Eschatology, Faith, Judgment, Leadership, Prophecy

President Donald J. Trump and the COVID-19 American Tragedy

American grave
Photo by babykrul

Storyline:

A false prophet flirts with a beast who is in love with a prostitute and the result is that 100,000 die in a plague in just 3 months. And, that’s just the beginning!

The Characters in America’s Version of Revelation:

  • President Trump plays ‘the beast,’ an evil and power hungry leader
  • The evangelical church plays ‘the false prophet,’ a spiritual leader that endorses the beast
  • The “almighty dollar” plays ‘the great prostitute,’ an economic system based on greed that uses governmental power to that end, even at the expense of human dignity and life
  • Vice President Pence plays a ‘witness’ that has lost his witness because he has been ‘lukewarm’
  • COVID-19, a ‘plague’ sent by Jesus Christ, exposes each of the characters for what they are

The Play:

A proper interpretation of the book of Revelation makes it abundantly clear that President Donald J. Trump is America’s very own manifestation of ‘the beast’ of Revelation 13. Furthermore, the current economic spirit behind the “almighty dollar” is ‘the great whore’ of Revelation. And, sadly, America’s evangelicals have been the ‘false prophet’ in this tragedy. A plague, which, according to Revelation 6:8, is one of many forms of judgement that are sent by Jesus (see Rev. 6:1).

Here is a brief breakdown:

  • Just as the beast of Revelation is ridden by the prostitute, President Trump is driven by the need to have a successful economy in order to stay in power, even at the expense of people. Rather than being submitted to Almighty God or even the rationality of science in the face of a pandemic, President Trump is driven by the “almighty dollar.” Nothing can curb him to care for people ahead of power.
  • Just as the beast is endorsed by the false prophet, President Trump is endorsed by many evangelicals who love him more than truth, justice and morality. He has been so enthusiastically embraced by so many in the Church that he essentially sits in the Temple speaking as though he is God. Rather than addressing his waywardness, as any true prophet would, these religious leaders and their flock defend him and prophesy sweet lies about him and the future of America.
  • Just as the beast is empowered by Satan, the father of lies, President Trump is notorious for his constant and flagrant lying.
  • Just as the beast has a lust for power that knows no bounds, Trump has lied and cheated to hold onto power, even to the point of being impeached.
  • Just as the beast is full of pride, President Trump never admits to his errors. All is “perfect.”
  • Just as the beast blasphemes God, President Trump does so by claiming allegiance to God and His people, yet living contrary to God and refusing to repent.
  • Vice President Pence has been the “picture perfect example” of the good American evangelical as he reinforces their God-sent leader’s views. He is the evangelical’s ideal political Ken-doll who supports and excuses the beast despite his immoral, in-humane and illogical political stances. Like the false prophet that he also represents, Pence looks ‘like a lamb,’ but speaks ‘like a dragon.’ Actions speak louder than words and not wearing a mask shows his allegiance.
  • COVID-19 enters America and sets up the true makers of Fake News to be exposed for downplaying the virus.
  • COVID-19 sets up the President to make a choice, which he says at one point is “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.’ And, over the course of time, he has chosen to dismiss science and instead risks people’s lives, promoting his sentiment on issues because he doesn’t like the cost to the economy.
  • COVID-19 sets up lukewarm and deceived Christians, who are supposed to be “the light of the world,” to look foolish because they continue to blindly back Trump.

Blind Evangelical Church

If you are an American evangelical, then it is very unlikely that you will recognize the correlation that I have made between the book of Revelation and your current experience. This is, in part, because of the false teaching of dispensationalism that has dominated evangelical thinking over the years. It is so removed in its misinterpretation of Revelation that it has made the prophecy completely useless to Christians who are adherents of this false doctrine. While the Bible explains men like President Trump as being ‘the beast,’ most Christians in America have been robbed of the understanding and comfort that Revelation has for them in the face of such a person. This lack is a judgment on their churches for not testing this doctrine that has been so forcefully espoused by so many over the years.

100 000 Die Under the Beast

As beasts go, President Trump may appear tame. However, 100 000 Americans have died in three months and most of the deaths are due to his bungling of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is directly attributable to his pride and lust for economic success and power instead of having a heart for the American people. What’s more, in the face of these numbers, he continues with his childish pride by not wearing a mask, when wearing a mask protects others from what we might unknowingly have and inadvertently spread. It is an example for others to follow as a way of caring for one another.

Judgement

Clearly, God has been busy using this beast, who is full of pride, as a means of judgement on a nation full of pride. Yet, still, many remain persistent and even belligerent in their unmasked pride (pun intended). In the process, He is also judging His own people for the choice that they made in Trump, and, having made him their choice, for their reluctance to hold him accountable. Instead, they have excused him at every turn and, as a result, he has become the nation’s nightmare. He might have been less brazen had he not had the kind of undivided loyalty that he has received from the evangelicals from the get go.

