"Be Ye Imitators of Christ as dear Children."
ISSUES OF DISCIPLESHIP God
has provided that each believer who is born of the Spirit may grow
in the Spiritual life. Learning Christ, in a general sense is becoming
familiar with God not only through His word but also through His
presence, to gain familiarity with His character and personality.
We, in the process of time partake of His glory and His character.
As it is written, we go from glory to glory (2Corinthians
3:18,)and from faith to faith (Romans 1:17.) We learn to
hearken to the voice of His Spirit and respond accord to the way
we are directed. I call this learning Christ. God's model for learning
Christ is imitation of the first born Son of God, Jesus Christ.
We are to model his manner of thinking, and his manner of acting.
We are to duplicate his interacting with the Heavenly Father and
his Spirit-directed ministry. The first disciples were given a living
model but they were only able duplicate his Spiritual behavior after
they had received the enabling Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
With Christ's life within us, and our egos and wills yielded to
him we asked to become as he was in this world. (John 16:16; 1John
total spiritual inability and helplessness of the natural man or
woman, places huge limits upon him. We can not be the light of the
world if God's light does not burn within us. We can not be witnesses
of his resurrection if we have not been touched by the fiery hand
of God that raised Jesus from the dead who also quickened our own
body and spirit. We can not reflect the goodness of God if he has
not made us good who were once reprobates. We
come in to this world to know God. This is our first calling and
some come and go from this world not having achieved that first
calling. If we are fortunate to have God reveal himself to us then
we press on to the next stage, that of being a functional witness.
It is also unfortunate how many are thwarted in this second stage
predominately by the incomplete or ineffectual teachings of religious
we have noted, the institutional church has either lost sight of,
or failed to actualize the provisions of the New Covenant which
is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Time has eroded true understanding,
and spiritual subterfuge authored by an unrelenting adversary has
come in to subtlety sidetrack our spiritual lives and foster human
understanding instead. I
am not interested in presenting any kind of private methodology
that is contrary to Biblical teaching. What I share here is not
a unique revelation but simply a restatement of the way that was
presented by Jesus to his servants the apostles, in the beginning
of this gospel age. Any
church or teacher (including denominational groups) who are attempting
to mentor or direct others into a spiritual life are under divine
obligation to be accurate. Private interpretation risks wrong doctrine.
Since there is always a danger of deception, it is important that
we proceed cautiously, both as teachers and learners. We are obligated
to discern all things with the wisdom, the help, and guidance of
the Spirit of Truth who is the Holy Spirit.
God has told us
through the Word that we may ask for wisdom and for truth to be
revealed to us. He further instructs us to have confidence in this
asking, knowing that God is willing. God is willing! God is willing
to give good gifts which bring fulfillment and blessings
and not sorrows. When seeking the revelations which are of God,
or from God, it is up to the seeker to be on guard against
deceptions and to discern the true from the false. In asking
for anything from God it is very important to invoke the name of
Jesus Christ. This name is the name above every name and above
every spiritual entity or authority. This name will consecrate or
make pure anything which may transpire. It will guarantee that anything
which will be revealed or imparted spiritually will be free of any
corrupt or deceptive influence. If you ask in the name of Jesus,
the deceiver can not work his way so readily into the workings.
Receiving True Gifts and not Counterfeit Ones Jesus
instructs us about receiving gifts from God, especially the gift
of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us that the God of heaven gives good
gifts and not evil, hurtful or perverted ones. Christ also characterizes
the fact that there are two kinds of gifts which might be tendered,
the true and the false, but God's gifts are good and true. The scripture
is found in Matthew 7:8-11 and in Luke 11:11-13: "For
every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and
to him that knocketh it shall be opened." :8; "Or what man is there
of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" :9;
"Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" :10; "If ye then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how
much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things
to them that ask him?" :11. KJV The
two objects which are sought are bread and fish. God gives things
which are life-giving and safe (bread, and meat.) Luke chapter eleven
restates the same teaching about asking from God the Father but
expands the emphasis, toward the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit is the living gift of God's power and presence: "If
a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will
he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give
him a serpent?"; "Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a
scorpion?" "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts
unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give
the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" -- Luke 11:11-13kjv.
emphasized the word son to emphasize that relationship is the key
to receiving from God. There are a whole lot of different kinds
of seekers; some sincere and some less sincere. If a dabbler negotiates
to receive a spiritual manifestation from God, it is uncertain what
may transpire. But God wishes to emphasize that he is for blessing
His family. He is the giver of Good gifts. Counterfeit
gifts are a peripheral issue. The above reference represents the
fact that there is the possibility of receiving a bad gift.
These kinds of exceptions bear upon the setting and environment
where and with whom the "ministry" occurs and the sincerity of the
hearts who seek the gift. We
have a common enemy, Satan who is always ready to move in to deflect
the gift of God or to substitute a counterfeit. He does not give
good gifts, nor does he give valid revelations. His gifts are not
life giving, they give neither joy, nor health nor liberty. Yet
it is possible that he will try to come in unless you exclude him
from any part of the seeking and asking transaction Satan's gift
is characterized as a stone instead of bread, as a serpent instead
of pure food, something infused with poison instead of food.
Jesus has portrayed
Satan as the deadly counterfeiter who will insinuate himself into
the seekers life subtly and at any opportunity. Forewarned is to
be forearmed; for this reason, it is wise to initiate safeguards
and precautions as I suggested above in order to keep the deceiver
out of your life and out of every spiritual transactions.
