Experiencing Deurteronomy 16:16

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

Our Deuteronomy 16:16 passage concluded, “…and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.” I believe worship to be simple, the act of giving back to the Lord what He has already given you. If we believe that, then there is a price to be paid during each of these three feasts; something is to be given back to the Lord.

In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis has captured the price for Passover. To receive salvation, you have to give Jesus the garbage of your life, that which prohibits you from drawing near to God. Lewis tells of a bus trip to the out skirts of hell and the edge of heaven where the saints try for one last time to persuade their loved ones to come to heaven. They refuse because they do not want to give up that which binds them (ie. pity, self centeredness, greed, wealth, etc.) Looking back, giving God our garbage did not look like a big deal, but it was, for it was difficult, particularly when sin is pleasurable and rewarding to one’s ego.

When one has a Pentecost experience, the price is to pay “one’s all,” everything! If Jesus is to be Lord of one’s life, he demands all because He is in total control of your life. A popular car bumper sticker was “God is My Copilot.” How wrong that premise is if you made Jesus your Lord. He is the pilot, period! You aren’t even the copilot; he flies the plane. When on autopilot, the Holy Spirit is in control! All you have to do is be obedient to His flight plans as He directs. It is was difficult giving up your garbage and junk for your salvation, it is even harder to give up the good things that have benefited you to which you are now attached.

For The Feast of Booths or The Feast of Tabernacles you give up your earthly tabernacle, your physical body. Which is better; living her on earth doing the Lord’s will or dyeing and being with the Lord in heaven? Paul wrote,”For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Glorification is giving up this earthly body to dwell eternally in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 

Experiencing Deurteronomy 16:16

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

“Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses…”

God is unique in that he treats us individually but sees us corporately as a Body in Christ. God reveals himself through all of his believers experiencing the truth of all three of these festivals as Israel and the Church has done, but that truth can also be expressed individually. For example, the way to salvations is universal: through Jesus. To experience “justification by faith” individually, each person must make the choice for themselves to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The acceptance of Him is an universal principle, but each of our journeys and each of our stories is uniquely different. That is why “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Your confession is important, for it is your unique experience with Jesus for the first time and being birthed into his kingdom.

The same principle holds true for Pentecost. The principle of Pentecost, the Logos written Word becoming a Rhema living Word in one’s personal life by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, is an universal principle, but again one’s journey, one’s story, on how they got there is uniquely different.

Also, one’s Feast of Booth’s experience is uniquely personal. When a person is in the process of dyeing a natural death, their whole life can flash before them. By reliving their life, they can deal with situations by forgiving people, accepting life’s events no matter how difficult, or releasing events and people. It is as if “life’s judgments” are presented to them as a last ditch effort to release oneself from this world, literally, so they can “rest in peace” if they know Jesus. I have seen people who do not know Jesus in anguish during this time as if being prepared for the anguish in the eternal afterlife apart from God. I’ve seen people set free, relieved, relax, and “enter into peace” because they know the Prince of Peace. That is what the Feast of Booths is all about, each person preparing to leave their booth, their physical body here on earth for an eternal spiritual body in the afterlife.

 

Apostolic Vision: Deurteronomy 16:16

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

The apostolic point of view sees the Church as a whole in God’s divine plan. The Old Testament usually outlines the foundation for godly principles, and the New Testament usually fulfills them through Jesus. An Old Testament scripture that sets the stage to reveal God’s divine plan for Israel, the kingdom of God, and the Priesthood of believers is Deuteronomy 16:16: “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.”

One can understand his passage and its meaning through the different feasts which reveal truths pertaining to the history of Israel, the birth of the New Testament Church, through the life of Jesus, and through the establishment of the kingdom of God.

Old Testament History of Israel:

All are called to “appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses” for “the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover/Pesach) and at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost/Shavuot) and at the Feast of Booths (Sukkot).” During Passover/Pesach the angel of death “passed over” all the doorpost where lamb’s blood was smeared, saving the firstborn inside from death. This event allowed Israel to leave 500 years of slavery to “pass through” the Red Seas and the Wilderness of Sin to the Promise Land. Pentecost/Shavuot celebrates Moses receiving the written Word on Mount Sinai. The Feast of Booths/Sukkot commemorates 40 years of wandering through the dessert while living in temporary shelters in preparation for entering into the Promise Land. It also celebrates the ingathering of the harvest.

New Testament Church:

To the Church, Passover is when Jesus became the sacrificial lamb whose blood was shed to cover the sins of the world. He would be God’s living Word given to the Church, so when he ascended back to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, birthing and baptizing his church with power as the Rhema Word, the living Word, to prepare it for the Feast of Booths when the Groom, Jesus, would return for His Bride, the Church, for an ingathering of saints.

The Life Of Jesus:

Jesus is the fulfillment of all three of these festivals: “the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) and at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and at the Feast of Booths. Jesus fulfilled Passover as the Sacrificial Lamb, dying for the sins of the world. He would fulfill Pentecost by becoming the Living Word that dwelt among man and send the Holy Spirit to empower his believers. Finally, through the Feast of Booths, Jesus will return for a glorified Church, harvesting, ingathering his saints, the Church.

