Friday, December 3, 2010

Identity crisis: Shut up, Mr. Pastor! - Part 2 (Final)

The first part of this article was aimed at attempting to get people to think out of the box and see scripture without the assumptions it generally tends to be taught with. I plan to really zero in on the meat of the article. However, I need to say something before I go on. I am NOT looking to encourage finger-pointing or fault finding. That is all too easy to do and a breeding ground for hypocrisy. While we should be unafraid to break free of bondage from any quarter, whether denominational or not, I am hoping that individuals, like you and I, will be able to find their roles in the body AND function. There is no point if there is no edification. So let me try to clarify these giftings.

First, the word ‘apostle’ means one is one who is ‘sent out’. Paul always started his letters with ‘Paul an apostle of Jesus…’. Several definitions include ‘an individual who plants the Christian faith in new places’, as well as ‘one who has the ability to build spiritual communities’.

These definitions, as well as a study of Paul’s life, help to clarify the apostolic function. It is a gift that triggers an individual (or individuals) to GO OUT with God-given passion, to bring God’s word to people, to foster and build NETWORKS aimed at BUILDING body life. He/She may tend to be adventurous, have a knack for trying new things and tends to be project person. (I say this at the risk of people thinking in terms of process-centric organisational projects, which are never the best model to imitate with regards to the workings of God’s body – his people.) Apostles like to ‘build’ and like Paul said, ‘lay the foundation’.  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 1 Corinthians 3:10

The reality is that many denominations are started by ‘pastors’ who are really apostles. They like projects, they like to build and in isolation, tend to like order and structure. A circle of believers RUN by ONLY apostolic individual MAY have problems because of the love for structure – and that is why this role is complimented by THE PROPHET.



A prophet is one who does two major things, amongst others. He gives INSPIRED thoughts and foretells future events. Sorry if I burst your bubble but a prophet does not always sit in hermit-like silence waiting for God to send his next vision, while he froths at the mouth and has a weird stare. Now, just before you laugh, Ezekiel, an Old Testament prophet, had to do some very weird stuff – and prophets can be weird. Why, you ask? You see they live between two realities and dancing between two contrasting worlds can make you seem a tad loony sometimes! Prophets give inspired preaching; they help the body get aware of things happening in the spiritual, what God may be saying at certain points. Because he is led by the Spirit who is not rigid and has been compared to wind, he brings balance and challenges RELIGION when he is really in tune with God. I think ACTIVE and TRUE prophets are in very short supply our day.

Point to note, every prophecy must be judged by scripture when given to an individual, and when said out loud in a gathering, two to three ELDERS are to judge and determine if it aligns with scripture. The same goes for shouting out in ‘tongues’. If there is no interpreter, shut up your mouth…or do the whisper! Simple. Prophets may be radical by nature, having a strength of personality that is needed to go against the tide when they see things that others do not see. They may also have lone spells as it is easier to get spiritual clarity when away from the general din.

Now, when apostles lay foundations and kick-start a move, and prophets compliment them, it becomes necessary to deepen understanding, and this is where teachers come in. They like to analyse, read, explore, and ask ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘how’, ‘what’ – and are generally created CURIOUS! From taking time to learn and study, and by virtue of the drive they possess, when they explain scripture, you have an ‘aha’ moment. They can help the body understand concepts.  So much of the catastrophe we have to deal with come from people who try to force themselves into roles that they are not made for. There are times you sit listening to a preacher who is ‘teaching’, and you realise that he is completely off the mark again and again – but suddenly you notice that when he starts to appeal to those who may not be in line with God, powerful passion comes from nowhere that makes him convincing, simply because he has other giftings, - but not the gift of teaching. The teacher has a drive to know, to learn, has the ability to flesh concepts, to see symmetries, to understand and to explain in a way that is enlightening.

Then we have the Pastor.

A pastor is a spiritual shepherd BUT that term, 'shepherd', has been bastardised. The reason is that there is actually only ONE shepherd, one GOOD shepherd – and that is Christ. And all of us are brethren. John 10:16 “ And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd”. You see, E.A Adeboye, Chris Oyakhilome, T.D Jakes, you and I are ALL BRETHREN and none is above the other. However, a pastor’s shepherd tendencies refer to the affection he has for the sheep, NOT about being able to 'LEAD' or stand in front of them. A hireling can do just that. He may look or sound like a shepherd, but how do you know when he is NOT a shepherd?

