Jesus gave some . . .
“And Jesus gave some as . . . evangelists and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ” – that’s what most of us take away from Ephesians 4:11-12, but did Jesus intend His church to be equipped only by evangelists and pastor-teachers? No matter what translation of the Bible you read it’s vitally important to observe that Jesus also gave some as apostles and some as prophets for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. Therefore, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were not designed to cut it alone. So what happens when the organizational structure of our church is missing this vital leadership component?
When we consider the spiritual dynamics of what apostles and prophets are designed to contribute to the body of Christ, both local and universal, the wake of discounting them has resulted in a powerless Christianity with scores of Christians receiving 50% of the training God designed to prepare them to function as lights in the world. Even the the local church experience is 50% less than what God intended for how would your physical body function with only half of its’ members?
A Less-Than Church Experience
“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28). Now let’s read this same passage from the theological grid of most church leadership in America today, “And God has appointed in the church teachers, then helps, and administrations.” Can you see why our church experience has predominately been teaching, helping, and administratively based? We hear the main sermon in the sanctuary, receive more in-depth Bible teaching as we divide up into respective groups for Sunday school, and are urged to help in the programs that are impeccably administrated – well maybe not too impeccably :). Oh, and I forgot to mention an occasional preaching of the Gospel which is why you invite your friends and family to church on Sunday – they need to get saved from the penalty of sin and prepare for the great escape as well. Wow- I’m almost blinded by the light! If you want to get in the mood of what I’m talking about, click on the link for some background music by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and clap your hands. Blinded by the Light
Can you see how the enemy has blinded the body of Christ from her power? Here is an excerpt from the constitution of the church in which I was ordained back in 1997, “We further believe that the temporary spiritual gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture, and these were apostleship, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, healing, and working of miracles (I Corinthians 12, 13; Ephesians 4:7-12; Romans 12:4-8). Any member practicing these temporary gifts shall be subject to immediate dismissal.” The sad thing is these referenced passages do not say that any of these supernatural manifestations of the Spirit ceased in the 1st Century AD when the canon of Scripture – the 66 books of the Bible – was completed. This view in Christianity is known as cessationism and I used to be a diehard cessationist until a mountaintop encounter with God. I can now understand how a theological mindset has blinded many from the truth of Romans 11:29 – “for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”!
The apostle Paul unequivocally believed in the value of all the spiritual gifts when he wrote, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” and commanded “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances” (1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Thess 5:19). If those passages are ever covered in conservative churches, the take away is “Pursue love . . . do not quench the Spirit.” Without considering the context, the Greek verb to quench could have a number of applications which would leave Christians wandering around in space with Dr. Smith and Will Robinson. However, the verb “quench” is the Greek verb sbennumi which means to suppress. Do not suppress the Spirit – how do we do that? We quench by despising and therefore suppressing prophetic utterances – in other words, we suppress the Spirit by forbidding His supernatural manifestations, teaching that they are not for today, and subjecting members to immediate dismissal. The apostle Paul concludes his four chapter discourse on church service protocol, “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:39-40).
Permit me to show you the fruit of a less than church experience under the suppression paradigm. When I Google, ‘How many Christians have been to a psychic?” it’s amazing what the search engine produces. In one forum an inquiring mind asks for guidance, “As a Christian, does getting a psychic reading go against Christianity? I am Christian and the past year has been really difficult on me. My life has just gone through so many twists and turns. . . . I’ve been praying for answers and for guidance in getting to where I want to go but I don’t have the answers. I don’t think I’m losing faith, I just want answers. If I do go for a reading, I am only looking for answers to what went wrong and where my life is going. I’m going in with an open mind. Would it be wrong or against my religion to go this route?” This is the fruit of suppressing the Spirit in church where Christians experience half of what God has intended for them – many seek elsewhere because destiny is sewn in their hearts and they yearn for supernatural revelation which the gift of prophecy is designed to provide.
One of the milder responses to the question is sadly indicative of how most church leadership would respond today – “Yeah, it’s wrong. You’re basically telling God that you don’t trust him, you’re not going to bother with seeking him, and you’re going to find your own answers. Why call yourself a Christian if you’re going to conduct your life exactly like unbelievers do?” Throw in a couple of prohibitions from Scripture such as Deuteronomy 18:10-11 and she retreats in shame. The destiny sewn in her heart has been suppressed and she perishes inside for lack of vision. Perhaps she’ll return to church next week for more teaching and the call to believe in Jesus again as she is encouraged to volunteer in another impeccably administered program. Please understand that I do not believe Christians should consult psychics, mediums, palm readers, or astrologists because it opens up a door to the demonic for the enemy to begin speaking into their lives. It is also not my intention to discount the importance of the gifts of evangelism, pastor-teacher, helps, and administrations – “for the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you'” (1 Cor. 12:21).
There’s a Better Way . . . Jesus gave some as prophets
The gift of prophecy is inherently linked to Christians walking in the fullness of their destinies today, no wonder the enemy has been attempting to blind the church from its’ legitimacy in the world. Satan has no problem with Christians emphasizing biblical doctrine over relationship and elevating Scripture to a place of worship because it bypasses love, produces division, and sends God’s children down the path to Pharsaism. However, a supernatural people walking in the fullness of their respective destinies on earth is something he vehemently opposes. God designed the prophetic to unlock personal destiny and launch His children into experiencing His fullness. When this happens, heavenly dynamics are experienced on earth because Christians are providing the light and spice of life (Matt. 5:13-14).
The prophetic gives life and makes things happen – it launches ships into the ocean full of wind in their sails. We can observe the importance of this gift from 1 Timothy 1:18-19, “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” In the midst of rough seas in ministry as the pastor of Ephesus, Timothy is encouraged by the apostle to fight the good fight by the prophecies previously made concerning him. That is destiny by prophecy!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
– 2 Cor. 3:17 –