How Should Christians Respond

Toward the Beast:

Repent! Jesus must be your first love, not a politician. Also, repent on behalf of your brothers and sisters in Christ and those of your nation that have unswervingly embraced him. And, pray for all your leaders, especially President Trump, for God’s mercy is able to reach him, even as it reached Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Then, when elections come, don’t disregard the character of the candidates, for, in so doing, you have already been bitten once.

Toward the Prostitute:

Americans love the “almighty dollar” and many American Christians love it too. Revelation has this to say to them, ‘I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of [the great prostitute], my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues”’ (Rev. 18:4 ESV). You need to repent of the love of money, for the word says, ‘Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”’ (Heb. 13:5). Also, ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs’ (1 Tim. 6:10).

Toward the False Prophet:

Like the Bereans in Acts, test all ministers of the Word of God by the Word of God. For, it is as a result of a lack of this that many false teachers and false teachings have crept in. And, having become established, they have led this generation to embrace a beast who has led them into a full-blown plague.

Learn from these words of Jesus in Revelation to the church in Pergamum: ‘But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth’ (Rev. 2:14‑16).

What have your spiritual leaders taught you to think and practice that is contrary to God? Do you constantly excuse President Trump? Do you love money at the expense of people’s lives? Do you wear a mask out of reverence to God, who has given sanctity to life and who commands us to love our neighbour? Whether you follow the beast or the Lord Jesus Christ will be seen by how you think and what you do. You might need to repent of allowing yourself to be marked with ‘the name of the beast,’ which, in Revelation, symbolically indicates who your allegiance is with in both thought and action.

Toward the Plague:

Do not be presumptuous like good King Josiah was by getting in the way of God’s judgement. Wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance until the plague is over. If you contract the virus, realise that you are not necessarily being judged. As a Christian, this is a test of your faith. If you are lacking faith then ask God and He will give you the faith and grace needed for the experience. He will carry you through it to the other side, whether to be with Him, which is far better, or with your family, which, God willing, He may consider to be better for now.

Toward the Lukewarm Witness:

Let’s begin by looking to see to what extent we are lukewarm witnesses. Let’s also realise that we don’t all have the same pressures. Then, let’s pray for our own needs and for grace for our brother. That said, my word for Vice President Pence is, ‘Do not be deceived, “Bad company corrupts good character”‘ (1 Cor. 15:33 NIV). Love your neighbour and wear a mask! If you are a witness for Jesus Christ, ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould’ (Rom. 12:2 PHILLIPS). And, that can often include the Christian world. Be a Daniel or a Shadrach and put your neck on the line for your faith.

May we all soberly look at what God is doing in our own nations and all around the world at this time. And, let’s keep praying for grace for one another so that we can represent Him well as His ambassadors on earth.

Rob Morley

Eschatology, Health, Judgment, Leadership, Prophecy

Judgment Calls For Repentance!

Image from Biblical Counseling Insights

 

An All American Cast For Revelation

Many in the evangelical church have backed Trump, the most powerful man alive, who is easily driven by US companies that care less for people’s lives than their own prosperity.
They all make a great cast for Revelation, where the ‘false prophet’ backs ‘the beast,’ who is ridden by ‘Babylon, the Great Whore,’ who cares nothing for ‘the people of the earth.’

Turn To God, He Loves You

Repent, Church, and be devoted to Jesus first and not someone who promises ‘America first’ at the expense of kingdom values. Repent, President Trump, and follow the doctors and not the dollar! And, especially follow Jesus wholeheartedly, for he loves you dearly. He is the perfect deal. Repent, businesses, for God is your provider. And, people of the earth, repent and follow Jesus. And, Church, as for the Great Prostitute, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues’ (Rev. 18:4).

Rob Morley

 

Family, Leadership, Marriage, Spiritual Abuse, Transforming Society, Women in Ministry

The Endgame of Complementarianism is the Suppression of Women

Women in Workplace
Picture by Dez Pain

The Logical Outcome of Complementarianism

The sad reality that many of my good Christian brothers and sisters don’t realise is that, in the end, their supposed scripture-tight homey Complementarian view toward women plays out in the suppression of women in society at large. Many may scoff and think that I am exaggerating the reach of this doctrine. However, consider the words of John Piper, a foremost champion of Complementarianism and one of the most influential and well respected Christian leaders and teachers of our time. He says, “To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.” He goes on to say, “For example, a drill sergeant might epitomize directive influence over the privates in the platoon. And it would be hard for me to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant — hut two, right face, left face, keep your mouth shut, private — over men without violating their sense of manhood and her sense of womanhood.”

