Working Together For Jesus

“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!

Finishing Well…Will You?

Finishing Well

Are you aware of the various stages we humans will experience during our life? How well are you dealing with the “process items” you are facing in each phase in your life? Do you plan on finishing your life well or are you just trying to make it through today? Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s book “The Making of a Leader” has some tremendous insights on this subject. Also my books may help as well.

“The Inner Journey”

“Roadkill Seminary”

“Working Together For Jesus”

3 Blind Men, An Elephant and “Big Theology”

ElephantPerhaps one of the biggest reoccurring blind spots we Christians deal with is the certainty we have about the part of God that we do understand. We sometimes insist on forcing the Scriptures to fit the worldview given to us by our “first” teachers. We end up reading what we believe instead of believing what we read in the Bible.

In my book “Roadkill Seminary” I state that we ironically have to be delivered from our commitment to our brand of the Christian religion in order to more fully discover the person of Jesus Christ. This realization often only comes through prolonged and difficult trials of the soul.

In my book “Working Together For Jesus” I have a chapter called “Anointed Self-Deception” where I detail this blindness to see things as they really are. Several biblical characters were infected with this short-sightedness. They were so sure the part they had from God was “THE” part that they ended up in “anointed self-deception”. The obvious ones were Elijah in 1 Kings 19:18; Peter in Matthew 17:4; and John in the book of Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. These all made incorrect statements and assumptions in the midst of awesome anointed events as they were serving the Lord.

Let’s look at some of the common areas where we get hung up.

Eschatology – Preterists, Amillennialists, Futurists and Dispensationalists work very hard to fit their view of the End-times into a systematic grid, but fair-minded observers note they can’t fit everything they believe into an error free narrative. I’m sorry if I am popping your theological bubble here but each point of view has to fill in certain passages of scripture with speculation, conjecture and hypothesis. Of course they are fine with doing that but they often won’t allow the other guys the same latitude with their narrative. See “Who’s Right About The End Times”.

Freewill – Calvinism and Arminianism represent the age-old Church debate about whether man truly has freewill or does God’s providence override it. Both points of view can be found in Scripture so what is a person to do? Well some people choose a camp and will mercilessly squash anybody who tries to tell them differently. Frank Viola brings some clarity to the debate with his article “Why Calvinists Live Like Arminians & Arminians Pray Like Calvinists” http://frankviola.org/2012/05/24/calvinismarminianism/

Law and Grace – Perhaps nothing has Christians arguing more today than how we should decide the correct application of God’s Law -judgment and His Grace-mercy. In my book “The Inner Journey” I attempt to remind us all of the Biblical illustration the Lord gives us in His Tabernacle. His Law is written in stone so no theologian can erase His holy standard; yet He keeps the stone tablets in a box covered with His own blood so no theologian can suggest any of us are unredeemable. I still see both Law and Grace alive and active in our day. Its in these in-between places where God speaks with us about everything. Sadly the old adage; “the devil is in the details” may never be more true than here. My article “In the Year 2023” may help the discussion between those who emphasize Law and those who emphasize Grace.

Politics – Conservatives and Liberals approach to the Scriptures from the opposite emphasis of righteousness and justice, see Psalm 89:14. One focuses on our vertical relationship with God and His righteousness, the other focuses on our horizontal relationship within society and His justice. In my book “A Better Way To Govern” I discuss how seeing the bigger picture here gives us the grace to overcome the caustic rhetoric that eats away at the solutions we all so desperately need. This doesn’t help television or talk radio ratings but it will change our world for the better.

The News – The George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin story that we here in Sanford were so involved with presents another illustration. Some of my liberal friends post only the articles that make George Zimmerman look like an untrustworthy racist and some of my conservative friends will only post articles that make Trayvon Martin look like a no good thug. They each seem incapable or unwilling to acknowledge the other point of view. Are we capable of a better way? My article on “Choosing Between Jesus or Barabbas” helps us recognize what spirit we are operating in when trying to address entrenched problems in our communities.

I’m not faulting anybody with a belief system they support. They are doing the best they know how from their point of view. However we forget that a point of view is just that, a view from a point. I do think we need to aware that when we are hell-bent on making things fit our point of view we can contort the heart of the Scriptures to make them fit our presuppositions. Some of us do so much Scripture twisting we make an Olympic Gymnast look arthritic.

In the end I keep noticing that each point of view falls short if left in isolation to the others. I like Psalm 119:160 where it says; the sum or the entirety of Your Word is truth. It’s when all the pieces are considered together, do we begin to see the big picture more accurately. Its not your way or my way, its Yahweh Who needs to be our focus.

Three Blind Men and An Elephant

I think many of us have heard some version of the story of the blind men and the elephant. One was holding his tail and described it as a rope. The other held its trunk and described it as a tree. The other held its ear said it was like a leaf. They were all partly right but totally wrong. Sometimes we do the same describing God. Our initial observations are correct but our conclusions often misrepresent the bigness of God and His purposes.

When people ask me what theological camp I embrace, I tell them I embrace a belief system that I call “Big Theology”.

What is Big Theology?

Big GodB – God is Big – This should go without saying but as we try to define God or a particular aspect of God we may inadvertently make God small. In an effort to be exact, we can become myopic. We exchange the micro for the macro. We miss the forest because of the trees. We end up making God smaller and easier to handle for our convenience. We forget He exists and works from several extra-dimensions and to make Him fit into our worldview is like explaining the internet to the ants in your back yard. A little perspective here may be just the dose of humility we all need.

I – God is Inviting – The apparent Biblical contradictions (called the principle of antinomy) between doctrines and groups within the Body of Christ are put there by divine providence. Dr Stephen Crosby points out in “Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement” that it is the very polar opposite positions we spoke of earlier that creates a magnetic field that draws objects into its space. They make us look into the mystery. Neither the Scriptural contradictions nor the skeptics should discourage us from pressing in. The dichotomies and contradictions in Scripture and in our society should draw us in to find where God is in the mix. There should be a magnetic attraction moving our hearts to look deeper into the mystery before us. Jesus didn’t speak parables and mysteries to keep truth “from” us but to keep truth “for” us. It is only those who have a royal seekers heart that are deemed worthy of receiving these precious kingdom truths in the first place.

G – God is Glorious – If we study the Scriptures with an open and humble heart the fruit will be wonderment and amazement. God is like the ocean; you can play in the water ankle-deep but if you are willing to relinquish control you can go deep! When we see Emmanuel in the manual we are swept away in awe and beauty. The glorious revelation of Him causes us to worship. That is why Jesus said we worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Theology is the child of worship. Revelation of Him should transform us into His image, not into the image of our particular denomination outlet or network. God is dynamic. He never changes but He is always moving. Beware of religious rigor mortis. That which is static is often dead. He is not the scaffolding used to build the building. He is more than our doctrines and opinions. He is not the wrapping paper or the box the gift comes in. He is so much more than that. He is “BIG”.