There was a time
when our lives were entirely under his (Satan's) control. We may
not think that this was the case but the apostle is very clear about
it. A couple of apostolic letters bring attention to the nature
of the unredeemed life, which includes each and every life before
the renewal In Christ. Paul's
letter to Ephesus, Chapter 2, verses 2 and 3. "Wherein in time
past ye walked according to the course of this world, according
to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh
in the children of disobedience; Among whom also we all had our
conversation (lifestyle) in times past in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by
nature the children of wrath, even as others." KJV Paul's
letter to Collosae, Chapter 1 verse 21. "And you, that were sometimes
(before now) alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works,
yet now hath he reconciled"The apostle contrasts the previous
unredeemed nature our previous lifestyle with the redeemed nature.
In the letter to Corinth, Chapter 1 verses 10 and 11, he lists a
number of these life styles; "-Neither - thieves, - - covetous,
- - drunkards, - - revilers, - - extortionist, shall inherit the
kingdom of God.; And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but
ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord
Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
The Foundation of the Apostles
Every Believer Becomes a Disciple "
Apostles were first disciples. Disciples walked with the
Lord in an intimate way. They learned his ways by first hand observation,
through hearing his word and knowing his voice. The disciples while
they were growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus were also participants
in the work of Jesus' ministry. It was they who announced, 'the
Kingdom of God is at hand." They showed that the Kingdom could
be demonstrated by both the spiritual power and the authority
to impact the afflicted, the oppressed, the poor and the broken
were and are called to be partakers of Jesus Christ's ministry.
Each of us continues to share the same access to Jesus Christ. We
share the same Spirit, we share in the same commission. "For
this reason the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy
the works of the Devil." (1John 3:8) We
aspire to attain to the same unity and inclusiveness as the
original fellowship of disciples. There was no member of the original
circle of disciples who was just like another. Yet, there was a
unique niche for each of those Jesus called.
Each of the first disciples had a divine destiny and an unlimited
opportunity for growing up in the fullness of the Lord. Jesus
chose the original disciples. He singled them out and called them
aside to walk with him and to have a face-to-face relationship with
him. Descriptions indicate that each had attributes which could
label them as plain folks or ordinary people. Some associated
with Jesus more intimately than others. Each disciple had unique
traits and attributes of character; Matthew a worldly businessman,
a publican, a tax collector; Peter a robust, headstrong man who
generally spoke without thinking and was always competing to be
someone; John a warm, compassionate and trusting youth; Nathaniel
innocent and open; Thomas a scientific minded pragmatist who had
to have things proven before he could be persuaded and so on.
The twelve included
men who we might not have chosen, including Judas the deceiver and
betrayer who Jesus also called a robber. Outside of the twelve were
a multitude of other disciples including women who traveled
extensively with Jesus though were not part of the inner group of
It is possible that those who were reasonably close and connected
to Jesus may have been about 500 individuals. The
apostles were men with whom Jesus visited, taught and broke bread.
He also imparted his life and Spirit into them. After he had risen
from the dead, he breathed upon the disciples saying to them, "receive
Holy Breath (Gr. pneuma)." The word breath and spirit are
the same word in the original text. This is the same as to say,
"Receive the Holy Spirit." It was this action which imparted Holy
life within each disciple this afforded, I believe the new heaven
borne experience that we believers today call born again or spiritual
renewal. The eleven and Judas Iscariot's replacement Matthias were
born from above or conceived as a new spirit being at this time.
The apostle Paul (originally Saul) came on board some time later
being called by Jesus for a particular revelation and ministry.
Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish theologian, a Pharisee of the strictest
sect of Judaic fundamentalism of the day. Saul was an intellectual
of supreme discipline and credentials. The zealous Saul, set out
to destroy the disciples of Jesus, persecuting and imprisoning all
who preached Jesus as Messiah and the doctrine of the resurrection
from the dead. Saul was added to the order of discipleship but in
a special way after Christ's resurrection.
How did Saul become a disciple and an apostle? Paul recounted and
retold his account of the encounter several times, but the original
encounter is described in Acts, Chapter 9. God supernaturally intervened
in Saul's life, on a journey to Damascus. His travels were interrupted
by Jesus appearing to him in a brilliant light. Saul was blinded
and knocked him off his horse onto the ground. The voice spoke to
him saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
Paul answered this
voice saying, "Who are you, Lord?" and Jesus replied, "I
am Jesus who you are persecuting." Jesus then gave Saul brief
instructions about who he was to visit to received further ministry
and instruction. Jesus began to tutor a new disciple after this.
Jesus did not give Saul any information that he did not need to
know at that time, but he told him the first thing to do. Paul was
told where to go in Damascus to get further help. God likewise does
not give us more information than we need to get started. He does
list all of the stages of our journey, including both the trials
and the victories. The journey of faith is an hour by hour, day
by day program. The
journey of discipleship begins with a first step forward into a
new life. In the first chapter of his letter to Galatia, Saul who
has been given a new name, Paul, to go along with his new nature,
accounts how he was taken aside and how he began to be instructed
face-to-face, personally by Jesus. For three years in the deserts
of Arabia, Paul learned Christ. being discipled as one "out
of due time a description of his apostolic commissioning found
in 1Corinthians 15:5-10.
The Apostles Doctrine
Why should we place an emphasis on the apostles and the disciples?
Because we wish to be connected to the same authentic and pure doctrine
and the same spirit and the same manifested spiritual life
that was brought forth in the beginning of the "church". It must
breath the same purity, power and the same divine order. The apostolic
teachings have been described as the foundation upon which the house
of God is constructed. We who continue to build the Kingdom of God
must continue building upon the same foundation which is true and
sound. The foundation is the apostle's doctrine. It is based upon
the essentials of the true faith. The "promise of the Father"
a nation of kings and priests through Jesus Christ, designated as
"the firstborn of many brethren."