Though many Complementarians wouldn’t take it that far, Piper’s view is the sum logical outcome from their interpretations of certain key texts in the Scriptures. And, to the degree that this view is held by men who hold sway (and also by women), and to the extent that they have influence, false notions are imposed upon women, families and churches, and even onto society. The end result is a distortion of God’s creative and redemptive purposes for women, which is a loss to everyone, even to men.

Creation Testifies That Women Can Lead Men

The loss to men is especially ironic considering that Eve was meant to be a gift to Adam and, by extension, women to all of humanity. While this loss is to be expected in humanity’s fallen state, it is sad when it gets perpetuated by those who are in Christ. This leads to the other sad irony of Complementarianism, which is that the world, rather than those who hold Christ’s redemptive message, often benefits by not impeding the potential in women. For example, women are in the senate, in congress and in parliaments, and others successfully lead very significant countries and corporations, not to mention past queens and prime ministers. Creation doesn’t lie, because, like Deborah in the Bible, women have proven to be very good and capable leaders over men.

Scripture Testifies That Women Can Lead Men

Now, to be fair, our faith is based on Scripture alone. And, in this regard, we thankfully have many churches that interpret and teach a better message concerning women by using the very methods of interpretation that Complementarians use, yet with outcomes that are more consistent with Scripture as a whole and with God’s intentions for women specifically. In this regard, Women as Leaders is a link to several posts where I give alternative historical-grammatical interpretations to those of Complementarianism. I believe that you will see them ring true to the rest of Scripture and unintentionally, yet unsurprisingly, to what we see evidenced in life around us.

Just as we have evidenced that the earth is a sphere and are, therefore, not surprised to find that the Bible says the same thing, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible teaches that women can be leaders of men. Perhaps culturally and religiously indoctrinated men, and insecure men in particular, will battle with this outcome, but that God’s word. I, for one, would be grateful to be like Barak. He submitted himself to Deborah who commanded him in accomplishing God’s will. Nevertheless, even in the face of excellent alternative biblical interpretations that don’t compromise the Scriptures in any way (as some suppose), we still have Christians who doggedly hold to their interpretations and who teach that the Bible instructs otherwise. And, this despite both biblical and natural evidences of women unshackled.

Finally, I would like to end by recommending this TED Talk that highlights the sad reality of male leadership and women suppression found in varying degrees in many homes and churches and, as a result, in society too: Why I Left an Evangelical Cult | Dawn Smith | TEDxNatick

Rob Morley

Leadership, Marriage, Women in Ministry

The Fallacy around Male Headship in the Home and in the Church

by Eve Blackwood www.rgbstock.com/photo/nqDNCEi/stone+fountain
by Eve Blackwood
http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/nqDNCEi/stone+fountain

COMPLEMENTARIANISM – A FORM OF PATRIARCHY

Complementarianism is a belief that limits the roles of a wife to those that won’t infringe on her husband as head ‘over’ her. As such, Complementarianism is a form of patriarchy, but, unlike full-blown Patriarchy, which has women subject to men in every area of society, this version is restricted to how it effects the spousal relationship. The basis for this belief is their interpretation of Biblical passages like Eph 5:23, 1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. (Click on the references for an Egalitarian/Mutualist view of these passages).

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

In a nutshell, Complementarian wives cannot take on any leadership roles in society where they are ‘over’ their husbands. And so, fueled by a common misconception that church leadership roles are hierarchical, despite Jesus commanding to the contrary (Matt 20:25-27), Complementarians restrict women in church roles too, in order to prevent them from violating their concept of male headship in the home. In fact, when it comes to church leadership, Complementarians are especially quick to implement this practice, believing that Paul was addressing the possible violation of this spousal headship structure in passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35.

HEAD – AUTHORITY OR SOURCE?

What is clear is that this belief hinges on the principle of hierarchical headship in the home. However, even though Ephesians 5:23 certainly does speak of the husband as head (Gk. kephale) of the wife, the biblical era meaning of ‘head’ (Gk. kephale) means source and not rank headship. Also, to note, is that the text says that ‘the husband is the head of (not over) the wife, even as Christ is the head of (not over) the church, which also fits with that era’s use of ‘head’ as source and not authority.

But, someone might ask, what of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that reads: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is also to be understood as “source” or “origin”, without the idea of rank, and carrying  the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.

To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God

If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God

Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).

ORDER BY CHRONOLOGY ACCORDING TO ORIGIN/SOURCE

The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)

The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)

The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)

Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”

MUTUAL SUBMISSION

Furthermore, Eph 5:21 says ‘submitting yourselves one to another’, which clarifies that the male headship spoken of in Eph 5:23 must be understood within the context of mutual submission and not rank leadership, even if men had this kind of authority through state legislation or culturally. In fact, the term ‘submit’ in Eph 5:22 is not in the Greek, which clearly shows that wives were being directed to the same ‘submitting…one to another’ of Eph 5:21, and not another.

