Weak State of the Church
is weakened = lack of respect and honor for the word and
lack of honor of the body of Christ
Two serious problems
and false shepherds do not believe or teach what God has said about the
gifts of the members and the operation of His body. His body is not
believing what God has said about their relationship to Him and what He
has said He would do through them by His grace.
believe a primary reason the Church is in its present state is because
members do not see others as having necessary life being given to them.
Leaders tend disbelieve the scriptures and not trust Christ to
bring forth His body by any of the gifts other than theirs (or those
they have hand-picked or allow a token amount of spiritual input by
members) and tend to monopolize the entire time when the body gathers
and thereby squelch the gifts of members because they interfere with
his mission, message, agenda (or because they may not be presented in a
refined enough manner). He perceives the formalized and regimented
times that the body gathers as the stage to display his gifts. However,
anytime the body gathers, it is the time for Christ to
life to the body through the gifts of the body -- including the gifts
of the teachers and spiritual shepherds. It is strange that God would
schedule the same gift to be displayed, each and every time the Body
Sheep can make a lot of
noise, be messy, and wander where they will. They need to be taught to
hear the Master's voice by constant exposure to it. Actually, this is
the ONLY thing that a leader/shepherd is responsible for. The only way
that sheep will learn the master's voice is by hearing it many times.
They need to be exposed to it as the teachers reveal it, and the
under-shepherds reveal it, and as each member reveals it through the
obedient exercise of the gifts. The most efficient and common method by
happens is by way of the gift of teaching. Prophetic discernment is
also necessary within the body to nip errant teachings in the bud (by
Prophetic discernment I do NOT mean some self styled prophet sitting in
judgment over all that is spoken. Prophetic discernment is simply
knowing that a presented truth is not consistent
and its truth). It is dangerous if there is only one teacher
local body (one primary and responsible one, yes, but there should be
others) who is serving as sole prophet and teacher. It is even more
potentially dangerous if
that on teacher, leader, or shepherd is the
one who solely discerns the legitimacy of the Spiritís voice as it is
expressed by a member.
Unlike natural sheep,
the Great Shepherd not only rules among His sheep, He rules within His
sheep -- each one as He wills. Leaders need to learn to let Jesus lead
his sheep and have confidence in His ability to do so. Theirs is the
responsibility to help sheep understand when the voice is not of the
Master. In this way, do sheep learn the voice of the Master.
Telling is the poorest method, showing is the best method.
donít believe that most leaders squelch the life of the body
intentionally. They are only following an historical or traditional
methodology instead of His living voice. Congregations also expect that
format to be followed. They love to have one person or a small group of
persons in control. They then can feel they have no responsibility to
discern God's voice or to be obedient to that voice. They would rather
have a Moses than
Even though there are
talented and gifted leaders who are indeed called and placed by God
within congregations, it has never been His will that they have the
burden or prerogative of being the main or sole source of life to the
local body. It contradicts His design both on earth and in heaven.
Health comes from submissive functioning where each memberís function
is activated by the Spirit of God. Submissive function is developed as
each member encourages each other member to be Godís vehicle as He
determines. It is realizing that each member of the body is equally
capable of being a vessel of the Spirit. It is realizing that being so
used does not make us more special, more anointed, more spiritual that
other members. Those who are more used are those who are more
answerable and accountable to Christ. Those who are shepherds have a
two-fold task: to slow down those who tend to speak
out of their
own imagination and talents, and to encourage those who tend to be
silent because they realize the gravity of presuming to speak for God.
is almost certain that a shepherd who does not allow or does not seek
Godís expression through the other member of His body, will tend to
fill in the spaces with something other than the words of the
Spirit. They are trying to fill the congregations'
rather than submit to God.