Christian Believers:

All who are Christians are called to “appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses” for “the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) and at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and at the Feast of Booths.” These feasts are decisive experiences with Jesus during the lifetime of a believer. He must face Jesus as his Savior, Passover, accept Him as his Lord, Pentecost, be willing to give all up, even his physical body, to be with Him in heaven throughout eternity.

The Kingdom of God:

The Kingdom of God is about spiritual growth of a believer. Martin Luther defined Passover as “justification by faith.” Because of what Jesus did on the Cross, God views us ‘just as if we never sinned.”  Pentecost is the spiritual growth called “sanctification” - “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ….. we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13,15) Jesus appeared with a glorified body to the twelve after his resurrection. We, too, will celebrate the Feast of Booths by having glorified bodies when we physically die and go to be with Jesus throughout eternity, a process called glorification.

 

The Five Fold Spirit Cries Out

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

I am convinced that God wants a metamorphosis, a total transformational reconstruction of his Church through the leading of the Holy Spirit. When facing the unknown, particularly the supernatural, man gets nervous. God does not need man’s approval, for He is in total control. Man’s natural tendency is to hold on to control and to familiarity. Historically, the Sanhedrin functioned this way against the prophets of old, against Jesus, and against the new Church. Throughout history, religious officials have often opposed movements of God.

Can we trust what visibly we cannot see and is not tangible, which defies logic and reason, the supernatural, the Holy Spirit? In times of uncertainty, in whom do we place our trust?  ”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible,” (Hebrews 11:1-3) so any movement of God has to come out of the “word of God” by “faith” because ”what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

Trusting the invisible Holy Spirit and the Word of God is how men of old gained God’s approval. There is no other option but to trust the invisible, the Rhema Word, the Holy Spirit.

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23,24)

That is why the five fold is so relevant.

The apostolic cries out, “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)

The evangelistic spirit announces, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

The teaching spirit cries for the Logos Word, ”For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(Hebrews 4:12)

The prophetic spirit proclaims a living Word, ”For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (I Peter 1:23)

 

The Art Of Governing the Church

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

Isaiah prophesied,  “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Really, what form of government is resting on his shoulders? Church government? If so, What is that to look like?

The secular political world is all about power and control. Agreement is rare, compromise is common, fighting and squabbling the norm. Corruption hangs around the corner awaiting opportunity, and position and titles are important, yet all claim to be “public servants”.  Today’s church government is patterned after the secular, for men are given titles, positions called offices, and claim to be servants to their congregation. Some churches are congregational where members hold the power, other churches have elder boards, and still others have strong senior pastors with full authority. Since churches are institutions, they are governed by secular guidelines, their own bi-laws, and legal paperwork to remain tax-exempt. The first century church was not governed this way.

The first century Church was governed by consensus among believers as peers in Jesus Christ. Consensus does not mean 100% agreement nor majority rule where 49% still disagree. Consensus was when every believer was willing to lay down his personal agenda and lay down their lives to serve one another allowing the Holy Spirit to guide the Church.

The Holy Spirit led the first century Church into accepting” diversity by making all believers peers in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Today’s church can no longer segregate itself by sex, race, title, economic status, or denominations. It has to learn to “accept” one another, not be judgmental.

In the five fold, no one person governs, the whole body does by trusting the Holy Spirit and each other. The “government rests on His shoulders.” Ironically, the Holy Spirit is not above” believers in a pyramidal paradigm, but indwells each believer. Gods Spirit is among His people for a consensus from the heart. If Church leadership is linear, every believer serves beside his brethren as an equal peer. No one stands alone or above others. All 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 4:15-16) That is how the Church governs itself; through body ministry.

Headship does not mean being “over” others, but beside one another as peers. Even in marriage, Eve came from Adam’s side, not his head or foot. Figuratively, they are joined at the hip! I believe that it is God’s will for believers to be “suitable helpers” (Genesis 1:24) as a wife is to her husband in order to be “one flesh” in the Body of Christ. If you are willing to ”lay down our lives for the brethren” and serve one another, people will naturally follow you, making you a leader.

Paul did not serve and govern the first century church alone. He had Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, Mark, Pricilla & Aquila, Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Luke, Demas, Nympha, Archippus, Epaphroditus, Apollos, and many others who stood by him. Church leadership should be pluralistic. Ruling or lording over others creates church politics. Ruling by serving one another as a peer, as a brother and sister in the Lord, brings life. Life creates an organism. Properly governing the Church through Christ-like relationships is the only way the church will restore itself from being an organization to again being an organism. That is why the 21st century Church must address a new mindset of governing itself.

 

Singular or Pluralistic Leadership?

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

A good pyramidal organization needs many good leaders at different levels, but only one leader can be at the time. His decisions are decisive, and everyone below him obeys his directives in order to be a “company man”. When things run smoothly, everyone is happy. When a problem arises, the man on top tackles it, for that is why his paid so much. Positioning of leaders is crucial to develop “yes men” to follow directives from above. He is your boss not your peer. People who you consider to be your peers, your coworkers, aren’t necessarily your friends but are your competitors for higher ranking positions. By working with one another you appear to be supporting the corporation, but bottom line, you make the boss look good to increase your chance for advancement.              

