IS THE CHURCH THE WAY GOD WANTS IT?
by Pam Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org)
God has order for His Church, but are we following it? We say we need a Christian presence, but is an inner meditation all there is? Quite frankly, no! Yes we can do good works, but God has an order for the local bodies that micros and macros in ways that please Him.
Now when God talks about leadership offices, besides character, which is important, He talks about the Church structure in Ephesians 4:11-16. Most of us look at that to find our identity if we feel called to a stronger ministry more than just a personal one, but in that is the beginning stones of structure that has Jesus Christ as the tried and tested Cornerstone.
The Church is first of all built on FAITH. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The cornerstone of faith is belief in who God is.
15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Now, we know that God did not build on Peter the human flesh man, but on faith. Peter was honored for believing and Jesus continues saying:
19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Obviously from that statement, things can happen once belief is grounded. The keys can open up insights and practical and critical understandings. They can also close off things harmful and not needed.
But why are we in such a struggle today? Prayerlessness is one reason, but lack of understanding is another. There are many gifts beyond the five fold office, but if we don’t understand them and how they work, we won’t have the structure in place that we need to build and stabilize like we need it. Thus we get lopsided or top heavy and it just doesn’t work.
When things don’t work, things and problems of the flesh take center stage and we evolve into a Christian soap opera rather than the greatest Story ever told on earth. But the good news is that we can fix this problem! We are walking out all of it but when we start getting some right, more and more things that looked not together will start coming together and the unity and harmony that we expeced to see begins to happen in ways that give us new hopes for a fuller and more abundant life. We’ve sensed there could be more, but now we can realize it!
I am going to be very basic because many churches have different expressions. And because they do, many times they tend to reject other members because of the lack of understanding. When we understand, appreciation can be expressed and joy and love will be increased.
Now this is what the Scriptures say in the simple language format of New Living Translation (NLT):
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Now if we worry about titles over function, we will miss it. One title does not usurp or lord it over the others in the Body of Christ. Because of known problems in the Body, this must be emphasized.
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
So if we aren’t seeking glory for ourselves but that of the Lord’s, then how do we go about this? Without question we have to honor those who hold the responsibilities of the houses of worship. Many do home groups because it is warmer and feels less like they are being lorded over. Honestly, it is good and needed to do both home groups and corporate gatherings. Things can happen in both realms that cannot happen another way.
In the Old Testament times, God had tribes and families, and He also called for the larger solemn assemblies. But how can we get started on the right track for our fulfilling New Testament times?
First we must be a group that comes together through faith. We can worship, sing and study together and even share events together and discuss things. But when the Spiritual sap from faith starts flowing, the gifts in people start looking for their called expression.
A well meaning group in the name of the Lord will seek to win others. But often we aren’t thinking like the Lord in some of these areas. If we notice, many have many different ideas about what should happen and then we realize that we do need leadership, and then some feel slighted or neglected. I hope to eliminate some of that by sharing this understanding.
A church needs to grow in the ways God has gifted it to grow. We have many gifts like hospitality and giving and helps but those gifts, while incredibly needed, are not the foundational structure. If we are comfortable enough as a group of like minded believers wanting more of Jesus and to lift Him up, then we need to understand the role of the evangelist.
They are more than just guest speakers; they are body members with a strong burden to win the lost. In pulpit or out, they want to see souls won to Jesus. If the churches would discern those who have that passion and would help, bless, motivate and cover them to go and do their passion, they could (and should) be bringing new converts into the church.
Now a pastor could immediately think, “Oh my gosh! My level of personal care workload is about to become overwhelmed and where is my help?” It is there!!! You just have to discover it! Some in your group of believers are called to be teachers and even the greatest today had to start somewhere. New believers need to know the basics of the faith and they need fathers and mothers in the faith. And I think we would all agree, the more the better.
