Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Bar

The Bar

Matthew 7:13-14  “13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.  NKJV

After the past month of teaching on the “positions” within the church, I believe some teaching is in order.  More specifically how those who are apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, evangelists, miracle workers, those with gifts of healing, helpers, administrators, well ALL Christians are suppose to conduct their lives beyond Sunday mornings.  We all have a responsibility to God to be the brightest lights that we can be on the earth.  That is why he has called us to a level of holiness unattainable without His spirit.  He wants the best for his children and has given us a guide of how to fulfill His will without loosing our credibility.  How many ministries and denominations have fallen into the ashes because they became greedy, prideful and consumed by lust?  When they fall, all around are swept away and the church as a whole has a shadow not greater light cast onto it.  When we live the life of Christ there are sacrifices, there are challenges and there are ways of living that we cannot return to.  And this is not because we want to be an elitist gloating over our victories over this vice and that sin.  No it is so that we remain blameless and can focus all our attention at Christ and the various calls he has gifted to us.  Because the world will never take us seriously if we continue to look and smell like them.

Now if only God had written clear instructions on how to act or what kind of people should participate in ministry (for those of you who have been reading you should know it’s everyone).  But He did, and in typical God fashion he repeated himself.  Again we turn to the writings of Paul, and the letters he wrote to Timothy and Titus, two of his successors. First off in 1Timothy 3:1-8 Paul is talking about the qualifications for bishops (overseers) for the local body.  However this list should apply to all of us inside and outside official ministry.  (Instead of quoting the entire passage I have rather placed a list of all the qualifications)

1 Timothy 3:1-8   (compiled from the NKJV & AMP)
blameless (above reproach)
sober minded (self control)
of good behavior
able (capable and qualified) to teach
not given to wine
not violent (combative)
not greedy (or lover) of money
not quarrelsome
not covetous
rules his own house well
have his children under control (commanding respect, keeping them respectful)
not a novice (lest he be puffed up with pride)
have a good testimony (be well thought of) with people outside of the church

Now how many difficulties could be avoided in the Body as a whole and each church individually?  A bottom line you could assign to this would be that we are to be holy, honorable, wise, peaceful, loving leaders who are not in it for the money.  Our reward is in the changes in the hearts and communities that surround us.  Jesus’ name be glorified is the call not bickering over minor points of doctrine.  I’m sure many of us have glanced over this list a few times, but now we must truly make it a revelation in our hearts.  As I have said before I am a believer of having two or three witnesses on matters as these.  Now again Paul is talking to another one of his successors speaking of the same thing.  The qualifications of those who could be leaders in the church, and again all of us should be subject to these words. (Again it is phrased in bullet points)

Titus 1:6-9 (NKJV)
husband of one wife
not self willed
not quick tempered
not given to wine
not violent
not greedy for money
a lover of what is good
sober minded
holy (set apart), self controlled
holds fast the Word as was taught
able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convict those who contradict (the Word)

Nearly an identical list, how much could we accomplish with only these words?  Great things indeed, but this is only the beginning.  We also must look elsewhere, such as Paul’ exhortation to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 “14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil”.  NKJV

These are the simple things, the fruit that grows naturally from a well-tended tree.  Let us dig further into the life Christ has called us to live.  You see most of these lists speaks of what we can see when we watch a person.  Our spirit and souls are hidden to men but open and bare before the Holy Spirit.  We turn to another familiar passage in Galatians this could be considered the inner branches for the outward fruit we have already seen.

Galatians 5:22-26 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  NKJV”

These are the matters where God truly tests us, to see if we are ready for what he has for us.  To see if we have sharp swords ready for battle or whether we must reenter the forge and be sharpened once more.  It is these matters of the heart that will sway our outward walk.  If we are kind we will not lie, if we are self controlled we will not be adulterers, if we walk in love we will not be greedy and callous.  Before we can master the lists in Timothy and Titus we must submit to the Spirit and receive His fruit.  Then the seeds within will grow and we will produce in like manner.

Again I must submit to you another passage as evidence, Peter also spoke of these fruits and the need to cultivate them.  Pay attention to how he stages his wording, he is ascending from faith all the way to love (or charity in the KJV) and not just basic love but agape (see “covenant this” series) unbreakable covenant love.

