry. It is a give and take situation. One’s strength and passion, mixed with compassion, can be a very effective tool at aiding, abetting, and supporting another brother or sister in the lord with a different passion than our own.

In conclusion, we need to accept the fact that we cannot do it alone; the kingdom of God is too big for just me or you to do it all. We are a body in Christ, the Church, so there are many other parts, people, whose gifting, though drastically different from our own, are needed to maximize the ministry of the gospel. Divisions will diminish if divergent passions serve one another, draw from one another, aide one another, and equip one another. Truly, then will we see a powerful Church with effective ministry.

 

Rethinking Our Theology

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XI

In Greek Theo = God; ology = Study of; thus theology = study of God, yet if we take a higher level graduate theology course at a seminary we discover it is a collection of a lot of theologian’s, men who claim to be studying God, views on various religious topics.  It is all about how we, man, have interpreted scriptures.  It is basically what we as an individual believes about God.  Every man has his own theology: how he perceives God at that moment.  I have discovered that my theology has changed over the years, for I have often boxed in God, trivialized my faith, sought to systematically place things in order so they made intellectual sense, organize, characterize, even politicize my religious experience. 

Like Saul, who later became Paul, I have sat under and read the works of some remarkable religious theologians who have molded what I believe God to be, sat under thousands of hours of religious training during my 50 years as a Christian believer, often being doctrinated by the religious camp who was doing the teaching. The Westernized Church honors the theologian for his highly intellectual interpretation of the Scriptures. Introduction to the Bible 101 is an entry level course, but Theology 502 is a high level graduate course.  Saul and I both have sat under some incredible theological teachers, but where did it get us?

We, the Church, honor our scribes and Pharisees, the intellectual religious leaders of our day, just as the Jewish people honored theirs in Jesus’ day, yet they are the very people Jesus criticizes heavily, “Woe, you scribes and Pharisees…..”  It was the theologians of his day that received his verbal wrath.  Saul, “the Pharisee of Pharisees”, has to literally get knocked off his horse and blinded before he is willing to see the deception of his religious zeal of persecuting the very thing he should be advocating.  He was forced to rethink his thinking!  This experience led him to he wilderness to rethink and cleans himself of his old beliefs and reestablish and build upon the new before being released to become one of the greatest apostles and theologians of his time.

A friend once had a vision of me in a bird cage with the door to the cage open, but I remained inside perched in peace, unwilling to fly to my freedom. Why? After struggling for an answer, the Holy Spirit spoke to my friend who said I was the bird inside, the cage was the religious structure I had build around myself.  In it I found safety, comfort, and peace, so I chose to remain content, perched inside.  Who knows what would happen if I left the cage and became free?  Where would I perch? Is there a haven of safety somewhere else? What would being free really mean to me?  I realized that I had become a Pharisee like Saul, and a transformation from the safe confines of my religious experience would be needed in order to “fly in the spirit” on “wings as eagles”. That flying in the unknown would change my theology, the way I perceived God in my life’s experience.  God was still God, faith, unchanging; it was my perception of him that changed!

It is that perception of who God is in our individual lives that is so important.  That is why it is so important to “trust” the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to “teach us all things”, for He, and only He can be the revealer of Truth to us through the Word of God.  Equipping the saints is all about guiding a person, directing someone, releasing them to discover for themselves the Truth, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, in their personal lives so their life becomes a “Living Gospel”, not a legalistic, written, intellectually driven gospel.  It is different “to know God”, to experience God, than it is “to know about God” or study, or theologize God!

But “What are we to believe?” you may ask. “What do we know is truth?” Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal that to you through the Logos Word, the Bible, and make it the Rhema Word, the living word in your life.  I believe, in the five fold, the Holy Spirit gives the apostolic passion of the Church the wisdom to “know the mysteries of God”, the truths, the nuggets of the gospel that brings unity. That is what I call the Apostolic Teaching!  It is not doctrinal teaching that has divided the church into its many sects, divisions, and denominations.  I have learned over the year that doctrine divides, the Holy Spirit unites, so we must “trust” and “rely” on the Holy Spirit to reveal “apostolic” truth for the “entire Church” in order to see sectarianism diminish and eventually disappear.

In order “to equip the church for the work of service” we must equip our future evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles with the knowledge on how to “trust the Holy Spirit” of Jesus Christ, the Revealor, to reveal universal truths to His entire Church, truths that will be shared and honored by every member of the Body of Christ, truths that will draw all men toward Jesus Christ, truths that will unite not divide.