It is a common practice
for a good pastor or leader to "submit" and seek the advise and counsel
of certain members (like a board of elders). This is only a shadow of
how it was meant to be. There are, of course, those counselors who more
consistently are used to provide wisdom, counsel and guidance for
another. They can do this because they recognize that they can not give
their own opinion. They also recognize that is the responsibility of
the one seeking to use their input as God sees fit. They do not dictate
or control someone's area of authority.
is one who is called on to give life to the sheep. A true shepherdís
main responsibility is to help insure that the body is healthy and
functioning and that each member responds to its function as enabled by
the Spirit. The gift that God first requires of a shepherd is the
realization that the life of the Spirit is made fully manifest ONLY as
each member is given liberty and encouragement to express that life
(not express themselves or "practice" their gift). It is a humbling and
fearsome thing to be the "vessel of the moment" in the Spirit. A true
shepherd has no desire to be pre-eminent or to monopolize as Godís
vessel or authority. His desire is to see Christ expressed in His
fullness within the body as the body operates under the direction and
inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
If a body (church)
is not experiencing the Spiritís expression through diverse members on
a regular basis, it is not a healthy body and death is working in it (I
am speaking of all gifts, not just those the charismatics are so fond
of). Those who have been given authority in the body that have failed
to lead it into life are responsible for its wasted and weakened state.
Spiritual body parts wither with disuse just as do natural body parts.
It is difficult to believe (and contradicts scripture) that whenever a
body comes together there is only one functioning member. Such seems to
be protocol in virtually every church on every Sunday morning and
midweek service. While it may true that one member may legitimately
predominate (each time and over a period of time), it is not true that
such exclusive focus is Godís order or plan for the church. The
shepherd is responsible for the health of the body. The body can only
be healthy as its members are allowed and encouraged to have
expression. If one does predominate according to Godís will, he will be
one who is more of a monitor and an enabler to Godís body as God
ministers to His body through His gifts of the Spirit (and I am not
talking of attention getting, listen-to-me gifts).
are meant to be leaders (shepherds) in the church. Such is Godís order.
A leader is one who is gifted to bring forth life. Part of this gift is
usually teaching. But Life is far more than teaching. It is also
individual nurturing and enabling the gifts of others. No shepherd is a
true shepherd who only feeds the flock, he is one who feeds the sheep
-- he is aware of the nutritional and health needs of each of his
sheep. He is able to see potential life in others. He is able to see
that the Life in a member needs to be imparted. He is able to see and
bind up the wounds collectively and individually. He is able to see
their weakness and shortcomings and to strengthen and nurture them into
wholeness. He is able to see potential and help develop each member to
its fullest potential. His focus is not on his gift, it is on the gifts
He is enabled by the Spirit to
gift separate the light from the darkness. He will work corporately and
individually with members to bring each of them into awareness and
usefulness. He will recognize others who are called to do the same,
whether to a larger or lesser degree than his calling and gift is. His
only purpose is to help the Great Shepherd express himself freely
through each member as the Spirit wills. He is more a monitor than an
instigator. It is rare when one person is chosen to shoulder this
entire responsibility and I believe it only happens when others refuse
to take their responsibility.
Christ has put gifts
in the church that have the responsibility to discern which voices are
His, which manifestations are His. These gifts can seem ruthless when
the poison of error tries to infect the body. They are not tolerant of
an Achin who hides his disobedience or of a Saul who thought to called
his disobedience Holy. But toward the members of the body,
are gentle and tenderly bind up the wounds of those they have afflicted
by the Spirit. Any shepherd that has a heart only to inflict wound and
not the heart to tenderly bind such wounds, is not a shepherd after
Godís own heart.
Any leader who disallows a
operate because the member has not met some spiritual standard is a
hindrance to the Spirit. It is not spiritual maturity or personal
holiness that causes the Spirit to move through a member. It is grace,
it is sovereign selection. Just as it was not because of our
suitability to receive grace at salvation, so it is not our suitability
as a Christian that causes us to be the expression of the Spirit among
the body at a given moment. It takes more humility and discernment to
receive Godís life through a "weaker" vessel than an "honorable" one.