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. John 10:12 – 13

So how do you know a pastor, from scripture? Let me use this weird explanation. If a pastor doesn’t learn from others about managing his resource, he tends to end up being broke a lot of the time. Why, you ask? You see, a pastor is ready to spend and be spent for those he MINISTERS to. He, unlike the Apostle or Prophet, has a greater tendency to micromanage. The church (not the denomination) suffers because many (ordained) ‘pastors’ do not have this passion, and many real pastors are not ordained, and remain unaware that they are really pastors and should go ahead and function in that nurturing capacity.

I heard of a story about a popular ‘pastor’. There was a major program coming up and funds were being allocated for the program. Now, one of his PA’s told him that his wife needed heart surgery, but could not afford it. Because of the coming ‘gospel concert’ no funds were given to the PA’s wife. She died on the day the concert began. Well, here is my personal opinion (and God knows way better than I do). That ‘pastor’ though popular, is not a pastor. You see, a pastor’s shepherding instinct would not be able to let that happen to his sheep. A pastor is not OVER his sheep. He is a PART of the sheep but has a duty to care for them because he is one of several sheep that is imbued with capacity for caring and nurturing – and compliments the roles of others who are a part of the flock.

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  Matt 23: 8-12

The problem is these days, we have a lot of ‘shepherds’ who have acquired a taste and craving for sheep barbeque.

How does a pastor function? A pastor is caring and nurturing, will have no inhibitions about using time and resource to help others in the body, and is wary about false teachings. He is the one who likes to settle quibbling, will pray for others (Note: I did not say call for prayer meetings), will feel sensitive to the emotionally wounded – and he often finds out, if he is ordained a pastor, that he is inadequate. You can’t have enough hands and that is why many TRUE pastors are in the body of Christ, but are not ordained - and are not functioning. And that is why denominational leaders are swamped with handling too much, so much so that their families tend to suffer. THIS WAS NOT THE DESIGN GOD HAD IN MIND! Every gathering has a pool of complementary gifting, but people do nothing because they don’t know or have been taught to lean on a man for direction, nourishment, growth and everything else. That is not organic living. It is parasitism.

That leaves the evangelist. Phillips is the only person in the New Testament who is specifically called an evangelist. He also had daughters who were prophetesses. Must have been an interesting family! An evangelist is a man-on-the-move. He declares the gospel to the unreached, not really concerned about setting up a lasting system, but wanting people to hear and be convinced. He tends to be armed with miracles and a radical mindset, because he needs it. You see, unlike most of the others, he is a ‘field worker’. So right after Phillip preached to the Eunuch, he was teleported! How cool!!!

So picture this. An evangelist goes out to preach to a tribe somewhere. He is accompanied by an Apostle.  The evangelist moved off, but like Paul, the Apostle stays for a while encouraging the saints and facilitating fellowship because in a few weeks he will LEAVE them to stand alone. Yes. Trusting God to KEEP those he called, Paul left them leaderless and thriving only on communion and fellowship!

Go on, read Acts again. Like I say in most articles of mine, don’t believe me. Do find out for yourself.

Paul would set up ACTUAL churches and these leaderless groups thrived as ministry gifts came to the fore. He would return or send letters to them much later to appoint elders who would be people they knew to be godly and mature based on real knowledge gained from fellowship and interactions. Teachers among them would study scripture (remember the Bereans) and prophets and pastors in these gatherings would grow in their gifting because there was room to express them.

Like a living system it was meant to be, evangelists bring about expansion and growth, apostles co-ordinate, prophets are the defence mechanism, pastors nurture and heal, while teachers increase intelligence. The result is everyone is built up – or using old English ‘EDIFIED’. These roles do not need offices or nifty titles. Chances are, YOU reading this have one or more of these gifts. So if a brother goes out of line, like Peter did and was blasted by Paul, because he is your brother, you can say ‘Shut up, Mr. Pastor!’, as long as he is a pastor.

If you can’t say that in genuine love, though, you can always send a well-written email.

Goodness and mercy shall follow you – and may you REMAIN a house of the Lord all your life

Cheers…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The view from above

The plane took off and my friends and I chitchatted excitedly. It was my first time flying with a group of friends, so there was no ‘alone-time’ to look out of the window and to get lost in personal musing. My friend who sat next to the window almost reminded me of a little daughter as she pointed at interesting sights.
‘That’s a bridge. It’s so long, even from here’
‘That’s a cloud. Wow! We are flying ABOVE the clouds’
‘Wow, there is so much water. You’d never realise how much water surrounds Lagos’
Her enthusiasm was infectious.