Understanding the Apostle's Doctrine
The writings of the apostles constitute practical, uncomplicated,
hands-on teaching of how to live a Spiritual life. The Apostles
who wrote in the Bible include Peter, James, John, Paul and Luke
is generally credited with authoring the Book of acts as well as
the Gospel of Luke, Paul is generally credited with writing most
of the other epistles. Theologians
fine tune and over-process questions of authorship and have vain
debates over endless issues of scholarship, but such debates bear
little relevance to living the Spiritual life if we merely accept
the epistles as true.
The apostle Paul has a unique revelation
that speaks to a different audience, the gentile world. What he
calls 'His Gospel,' also explores power of the crucified and resurrected
Jesus. The emphasis in Paul's teaching is directed to the entire
world (the Gentile world.) His resurrection brings to all, not just
the Jews in Jerusalem, the promise of sonship and new life as a
Spiritual Creation in Christ. The original apostles,
including Peter, James and John, focused on the Jews and Israel.
The resurrection denoted the identity of Jesus as the Son of God
and the King of Israel who would eventually restore the Kingdom
to Israel. Jesus as the risen son on God was the corner stone of
both group's gospel message consistent with the revelation of Christ's
grace shared by Peter, James, John or Luke. It is clear however,
that Paul was not taught the Gospel by the apostles in Jerusalem
but given unique revelation and instruction by Jesus personally,
for 3 years after his conversion on the Damascus road.
Christ, True son of God almighty, Virgin born, fulfilling
the Messianic Scriptures of the Old Testament, Christ Jesus,
crucified, resurrected and alive;
Christ, the only mediator between God and man;
Christ the lamb of God;
through the blood of God's Lamb (Jesus Christ) the perfect
new creation in Christ Jesus;
through the Holy Spirit who reveals all truth in Jesus;
Jesus reigns now as the High Priest and intercessor who has
been given authority over all dominion and worlds.
essential doctrine of Faith and Grace in the Word and the
Power of God;
law of the Spirit, has bought us liberty and freedom from
the Law of sin and death;
of all believers; All blood bought believerrs are one in Him,
Unity produces peace and potentiality.
believers must discern matters and maintaining unceasing vigilance
over matters of the common faith;
must continuing to walk in Love and Forgiveness;
and unbelief will be dealt with at the hand of the returning
Jesus in divine judgment before & at His second advent;
culmination of the church age; Is not the end of the world
but concludes when the false prophet and deceiver is revealed
doctrines, false messiah and the period of anti-Christ; Rampaging
ferocity of anti Christ.
against false teachers; Awareness of doctrines of Demons that
take believers into bondage
redemption of Israel as a praise in all of the earth; The
second advent. Israel will be the head of all nations
authority of the believer against spiritual powers; Deliverance
and discerning of the spiritual world
potentiality of the children of God. Widely unknown or untaught
who we are as children of God.
Paul's Insights into the Gospel
an intellectual's intellectual and a theologian's theologian, set
aside his natural credentials when he began to minister the Gospel.
Paul presents some of the most powerful insights into the conflict
of intellectualism and theology. Paul experienced a total turn around
in his life. The features of his traditional achievements were discarded
as were the merits of his classical education. Paul declared that
the things which he once esteemed and considered meritorious were
now no better than "dung". The
Holy Spirit drew a line of division in Paul's life. He clarified
the difference between the fashion of this world and the world of
God. He revealed the matters which pertained to mind and soul and
matters of spirit; the thoughts of the mind versus the
intents of the heart. Vanity
no longer had a place in his life. Personal pride and striving for
status was cast down he was given another job description. A "slave"
It is Paul who addresses two points of doctrine which are at times
in tension or contrast. First the purely Spiritual nature of the
Gospel and the God-connected source of life; and secondly teachings
on leadership, headship and government impacting the long-term course
of this entity called "the church," the body of believers.
have occurred in this respect, that individuals are placed in positions
of leadership and authority who do not have spiritual credentials
but merely human approval. Spiritual enablements allows the kingdom
of God to be manifest according to the apostolic model. Even
in the first years of the church age we hear accounts of men like
the apostles Paul and John struggling with individuals who have
assumed leadership though there motivation were entirely wrong or
their doctrine was corrupt. We hear Paul describe associates who
tried to undermine or destroy his ministry, or who departed because
their hearts turned again to the world; or of the associates who
preach for personal gain; or the associates who wanted to be pre
eminent and gloried in having control over people. (See
1Timothy 1:19,20 1Timothy 4:14)regarding Alexander the Coppersmith;
2Timothy 4:10 regarding Demas; 3John 1:9 regarding the person of
the Apostolic Emphasis In
his first letter to Corinth Paul presses a very important foundation
point in the first two chapters. This particular emphasis stressed
the difference between a Spiritual message contrasted to a conceptual
one. In chapter 1 verse 17 he states that his gospel emphasis is
not based upon words of human wisdom but in power generated from
the cross of Jesus. The cross of crucifixion is where the exchange
of righteousness was made. The cross of crucifixion is where the
sacrifice was made. The cross of crucifixion is where God paid the
price in blood for every sinner. This
doctrine of the cross does not end with a man's death but with a
divinely-powered resurrection. Thus the doctrine that Paul speaks
of includes the death and the resurrection of Jesus. It was Jesus
who was crucified, dead, buried and resurrected. The holiday we
call Easter concludes three Jewish Festivals; Passover, Unleavened
bread and First Fruits speaks of the resurrection. As Jesus became
the first fruits of those who have died. (1Cor.15-2) It is
truly unfortunate that so few Christians understand the Jewish
roots of Christianity, including the fact that Yeshua and most
all of the first disciples and apostles were Jews. Jesus (Yeshua)
rose from the dead, ascended on high, took captivity captive,
and gave gifts to the human race. Paul's
statement of the cross does not address sorrow or loss, it addresses
rather, victory, effulgence and power. The resurrection speaks of
the power of an endless life. It speaks about the Father's
plan to extend grace and peace to every man, woman and child. It
speaks about the ability to become a new creation in Christ.
