After working with ministry leaders over the last 30 years I believe that we must address the “weakest link” in our efforts to see the prayer of Jesus for us becoming “One” in our communities. If the Gospel of the kingdom is to become a functional reality we need the courage to recognize and repair this weak link. It’s not the theological differences one might suspect that separate us. It’s something more difficult to recognize and deal with.
Before we get to the number one weakest link, let’s look at what some leading thinkers commonly consider are the top five. Stating with number 5…
Number #5 – Kingdom Ignorance
There is still considerable ignorance about the Gospel of the Kingdom in most Christian communities. Local pastors building their kingdom in Jesus’ name, still has a monopoly on how most of us do “church”. The Gospel of salvation rules most mindsets, yet Jesus preached and proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere He went. The Church tells people how to get a ticket to heaven but not much about how to live beyond church life in the very communities in which they live. The fact that most ministry organizations don’t teach their disciples how to work with the different parts of the Body of Christ is an indicator that they don’t understand how to live Kingdom life themselves. No wonder we haven’t shown the way. Many believers are still stuck in the grooves that their first teachers and their denominational networks emphasized. These tutors should have prepared believers for life in Christ’s Kingdom, but regrettably these organizations gave them hitching posts instead of guide posts.
Number #4 – Structural Idolatry
It is one thing to finally accept the Kingdom vision for the world as set forth by the Scriptures, but it is another thing to insist we should unite believers using the Old Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican or Episcopalian ecclesiastical structures. The same holds true for the new breed of leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation who believe we need to go back further in history and use the original template of the first century. We must appreciate the old and the new. That way the wine and the wine skin are both preserved. Our seminaries and denominational networks have a vested interest in promoting “their” franchise and have done a poor job explaining how the other parts of the Body of Christ are to interact. That’s why I wrote “Working Together For Jesus”. The Kingdom of God is a work made without human hands; God is supernatural and we need discerning eyes to recognize how He is supernaturally weaving His tapestry together.
Number #3 – The “Anti-Denomination Denomination” Syndrome
Sadly, some of the most elitist, isolationistic, reclusive and independent believers and ministries are being led by “pastors”, “bishops”, “apostles” and “prophets” who claim they are uniting the “true” Body of Christ under the banner of the Kingdom of God. Many are unaware they are operating in the same sectarian spirit they criticize in traditional churches. This is known as “anointed self-deception” where we believe the part we have from God is “the” most important thing God is doing. An important litmus test to determine if you or your ministry is free from this deception is to ask; “Does your ministry and its leader(s) actively pursue and develop, year in and year out, relationships with other ministries and leaders in your community?” I emphasize doing it “over time” because we have a Scriptural mandate that we can’t give a try and then give up on because it’s difficult. I emphasize “your” community because it’s easy to preach among your network but forsake the community where you live. Ironically we end up becoming an unhealthy ministry, a “tumor-ministry”. Remember, a tumor is a group of cells that grows unto itself without regard for the rest of the body. In fact it sucks the life out of the host Body causing death if left unchecked. Jesus said by our love for one another would we prove we are His disciples. Therefore the world needs to see our love for each other demonstrated in our community.
A friend reminded me that the very nature of apostolic and prophetic ministry to blaze new trails and expand the borders of the King’s domain into enemy territory requires a bold and a courageous disposition. These fearless pioneers don’t easily lend themselves to developing relationships between ministry settlers (pastors) among the people of God. Yet if these leaders don’t grow up and model these collaborative kingdom relationships, who will? We have to advance beyond platform rhetoric and be the change we want to see. The Body goes where the Head goes. It usually takes years and many broken relationships before these independent ministers realize they would do things differently if they could go back in time.
Number #2 – The “Heaven/Earth” Blindness Syndrome
Perhaps one of the most stunning blind spots we all struggle with is the inability to properly discern what the Scriptures teach us about the culture of heaven. Remember, this is essential because we are commanded to pray that earth be just like heaven. So just what is going on up there that we want down here? For starters we can stop jockeying for the head position in our communities because the “head” position is clearly filled by Jesus Himself. In heaven, everyone with a title or crown of achievement throws it at the feet of Jesus with their face on the ground. When was the last time you saw that spirit among leaders down here? In heaven, everyone is so grateful, so overwhelmed by the fact they are allowed to be in His presence; there is no envy or jealousy in anyone’s heart. Worship explodes from the redeemed; there is no critical commentary and sectarianism. Finally, we know Jesus rules His kingdom with clarity and perfect order. The confusion and disunity down here reveals many of our leaders are not truly receiving from heaven’s broadcast. Another similar excuse people give for not working together is the “untruth”… “We will never get along until Jesus comes back”. Well if that’s truth then why did Jesus tell us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done here on earth”? Are we suppose to obey the command or shrink back because it’s too expensive for us?
This leads us to the question…”What is the number one weakest link to one holy catholic apostolic church?” The Weakest Link is…
Number # 1 – The Psychology of Our Theology
The number one weakest link to becoming one holy catholic apostolic church is our spiritual and emotional immaturity. Yes it’s that simple. Like self-absorbed siblings who cannot seem to get along with one another we have need of maturity. Once we don’t get the attention or honor we think we deserve or our feelings get hurt, we usually take our ball and bat and go home; and the joining and connecting of the Body of Christ is often postponed, if not abandoned all together. We often unconsciously hide our immature selves behind the façade of commitment to sound doctrine or our critical appraisals of other believers. Instead of seeing kingdom transformation we are left with advancing a narrative that justifies entrenchment and the status quo. Each believer does their best to carry on doing their own thing, but the grace God releases through the “joints” (the parts that meet together) remains missing. Regrettably the Church remains disjointed and anemic. We often run back to our individual studies and redouble our efforts to explain our point of view. We write a new book, start a Bible School, create a new website, a blog, etc. When all that is needed is an apology, a humbler heart, a teachable spirit, a phone call and a sober recognition we truly need each other. In other words, more of us need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.
I have seen it happen time after time. Misunderstanding and confusion over another leader’s gifting and level of maturity. One Christian leader offends another by some cultural insensitivity or a believer over-emphasizes some doctrinal position because their identity, their sense of significance or their income is tied up in its uniqueness. I was standing in the parking lot during one of our ministers meetings, when one apostolic leader said, “We are 40 years away from seeing the Church get it right”. He was referring to another leader in the meeting who was basically using his title, to control the people in His ministry, so no one would ever challenge his authority. I told him; “As long as we were having this discussion outside and not with him, he was right, it may take another 40 years; but why don’t we go talk to him right now?” He didn’t seem to want to engage in this kind of dialogue. The emotional and psychological minefield was apparently too scary for him to step into. It is difficult getting real and being real with other humans. And this illustrates why we are not addressing the weakest link.
It is expensive tackling these emotional issues. Just seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth speaks to the cost of reconciling two parties who are separated. But this is what we must do. All of our preaching; all of our conferences and seminars will fill our heads with information; but if we don’t deal with our inner heart issues we will be nothing more than a lot of intelligent people consistently coming to the wrong conclusions. Sadly, that sounds like Washington DC; doesn’t it? For those wanting the character and culture of heaven flowing through your life and ministry but have felt stuck where you are at, we wrote “Roadkill Seminary”, “The Inner Journey” and “Working Together For Jesus” just for you. You don’t have to wait 40 years to be the answer to the prayer Jesus prayed. Welcome to the Movement!