Kingdom of God

“The Weakest Link” in Becoming One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church

Link5After 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.Link 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 facade 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.

This illustrates why we are not addressing the weakest link. It is expensive tackling these emotional-maturity 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!

The Epistle to the Church of Sanford

BibleEpislte

CHAPTER 1

Our Common Salvation

Paul, an apostle and bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the saints of Sanford and surrounding region who are in Christ Jesus. To the city the whole world watches, to see what will become of the races in your country.

  1. Grace and peace from God, the Father of Jesus Christ who has begotten us by His grace, through the blood of his only begotten Son. We give thanks for each of you praying always that the Lord will continue to give you revelation of His love for us, to Him who is eternal and true.
  2. Whose kingdom is coming in ever increasing power and glory. May your sanctification be evident to all before His coming.
  3. I write to you to remind you of those things, which were spoken by the prophets and the apostles and the Lord Jesus Himself.
  4. Those things concerning our Lord, which He prayed on the night of His betrayal.

Don’t Be Deceived by Satan

  1. For I fear for some of you who may have fallen asleep and have forgotten your first love and have accepted the serpent’s substitute for Christ.
  2. You may have a form of godliness and religion, yet deny the power of God in your midst as if it were something to be ashamed of. I beseech you to not allow the wisdom of this world to sway you from the simplicity of Christ, lest the message of the cross be of no effect.
  3. For the power of God is in proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified, buried and raised from the dead, not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom.
  4. For we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices in which he seeks to fix our attention onto lesser things and not the supremacy of Christ. Yes the enemy of our souls will seduce us with the things of God as long as we are not worshipping God Himself.
  5. This has been his most effective deception as he seeks to enslave believers in religious pursuits for righteousness as he blinds their minds to the finished work of Christ on the cross.
  6. Believing they are gaining the approval of God, they are driven to and fro; to everywhere, except to the costly sacrifice God has provided for their lost souls.
  7. And even some of the very elect have fallen into this delusion as they continue in lifeless religious traditions and the pursuit of reputation among men.

CHAPTER 2

Remember the Power of God’s Might

Therefore, when I saw that this was so concerning some of you, I believe it was needful for me to address those obstacles presently besetting the advancing Church of Christ in Sanford, according to the grace I have received.

  1. For you know perfectly well how the enemy is like a cunning serpent, twisting the purposes of God in the earth.
  2. But our weapons are mighty to tear down these strongholds. Therefore let us not be afraid to fight the good fight.

The Sins of the City Are Widely Known

  1. It is reported and known abroad that Sanford has been struggling to rise up out of its poverty and the past wounds of racial injustice, which hinders the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.
  2. The root of bitterness has been allowed to defile many. Instead of receiving the Lord’s healing, some who try to honor the suffering of their forefathers have unknowingly passed on this wound from generation to generation.
  3. This “victim identity” impoverishes people and withholds from them their true identity in Christ that leads to abundant life and joy in the Lord.
  4. This is the same slave mentality that kept the children of Israel from possessing the promise land, and caused them to waste away in the wilderness.
  5. Some even teach their disciples to remain separate from members of His Body because of the color of their skin. They forget that it was God who reconciled Jew and Gentile to Himself and made all peoples from one blood.
  6. It has also been reported that some of your shepherds are sexually immoral as were the sons of Eli, causing the people to despise the house of the Lord and no longer assemble with the saints.
  7. Others have greedily run after profit as Balaam, prophesying to those with itching ears for worldly prosperity.
  8. I rejoice in the Lord for those who have been faithfully praying for Sanford to rise up and become the city of light set on a hill.
  9. I call upon you “Friendly City” to remember your first name in which you were called the “Gate City”. For through you many have entered the central regions of Florida looking for hope and purpose.
  10. And yes, people arrived through your River Gate, through your Railroad Gate and Airport Gate. The Gates of the County seat still sit on the shores of Lake Monroe. Truly you are a gate city and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ in Sanford.
  11. Let us go forward in the full assurance of God’s power to root out and to pull down, to destroy and throw down, and to build and to plant.
  12. Let us obey the Lord’s command to remove the altars and sacred pillars, the mental images of anything that exalts itself above the knowledge of Christ’s victory and His prayer for us to be one in Him.
  13. If there is any teaching that draws men to principles instead of to the person of Jesus Christ, then let us rise up and confront it in His name. If there are leaders who are living contrary to the Scriptures, let us confront them in love, rebuking those who resist the truth.
  14. Let us hear the admonition to speak the truth in love. Let us no longer just think the truth. Now is the time to shout it from the housetops.
  15. It is time for the Church to come out of her closet. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is once again preparing the Bride for her Bridegroom.
  16. No longer will the Church in Sanford be subservient to the controlling spirit of religious and cultural traditions.
  17. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, and liberty is what the truth produces in those who know and obey it.

CHAPTER 3

Confronting Religious Control

Let us remove those strongholds that are hindering the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Body in Sanford.