We must pray for and equip people to minister to these new believers the evangelists just brought in. Now I know many say you should take people that you win under your wings and raise them, but it just doesn’t always function that way. Teacher and evangelist are not necessarily balanced gifts in people. Some want to win them and bring them in, and then let the church teach them and they should!
Most people have a predominant gift and then subordinate one and even if it is not a full time office gift calling, they will strongly lean towards being a supporting gift with understanding and a desire to ally with those they favor by nature of their gift within. But we shouldn’t get caught up in worrying over that as much as we should be seeking to please God. And when unity is there, God commands the blessing (Psalm 133) which includes Spiritual growth!
And think about it, if someone is called to the macro ministry of large audiences instead of the micro of the small, it doesn’t happen overnight. They have to learn and see their mistakes lovingly worked through and if you help them, you share in that reward! Some are called to churches and some are called to many churches but they all start at one.
Now we love our pastors but some pastors do not see their roles clearly and often will get burn out because of it. The reason? They are not taking advantage of the pastoral gifts in the members of their body. It’s true that some will stay and some will go, but if you have trained the people who can help you minister to your body members with the gifting that you have, your work load will be easier! And you will have people who share the same compassions that you do. If you find some with a strong response to that ministry, you need to help equip them through pastoral training at your church or encourage them to attend a school for it. We are trying to grow the Church, not control it.
Pastors are not just about leading the church. They are just truly worth a lot of respect for taking on the financial and legal responsibilities of the buildings and organizational demands of it. They don’t have the option of just being here one day and gone the next. They are worthy of much honor for managing many ministries, outreach and in house. They have a beautiful gift but need not to be overwhelmed. But we must see God’s designs in all of this, as the Spiritual House that we are.
Prophets are visionaries and seers. They warn and get inspired by their revelations. They don’t run or rule the Church, their gifts added in make it a more vibrant and visionary and functional church. When prophets really hear, and share, the Church can greatly prosper. It’s not just about predicting events, although at times they may do that, it’s not fortune telling but God revealing dreams, visions and words that should be coming forth. They should increase the faith!
Apostles are a gift that evolves. You might see some of it early on but it is not really manifested until later on and then it is seen for the ability to encourage, establish, and place things and people. They will have strong zeal to take territories for the Lord, whether it is missions or strongholds of faith for a stand in the land.
Prophets and apostles are foundational. They are firm in their beliefs while tenderly caring for the flock. They have insights into people that help to recognize and bring out the gifts of the Spirit in others. When you are around them, you just realize they have a gift that can help many and they are genuinely honored for it, because you realize they carry burdens of love and faith for the people around them.
They can have working of miracles and supernatural faith for things that seem to stand out a bit, but really you will see more of the “wonder” gifts with the evangelists. God confirms His Word with signs and wonders following to win thoughts and hearts and people’s lives. It really is meant to be the beginning of a supernatural life for all of us and we are learning that God wants all of us to come into that faith that can overcome all things! And that takes miracles!
When God manifests, the gifts – ALL the gifts – get stirred to come into action. We need to see this as alive! When people have the liberty and grace and acknowledgement, they sense the freedom to express themselves as God desires and then we see the Church growing in significant and exhilarating ways.
Churches get off when flesh takes over and that is the role of the prophet to confront, but any believer really can to some degree because a portion of all the gifts are resident within us, because all of them are the fullness of Jesus, which each of us has right to by reason of His Holy Spirit. God is One, He is not divided, even though He has severally apportioned the gifts for function. A man can be a father and a son. A woman can be a wife and a daughter. It’s the same person, but a different expression. We can take on many roles but different ones have different demands at different times. It’s still all one.
Some gifts in the Body like attention and it’s okay and some, like the gift of helps, do not necessarily feel rewarded with froup attention recognition. They just don’t crave it, they would rather just quietly function and are grateful with a thanks. They need to be rewarded but in the ways that work for them. We have to learn how people work, and we have to learn the gifts, and as we do, we will find a strength in the Church at large that will encourage and amaze not only us, but the world.