2 Peter 1:5-9 “5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” NKJV

A common theme is becoming evident is it not?  These are basic calls of Christ yet they cannot be obtained by flesh and determination alone.  All I have spoken of is only through the power of Christ and the grace of the Spirit of God.  As Peter said those who lack these are unfruitful.  They will never match the Bar set by Paul, they will fail the tests of the spirit and will do a greater job destroying the body than expanding it. Without God we are doomed to failure and destruction.  But upon the Rock we shall thrive.

Perhaps it is time to examine the root of the tree?  It is time to look whole heartedly at the words of our savior.  He is the root, the apostles and all of us are the branches.  Christ managed to compress everything I have been speaking of (and a great deal more) into this one simple statement.  Until we know that we know this statement and walk in it daily everything else in our “Christian lives” is utterly meaningless.

Matthew 22:36-40  “36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'   38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'   40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." NKJV

This is the truth, the one truth, the only truth from which all other truth flows.  It is sadly easy to forget God in the midst of church, work and life in general.  And when we loose that love everything else dies.  When we truly love the Father, the great I AM, then our light begins to flicker and grow into a flame that cannot be hidden.  And that light must grown and consume all those around us.  When we love God and all those round about us then everything else in 1Timothy, Titus, Galatians and 1Peter comes to life and flows out of us.  We have followed our life as believers from the tip of the fruit all the way back to the root.  We have found that our love (agape), that unbreakable, unshaking, unyielding love is the qualification for ministry and everything else in the Body of Christ.  From the pulpit to the back row, this love is the key that opens all doors, the rock on which we build faith, self control, kindness, perseverance, joy, and the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and destroy the works of the devil.  Through Christ alone may we walk this narrow path.

1 Peter 2:1-6 “2 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,   3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame."  NKJV

Written by Cameron Conway

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pentephonics Part 3

Pentephonics Part 3

Now after 2 posts of foundations we can make our way to the good stuff.  I hope you now have a good understanding of the five fold ministry, its functions, roles, responsibilities and dependencies on one-another.  Because now its time to search out for the second and third witnesses (Deut 17:6, 19:15, Matt 18:16, 2Cor 13:1, 1Tim 5:19, Heb 10:28) to this model of the church.  Because I am a firm believer of

2 Corinthians 13:1 ..In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. KJV

This is an important key to all Bible study, God has established that all testimonies are based on the words of two or three witness.  So as Christians we shouldn’t be satisfied because we found one verse that fits our sermon.  We must search out every corner and page for all God has to say.  God does tend to repeat Himself (Gen 41:32) and for good reason, to confirm it and to get our attention.  So then, where else does Paul or any others talk about the “order” and “gifts” in the church?  Well Paul also wrote of this in his First epistle to the Corinthians mainly in chapters 12 through 14, but we shall look first at. 

1 Corinthians  12:27-28 “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” NKJV

There we have it the common five fold ministry, or, wait, what.  There seems to be a couple missing and a few more have appeared.  It seems that pastors and evangelists have disappeared, a veritable 180 of how the church is operated now.  But something’s are the same, apostles are first, prophets are second but then teachers are third, then there are all these other calls.  Maybe we should reread this in the amplified to make sure no one made a typo

1 Corinthians 12:28 “So God has appointed some in the church [for His own use]: first apostles (special messengers); second prophets (inspired preachers and expounders); third teachers; then wonder-workers; then those with ability to heal the sick; helpers; administrators; [speakers in] different (unknown) tongues.” AMP

It appears that our clean and cozy little formula may be lacking.  As I said in the last post please refrain from burning your laptop and washing you eyes with soap.  We may have to accept that things are a little bit bigger than we realized.  And that there are more people in the church that have a responsibility to stand up and contribute.  Ok so let’s rework the model with our new information.  Now Paul says that in the church (local not global) there are also people who can work miracles, heal the sick, operate as a helps (like Stephen and Phillip), people who can administrate and those who can speak in other/unknown tongues.  All outside of the common five fold,  it is beginning to sound more and more like the church is a corporate ministry, and not just a group of people going to be ministered to.  And it looks less like leaning on one person only and more about leaning on Christ with each other. I realize I am proposing the complete realignment of the entire church as we know it, or maybe I just want to change it back to the beginning (revolution).  For many years I have heard many people talk about revival, revival here, revival there, revival no where.  And very often people expect the pastor to be the one to bring it to pass, alone, with or without God.  And this, this is why people want a revival they think they want to wake up from their slumber dance around and go back to sleep.  What I have always preached is Revolution, and part of that is by rebuilding a “pre-catholic” church model where the only “one” is Christ, and we are all the same body working together to bring light and the gospel to the world.  No I am not talking about brining in Christian anarchy where leadership is abandoned. There always must be order through the apostles and prophets, doctrine and wisdom from the teachers, and shepherding and discipleship from the overseers (pastors).  If we go back to the second half of the list in 1 Corinthians 12:28, everything in that list is a basic gift from the Holy Spirit to all believers (see Mark 16:16-18, Luke 9:1, John 14:12-15, Acts 5:16 etc).  Yes some will excel at certain things over others, but it is all from the same spirit. 