In the religious world the Senior Pastor cannot have personal relationships with a large laity base, so he concentrates on his leaders. When a problem arises, he too steps forward with authority to solve the problem. His decisions too are final, decisive, and not to be questions. His job as an authoritarian is never easy on relationships. Only professionals qualify; laity can never attain a high position of leadership.

Millennials find that there is no room for leadership for them since they occupy the foundational base of this pyramidal structure. Millennials are looking for linear peer relationships, not vertical relationships based on authority. They want their voices validated rather than always being criticized and dictated to.

Although Jesus spoke to multitudes, he intimately invested in only twelve. He was preparing simple men to be apostles who would see over what the Holy Spirit would do in the lives of believers. The twelve became peers in the faith. Although Jesus told Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church,” (Matthew 16:10) it was not his intent to make Peter the Pope over his church, but he taught Peter to lead by being beside others, serving them. At the house of Cornelius, he validated the gentile’s experience with the Holy Spirit and defended them at the Council of Jerusalem. For the rest of his life he would be their peer, never dominating over them.

The organizational mind asks, “Doesn’t having so many leaders as peers bring confusion? Someone has to be in charge!” If all the leaders are serving one another, there will be no confusion. The Church can never have enough evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, or apostles who serve simultaneously. The key is all must be listening to the Holy Spirit and network through service with one another. Releasing people into the five fold can prevent domination and control while promoting diversity and plurality. The church multiplied quickly because Jesus invested in only twelve who invested in other believers by equipping and releasing them to serve.

Since power often defines position, I ask you, “Does the leadership at your local church stand over you or beside you relationally? Are they your peers or superiors? Do they come across to you as common believers, peers in Jesus, or as superior leaders better than you?”

 

Are Millennials Vertical Or Horizontal?

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

The current church leadership style of being built on pyramidal titles, positions, and professions can be a challenge to Millennials who are looking for linear relationships built on peer acceptance as equals. Millennials are not impressed with pyramidal leadership that has built organizations and institutions but are not effective in developing meaningful, intimate relationships as peers.

The perks of a pyramidal structure as a chance for advancement, providing a good health care plan or a secure retirement system are not as appealing to Millennials as finding relationships who will stand beside you, defend you, lead you, and walk out life with you personally. Why should they trust a Health Care System they are financing, a burdensome pension system they are paying for, and a Higher Education System that places them in deep debt without the promise of a job, or a banking system that pays them no interest on their savings but massive interest rates on using credit cards? When they come to church, why would they not be skeptical of yet another pyramidal scheme? They always lose! Is church just another institution that they have to finance? The pyramidal system benefits those on top at the expense of those below them. The investors are more important than the workers. Millennials are looking for meaningful relationships that will benefit them, not just being the base of a system financing the top.

Millennials are also facing an ethical and moral clash with older generations. Millennials are just trying to survive economically; so living with a roommate of another sex to pay the rent is no big deal. They aren’t looking for formal commitments, just the need to be “accepted”. Being “in a relationship” is important to a Millennial, but not necessarily a marriage relationship. Millennials are being conditioned to take care of themselves, since pyramidal institutions will not take care of them. It is more important to a Millennial to complete high school, get a college education, even if it puts them deep in debt, so they can get a well paying job, and establish a career before thinking of having children, a family, or getting married. Since they aren’t committing to marriage until later, they are sexually active longer as singles, which has produce a generation filled with single mothers, unwed couples, and dead-beat dads.

Before previous generations throw stones at Millennials, I ask, “Why would they embrace marriage when there are more divorces than successful marriages among their parents and peers?” Marriage looks like another institution that has failed them! To them birthing children does not equate to forced “shot gun” marriages, nor does having children outside marriage carry the same negative stigma it once had. The Puritanical days of having a “bastard” child as in The Scarlet Letter is history. Amazingly, the unchurched Millennial is not as judgmental about each other as their churched parents and grandparents are.

If secular and religious institutions have failed Millennials, what does the church have to do to draw them back into its fold? Answer: Accept them for whom they are, where they are unconditionally. Jesus always used unconditional love and grace, not the religious Law. They are looking for genuine relationships, not superficial structures. They are looking for people to walk beside them, not lord over them.

Millennials are looking for someone who is willing to step up, step forward, step beside them through loving relationships of service to fulfill Mathew 15:35-40:

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Secular institutions have not fulfilled Mellennial’s needs; they have failed them. It is time for the Church, not as an institution but through personal relationships, to step up and serve, accept, win them to Jesus, and equip, nurture, and care for them in an effort to mature them into the image and fullness of Jesus Christ! That is the mission of the Ephesians 4 Church!

 

The Pyramid Verses Flat World Views

 

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

 

Since the pyramidal, C.E.O. leadership model is so entrenched in our capitalistic culture, almost every American institutional system is patterned after it. The masses are its foundation; its strong leaders dictate from its apex. President Harry Truman cemented this mentality politically when proclaiming “the buck stops here.” Economically, the minimum waged masses produce the product while the C.E.O. gleans its massive profits.  The American dream is to gain wealth, prestige, and power by rising to the top of the pyramid.