While it is true that He will use most regularly those who are most
humble and obedient, He does not limit Himself only to those. It almost
seems that the Spirit sometimes delights to use the more unseemly
member to occasionally express Himself. It is then that the more mature
are most tested as to whether they are listening with Spiritual
discernment or are clouded by their natural reactions.
it seems that the gifts of the body usually operate on an unconscious
or subconscious level. It is not the one who regularly says, "thus
saith the Lord" who is the most spiritual. How many are the times that
someone has come up to us and said something like, "When you mentioned
such and such last year when we bumped into each other in the grocery
store (or wherever), it was really what I needed to hear and helped me
a lot"? We cannot remember what we said and may not even remember the
incident. It is always humbling after preaching a sermon or doing a
teaching where I wanted to convey truth and edify the hearers, to have
a person come up to me and tell me how much they were ministered to by
something I said (and that something I said was not
of my message, but an impromptu aside.) What was important to me was
getting the message across that I received from God and had prayed,
studied, meditated, and agonized over. What is important to God is that
life transpires as He sees fit.
It is Godís promise
that when two or three gather in His name, He is in the midst of them.
He has also stated that His life and the edification of the Body comes
through the gifts he has imparted. Therefore, when we gather we should expect
to receive and give life from the Spirit. As I go expecting to get (and
available to give) it is amazing how my perception of person changes. I
donít see them as the new convert, the overweight slob, the smoking
addict, the gossip, the proud. I see them as sources of life to me as
God provides through His spirit. Even though I may be very aware of a
memberís personal shortcomings, I seek to judge no man after the flesh.
Their is no member of Christís body that I eliminate a potential
expression of the Spiritís life toward me.
many Charismatic/full gospel members have tended to over spiritualize
this interchange. In doing so, they have diminished it and subjected it
to carnality. Typically these members will not share unless they "feel"
the Lord moving on them to say something, or unless their mind can
define it so they can relay it (been there, done that). How much more
useful and life giving is the non-charismatic that, in the process of
casual conversation, happens to relate something the Spirit dealt with
him about (And this just so happens to be something that the person
spoken to needs to hear)?
If you are aware that your
words are going to be a blessing or correction, it is all the more
reason to be cautious. It is too often a sign of the desire to be seen
as pre-eminent or spiritual when such consciousness is there. When
Godís word does come to us in a conscious way, it should produce a
sense of inadequacy. We are aware that the message of the Spirit is
best given only in the character and nature of the Spirit and cannot
should not be mingled with our desire for pre-eminence or timidity. If
it is a correction, we fear destroying or crippling a brother or
sister. If it is commendation, we fear that it puffs up the recipient.
Such conscious commissions given by God should always drive us to
A spontaneous word should also
given with fear and trembling. It is presumptuous to speak as God.
true shepherd is fully aware that his authority does not rest in him.
He is but a vessel. He is also truly aware of the price of
disobedience, misrepresentation, and rebellion. He first realizes this
as it applies to him and that it applies to him to a more extreme
measure than to those he serves. He is not one who threatens "Touch not
mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" although he is aware of its
truth. When he sees a member who is in danger of being guilty of
violating this, it strikes great fear in him for the sake of the
member. He does not rejoice when judgment falls on a disobedient one
(or say I told you so). He is rather one, who like
willing that his name be blotted out, rather than have Godís wrath fall
on him than the guilty (isnít that what Christ did?). He takes no
pleasure in being vindicated by God for he knows that vindication means
terror for the rebel. He is not frustrated by disobedience and
rebellion -- he weeps over it and intercedes on the rebels' behalf for
restoration and a right spirit.
The shepherd who is
frustrated and angry at the body for not hearing, not maturing, and not
doing are those who are taking the authority and place of God. The
shepherds responsibility is only to mirror the voice and character of
God as directed by the Spirit. God takes care of the rest. When God
moves in righteous wrath, we may be called to act as His counterpart in
A true shepherd will attack
threatens the members of the flock with a passion. Subtle doctrinal
poison at its faintest level will be exposed. For he has been given
responsibility over the sheep. But a true shepherd does not keep the
sheep in close corrals. He allows them to wander in selected open
fields where they could fall prey to wolves if not for his vigilant
watch. He fears not for the safety of the sheep because he trusts God
for wisdom on their safety and care and because he knows that the
Master Shepherd is able to keep those that are His.