God Versus Human Wisdom Paul
going on in his first letter to Corinth, introduces the theme of
"wisdom." Paul contrasts human wisdom to divine wisdom. He explains
that man who deems himself wise through reasoning, can't accept
the wisdom of God. God's wisdom is framed in paradoxes and conundrums.
For example the paradox of the least being the greatest; the weak
being the strong; the first being last; the wise being foolish;
the living being dead; the dead being awakened to live. If
these concepts make any sense to you, perhaps God has already opened
your eyes in a very significant way. God framed truth in such a
way that when they are articulated sound preposterous, unbelievable
and irrational. The
world says, "Be someone, do your own thing, express your individuality."
God says, "Decrease to yourself, take your cross and let the outward
"you" be crucified so that the Divine (Christ) can have effective
sanctuary and expression in you. The
scientific mind requires proof. The eye measures and discerns the
things which we call real or reality. Yet Christians are entreated
to disregard outward manifestations, the outward world. Neither
is the mind the highest organ to lead and direct, children of
God are led by the Spirit, not by acting purely out of reason.
The truth is not determined according to science and rationality.
God requires faith on our part. Paul,
again in the same letter speaks to the matter of making Spiritual
realities manifest, "I did not come teaching and preaching with
enticing words of man's wisdom but with demonstration of the Spirit
and of power that your faith should not stand upon man's wisdom
but upon the power of God. (1Corinthians 2:4,5) The
Spiritual life first begins to manifest, because of the grace of
God and secondarily by acting in faith. The gospel states with respect
to the Kingdom of God that we are all pressing into it. (Luke
16:16) The Lord stands at the door knocking, the action of faith
opens that door to him. Again, grace is the initiatory cause, it
is God's hand in matters concerning our life, stirring, directing
and empowering. Grace is the hand of God outstretched to us, beckoning;
he bids us to come forth. We respond to him and we press in to the
world of Spiritual life that awaits. The
hand of grace is outstretched in love. Grace speaks of loving kindness,
compassion and giving. This love is caring and constructive in nature.
Love builds the bonds of faith and defines the character and the
parameters of the spiritual life. It
is not knowledge that defines the spiritual life although there
is a knowledge component. Scripture reminds us that knowledge ultimately
has the affect of "puffing up" our egos. There is an adverse relationship
to our character when knowledge becomes pre eminent in our orientation
to God. We will always find "knowledge" being closely linked to
"religious systems". It is a realm defined by expertise and expertise
is usually defined by knowledge.
How much do we have to
before we become Spiritual? I began
to describe the Apostle's doctrine by mentioning doctrinal content,
followed by emphasizing the power (Gk. dunamis) that God
provides, through his Spirit, to empower our lives and relationships.
The attribute of
spiritual relationships may lie closer to the center of Spirituality
than any other factor. The apostle's doctrine has fellowship and
relationship within the very heart of it. Here is a glimpse into
the New Testament church of the Book of Acts, "They continued
steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and breaking
of bread, and with prayer." (Acts, Chapter 2:42) The
apostles who knew the way of God fully through first hand experience
were to guide the novices into the same area of common experience;
the community expands, the Kingdom of God is entered by more and
more converts. A community is being built and stands in the midst
of a world of unbelief, carnality, and unrighteousness. God calls
us into a family-like community in which God is not only glorified
but in which God continuously interacts with the community.
True fellowship is what this community is about. There is a sense
of family, it is characterized by the joy of redemption (salvation,
the first step in pressing into this community.) This intimate fellowship
of believers is the closest thing to heaven God has for us on earth.
We share a common mind, a common testimony, a common hope. We are
baptized into one Spirit and into a common destiny. This community
is redemptive owing to the fact that the smoke and tarnish of this
world can not endure in the presence of the Living God, neither
can the things which defile the flesh stand in his presence.
We come together
in this community of faith where we find restoration, strength and
edification. We come together in fellowship to repair the bumps,
bruises, and blemishes that life in this world inflicts upon those
who are "not of this world."
and Ministry as it Pertains to Community We
have been conditioned by a religious world to go to church
to receive ministry. After all, the church is where the minister
is. I believe this is a viewpoint which needs to be reexamined in
light of true fellowship and the question of what true ministry
ought to be. Those to whom church is a place to be
ministered to, are still conditioned to think in terms of priest
(clergy) and laity. In this model which has been the tradition for
the past 17 hundred years, we are taught that we need someone else
to do our spiritual work for us. We come to the priest; we have
him pray for us, teach us, bless us, absolve us. We presume that
ministry is what happens in a church (fellowship,) and this kind
of ministry is some kind of a "Band-Aid" to help us salve the current
believe there is an alternative, apostolic way of viewing the community
of fellowship. It is the notion of coming to a place of restoration
and strengthening; some have called this a "spiritual filling station."
In this setting of fellowship there is rest, repose, and encouragement.
There are occasions for teaching but the manner of teaching need
not be formalistic. Those who know and who have experience victory
in one kind of challenge or another, are able to share and encourage
others with less knowledge or experience. Edification can occur
without formalized, programmatic services. There is sharing of food
and the life of God. Spiritual
fellowship provides a redemptive community in which the bond of
fellowship is not the bond of obligation but of the heart. Love
is true and not an affectation. This kind of fellowship is far less
structured, yet there is common motivation which guides everyone
to seek first the things which are from God. God is purposely the
focus and reason for being of all of the people who gather. God
is not necessarily first in the lives of many, but in the right
community this will change. I do not see this kind
of fellowship either taught, practiced or encouraged within the
institutional church. Those who come to church for a formalistic
program come in unsatisfied and they leave unsatisfied. They come
feeling estranged or alienated from God and they leave feeling just
as far from him. They can however, pretend to be listening while
they sleep; or they can pretend to be praying while they dream of
their next adventure with the girl at the office or the guy at the
club. The actions of formal ministry can not touch the heart of
those who need to have a spiritual heart transplant.