American education, which once sported spinster teachers in one-room schools, now supports a myriad of school administrators who dictate school policy that is also known for not embracing change very quickly. The students, the foundation of this pyramid, are lost under this crushing pyramidal system and mandatory test taking.

Doctors who once owned their “own practices”, did “home visits”, and carried their own little pharmacy in a black doctor’s bag, have been forced to join huge “Health Care Conglomerates” and become their employees. Even a greater pyramidal institution has developed through the Heal Care Insurance Industry and The Affordable Health Care Act, which you now must join by law.

The church has become another imbedded American Institution with the laity as its base supporting a professional leadership structure of pastors and priests.

Like their counterparts of the ‘60’s, the Millennials, today’s young adults, are challenging pyramidal structures through their Internet mentality. Their Facebook world requires you to be a “friend” in order to communicate. When “accepting” them as a friend, one becomes your peer, your equal. Your voice is as valid as theirs. Data and numbers are important to them, and the masses influence the Internet as the Wikipedia phenomena has exemplified.

The Millennial “unchurched” have trouble understanding the clergy/laity divide when they relate to each other as equal peers, have trouble with lectured sermons when they are use to a comment section to blogs on web sites, being told when to stand, sit, sing, financially give, and leave when they are learning to stand on their own. The Millennials leave with more questions than they get answers, and their voice is not validated. They just want to be accepted for who they are, but find church acceptance as being conditional. Millennials are looking for peers, not professionals.

The five fold model extends unconditional love and acceptance through grace; people who are committed and willing to lay down their lives for one another. Through the five fold they can find a way to be born again, nurtured in maturity, and accepted for their diversity.

As a believer in the faith, do I want to remain passive, in the protected safety of the status quo, institutionalized, pyramidal structures, or am I willing to accept and embrace change where my peers are my equals as I attempt to reach my generation for Jesus? The choice lies with each one of us, individually, and corporately as the Church.

 

The World Of Change And The Church

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

What would the world be like without electricity, telecommunications, the Internet, combustible engines, septic systems, water and sewage treatment plants, super highways, super markets, etc. We wonder how our ancestors survived without them. Technology has changed everyone’s lifestyles.

The church often associated new technology with being the devil’s tool and wanted no part of it. The Amish still hold that standard. Church services still feature hymns written by composers who have been dead for over one hundred and fifty years, an order of worship that is no different than when the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock, and has maintained the same leadership structure for almost seventeen hundred years. I think it is safe to say that the church does not embrace change as quickly as the secular world does.

Some look at this lack of change as stability while some minimally embrace it as an attempt to be relevant with current culture. Those who have embraced wide change are called heretics, and historically they were burned at the stake! The secular world expects change; the church is threatened by it. Why? For a group that believes that “I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me,”(Philippians 4:14) why are they so threatened by change and fear of the unknown, and fail to adjust?

If anyone should understand change, it is my generation, for we demanded it. I was raised in a well ordered church life of going to Sunday School and Church, Mid-week Prayer Service, Choir Rehearsals, and church Youth Activities weekly. Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, and the Ozzie & Harriet Nelson television shows depicted the sterile, clean, family lifestyle I knew. Then came the rebellious ‘1960’s with Woodstock, hippies, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, segregation of schools in the South, the Viet Nam War, assassinations of political figures, and even the resignation of a U.S. President under a corruption scandal. America’s moral and ethical infrastructure was challenged at every level, yet the church remained primarily silent, not sure how to address such rapid change. They even resisted the Jesus Movement and Charismatic Movements with in their own ranks during this time.

If church change is so cumbersome, what challenges does the 21st Century church face in a connected world shrunk by the Internet?  We still have to ask, “Does my local church want to remain status quo, stable, orderly, and predictable, or will it accept the challenges that come with change? What changes are affecting my generation? In the next upcoming blogs we will look at the current winds of change that are blowing over the church steeples of America and the world.

 

The Five Fold Is Already In The Church!

 

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

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, my family was active in Lay Witness Missions through the United Methodist Church, a powerful lay ministry composed of pot-luck dinners, small group activities, while staying overnight in local parishioner’s homes. A lay coordinator would be assigned to invite a team of visiting missioners to come share their faith journeys. He would also help establish committees to involve the local parishioners in participating in the weekend.

The weekend featured several covered dish dinners, adult small group sessions, Youth activities, and a Children’s Ministry. In Friday night’s small group adult session, only three questions were posed: 1) What do you expect for your church this weekend? 2) What do want for yourself this weekend? and 3) Why did you come tonight? Some came for the food and fellowship. Some confessed they came because their spouses made them. The answers to these three questions were quite insightful.

Some wished to get closer to God, to grow in their faith, or to hear how the Lord was working in other’s lives. One wanted to see others get saved while another hoped for more Bible studies, prayer groups, and small groups to be established in the future. The need for the five fold was prevalent in all these groups: to win the lost, to nurture the saints, to study the Logos Word and transform it into the Rhema Word, to get closer to God, and to see the church as a whole unite and come alive.

