Thursday, April 16, 2009

5 Pillars - A Stable and Growing Church (Part 1 of 7)

When your car is making a funny noise, or not performing as expected, you take it to someone that can repair it. When you are not feeling well, you go to a doctor to see if there is something they can do to heal your body. When you are in emotional pain, you might see a therapist or counselor. When your house has termites, you call the exterminator. Barring supernatural intervention, most folks in church are smart enough to know when something is wrong.

The question, what do you do when your church is has no passion, every new vision seems to be the same old thing, every sermon is one that you've already heard, and you have 800 pseudo invitations to dinner, but never get a date and time? Like most Christians, you go to another church, meet a few hopeful friends and start the cycle of disappointment all over again.

Have you sat down to think about why this is happening over and over again? Do you blame yourself for not pressing in, the pastor for not caring, or some other excuse as to why there is little in the way of power, love, invigorating teaching, or intimacy with Jesus?

May I suggest this? Many churches subscribe to traditional church structures that are more corporate (business) like, than biblical. Trust me, if all was well in Church Land, I'd suggest not changing anything. I am firm believer in, "if it works, don't fix it. And if it's broke, shoot it twice!" Honestly, if you are happy with a car that has one tire, or a broom with no handle, then you can stop reading here. Don't you believe that God has more for you? More for your church?

Today, I am drawing a line in the sand. For just over ten years I have been pondering this verse. Ephesians 4:11 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."

My church background is varied, but it includes years in Baptist, Anglican, Charismatic, and Pentecostal churches. I have also attended services in the Church of God, Word of Faith, Congregational, Roman Catholic, Full Gospel and a host of independent denominations (which I would group in either Charismatic or Pentecostal like experiences). What I have not seen is a fully function leadership team that included the 5-Fold ministry gifts, sometimes called the ascension gifts. What I have seen is arguments over the gifts of the Spirit, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, whether the deacon board should vote or cast lots, whether woman can teach or be elders, and I have also heard that lobsters are the cockroach of the sea (see Jewish dietary laws for an explanation.)

I have studied church history and revival quite extensively, and in a nutshell, here is what I think happened. In the first century church there was great power from On High. So great that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying about their contributions to the offering plate. Just think about that for one minute. You lie about something you did, or didn't do in church, and your smote right in the restroom.

The 5-Fold gifts were in action, but until Paul wrote about them, there were not really defined (understood). Most folks were Jews and eventually the Gentiles got in on the salvation deal. People brought all kinds pagan and current religious ideas to "church." That is why Paul wrote them letters, known as Epistles. He was instructing them on the way that the Holy Spirit would change them, while challenging them in their own ideas.

Men being men, tried to gain power and position, and the result? The intensity of the New Testament church waned. Instead of rekindling the fire through prayer and repentance, they just got more religious-- like the the Pharisees had been in the time of Jesus. By the third century they had church buildings, and the equipping structure (ascension gifts) of the church started to fail spiritually. The early apostolic movement (gospel spreading/church planting), became nation building followed by the Crusades. Prophets virtually ceased to exist. The role of the evangelist was taken over by "being born into faith," not "born again by faith."

Finally, all that was left was the Pope, the cardinals (elders) and the local pastor who submitted to Rome. His role was more that of an administrator of the local church then a caregiver for the flock. Teaching came from Rome, and no one questioned it really-- well until Martin Luther. People were split over all of this, but many found a true salvation. Since the time of Martin Luther, we've had many revivals in different counties.

I often think of Paul as a somewhat of a music theorist, except that he was a student of the wonders of the New Covenant (Kingdom). Bach didn't know music theory per se, what he did was write music that sounded good to him. Some time later, after his gift was well recognized, folks sat down to analyze what it was that he was doing in this amazing music. Paul did something similar. He saw what God was doing, heard His voice, saw His wonders, and prayed and brooded over the things of the Spirit. Then he wrote them down. He challenged the worldviews of the day, while chronicling for all ages, the will, the heart, and the wisdom of God Almighty.

So what's wrong with the church? Except for some remote areas, the power of God is more talk then action. All around the world church folks are religious, denying the power of God, snipping out chunks of the Bible, to suit their own ideas and personal logic.

I don't have all the answers but, I believe the Bible. So where are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? Paul said that the prophets and the apostles were foundational to the church with only Christ, the cornerstone more important. You can read it in Greek, and read every commentary on earth, but the word is true. I believe it, do you?

When we look at the myriad of problems in the church, over a long period of time, you've got to agree there is something is wrong!

I'd be interested in your comments. Over the next few weeks, look for a short series on what does the 5-Fold look like in the New Testament church.



eaglegirl said...