Going through such a drastic change from intellectualism to practical experience, the living out of the gospel will bring radical change. When Saul met the “living God”, he was literally knocked off his horse.  The transformation from what he “knew about God” to “knowing God” caused such a radical change in his life, like his Father Abram who changed his name to Abraham, Saul changed his name to Paul and started “life anew”, a life transformed, a life free of studying about God, to a life of intimately knowing God.  That is one of the goals for preparation and equipping the saints.

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part X

 

Equipping Through Community

Can you imaging your local church going from approximately 120 to 3,120 in one weekend. That is what happened to the church at Jerusalem because of Pentecost.  Churches today pray for “revival”, but if 3,000 were saved in one weekend, what would your church do with these new converts?  How would they nurture them, disciple them, effectively teach them the Word particularly if they did not have a religious background, and live out what they learn?  Initially everyone would gather because of the excitement of the newness of the movement, but eventually numbers would begin to dwindle. With the new income from 3,000 people coming into their coffers, today’s churches would react by hiring more staff and starting a new building program to house all the people. All looks glorious at the beginning, but as numbers dwindle, so does the financial support, and soon layoffs occur and the huge building becomes a fiscal albatross.

In the Old Testament, priests were created to commune with God. They were a select group, one-tenth of the population, exclusively from the tribe of Levi.  In the New Testament the priesthood was no longer a selective group but a collective group of anyone who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  The Old Testament elevates the priest, but nowhere in the New Testament does it talk about being a priest, only establishing a “royal priesthood”.  It is the collective group that is elevated.  It is the community of faith, the believers corporately in Jesus Christ, the Church. I contend that it is the Church’s job to prepare and equip these new believers corporately to do the corporate work of service. How did this community get established?

The book of Acts vividly points out in its early chapters that this new movement of believers in Jesus Christ met in homes.  They “continued to break bread together”, in other words, fellowshipped with each other. They just did not “hang out” with one another on Sundays, but daily ate meals together, fellowshipped with one another, talked with one another, shared their day, their lives, intricately becoming a part of each other.  They accepted their differences, but began to blend into a group, a community, a family, a body, the Body of Christ, the Church. 

They began to sacrificially give, not to build a “church” building to hold the growing numbers in their congregation, not to add new staff, for there was no staff with academic degrees to hire, not to build a Bible School or Theological Seminary to advance the academia of this new movement, but they laid their finances at the feet of Jesus, literally at the feet of the Apostles, who used it to feed the poor, take care of the needy, the widows, the homeless, and the hurting. Deacons arose “to serve tables”, or do the work of service to those in need.

By fellowshipping together, living together, participating in each other’s lives on a daily basis, “relationships” were born and established.  Christianity is all about “relationships”.  John 3:16 points us to our relationships with God the Father through his son, Jesus Christ, re-establishing a broken relationship caused by sin, yet sanctified through the Cross.  The vertical relationship with God and man has been restored. I John 3:16 points us to our relationship with each other through the principle of “laying down one’s life” for each other.  People who are willing to sacrificially do that, as Jesus had done during his life, will discover that it develops a very close community, a community that even persecution can not dissolve, a community built on intimate, committed relationships.

Soon passions of “service” arose from this new group: some wanting to go out and evangelize, telling those who have not heard about this gospel, this “good news”; some wanting to nurture those who were already in their midst, to help them grow toward maturity in their new faith in Jesus Christ; some who discovered that all this had been foreshadowed and written about in the Torah, the Old Testament, among the prophets and the writings of David and Solomon, and diligently began to search the scriptures to reveal the truth; some to make sure this new revealed scriptural truth did not become just academic nor legalistic, but continue to be pliable, active, living.  In spite of this diversity, they continued to fellowship in unity of faith and purpose. They learned to give to one another and take from one another, thus causing their relationships to deepen even further.

When persecution finally did hit Jerusalem, the Church had already prepared and equipped their believers to move on in their flight for safety to all different regions throughout the world, and the Church continued to grow, develop, mature, preparing and equipping another generation to “serve” their God and “serve” one another.  Soon the Church was no longer looked upon as a new Jewish sect, but a vibrant, living, organism to be reckoned with, challenging all the already existing religions and leaders of its day.

 As we have institutionalized the Church over the centuries we have lost the sense of community among believers, instead establishing divisions among us through clergy and laity and through denominational distinctions, labels and beliefs.  We claim to be one body, but are so fragmented, divided, and even hostile towards one another because of our divisions.  Large portions of our church budgets finance large institutions and magnificent edifices while minimal amounts go toward the poor, the widows, the homeless, and the hurting.  To reestablish the power of the first century Church back into our institutions, we will have to first again establish community and the willingness to “lay down our lives” for one another, breaking bread with one another, fellowshipping daily among one another.  We will have to establish community back into the Church.

