Dreams & Visions
Everyone Equal?
Feelings & Experiences
Judging Doctrine
Judging Dreams-visions
A Christian Is - Part 2
Ministries, Ministers, Doctrines Examined

The Weak State of the Church

Reasons why body life is weakened = lack of respect and honor for the word and lack of honor of the body of Christ

Two serious problems
Immature 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.

I 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 give 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 "officially" gathers. 

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 which this 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 with scripture and its truth).  It is dangerous if there is only one teacher in a 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.

I donít believe that most leaders squelch the life of the body intentionally. They are only following an historical or traditional role and 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 Christ.

Even though there are tremendously 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.

It 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' expectancies 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.

A shepherd 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).

There 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 of others.

He is enabled by the Spirit to help each 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, they 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 gift to 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.

Fortunately, 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 the point 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.

Unfortunately, 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 prayer.

A spontaneous word should also be given with fear and trembling. It is presumptuous to speak as God.

A 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 Moses, was 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 mercy.

A true shepherd will attack anything that 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.