Even though the weekend had a formal schedule, it still remained fluid. The Lay Witness Coordinator functioned as an apostle: he did not “control” the weekend, but counted on the Holy Spirit to lead it, monitoring the Holy Spirit’s activities through visiting missioners and in local parishioner’s lives. Flexibility was a key to the weekend’s success.

My wife and I were part of a 23 member team of Americans to participate in Lay Witness Mission in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Capetown, South Africa in 1993, while under the watchful eye of local South Africans. They wrote to us what they learned about the experience, “There is safety in following the Holy Spirit.” Wow! They got it! The Holy Spirit was in charge, we are only vessels of service and obedience to His voice.

In every Lay Witness Weekend that I have participated, I have met a local believer with an evangelistic zeal. “You must be born again” was understood in every local church. There were believers with pastoral, shepherding hearts who wanted to see spiritual growth among their members. The desire for simplistic biblical truth was prevalent. Yearning for more intimate worship and drawing closer to the Lord was evident individually and corporately. The voices of the five fold were all present. The five fold was already embedded among members in a local church. Believers just needed to be equipped, encouraged, and released in them. As a local church yields to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to the building up of peer relationships in Jesus, the release of the five fold will become more evident. Often the holdback to releasing the five fold through the Priesthood of Believers is the structure. If structure prevents continual revival, then the church must face a metamorphosis, a transitional rebuilding of relationships while being open to new forms or structures.

 

Storehouses, Deep Within

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

 

As believers in Jesus, there is a treasure stored deep within us if we are just willing to just dig deeper.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”     

If the Holy Spirit “abides with you and in you,” then all we must do is dig deeper within ourselves and release what the Lord has stored in his temple. God has a record of building storehouses, a principle we need to tap into.

The foundation for storehousing is founded in Genesis 41, the story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery, but he rises to power, second only to the pharaoh of Egypt to build storehouses to prevent an upcoming famine. The power of these storehouses brought everyone to be indebted to Egypt, enslaved the children of Israel for the next 500 years, and built an empire!

The prophet Malachi writes, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Malachi 3:10)

I have heard this passage quoted over and over again to justify financial tithing to local churches to meet their budgets and Christian speakers to finance their organizations. This passage has nothing to do with monetary wealth, but is a significant principle for the Priesthood of Believers who are to ”bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” We are only God’s stewards. Egypt demanded bringing 1/5th, the church 1/10th, but God demands “the whole tithe,” everything! “’Test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts! I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” The storehouses will overflow because everything that is in it, God has put there, not you! He fills His storehouses to overflowing when we give Him our all! Test Him!

The tragedy of Ananias and Sapphira during the first century lay not only in them not ”bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse,” but lying to the Holy Spirit about it. (Acts 5:1-22) You don’t mess with the principle of storehousing or with the power of the Holy Spirit; they are powerful! Because of Ananias and Sapphira’s actions, a ”great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”

Can you not see the potential of this storehouse, this temple of the Holy Spirit that is within you and the many giftings it holds: the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life, the gifts of the spirit, the fruits of the spirit, patience, kindness, meekness, mildness, love, wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, tongues, interpretations, evangelists, shepherds, prophets, apostles, and teachers, etc., etc. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:7) There are more gifts than our personal storehouses can contain.

Churches today should be ashamed of themselves for not tapping into this valuable resource instead of enabling their laity into passivity and inactivity. The five fold is for the equipping, the building up, and the releasing of the saints for service from their storehouses! Like Williamsport, once rich, then poor, but now alive because of what lies beneath them, the church needs to tap into the storehouses that already lay beneath their laity, the Priesthood of Believers.

 

Digging Deeper, What Lies Deep Inside

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

The Williamsport High School band in Williamsport, Pennsylvania is known as the Millionaires because Williamsport once housed an abundance of millionaires, but when hard times hit, the historic luster of its Victorian wooden mansions diminished. Today new life and wealth has again sprung back because of the treasure that lay beneath their surface: natural gas. If dug deep enough, gas will arise, and life has returned to Williamsport.

John 4:7-26, the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, is a powerful passage about digging deep and what can be found under the surface.

“Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” yet Jesus asks this Samaritan woman to draw water for him at the historic Jacob’s well. She dig’s deep questioning him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink? Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 

The water that gives eternal life is the water that she desires, but Jesus wants her to dig deep into her well to discover what is there instead. Prophetically, he reveals what is deep in her historical past. “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.” 

 “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet,” so she digs even deeper, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 

Because of her digging, she has struck gold. Jesus reveals more of himself. “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

She believes the validity that he truly is a prophet, but she is willing to dig even deeper as she continues, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”

She has dug deep enough to discover the source of the well as Jesus reveals his true identity that he has not even revealed to his intimate disciples.

“I who speak to you am He.”

Sometime, to find the answers, the treasures, the sources of life, we just need to dig deeper.

 

The Tension Between Revival And Control

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

When revivals break outside conventional church boundaries, the church asks, “What covering do you have?” Basically they are asking, “Who is in control?” They feel their pyramidal leadership structure can control to prevent weirdness, cults, and heresies. Ironically, it is the pyramidal control that kills the organism, the life of the movement; it certainly does not protect it. During times of revival, the church needs to learn how to come along side the revival movement, embrace it, not control it, but accept it for what it is, a movement of God, or just leave it alone.