 

Preparing And Equipping Toward Maturity

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part IX

It is basic to human nature to want to feel needed, to fulfill a purpose, to feel appreciated, to hear someone say, “What would we do without you?”  Unfortunately we often enable people in order to get the gratitude we think we deserve. What kind of parent would we be if our twenty-eight year old son still thanked us for doing their wash, feeding him, financially supporting him while he plays computer games all day, drive him everywhere, and are a part of every decisions he makes, but he shows his gratitude by saying, “What would I do without you?”  We would be considered a failure as a parent. The adult child is nowhere close to becoming independent because he has learned that you will enable him every step of the way.

Most church’s attempt at spiritually parenting is usually a disaster, for we enable those who come into our door. We greet them, pamper them, preach to them, pray for them, tell them what to do, when to financially give, when to stand, when to sit, when to be social, and when quietness is reverence.  We teach submission to authority to the point that authority tells one everything they should or should not do, never allowing them to figure it out themselves or let their conscious be their compass. When that authority or leadership leaves, everyone gasps, “What are we going to do without you?” while beginning to look for a replacement.

Enabling and equipping are opposites. When we equip people, we are preparing them to stand alone, no longer needing our assistance and care, and actually propelling them to accomplish feats beyond our capabilities. Enabling enslaves the person, keeping them in a position of control, continuing to draw them toward dependency. Jesus never enabled. He prepared and equipped his disciples to be able to stand alone once he left earth to return to his rightful place beside his Father in heaven. He built their faith on the Word of God while releasing the Holy Spirit to “teach them all things”.  In fact, he said that they would do “greater things” than he did during his earthly stay.

Apostle Paul would kick into the evangelistic mode when entering a new town or city. When new followers accepted Christ he kicked into the shepherding/pastoral mode and began to nurture them in the faith, using his teaching skills to make the written Word relevant while prophetically living it. He would see over what the Holy Spirit was doing amongst the whole group before leaving.  When he left, he left a fully sufficient, independent church of believers standing on their own faith. They did not have to have Paul around any more. They freed him to move on to his next evangelistic project. He had prepared them and equipped them.

Paul, and older brother in the faith, also prepared and equipped others younger in the faith in becoming apostles, future leaders. He and Barnabas journeyed together, but eventually Paul took young Mark under his care. Even though their relationship was rocky on his first missionary journey because of Mark’s immaturity, Paul eventually praises Mark, supports Mark, encourages Mark to continue in leadership, and the rest is history.  Preparing and equipping means walking beside a brother or sister in the Lord in their journey, not preaching at them or having them read numerous books on the topic.  As we have scene Paul used this principle and so did Jesus who walked with the 12 disciples.  It is not an academic exercise but a physical and spiritual one. It is the walking out, and working out, of one’s faith walk together. It is a daily walk, an intimate walk, a relational walk that prepares, builds, and equips others.

A key component after preparation and equipping is releasing.  Paul had to release each new church to stand on its own. He equipped them with the Word, the Holy Spirit, with spiritual gifts, with community, and the tools needed for leadership; now they had to stand alone.  All that preparation and equipping would be useless if he had not released them.

We as a Church need to rethink what preparing, equipping, and releasing means in our relationships of discipling and nurturing our brothers and sisters in their spiritual growth. As parents we celebrate when our sibling graduates from high school or college, gets married, and becomes a parent, all steps in growing up and becoming independent from our parental care.  The empty nest syndrome is the realization that our sibling has left the nest, our home, and established their own, gotten married or become independent, and may become parents themselves now supporting their own siblings. Most churches I know do not experience an empty nest syndrome as they have prepared and equipped their own laity, their own believers in Jesus, to become independent enough to go out and start their own church, their own ministry, their own acts of service producing growth. They do not reproduce others to replay themselves!

As we learn about the passions of our fellow believers in Jesus, we need to encourage them to grow in their passion, to develop relationships of equality with others who have different passions than their own, to learn to support one another by laying down their lives for one another, to prepare them by encouraging self reflection, developing a private discipline devotional time of Bible study and prayer, giving them an outlet to share what they have seen and heard during these times. We need to equip them with the Word, the Bible, teach them the literal Word of God, the Logos Word, and how to live it, the Rhema Word, and surround them with community, the Church. Then we may see a change, a transformation, from dead-beat Christians, enabled Christians to active, living, growing, nurturing, and supporting Christians. If we see those changes, we have prepared and equipped successfully.