I love travelling, be it by train, boat, plane or camel. I have not ridden a horse for a while, but I think it will be interesting to do an interstate trip on horseback, with an accompanying car – just in case!

But what struck me is this simple fact:

It’s a very different view when you are far above and looking down. 



All of a sudden, things take on a different perspective, and more and more, you realise how small you are and how big the ‘bigger picture’ really is.

From the skies above, walls just blend into the landscape. You see them, but they are not really important. It is greenery, water bodies and large expanses of earth that really stand out. Buildings are all alike from above, irrespective of the grandeur they appear to have when one is on the ground. It reminds me of the walls of denomination.

I almost HATE denominationalism and the sordid brands that people look to in order to give themselves some sort of identity – as though Christ is not enough. By its very definition, a denomination is about exclusivity that brings people together based on traditions. Unfortunately, this exclusivity, many times, tends to give a false feeling of superiority…and the ones who do not believe ‘the same things’ are outcasts, even said to be heretic. Ah, how we love to brand people as heretic. Burning at the stake is no longer ‘cool’ or, with the vehemence displayed by some ‘followers’ of Christ, certain people would be burnt to ‘purge’ the church and as always, it would be ‘in the name of the Lord’. Just check out Foxe’s book or martyrs.

I am neither Pentecostal nor Orthodox. I am not Protestant – I see nothing to protest. I am just a disciple of Christ.
Simple.
And who are my brethren? ANYONE who SINCERELY believes and accepts the sacrifice of Jesus, and has made him Lord irrespective of DENOMINATIONAL affiliation. Whether they be Redeemed or TREM, white garment, 7 day Adventist, Jehovah witness, Protestant, Pentecostal or whatever MAN-MADE divide people have chosen to go by.
Ah, John, you are losing it, you say.

Well, for me, the parameter for testing spirits as seen in scripture is NOT a string of doctrines and dogma. It is SIMPLY this:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” 1 John 4: 1-3
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” 1 John vs 7 -10

Now, even the disciples had their segregationist myopia rebuked by Christ himself.

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” John 9: 38 – 42
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” Luke 9: 49 – 50

And the reason for this, he clarifies when he said:

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10: 14 - 16

ONENESS… Simply, in HIM, because it’s all about HIM, not pastors in jerry curls or safari suits, not huge building with nine keyboards and huge building plans, not white garmented clerics or the choice of a holy day, not ‘holy ghost services’ or demon and witch spiritual lynching, not Baptist or ‘foursquare’ or ‘eight cubes’, not ‘deeper life’ or ‘redeemed’, or a ‘present house’ or ‘future kraal’ or whatever names you conjure. It is not about your pet doctrines that you will kill and even die for. It’s not even about you, or your belief that the hair should be covered or whether trousers should be worn. If you have been privileged to lock eyes with a demon possessed individuals, you suddenly lose sight of some silly quibbling. Furthermore, you need to understand that so much of what we practice as modern Christianity, this hybrid religion, actually stems from sun worship, but right now, that is NOT EVEN the most important thing. You need to get it into your thick skulls that it is ALL about HIM, HIM, HIM!!!

JESUS.

Paul talked about people who did not ‘discern the Lord’s body’. If you really learn to see from the skies above, you define individuals based on their WALK in GOD, not their denomination, by their FRUITS and NOT their religious brand! There are saints everywhere and there are vermins everywhere, and no denomination is holier or more right than the other. Yeah, I said that!

Why? Simple.

It is all man-made and will all end here on earth. But the true church, ah! you have to ‘see’ that beauty. She is made of people from every race, every tongue, every tribe, she is bold, she is beautiful, she is strong, she is the very bride of the lord and she will not soil her garment with any things that is temporal. She is made up of people who stand up like Daniels in the middle of a corrupt world, not bending to the whims of doctrine or fashion, or trends, not thinking promiscuity is fashionable or that life should be about what one can amass because she has set her affections on things above, so much so that other things pale in comparison. My God, she is so, so, so, so, aware that everything that the eyes can see is TEMPORAL. She is not hoping that the Lord will not come anytime soon, because she waits for the coming with an inner cry of “Maranatha!”, sick to death of the filth in the world, but so, so, so aware that it is almost time, that the harvest has been ripe, and that so many are falling away and yet, the labourers are so, so, so few and that people spend more time talking instead of reaching out with their voices and hands and blood and tears and skills and everything they have to snatch as many as they can from the darkness, because anyone whose antennas are in good working order knows that time is so short and that dark, dark days are coming.