To summarize: Learning Christ according to the Apostles Doctrine
requires that we:
spiritually renewed by faith in Jesus Christ
the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
your mind by studying scripture
personal fellowship of God
the fellowship of God's family - - where your loved and
those who have mature spirituality
in faith, (the knowledge that God cares for us in our present
to others, the same gifts and wholeness that we have received
How Much Do We Have to Learn Before We Become Spiritual?
Mentors and Ministries
Part of the
spiritual life is to make a connection with those who can supply
valuable connections. The joints are connections to individuals
in the body of Christ. Fellowship supplies input to areas of knowledge
which will be encouraging, and edifying. When
we are born into the kingdom, we must move forward or we will
retrograde back to the old life in the world. Here according to
most voices of ministry is where one would be encouraged to get
connected to a "good" church. This should be a simple fact but
it is not. There are few church bodies of believers who hold more
than a traditional evangelical viewpoint. Most are adhering to
forms and traditions as well as doctrines which do not advance
the Spiritual life to a significant level of maturity. Once in
a church you are expected to "play by their rules." My best advice
is to search for the church and set your sights on particular
features which will allow you to be discipled and grow not in
tradition but in spirituality. If one does provide "life" move
on until you sense that it is where God would have you. In the
mean time find a home fellowship where you can grow with others
in an informal setting. God does not discriminate against home
meetings. They are apostolic! It is how the "Church" began.
If is obvious
that formalized Christian ministry is everywhere in one form or
another. As I have already described a vast majority of these
churches or ministries are a manifestation of institutional and
traditional religion in which the expectation is at best conformity
to the norms of a Saturday or a Sunday ritual. Most offer no more
than comfortable routine or ritual and little hope of gaining
spiritual knowledge and understanding. Neither can they prepare
us to fulfill Christ's gospel in the world. Most
churches, which are struggling to maintain membership, interest,
or involvement, are extremely jealous of their members going astray
or getting involved with meetings or activities which are not
sponsored by their own fellowship. There was a time when such
unfaithfulness could be met by excommunication, but today the
usual rebukes from the pulpit are just admonitions or doctrines
created out of hand which indicate an obligation to support the
local body. Yet it would seem to be close to a cardinal sin to
consider "church hopping" or being active in any outreaches from
other congregations. This is, in effect the fruit of division
which institutional religion enforces.
The Electronic Church There
are many other kinds of ministries that may be accessible to us.
Among these are media ministries. Men or women who have some special
gift of teaching or evangelism or certain personal charismas
have been able to share their spiritual understandings and insights
with any who will watch or listen. If we appreciate the content
of a given message we write to them or request their tape series
or perhaps, we think that they have enough clout with God to pray
for our special needs. These
ministries, sometimes called the "electronic churches"
are not always highly regarded by pulpit ministries.
We hear all kinds of castigation directed toward the names of
such ministries, whether Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuler,
Benny Hinn or countless others who fill the airwaves of radio
and television and short wave broadcast channels. In
view of practical matters of church survival and management, local
preachers and church leaders need to maintain membership and viability.
'Grandma Smith' might write a check to a radio or television evangelist
and forego giving her five dollar donation to the church collection
plate. A pastor might make the following remark to parishioners,
"Grandma Smith, if you want to support Reverend So and So on TV
maybe you should call them when you need a trip to the doctor;
or need someone to pray for you when you are sick; or have them
officiate your funeral."
What has the Electronic Church ministry to offer? In some cases
they be offer better teaching or preaching than some tradition-bound
churches where so many to languish in their pews around the world?
Televangelists usually have some unique strengths and certainly
the ability to preach and persuade. There are important matters
to consider in choosing any ministry to support whether remote
However, they do subsist on donations from listeners which at
times becomes problematic.
How may media ministries provide value and features that provide
Let's look at some attributes of ministry:
and most importantly is the message; Do we hear the correct
gospel being taught?
How much of the appeal of this ministry is performance and dazzling
rhetoric which attracts us and how much is a sense of devotion
to the truth of the Gospel?
Does the minister seem to model Jesus Christ? The best mode
of discerning a minister or a ministry is to imagine Jesus behaving
and saying the things as the evangelist or teacher.
devotion and reverence modeled and portrayed?
the person try to draw attention to themselves through colorful
he seem preoccupied with authority and followings?
the leader indicate as we listen to his messages that he wants
influence, control, or worship?
there seem to be more of emphasis on one aspect of the Gospel
it a Gospel of power and wholeness or just continually underscoring
it a Gospel in which we can become partakers of God's life or
are we blessed because of our supporting the "Super Ministry
of Brother X?" There
are some media evangelists who I listen to and support because
they have helped to mentor me in understanding the Word of God.
I support them because they teach the full Gospel message, (more
or less) and believe in the potentialities of becoming children
of God, partaking in His Divinity. They teach what we should
be taught in the local fellowship or church but are not.
need to practice discernment and note any inconsistencies in
doctrine which place the teaching outside of norms of the Gospel
of Jesus Christ. The Apostles Creed is recited by many
denominations in the context of a worship service, but in spite
of this, the content of the Apostle's Creed may hardly be addressed
in teaching and preaching in sermons. Based upon denominations
which I have belonged to or visited before and after I became
a believer, unbelief and spiritual deadness till characterize
most of the churches today even those who recite the Credo!
When a brilliant preacher or evangelist proves his (her) ability
to move and edify people they begin to develop a following. People
follow spiritual anointings. They follow men or women who have
demonstrated their abilities to impact the lives of others.