Acts 5:34-40  records, “A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. He said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.’ They took his advice.” (Acts 4:333-40)

Revival exposes the church’s tension for control. The religious institution always has asked who is in charge, who is responsible for the actions of this radical movement? The revivalist claim the Holy Spirit is in control.  Being outside established religious norms, the Holy Spirit moves anyway he chooses, often looking like chaos to the institutional church, so they take control to establish order, but usually at the price of the life of the organism.

Only if one is willing to give up total control to the Holy Spirit can they become part of the revival spirit. If not, tension and a battle may ensue. One could find themselves in the same position as Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin. Is is smart to take Gamaliel’s advice, or you too could be taking the risk of “fighting against God”? 

I realize that what I am proposing with the five fold is a challenge to current church leadership structures, accountability structures, the clergy/laity belief system, while advocating for a Priesthood of Believers and the restoration of the five fold for everyday believers. The question is am I, or are we, willing to embrace this movement of God or will we oppose it?

 

 

Consensus and Accountability

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

The first century church was governed by consensus as recorded in Acts 15. At the Council in Jerusalem, the Church came to a consensus over the “gentile question.” They agreed that gentiles received the same Holy Spirit as they did and were a part of the Body of Christ. There would be no room for divisions or classes in Christ’s kingdom. Peer brethren were sent to verbally proclaim their consensus and blessing. The apostles did not dictate or manipulate the outcome; they allowed the Holy Spirit to work among the brethren which brought a consensus, a unity, a positive move forward.

In the kingdom of God, accountability does not come from the top down from leadership that demands unquestionable submission to their authority, but instead is a body ministry of believers standing beside one another, taking the lead or adding support through their strengths and talents. Leadership is from a linear plane of being peers, equals in Jesus who accept and receives from one another. Unlike pyramidal structures were decisions are often dictatorial, leadership is consensual. It is not being “told” what to do, but to willingly give what you have for the common good. Apathy becomes archaic as every believer is active in this giving and receiving process rather than be passive. A community is built as a living organism that produces life.

Respect does not come by being in an office with a title, but by being an accepting friend, a brother or sister who not only is willing to stand beside you and with you through the good and bad times of your life, but who is willing to lay down their life for you in spite of who or what you are. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are my equal, my peer, in Christ! Respect comes through service, and the five fold is all about serving.

Accountability to an organization is dictated by position and office. The question is always, “Who are you under, who are you accountable to, who is the authority above you?” Basically they are asking what leadership do you have “over” you, as if that authority is your protective umbrella.

Accountability to an organism is built on peer relationships. Their question is “Who accepts you as an equal by walking beside you in your journey? Who is protecting your back? Who is walking before you in the lead? Who are you surrounded by who will nurture, care, teach, and fellowship with you on a daily basis in practical ways? That is linear.

 

The Accountability Round Table: Hypothetical Situation

 

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

Recognizing that today’s church is one of the most segregated institutions, your five fold group asks, “Since we live in a community that is multi-cultural, how can we get believers of different races and cultures to worship and fellowship together?”

The evangelist pipes up, “That’s easy. They all just need Jesus. Let’s introduce each and every person in our community to Jesus. It is that simple. (The evangelist’s limited point of view sees only the lost in need of Jesus, spiritual birth.)

The believer with a shepherding heart comments, “The challenges lie in how we care and nurture in the context of different cultures, social norms, and traditions. I’ve experienced a White church that started Sunday services mid-morning, while the Black churches arrived an hour later, and it took another hour just to get it rolling! The Hispanic church didn’t even think of starting until noon or later. How are we going to integrate these cultures and worship styles together?” (The shepherd’s limited point of view is his concern for spiritual growth.)

The teacher interjects, “What really matters is their need to get grounded in the Word, the Bible, and truth will work itself out. One has to know what they believe, and that knowledge will be unifying. We will have to make the Logos Word an active Rhema Word that touches their daily lives, no matter what culture.” (The teacher focus is on the Word.)

The prophet shakes his/her head, “Drawing all men to Jesus is the answer. If people focus on Jesus, their focus on cultural traditions will be diminished. The Holy Spirit speaks all languages, earthly and heavenly, so we must teach all our believers to listen to the Holy Spirit for themselves, He will direct our path.”” (The prophet’s point of view is to spiritually draw near to God and seek His will.)

The believer with an apostolic leaning has been quiet, listening, validating each person’s voice while listening to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, understanding, insight, and guidance. The apostle’s vision is for an united family under the headship of Jesus, but can not attain that unless the other four are “on board” with him. (Networking is the apostle’s passion.) He begins, “I hear us saying Jesus has to be central in this endeavor. He has to be the creator who births this project. Jesus, as a Jew, also reached out to gentiles like the Samaritan woman at the well, and Peter who had to experience the vision that ‘what was unclean is now clean,’ meaning the Church must be inclusive, so how do we get each culture to accept one another in Jesus? Can we trust the Holy Spirit to speak in any language? He did at Pentecost! We may first have to meet around a table, the Lord’s Table, to eat together. There just may be grits, beans, and rice served with our cheeseburgers. The Lord wants us to not only draw near to Him, but also to each other. As we ‘accept’ one another no matter what sex, race, nationality, culture, passion, or point of view, the more ‘receptive’ we will be towards each other.

