Monday, September 8, 2008

The Fruit, not the Tree....

Since the beginning, the existence of the tree has not been the problem, it's the fruit on the tree that is either tasteful and life-giving, or bitter and poisonous. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it is for those of us that are taught each week from the pulpit, read religious literature and watch televangelists. The Bible does not ask us to debate our religion (we will need to reason with others at times), but to be a witness and proclaim (not browbeat) our fellow man with the Gospel. This Gospel will be accompanied by demonstrations of God's power (Mark 16:17). We can only judge by the fruit using the spirit. I see people judge the church all day long. Listen to Bill Mahr some day, he couldn't be better at pointing out hypocrisy in the church while being sooo very wrong about salvation.

I recently had a good discussion with a long-time friend about a particular minister that claims to be certain things. The core of our discussion was centered around the issue of spiritual gifts. My view of the US church; having been a missionary in Brazil and Norway, is that we don't have a lot of experience, or good teaching surrounding the gifts that God has given believers in the church. And worse, the moment we see something supernatural happen that is outside our personal experience, we scream "don't be deceived." Personal experience is not always theologically sound, but I trust the Lord has demonstrated a few things to you and you went, "ah ha, now I know what that verse means." Or we say that it's "not in the Word." Let me end the, "I must see it in the Word, to validate that it is God" issue. John 20:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Therefore; I am not really concerned about gold fillings, legs growing back from stumps etc. I would assume that Jesus was the vessel for many signs and wonders (that is why they are called wonders, because they are too amazing to comprehend!) that no two were exactly the same. Look at the number of different ways blind people were healed in the Bible.

I think there were some types of wonders that are simply not recorded, but I am sure they happened. We are talking volumes of testimonies! But, some people will desire all the books that we don't have room for.... and then possibly they would never be convinced of the existence of a supernatural God.

The problem as I see it, is in the three lists of gifts in the Bible. Well meaning teachers have been lumping them together for decades if not centuries. They are: Romans 12:6-, 1 Corinthians 12:18- and Ephesians 4:11. God has a very distinct structure for the church. This includes the roles/offices of the apostle, the prophet, the pastor, the evangelist and the teacher, as well as a list of supernatural gifts available to all believers, along with a call to action to serve others using these gifts. When all these gifts are lumped together as co-equal, we will fail to see the intended governmental structure of the church and make it virtually impossible for the average Christian to exercise these gifts!

While stepping on religious preconceptions, the Bible clearly defines a very definite structure for the church. First is apostles (this is present tense, not past), second prophets, and third teachers. Paul also states in another verse, that the apostles and prophets are foundational to the church, while teachers and pastors are essential for discipling new converts brought in by the evangelists. If we can see the church as needing theses 5 roles/offices, not one paid holy man, then we will begin to discern the living, breathing church she was intended to be.

Too many denominational structures just did what the Catholic church did when they embraced Protestantism. I am not saying that structure is bad, but that many churches don't know or care what an apostle is, and couldn't write a Biblical job description for the position. Prophets and prophetic people are often difficult to manage, and lots of folks feel safer without some of the antics that often go along with prophetic ministry. Seeing that so many Charismatic/Pentecostal church-goers can't find a verse illustrating the use of each of the gifts of the Spirit described in 1 Cor 12, I doubt the the average evangelical would be able to recognize someone functioning in one of the 5-fold offices/roles.

Here is my take on all this.
-1 The church is decidedly poorly taught regarding gifts, offices/roles and callings and watered down with the infestation of natural talents trying to emulate the spiritual gifting required to do the work of the "true" church. In other words, the natural has taken the place of the supernatural. Ever wonder why the church is soooo pathetically ineffective? Where it is effective, I am not hearing a lot of theological debates, just plain ole' salvation, healings and miracles. Gifts are available to everyone, yet callings to roles/offices will not be fulfilled by every believer.

-2 The tradition of the pastor controlled church is NOT biblical. John Wimber (Vineyard) was right and wrong when he said, "One man, one vision." As he gained insight into the Spirit he was still perplexed regarding the 5-Fold ministry at the time of his death about 10 years ago. It is one vision, 5 men (or woman), and it may be a prophetic presbytery or evangelical troupe to fill the roles in a local church. That is why chapter 4 in Epehesians talks about unity and equipping the saints along with the structure. The roles are both local and regional. Look at the church today, how are we doing? Where is the fruit of unity?

How did we get here where we are now? The Catholic church took the spiritual leadership positions and naturalized them. Basically, like most denominations they continued to staff the organization in terms of perceived needs, not in terms of Godly wisdom. It's easy to do. Why work on listening to God which is hard, when you can have a good idea and motivate others around it. The problem is this, when people become filled with the Spirit, or have any other spiritual revelation that works for them, they camp out in their denominational tents and look at others as possibly lesser than, poorly taught, or outcasts. You may remember Paul had a lot to say to Peter on this issue!

-3 Churches would rather debate whether there is a comma in the Greek between the word for pastor and teacher or is it a slash? IE: pastor, teacher or pastor/teacher. Why? Because they can't connect with the supernatural. All teachers are not good pastors and all pastors are not good teachers. And the primary purpose of the church is not to get people saved, It is to glorify God and AND preach the Gospel regardless of the number of converts. This requires the Holy Spirit. And if God can use a donkey to bring a message to a leader, he certainly does not need talented people. He needs available, obedient people. And, character is not a requirement for anointing... the gifts and callings are irrevocable regardless of how often one sins. If this were the case we'd all be disqualified. Everyone that fails can't be a false prophet. Being deceived is easy when you don't read the Bible, pray, and have people that you are accountable to!

-4 We had a lot of bad teaching when the anointing hit during the charismatic renewal. Benny Hinn is an example of this. He said, "I am a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, a prophet and an apostle." (At the time is was accepted that the apostolic role was to plant churches and do mission trips.) That is a load of turnips. He is a simply an evangelist with a healing gift. He is a lousy teacher and has been chided about it for decades, a lousy prophet, and doesn't seem to know what an apostle is. And a apparently he was rotten pastor. How do we know? The fruit. Most of his prophecies in the 80's never came to pass. (One or two accurate words of knowledge does not make one a prophet!) Of course he was labeled a false prophet, However; in the biblical sense that is NOT true. A false prophet will accurately predict the future using the power of Satan to gain position, power and prestige in the eyes of the world. When the real false prophets come on the scene they will make Rick Warren look like an amateur when it comes to global acceptance! Flesh is stinky stuff. But the real fruit of Hinn's ministry remains in salvations; most often marked by the witness of physical healing. In the end he is still a man with a bad comb-over, but one with the anointing of God. He also believes in salvation by faith, and a triune God. Now if we could just get him to fess up to the bad character?

-5 Lastly, the package is not always going to fit the American paradigm. How would you feel if your pastor took a group of people to the parking lot to get dirt and add spittle to it for a healing demonstration?

We are a body with all the parts needed-- not one more needed than the other-- why not act like one?

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