The largest churches
today grow around the giftings of a single person. People are
searching for a greater revelation of God. When they see God using
an individual they naturally are attracted to that person. Nearly
every Christian I know has a natural desire to be in the presence
of "anointed" preaching. Mega-churches are built around mega-men.
I believe there are in America today well over a hundred such
mega-churches. I have attended a few and have seen others via
telecasts and cable networks.
Positives Associated with Mega-Ministries
There are both
negatives and positives in following this kind of ministry. A
few positives: God
shows favor to his servant by anointing him (her) just as God
anointed Jesus and the Apostles for ministry. God's
favor indicates his approval to bring forth a particular gift
or understanding to the body. God's approval indicates that he
foreknows that many will be touched and blessed by this individual.
God allows a
such a man or woman with special abilities to reach more people
with a Gospel message they would ordinarily hear or be exposed
are born again through the media ministers.
Negatives Associated with Mega-Ministries The
gifted minister may be persuasive or charismatic in purely human
terms, without necessarily walking in a divine anointing.
The media evangelist
may be preaching a partial or flawed gospel, a non Christian gospel
or simply traditionalism. There
is no way for the novice seeker to know whether this person teaches
true doctrine or not except by natural reasoning or mental judgment.
There is a temptation
for the minister to become puffed up in mind and think himself
to be great. There
is a tendency to focus on money and power. Though
there may be concepts, doctrines and information imparted there
is a serious limitation for immediate fellowship. To deal with
this home fellowships or satellite congregations are set up to
allow blessings of human interaction and loving community.
any ministry need intimacy and a human touch. It is not good
for man to be alone. Ultimately
the spiritual life is more than the acquisition of information
Those who attend
services in a mega church are committed to be audience or onlookers.
This is a terrible loss and limitation.
But the most serious limitation is that individual believers
are never really trusted or free to lead when they have achieved
revelation or status in God's eyes. Typically, they are told that
they must be submitted to a greater ministerial authority who
An Impression of Mega-churches I
have attended worship services in several 'average size' mega-churches
with bodies in attendance numbering 2 or 3 thousand. Some great
churches have numbers approaching 10 thousand and those with 10
thousand that aspire to 50 thousand. While
there may be brilliant teaching and preaching and outstanding
musical worship, performance; one could not help but feel that
those in attendance came mainly to view the show or to hear the
inspired address of the mega-minister. What I saw was an enterprise
in which each person was committed to make the mega-church even
more of a mega-church. Something
was missing. There was little or no contact between the "pastor"
and the individual members. Individuals may have known and recognized
a handful of people in the auditorium but they did not seek each
other out for closeness, sharing, breaking of bread or lingering
in the afterglow of God's presence. It seemed that the super Christians
who were attending the super church quickly rushed home to resume
life in whatever form life that awaited outside of church.
If the members who number thousands each give their tithe religiously,
one can only imagine the amount of revenue that affords luxury
and resources of a personal and ministerial nature.
What is the Glorious Church? The Roman Catholic empire
numbers in tens of millions. Is this the glorious church?
The issue of a glorious church may well be addressed in the context
of the mega-church. There is evidence that many ministries of
mega-churches teach an emphasis of the gospel that introduces
the concept of a "glorious church." Will the church function as
a dynamic economic and political force in the earth as well as
a moral power to renovate society as well? For those who judge
on externals this may appear to be the case but God does not regard
externals. How can the size of a building or the number of people
attending a mass or a service have any bearing on Godly glory?
Glorious must bear more on the quality of the heart and the sincerity
and earnestness that allows the love of God to be shared.
the doctrine of Kingdom Theology. In secular societies, Christians
have been regarded as the bane of society because of their conservative
and fundamental viewpoints but quite the opposite is true. The
true Spirit of Christianity is compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.
Moral precepts include personal honor and righteousness, integrity
and responsibility; kindness, mutual support and family stability.
the world does not like to recognize sin and unrighteous behavior
as anything other than a "choice," Christians see that we humans
all share alike, having a need for a redeemer along
with the essential need of being hopelessly lost until God extends
mercy upon our lives. In
recent decades, Christians were too long absent and silenced from
the counsel of social values and political ideas. In the present
hour it is surely appropriate for those who have so much cause
to rejoice and give voice to the life-changing testimony in the
arena of public opinion. Men and women of integrity need to stand
up publicly and politically and exercise their rights on behalf
of issues of righteousness.
Yet, I believe that ultimately the glorious church does not extend
to exert itself in empire or political power. Why? The spiritual
life is essentially a non secular and a non materialistic life.
Social or political activism may be a Godly calling in some. Those
who follow a leading to become apologists for social and political
issues it should be presumed have their own foundations in correct
doctrine and not equate activism with the gospel. The emphasis
of the Christian life can not be focused too strongly upon the
things which are social, political, or economic at the expense
of Spiritual relationships. These are not lines that I draw, but
lines that the Holy Spirit has drawn. These parameters have been
in place since Jesus spoke these words, "My kingdom is not of
this world," and "You are not of the world." (John 18:36; John
nature and operation of the world is contrary to God's ways and
I do not look for this situation to change until Jesus returns
to set up an unending righteous Kingdom. Just how far into the
future this event will occur is open to debate, there have been
hundreds of book titles addressing it but the Bible itself has
"sealed up" many of the answers and insights into the "second
coming" of Jesus Christ. This is another area of scholarship.
Does this "glory" refer to the size, influence and authority of
mega-church to rule upon the earth; does glory refer walking in
the knowledge of truth; does it refer to all of the above or none
of the above? Is it possible that the glorious church refers to
the whole body has among it the faithful remnant who somehow remains
separate, pure and faithful in the middle of a reprobate generation
of spiritual pretenders and flaccid, Luke warm church goers?