To my evangelistic brother/sister, I ask, ‘How can we birth this multicultural endeavor?’ To my pastoral shepherd friend, ‘What cultural experiences can we have to break down barriers, then instead of building new structures or barriers, build meaningful relationships between us? How can we build one another up by walking beside each other? Finally what will it take to get us to a point where we are willing to die for one another?’ To my teaching brethren I ask, ‘What will it take to make a Logos Word a multi-cultural Rhema Word, where we are all of the same race because we have been transformed into the image and likeness of Christ?’ To my prophetic friends, I ask, ‘What is the Holy Spirit telling you individually and corporately, so that we may be obedient to His will and His way?’”

 

The Accountability Cycle

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

The five fold accountability circle forces each participant to serve one another while receive from one another. Because it can circulate, no one gifting is top dog, but any of the five may arise to lead when needed with the other four in a supportive role.  The giving and receiving from one another prevents believers from becoming passive and brings life back into the organism.

But the critics cry, “Who’s in charge? Where does the buck stop?" Being in charge to them means someone being “responsible” at the top of the pyramidal structure of leadership. That is not so with the five fold. In the five fold, trusting the “Spirit of Jesus Christ” is mandatory. The five fold will fail if any of the five doesn’t put their trust in the Holy Spirit, for He is in charge.

“Trusting one another” as peer believers in spite of our diversity is compulsory. Instead of arguing over differences, being defensive, becoming aggressively defiant to other Christian sects, the church needs to extend grace, mercy, trust, and acceptance to one another as peers, equals, needed parts of the Body.

In this circle of faith, if you can’t trust your spiritual brother/sister in Christ to your lift or right or across the table, who can you trust? Being one in Jesus as peers is the only way to create unity.

When it comes to leadership, how does this wheel of service work? Isn’t the apostle to be “at the top” as the “overseer”? No! The being an apostle is not a position, title, or an office; no one is “above” the other. The apostle IS NOT an administrator, a management consultant, a C.E.O., a President, or a Chairman of the Board. He is just a peer to other believers who just so happens to have the passion, vision, and point of view to see the big picture of the Church as a whole and the knowledge of its parts and how they work together.  Anyone of the five could “lead” according to how their passion, gifting, or point of view addresses a need or situation that the five together are facing. When another person feels his passion is needed, the wheel can rotate so that they take the lead and the others follow supplementing his work. It doesn’t matter what direction the wheel rotates, so any of the five can rise to lead with the others giving support to meet the current need of the group.

 

The Teacher, Prophet, Apostle Connections

 

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

Let’s examine how the teacher, prophet, and apostle can relate to the five fold to bring maturity to individual Christian growth and unity to the Body of Christ. Strong relationships are reciprocal, so lets see what the teacher, prophet, and apostle can give to the others and receive from them and why they need each other.

Teacher/Prophet: If there was ever two giftings that augment each other it is the teacher and the prophet because they both major in the Word of God, Jesus! The teacher’s passion is to study the written Word, the Logos Word, the Bible, which is foundational to everything he does. The prophet’s passion is to live out this written Word through the Rhema Word, the living word. Jesus, God in human flesh, “lived out the Word” because he was the Word. The question for the ages is how do we, as believers in Jesus, live out the Word? The living out the Word is central to the Jewish faith, but it has become legalistic. Man has failed to live out the Logos Word on his own; he needs the living Rhema Word and the Holy Spirit in order to live it out. The teacher and prophet working together is a powerful tool to help believers in Jesus to grow into a “mature” man in the image of Jesus.

Teacher/Apostle: The teacher and apostle can be a great duo as the teacher grounds the Church in foundational truths and the apostle sees the overall picture. The apostle must prevent the teacher from being legalistic or over zealous in his desire to live out the Word. Ask Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of Pharisee, taught under leading rabbis of his day, a zealous defender of his Jewish faith and the Torah. Only when he embraced both the written Word, the Torah, and experienced the living Word, Jesus, did he qualify to become an apostle for this new Church. Every teacher develops his own personal theology and methodology, but he needs an apostle to bring simplicity to the gospel. The restoration of the Apostle’s Teaching is mandatory to prevent doctrinal sectarianism that divided the church for so long.

Prophet/Apostle: You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21) The believer who sees the Big Picture of the Church as a whole is apostolic, while the believer who yearns to draw nearer to God, who seeks to commune with his God, who listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit is prophetic. What better foundation upon which to build the Church but on the vision of an apostle, the guidance of the Spirit, and Jesus as the cornerstone! The apostolic sees the strength of individual pieces and how they fit together in support and encourage one another. The prophetic hears the voice of God, senses his heart, and always leads himself and others toward Jesus. The two together become foundational.

 

The Shepherd Connection

 

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

Let’s examine how the shepherd can relate to the evangelist, teacher, prophet, and apostle to bring maturity to individual Christian growth and unity to the Body of Christ. Strong relationships are reciprocal, so lets see what the shepherd can give to the others and receive from them and why they need each other.