  1. Do not forget our Lord’s Prayer that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Herein the lost will acknowledge that God truly sent Jesus to save the world, when they see us as one. Let not the Gospel fall on deaf ears because our lives contradict what we preach.
  2. Therefore we confront the sin of religious control that forces the people of God into sectarian groups, making disciples of ourselves that are isolated from the rest of the Body.
  3. We charge those who shepherd the flock to edify and work to join and knit the Body of Christ together, so every part does its share.
  4. We confront the error that teaches we are only responsible to build our group without any thought for the whole Body.
  5. Don’t become a cancer, a tumor growing without regard for the rest of the Body. Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he be found outside saying “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do all these things for you?”
  6. We are not speaking about “sameness” but about “oneness”, otherwise where would the foot, or the eye or the ear find their purpose?
  7. If Christ is your head and He is building a Body of every tribe, tongue and nation, then work out that purpose in Sanford. Confront everything that exalts itself against His Lordship over His Body?
  8. Truly are we not to pray that His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven?  Are we not to expect it to be manifested here in our generation? Anything less would be unbelief and vain repetition that displeases God.
  9. Who has bewitched you to depart from the unity of the Spirit that already exists? Why haven’t you worked with the elders of the Lord in your city?
  10. How is that you can strain at nat-size doctrinal differences while swallowing a camel-size Church divided against its self?
  11. Are you building your kingdom in Jesus’ name? Is it really the Lord you are bringing people to, or is it to your own enterprise you are bringing them to? Consider this and the Lord will give you wisdom.
  12. Remember that each tree will bear its own fruit. Is there liberty and life in your tree? Does the fruit of your ministry tree heal the tribes and nations in your city and your country?
  13. Let us consider one another and provoke one another to work the works of Jesus. He who has called us is faithful who will perform it.
  14. Herein is the love of God, that we love all the brethren. By this the world will know that we are His disciples.
  15. Therefore I beseech all the servants of God to break out of the religious traditions and isolationism that works against our Lord’s Prayer, lest you be disqualified on the Day when Christ will judge the secrets of all men.

CHAPTER 4

Test and See If You Are of the Faith

Brethren examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith before the Lord comes.

  1. When we are received into the glories of heaven we will all be of one mind and one spirit because we shall see Him as He is.
  2. Let us provoke one another to consider how we can see Him that way now in the Spirit.
  3. The shepherds of God must model this reality for the flock to follow. What we will be in heaven we must be now in the earth.
  4. Those who discern the presence of the Lamb that was slain throw their crowns at His feet. Those who proudly cling to their titles or positions haven’t seen the Lord.
  5. Remember that the Kingdom of God births the Church. When we live from the life of the King and His Kingdom we become the true Ecclesia that represents the King. Greet one another as fellow citizens of the Kingdom.
  6. Know this, the Lord Himself is coming to His Church in power before He comes for His Church in glory.
  7. To the only wise and omnipotent God and Savior, Jesus Christ, be all the praise and glory forever and ever; Amen.

I Have a Dream Too

Dream

In light of the recent 50th anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in American history, I believe we can tap into a “greater grace” to advance Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” and the “Dream” of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 17, that we would be one. I believe there is something beyond the normal talking points of our ideological entrenchment that is available to the humble. In my dream, I still see the Church (or better said, the servants of Jesus Christ) as the best answer for all that is wrong in the world today. However the Church needs to admit we have missed the mark when it comes to reconciling the races and the denominations.

Some of our Sunday morning separation is not wrong; it’s just a matter of cultural preferences similar to the variety on our radio dial. I love the honesty of a black minister in my city. He said, it isn’t that he doesn’t like white people, he just prefers to be with black people. People like certain genres of music. It’s not often you will find country, blues, jazz, hip hop and rock music all on the same radio station. Freedom to choose your preference is a good thing. However when we never interact with people different from us between the Sundays, when we don’t cross pollinate, when we only have relations with our “own kind or family” the offspring we produce can have “birth defects”. Our mutual isolation produces psychological and sociological genetic weaknesses that keeps us from reproducing healthy solutions the next generation needs. We have lost the ability to balance differing points of views, that enables us to walk the “narrow path” that leads to life in our nation.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the only authorized and empowered people on the planet that can bring true reconciliation to mankind. The God who reconciled sinful man to Himself through Christ has deputized us as ministers of reconciliation, in all its forms. However the Church needs to be reminded that the Church isn’t the pattern for the Church… Jesus is the pattern. We are to offer the essence of Christ Himself, not the religion about Him. We are to be Jesus with skin on. That requires us to embrace the crucified-life so His life can flow through us. I believe He is with us today, speaking through people who are willing to yield to His Spirit, whether in the local PTA meeting or at your work place, in the White House or in God’s House.

We sometimes forget that Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring a religion; He came to bring a Kingdom. His kingdom is not political, but it is governmental. He still administers His kingdom rule here on earth, one life at a time. Often it’s only those who are broken, “kingdom minded believers” that possess the essential grace to advance the conversation we need so desperately. We need to be aware of the powerful vortex drawing us into the same trap set by the religious leaders of His day. Will we stay stuck by repeating the same old talking points that keeps us separated or will we mature in Christ-likeness to find new solutions.  Let’s tap into His grace to advance the conversation that is available to the peacemakers, and we will see the Dream come true.

I have a dream…

I have a dream we will not be political snake breeders.

I have a dream we will be free from doing things the way Barabbas did. 

I have a dream we will find life amidst a larger, balanced theological perspective.

I have a dream we will bury the excuses that keep us from working together in our cities.

I have dream we will humble ourselves and let God take over as never before.

I have a dream we will find a better way to govern by seeing things from a third perspective.

I have a dream the Church will understand the bigger picture of how we are to reach maturity.

I have a dream believers will understand how apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers can get along.

I have a dream the transition the Church is experiencing nationally with turn into another awakening.