Church as empire
is not an new idea. It was in fact the goal of the early church
since Constantine's day, both in Rome and in Constantinople, where
power, influence, authority and might married the political and
the religious. For a time church membership and theological belief
was forced upon the whole world. A person was then a Christian
because of political decree and not by the grace of God and such
ordinances do nothing to enhance the life and promises of the
such an empire men were exalted who held the power of life and
death over others; who acted as spiritual judges over others;
who were mediators between God and man and who rewarded themselves
with worldly luxuries while being exalted to the point of worship
in their offices.
Meanwhile, certain men lust for power, clamoring for recognition
and striving to achieve self exaltation. They lift and promote
their own names as someone great, "as the great power of God."
Acts 8:10) No, I do not think this is the Glorious church. The
true glory remains shrouded with humility. This cloud of glory
can only be penetrated with meekness, self-effacement and kindly
service. Success which comes from such is contrary to the apostolic
foundations of the Gospel which we need to follow.
the Sake of the Gospel If
you want to experience anger, dissonance, or heated theological
debate this is the topic to broach. Giving is the bread and butter
of ministry. It is support for a man and his message. It is the
financing of the Gospel to world. It is the support of both the
local church missionary outreaches. Because men and women go forth
with good intentions and have devoted a large part of their lives
to preparing for "ministry" they proceed believing that they are
now prepared to live by the Gospel. "The Lord hath ordained
that those preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel."
Professional Ministry The
concept of the clergy, professional ministry is a well establish
and unquestioned paradigm. (See
the power of paradigms.) The concept of Ministry has
been traditionally connected to career or occupation. The concept
of clergy as a professional career extends into the dim past of
Chrisendom. The traditional church operates in accord with, and
is enabled because of the professional clergy concept.
The question of institutionally accredited, "professional ministry"
appointed to churches and church giving is something that I believe
each of us has to examine in light of Scripture and draw our best
personal conclusion in the light of the Word. It is not my desire
to subvert a system that you may believe in for your own best
reasons, but rather to encourage each person to strive to know
God as fully as possible and to experience the potential of Christ's
Gospel, even if it means setting aside certain long held traditions.
should support the Kingdom of God as we judge it to be
best expressed. We need to see the life of God as a Divine
promise and a human potentiality. We need to see ministers bringing
others into this potentiality. Once that criterion is met, we
can go on to other matters concerning Giving. It
is not my desire to subvert a system that you may believe in for
your own best reasons, but rather to encourage each person
to strive to know God as fully as possible and to experience
the potential written of in the Gospel, even if it means setting
aside certain long- held traditions. Every
person should support the Kingdom of God as we see it best expressed.
We need to see the life of God as a potentiality and the people
who minister bringing others into it. Once that criterion is met,
we can go on to other matters concerning Giving.
Giving: Giving is Blessed by God There
should be no laws (rules) for giving in the Kingdom of God. God
has set us free from rules including rules about giving. Giving
is good. Giving supports the man of God and also supports people
who are not necessarily "ministers" of churches but who God wishes
to bless through us. Various kinds of worldly commitments which
touch upon the Kingdom of God need support, whether it be church
buildings, outreach expenses, travel or any of a wide variety
of needs which can only be met by others sharing the cost. God
wants his will to be done through selfless sharing and contributions
of money resources. Yet we need to be able to hear God leading
us in these gifts so that it is truly a work of God for the Gospel
sake and not just another good sound cause or charity.
principles identified on the pages of the Bible shed light on
the subject of giving.
It is more blessed to Give than to receive
Give and it shall be given unto you
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven
Those who give to the poor lend to God
The Tithe is the Lord's - (Old covenant
In the measure you give it shall be
given to you
Sow sparingly, reap sparing
Give to the poor, and you shall have
treasure in heaven
Give as you purpose in your heart, Let
no one give out of obligation
God loves a cheerful giver
The above scriptures are a few of many references to money and
giving as introduced in the Bible. When we become more spiritual
when are able to discern that God wants us to give to special
ministries or to special servants of God. But we would miss God
will if we only gave to ministry professionals and not to individuals
and especially the poor. God love is about giving. Ministry is
about sharing. Koinonia is also about mutual support. This whole
world thrives in the light of a generous heart. "God so loved
the world that he gave -" "God so loved the world that
he gave -"
Christians who have a reborn or redeemed nature do not resist
giving and sharing. The unredeemed do not want to let go of anything.
The world thinks that their well being and survival are threatened
by releasing necessary assets and resources. Believers know that
when they give they are really investing in returns that are certain
to come back to them, either now or later.
The Tithe The
doctrine of the tithe (a tenth of one's increase) is taught in churches
often not just as a principle but as an obligation. Very few congregations
actually enforce the giving of tithes by recording all receipts
and maintaining scrupulous records of the income although some come
very close to this. Mostly what we hear is teaching which explains
that tithing is a practice pre-dating the Christian era and the
era of law. We find Abraham tithing before the era of law in the
Book of Genesis. Thus with Abraham giving to Melchisedek we have
a type of giving which all Christians should wish to embrace.
The Book of Malachi
supplies the greatest picture of God's displeasure at those who
withhold the tithe. God calls it robbing Him. "The Tithe is mine,"
says the Lord, therefore to withhold it is to rob him. Malachi
describes the "storehouse" where we are supposed to bring our tithe
to God. Pastors love to teach that the storehouse is the local church,
where all of the sheep are fed. This model has some problems associated
with it, as follows:
his presence manifested?
His Word being taught?
the Spiritual life a reality and accessible?
the needs of the poor and needy being met?
important voices for the Kingdom of God being supported who
also edify us individually?
storehouse is associated with a view of the Levitical priesthood
which existed in early Israel.The Levites were the tribe chosen
to minister to the house of Israel. It was only the Tribe of Levi
(Levites) who were the designated priesthood, This tribe, had no
other source of livelihood and were sustained by the rest of the
tribes of Israel.