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” NKJV

The point is, we all individually and corporately have access to a greater amount of God than ever thought possible.  And it is imperative that we have a deep revelation of our identity as an individual believer and as a member of the church body.  As Paul said in

Romans 12:4-8 “4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” NKJV

Why? You may be wondering, should we live this model, this way of looking at church?  What difference would it make?  The difference is that a church that walks in love, power and truth, is a church that draws people out of the darkness, and doesn’t just entertain those at the edges of darkness.  It’s a lot like my message “The Perfect Circle”, you must have all three Truth (word), power (faith) and love (relationship) or you will collapse and wither.  Again I ask, why should a church be moving in its fullest in spirit, love and in truth.  Paul gives us an example in
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” NKJV

The unbeliever won’t fall on his face over a video Sunday school program or a 20 member choir.  But they will fall down when the tangible presence of God reaches out and touches them in front of a loving united body of believers.

I may look like I have gone off track, but perhaps that is the point, what would happen if we went off track from the “normal” or “casual” way we go about our daily and Sunday lives.  What if we all took a long look and the book of acts and looked at our own lives and were honest with ourselves.  I think it is time to jump off the tracks completely, train tracks only take you in one direction, the same way they’ve always gone.  Be it right or wrong, it is easy to go along and not question or ponder why things are done.  It is the curse of the mundane with its blind acceptance.  What would happened if we would honestly ask ourselves these questions and wait for God to answer?

Now then, where are you apostles, where are you prophets, where are you teachers?  Where are you elders and overseers, where are you miracle workers, where are you helpers and organizers?  Where are you healers, dreamers, preachers and proclaimers?  Where are you intercessors, givers, exhorters, ministers, where are you worshippers, preachers, tongue talkers and dead raisers.  Are you out there? Can you stand up? Can you abandon the excuses that “it’s not my job”.  We all have a place we all have a call.  Can we all, each and every one, embrace what Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit for the Glory of I AM has given us.  Can you rise up and can we all work together?

Written by Cameron Conway

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Pentephonics Part 2

Pentephonics Part 2

Ephesians 4:11 “And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.” AMP

Onward to the evangelist (not televangelists), this is one of the more receivable ministries in the church, they’re not teachers so they can’t challenge doctrine, their not pastors so they wont steal the flock, they come and go like the wind.  At least that’s how their treated in our day.  Today they’re used by pastors as a way of waking their sleeping congregations, they come in get people excited, then preach a light salvation message and move on to the next town.  And within 3 months things are back to the old ways, which isn’t a surprise since they can’t remove the all the churches or towns problems in one service.  It is very rare though for churches to have their own evangelists (who are not overseas) and this presents a very real problem for the local body.  Let me put this in a picture “if the church is a boat, the evangelist is the net”.  These are the street preachers the ones who continually bring in new members into a church.  Which is vital because an effective church should have a constant flow of new believers coming in and trained/prepared believers going out for the work of the gospel.  When either one stops the heart of the church dies.  Ok let’s get technical for a moment back to our greek studies; evangelist (G2099); literal, preacher of the gospel or bringer of good news.  Or how Thayer translates this “those heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.”  Here are the only two examples (outside of Ephesians 4) of the word evangelists in the New Testament.

2 Timothy 4:5 “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” NKJV

Acts 21:8 “On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.” NKJV

That kind of opens up the door doesn’t it.  Like prophets we are all called to hear from God, so it is with evangelists that we are ALL called to preach the gospel to every creature until the whole world is filled with the knowledge of Him.  Evangelists can be anyone who goes out into the world and brings in consistent harvest.  And we need this desperately in the church I know for many witnessing to people can be hard and it’s not everyone’s strength.   Then there are other people (including some I know personally) that will take any opportunity to stand up on a street corner and start a healing meeting. Or take trips to the mall just to talk to people about Jesus, not because the church decided to have an evangelism program or because they saw it in some book, but because that is the cry of God in their hearts.  This is part of the unity of the church, the evangelist brings in the new believers, the teachers give them the knowledge and wisdom to understand the Word, the pastors give them council and accountability, the prophets also teach while also exhorting, rebuking and edifying them when needed, and the apostles prepare them to be released into the ministry. 