Shepherd/Teacher: The shepherd and teacher can work hand in hand because their focus is on “maturing” the saint into the image of being a  godly, Christ-like person. This faith journey must be grounded in the Logos Word, the Bible, yet lived out in practical everyday life as a living Rhema Word. Who better to walk out this new life with a shepherd than a teacher? Since “all things are new” when being born again, a teacher is necessary to instill Biblical principals as a foundation. A convert who has a shepherd on one side and a teacher on the other walking with him is a fortunate person. The five fold can offer that!

Shepherd/Prophet: When facing the challenges of everyday life, one can lose focus and be distracted. The shepherd works daily with a a new convert’s spiritual walk, but the prophet keeps one’s focus on God, his Son, Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. The shepherd teaches one to walk with God; the prophet teaches one to hear from God through the voice of the Holy Spirit. The more righteous the walk, the more obedience to the voice is required, the more mature a Christian becomes into the image of Jesus. The shepherd and prophet need one another in their own practical daily walks and spiritual journeys.

Shepherd/Apostle: Even with all the nurturing that you have received, did you ever ask how you “fit” into the picture of your local church or the Church as a whole? As the shepherd works with your development toward becoming a “mature” believer in Jesus, the apostle specializes in networking the pieces together, seeing over what the Holy Spirit is doing in each believer’s personal life and the life of the Church as a whole. As the convert grows, the apostle “sees over” the walk he had with his shepherd and networks him with other teachers and prophets. The apostle doesn’t control the sheep nor tells the shepherd what to do, but he “serves” them to assure the growth of the sheep and the spiritual health of the shepherd.

 

The Evangelist Connection

 

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

Let’s examine how the evangelist can relate to the shepherd, teacher, prophet, and apostle to bring maturity to individual Christian growth and unity to the Body of Christ. Strong relationships are reciprocal, so lets see what the evangelist can give to the others and receive from them and why they need each other.

Evangelist/Shepherd: An evangelist’s strength is in birthing. His passion is for the lost to find their way into the kingdom of God. Nurturing and caring for new converts is his weakness because his passion drives him toward winning the lost. Every evangelist needs a shepherd beside him whose strength is to nurture, guide, care, and “parent” these new converts in their faith journey. Since the sheep may get sick, wonder off, or even die, it is mandatory for the shepherd to be available 24/7 for his sheep. Personally, an evangelist needs a shepherd to speak advice into their own personal life to temper their zeal. The shepherd, on the other hand, needs the evangelist’s zeal to motivate his own life.

Evangelist/Teacher: An evangelist needs a teacher to ground his personal ministry in the Logos Word, the Bible. If it isn’t scriptural, it’s questionable. Also the teacher can make the Logos Word real by making it a Rhema living Word, applicable to everyday life, not just theological. This is to prevent new believers from becoming Pharisees, followers of institutionalized, structural, lifeless religion. Jesus was severely critical of Pharisees. A teacher needs an evangelist to keep his faith fresh, active, and alive. An evangelist needs a teacher to walk with him through his daily faith journey. Their passions are necessary to keep a believer in Jesus a living organism.

Evangelist/Prophet: To prevent legalism, the evangelist needs a prophet whose passion is to draw near to God. Rather than relying on programs and events, the evangelist needs to rely on the Holy Spirit to produce creative, relevant ways to share the gospel to win the lost. Personal prophecy can be an effective evangelistic tool as Jesus demonstrated with the Samaritan woman at the well. Words of wisdom and knowledge can be beneficial to winning the lost.  Since the evangelist majors in birthing, who better to work with than a prophet who majors in the spiritual. Prophetic evangelism could revolutionize the way the Church does ministry.

Evangelist/Apostle: An evangelist has a narrow view of seeing only a lost and dying world that need Jesus. An apostle sees the big picture, the Church as a whole. The apostle sees birthing as only the beginning of a process towards maturity in Jesus, so he directs new converts to the right brothers or sisters to be nurtured, cared, taught, and spiritually guided. An apostle needs an evangelist to birth vision and projects the group as a whole will develop.

 

King Authur, Camelot, and the Five Fold

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

The best way for me to understand the interaction of the five fold is to be a romanticist and travel back to the days of King Arthur and his round table in Camelot. When sitting around the round tables, all the knights were considered as equal, even to Arthur, when united. As long as they were willing to die for one another they remained united and stood strong. As soon as one knight felt strong enough to stand alone and oppose the others, the coalition would crumble into disarray.

That is also the picture of the Church historically who claims to be one body but has had a myriad of disapproving knights who have opposed the rest, bringing disarray and division to the Church. If there is such diversity and strong will among its ranks, how is the Church to keep the bond of peace and its commitment toward one another?

The Five Fold Round Table: ”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 the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of 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 4:12,13,16) The purpose of the five fold is to birth, build, and release a mature man in the image of Christ while uniting the Church. It addresses both individual and the corporate growth of the Church. In the upcoming blogs we will examine how the five can function relationally in practical ways, by supporting, encouraging, and releasing their passions through service to one another while receiving them reciprocally. This is the plan that can effectively draw the five fold into one.