I, like you have been to a large variety of churches over the years, having lived in three different states.
And yes there is a problem with the church and probably always will be.
Perhaps in a nutshell the problem from what I have experienced is balance.
In the churches that at least claim to believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit I have seen an imbalance.
Some fear going overboard and don't want people 'hanging off the chandeliers' or 'rolling in the aisles'. So,they do not talk or teach much about it. So, there is not much power there.
Then there are those who seem to go above and way beyond. I think this type may cause the most damage.
It can seemingly appear to be a competition of sorts as to who has had the most 'super'-supernatural experiences.
I am in love with the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit and have been blessed to experience Him in several different ways at different times.
But there can be too much emphasis put on this area. You can almost feel in some churches that there is something wrong with you if you don't 'fall down in the Spirit' when being prayed for.
And an emphasis while being prayed for that goes like this 'do you feel anything or feel any better ?'
While this is well meaning and can have it's place, it is one thing that particularly annoys me.
And if you say yes, you are feeling better they take it to mean that you are totally healed. So, you can feel like you have a lack of faith if you are not healed at that time.
I have seen an over emphasis on seeing angels, being transported in the Spirit, heavenly dreams, etc.
I am all for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but are they not useless without the fruits of the Spirit, especially love ?
Also in our day of high technology of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. the church needs to use these things carefully.
And I am concerned about the church being so 'seeker friendly' that some important issues are not addressed from the pulpit for fear of offending people.
And personally I am concerned about the shallowness of the church. It seems you have to be a church ordained 'outreach project' in order to be helped.
Being a person who has a chronic illness I have found the church does not seem to know what to do with people like me. So, they do very little or nothing.
I must say I am blessed in a number of ways by my church, which happens to be a 'mega' church. But they do fall short in some areas.
I agree with you that many churches see themselves more as businesses than part of the body of Christ. They follow 'this or that' latest model in 'church growth'.
Perhaps, the American church will benefit from the recession. Churches in third world nations often prosper under tribulations.
People fed up with 'church as usual' may find unusual ways to have their needs met. We can connect with like minded believers in a number of ways using the internet. Facebook groups, live on=line prayer meetings and such. I have found that the presence of the Holy Spirit can be as real praying with people on the phone or online as in an actual church meeting.
In spite of all the problems the church seems to have God still uses it and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
We need to pray for our individual churches and for the church of America as a whole.
Even though things are not as they should be, we are responsible for maintaining our own relationship with out Lord and walking out our faith.
I sure need to work on that personally, as we all probably do.
I for one want to see true revival in this country. And that needs to start with believers falling down on our knees in church and in our homes in heartfelt repentance. We need to seek His face and turn from 'our' ways. And then the salvation of many unbelievers will follow.
While we do need to be aware of what the church as a whole lacks, we need to be careful. I have had to avoid being offended and forgiving those who do so to me. The root of bitterness can start easily. I am not saying that you have a problem with this, just something for all of us to watch.
David, I want to thank you for all the time and effort you put into writing your blogs. They have been a blessing to me and others. And I have been both challenged and fed by them.
Carol Adams

David said...

Thanks for the comment, Carol.

I would say that the reason that the gifts and experience are out of balance is because some Senior pastor is deciding on the mix, and not God. The 5-Fold model provides for input from five sources, thus balancing the internal care and ministry against the out-reaching ministries.

It also appears that those around you, or on the ministry team, are using the 5-part ministry model-- and sometimes incorrectly. This is where and apostolic person can really get things squared away. If the revelation of the ministry team is monitored to some degree by those in the prophets side of things, they'll learn when to ask and when to stop.

As far as the anointing coming and folks swinging from the chandeliers, that happens too. ;o]

In the end, you are talking about a lack of balanced leadership and people operating in the flesh... so what else is new? We are to experience Jesus, not religion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David, for expressing your heart concerning this. I have been waiting for so long to see this active functioning of the 5 fold gifts in the body of Christ. This really encouraged me. I totally understand what you are talking about concerning the "pastor" role. What has happened to "equipping the saints for the 'work' of the ministry"?
Have you given any thought to Rev.2:6?? The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hates...."rule over the laity". I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thank you so much,

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David, for expressing your heart concerning this. I have been waiting for so long to see this active functioning of the 5 fold gifts in the body of Christ. This really encouraged me. I totally understand what you are talking about concerning the "pastor" role. What has happened to "equipping the saints for the 'work' of the ministry"?
Have you given any thought to Rev.2:6?? The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hates...."rule over the laity". I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thank you so much,

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