We all have a place in the church and we are all someone’s disciple and someone else’s teacher, there is no more sitting on the fence, or just expecting the pastor and the leadership team to do everything in the local body.

Next we are onto the Pastor the central figurehead of all Protestant churches.  I want to get right down to the definition as our foundation.  Pastor (G4166) literally it is a shepherd or an overseer.  Or “one who tends herds or flocks, not merely one who feeds them”.  Funny I didn’t see anything about a seminary degree or a 3 piece suit in there.  Now this is where things get interesting, if not heretical.  Now in the original context pastors weren’t seen as the heads of the church but rather as overseers in the local churches, or in what we would call today elders and deacons or bishops (for our baptist and southern friends).  Now before you set your computer on fire and wash out your eyes with soap, we have some scripture to read.  Now in 1 Peter 5:1-4 the word elder is the same word as pastor, both are the same greek word (G4166 poimen) now lets take a breath and read

1 Peter 5:1-4 “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” NKJV

And its not here alone we can also turn to the book of Acts chapter 20 and keep an eye on the words elder and overseer, once again they are translated from (G4166 poimen)

Acts 20:28-29 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  NKJV

Acts 20:17  From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.” NKJV

*Before I continue, I am NOT rejecting the office of the pastor in the modern church nor the authority they have over their congregations.  I have a pastor who I respect and see socially in and out of church and I have another close friend who is also a pastor of 30+ years.  They have their place and call, but so do the other 4 branches of ministry.*

When we see the term pastor in this light I helps give new meaning of their role in a church.  Not ruling as a king, but serving in a council with all five ministries in agreement, remember Christ is the head of the church.  Now to some degree we are all called to be an overseer in the church, by looking out for one another. Supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ, by building them up and not tearing them down in the good and bad times.  To give another illustration pastors can be seen as “the mothers in a church, teaching, cleaning, protecting, feeding and loving her children.  Giving them the best environment possible to develop, grow up and reproduce.” 

That is the ministry of the pastor/overseer lets once again look at 1 Peter 5:2-3 but this time in the amplified.  And consider all that has been said

1 Peter 5:2-3 “Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully;  3 Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation).  AMP

Last but far from being least we come to the Teachers it is from the word didaskalos (G1320) and simply means instructor or “one who is fit to teach”(unlike Hebrews 5:12).  It is a simple concept to grasp but carries a great burden.  This is one ministry that all others must be must be both capable and proficient in.  But there is a call just for those who solely teach (yet still walk in power with signs following), and not just in youth ministries or Sunday day-cares.  But also to teach the body as a whole, individually, corporately and even online with a blog  J.   As I said before everyone in ministry must be able to teach something.  Teachers though are the ones who dig deeper in searching out God’s word, who have a gift of wisdom and discernment to understand and share the scriptures with others, so they may learn and show others.  Teachers are dependant on the others around to keep them from loosing sight of their call and Christ.  And to stay in line with the scriptures, that’s where pastors and prophets come in.  And they need evangelists to bring in people to be taught. 

It is the responsibility of the teachers to keep false doctrine and the lies of the world out of the body.  They are charged with bringing the unfiltered truth of the Gospel, Trinity, Holy Spirit, New Covenant, and the Authority/Identity of the believer into the body.  They are to be ready at all times to do as Paul said in

Titus 1:9 “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” NKJV

We also cannot forget that when one is called to teach they must remember these two warnings found in James 3:1 and Matthew 18:6.  You must practice what you preach and believe.

James 3:1 “NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers ( self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].” AMP

Matthew 18:6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in and  acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin [that is, who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought], it would be better ( more expedient and profitable or advantageous) for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea.” AMP

Seeing how by the power, wisdom, commission and mercy of Jesus Christ the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers work together we have finally finished laying down the foundations of what I wish to speak about.   Tune in next week for Pentephonics Part 3, where things get… interesting.

To be continued
Written by Cameron Conway