Friend, that is the view from the sky above. Your acceptance of my view is not important.

I do know that if you are really plugged into God and his heart, he will lead you OVER TIME to where you should be and those you should be with, before he moves on AGAIN, as he tends to do – and depending on the walk he has mapped for YOU.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”

People constantly yap about trivia reminding me of the quote by Heraclitus: Dogs bark at what they do not understand.
It’s almost sad that it’s demons that really get the picture. Don’t you forget that before beating the day light out of the sons of Sceva they did not ask, WHERE do you belong.

They simply said

“WHO are YOU?”

Identity crisis: Shut up, Mr. Pastor! - Part 1


I want to start by making a statement that may sound surprising.

The pastoral role, from scripture, is not one of authority. Or to rephrase it better, there is nothing that shows that a pastor is meant to be a LEADER within the gathering of believers. 



Okay, you may pick up your jaws from the floor – and/or wipe the suspicious frown from your face now. I am just going to express some thought and ask you to do your own research – but more importantly – find out your place in God and his body because time is really short.

My reason for writing this article is that I notice a growing trend of confusion among God-chasers. It is confusion about functioning within the body of Christ. A lot of the time, a person who wants to ‘work for God’ ends up working in a department of a Christian denomination. Many have come to believe this is the only way to serve God – find a denomination, find a denominational department that you feel resonates with you – and be loyal as you help to build up the ‘house of God’.

That is the way POPULAR Christian practice has wired many to think.

Truth is, nothing could be further from the truth. It is why so many are burnt out and do not know why.  It is also the reason why many wonder why they don’t ‘fit in’ and even when they try, they still do not have a sense of being where God wants them to be. Don’t get me wrong: It is possible and good to belong to a department, and to experience growth as well as contribute – but that does not mean you are functioning within the lord’s body.

Doing some study, I was a bit amazed to find out that the word, ‘Pastor’, which is quite popular today and is synonymous with ‘leader’ in many circles, occurs only once in the New Testament and in only two books of the bible. However, what really roils me is that this role is a desired on for many people not because of a real understanding of what it is about, but because they equate it with leadership. A bigger problem now occurs.
Most people do not even understand what scriptural leadership is about. People use business organisation as a yardstick and think that leadership is about power suits, exotic hotels, control of people and unquestioned authority. The bigger your brand, the more the members and financial income and of course, the more you can have and buy: Trips, hotels, high society functions, even chicks, in short, the ‘good life’ – with a ‘swagga’ in the name of ‘the lord’. Kinda’ reminds you of something out of a hip hop video.

Disgusting.

It is for this reason that people attempt to climb up the denominational structure, chorister to choir leader, to deacon, to pastor, to senior pastor, to board member…and if you get lucky, the ‘pastor’/leader, has a stroke (working for the lord) – or better still, dies.

And then you get his ‘mantle’. Hallelujah!

You can then command people, set up meetings, run programs to keep your crown entertained and buzzing – and of course, jealously guard your position – till you have your own stroke, or die. It is a sad scenario because there is not enough space for everyone at the top. That is why you have so many people fighting to climb up denomination rungs and to control denominational boards – and that is why most denomination are very political when you get past the veneer of the niceties, sounds, bright lights and the overused bile-inducing gospel clich├ęs. At the centre, many times, is good old POLITICS. The real problem, however, is a complete misunderstanding of ‘body’ function.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4: 8, 11-16)

You see the words ‘Apostle’, ‘Prophet’, ‘Pastor’, ‘Evangelist’, ‘Teacher’? The question to be answered right now is, ‘which of these is YOUR gifting?

In many cases, our minds have been so conditioned to think that these GIFTS operate within the confines of a denomination, and even worse, there is a gross misunderstanding to view these as OFFICES or POSTS or APPOINTMENTS rather than what they are: Gifts given by God to individuals to help to build up and contribute to the WHOLE body of Christ without the need for formal ordinations and man-made appointments.

In other words, a pastor does not need a pulpit. A pastor does not need to be ‘ordained’. To be really blunt, if you are not really a pastor, whether you are ordained or given a pulpit or post, you are just a clown with a title – who is clueless about who he is, what he is, and who will be ineffective because he has no understanding of his true identity, abilities and functions. The good news is, as soon as you realise what your true gifting is, and you go on to embrace it, there is a deeper sense of satisfaction and you start to really contribute to the body of Christ.

Actually, friends, none of these roles need an ‘ordination’. You are either it – or confused.com

So, which of these is your gifting?

To be continued...