With the ascension of Jesus Christ into the heavenly temple of God
it is my belief that the nature of the storehouse has changed
as radically as the priesthood. The people of God are not
fed by natural bread today nor by the lambs and oxen of sacrifices
once given up to the Levites. Now we are a new priesthood before
God; we give spiritual sacrifices unto Christ who is now King and
High Priest over all. (Read
Hebrews which explains the transition from the old covenant to the
what place do these blessings flow? From a heavenly place. Unto
whom are our sacrifices given? To God in heaven. What is the sacrifice?
It is the sacrifice of our lips; both praise and thanks giving.
Who is the accountant who watches over our gifts and measures a
blessing today and in the time to come? It is Jesus The Great High
Priest who accounts for those things given in his name, whether
money in a church collection plate or food to a hungry child, or
a visit to an invalid or a drink to a thirsty man, or a visit to
a person sick and alone in a hospital.
God sees every act done and the motive of every heart in which that
gift is bestowed. God loves a cheerful giver. The motive of the
heart touches faith. We know that Jesus sees our love and kindness
to another in need. Giving as one giving to God that is faith. We
know that he will also meet any of our needs in a time of lack because
we did not withhold to others. We
do not give out of obligation. We are not debtors to the law. We
are free to give because God is a giver. Giving is sowing seeds.
We sow bounteously we expect to reap bounteously. We expect something
to come from our planting. Sower of seeds also believe in the crop
which will come at harvest time. This is surely a part of giving
to the Kingdom of God. God will meet our needs at a future time
because we have planted. God stores up treasure for another day
in a heavenly place, because we have given.
Tithing as Worship
The giving of tithes
is not just a simple token gift placed in an offering plate or bag.
Tithing in the scriptural sense relates to act of worship in presenting
the "tithe" to God. We find the act described in Deuteronomy
"Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest
from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy
God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt
blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt
not forget it."
"And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the
LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possesses it, and
dwellest therein;" (- 26:1-) "That
thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which
thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee,
and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which
the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there." (- Deuteronomy
Note this is during the dispensation of The LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD
Now regarding this worship as tithing, it is not my desire that
you should memorize it and recite it a rite though awareness of
the noted text is quite meaningful. The giving of the tithe should
be something which touches our own understanding of our previous
"captivity" and God's hand at work to take us out of that place
of bondage and oppression, want and sorrow. The spiritual life acknowledges
that we were also taken out of bondage. It is a faithful saying
which needs to be spoken. Notice that all of this tithing worship
is spoken to God in the place which has His name written upon it.
Today we are redeemed and the house of God is not a special place
it is the human house where the spirit resides. The
tithing worship reminds us of God's covenant with us and how he
is taking further towards strength, blessing and victorious living.
Speaking these things tells God that we know what he has done for
us and that we are truly thankful that he knows and remembers us
each and that he will continue to be with us supplying good things.
The Prosperity Message
several years has seen a great emphasis on the Prosperity message.
Poverty and lack are seen as a curse throughout scripture. God does
want us unprosperous. The redemption from the curse of the law also
freed us want and lack. We believe that "God shall supply all of
our needs according to his riches in Glory by Christ Jesus." In
gauging any matter of doctrine we have to hold it up not only to
common sense and scripture but to discerning what the spiritual
life needs to be. Though
we should not lack nor want, God wants more of us and not less of
us. Therefore anything which takes our focus away from God and places
it upon unfruitful things, those things which only decay, is really
a stumbling block for a believer. Those who preach riches and wealth
are leading people away from intimacy unless they are able to handle
wealth and prosperity more graciously than I. Many are able to assume
possessions of wealth and money and property without being seduced
away from God's presence. But sometimes the aware of the futility
and the emptiness of wealth comes too late when are already victimized
by excesses, this was the case of the writer of Ecclesiastes, Solomon
who realized late in life that with wealth comes other griefs and
spareness of the soul. Gain
is not Godliness, the apostle writes in 1Timothy 6:5, withdraw yourselves
from such doctrines. but Godliness with contentment is great
gain, (1Timothy 6:6) God wishes to supply our needs, to bless
us in our going out and our coming in to make us fruitful in body
and in all of the pursuits of our life. (Deuteronomy 28:3-6)
doctrine of prosperity has blessing connected to it to be
sure; but the negative side of it is its link to selfish motives
both in the giver and the receiver. Many who preach the prosperity
message are in a position to directly benefit by the unrestrained
giving that is encouraged in sermons and in seminars. Some of those
who preach the doctrine exceed the Word of God by suggesting that
gifts given to their own ministries have the greatest return connected
to them. Of course faith is infused into the process to insure a
greater degree of return, thirty, sixty or one hundred fold according
to scripture as is described and taught as a consequence of giving.
is greater insight in the 30, 60 and hundred fold metaphor than
mere cash and assets. The prospering of the soul is accounted above
all, in Spiritual richness.) Giving,
according to Jesus, should not be in the manner of the Pharisees
who "sound a trumpet" to give notice that they are doing an alms
deed. Jesus teaches to give in secret and for the left hand not
to see what the right hand does. All of these teachings address
anonymous giving rather than a public display in which people are
applauding the giver for his excellent generosity. The Lord says
of such people, they receive their reward by the act of receiving
public acclaim and applause. It is far better to give when only
the Father who sees in secret knows. He will be the one who insures
a return in the best possible time. Any
man or woman can give or contribute in any 'kind' or commodity.
One can give a gift of service another a gift of a song. Another
a gift of kindness. The same principle applies when the motive is
right, God who is the author and overseer of every good and perfect
gift knows when our giving is free from self exaltation. He will
insure the return.
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