Even in the unlikely event that ‘head’ did mean rank headship in this passage, it should be seen as being descriptive of a husband in New Testament society, who automatically acquired legal authority over his household by virtue of his gender, but as prescriptive of how he ought to behave, given his position, for the sake of his wife and not primarily his own. Understood this way, Paul was being prescriptive within the confines of Roman society’s boundaries, just as he was with slave owners and slaves.

NO CHURCH HIERARCHY

Ironically, neither the meaning of source or rank for ‘head’ would preclude a wife from becoming an elder or pastor in a church and thereby interfere with the supposed spousal rank ‘headship’ principle, because there is no hierarchy in the Church where anyone is ranked ‘over’ another, except Jesus as Lord. That said, it is evident that the passages on Jesus being ‘head of’ His body also have to do with Him being the source rather than being about rank leadership, though it is clear from other contexts that He has this too.

SUBMIT TO HUSBAND

Also ironic is that if one takes a Mutualist (Egalitarian) or Complementarian view here and considers the likely scenario where a husband agrees or allows (depending on the view) his wife to be a pastor, elder, governor, or the country’s president, either by mutual consensus or authority over (again, depending on the view), then the outcome would be that she may, for Eph 5:23 says that it is to her husband that she is supposed to submit. And so, no church or any other man has the authority to stop her.

COMPLEX, BEYOND BELIEF

The Complementarian narrative centers around subordinate roles of a wife in relation to her husband, but the exact parameters for women in general, and each woman in particular, appears to be subject to the discretion and influence of male church leaders who claim Biblical authority for their exclusively male role and their varying interpretations. Furthermore, the application of their belief becomes so tricky, given their various interpretations, that it is hard to imagine that God would have given us something so difficult to pin down. Not to mention that the complexity of applying their belief increases and varies even more when we step out of the spousal relationship and consider leadership for single women or widows that don’t fall under these headship passages.

Leadership, Women in Ministry

God’s Plan for Gender Equality in the Home, Church and all of Society

----------- Do You Have a Fuzzy View of Gender? ----------- Kevin Tuck, httpwww.rgbstock.com
———– Do You Have a Fuzzy View of Gender? ———– Kevin Tuck, http://www.rgbstock.com

Equality Lost

Sadly, the Church’s long embrace of Patriarchy (male leadership in society), as well as its current entanglement with Complementarianism (a newer watered down version of Patriarchy where the role of leadership in the home and church are designated to males), are a perpetuation of the Fall and its consequence, “HE (man) SHALL RULE OVER YOU (woman)”. As such, they have nothing to do with the New Covenant and the gender equality found in Christ.

To consider how this came about, here, in a nutshell, is an overview of mankind, male and female, their dominion and how they have related to one another in God’s timeline:

Creation

The foundation for male and female equality, being joint heirs with joint dominion is found in the very beginning, in Genesis 1:27-28:

So God created man in his own image… MALE AND FEMALE he created them … And God said to THEM,”…fill the earth and SUBDUE IT, and HAVE DOMINION over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:27-28).

Note: nothing is said of gender roles or rank, or roles with rank.

Fall

Inequality that exists through so-called male roles of leadership was not in God’s original plan, but is described in Genesis 3:16 as one of the consequences of the Fall.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and HE SHALL RULE OVER YOU” (Gen 3:16).

History shows that man has certainly done this, even, and sometimes especially, by those in the church.

Note: male rank became the typical default.

Restoration

Although He worked, and works with us in our brokenness of male dominance, inequality is not God’s original or ultimate plan. In the New Covenant, described in Acts 2:17-18 and Galatians 3:28, we find a restoration to the equality seen at creation:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).

Note: nothing is said here or anywhere in the New Testament of spousal rank or church roles with rank.

Male Dominance Preserved by Misinterpretation, Tradition and Man’s Fallen Nature

These doctrines of Patriarchy and Complementarianism come from misinterpreting God’s word and are perpetuated by having become unquestioned tradition for many. Of course, the fallen male nature to want to dominate also helps to entrench these traditions.

As a result of years of indoctrination and bad example, many in the Church have a veil of Patriarchy on their minds that causes them to misread texts like 1 Cor 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Tim 3:1f, 1 Cor 11:3f and Eph 5:22f. Consequently, these texts are used to endorse behavior that is contrary to the Spirit, which is both sad and ironic, because Paul was often teaching against Patriarchy with those very texts.

For a look at those misused texts in context, click on these links:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silence…”
1 Timothy 2:11-15 “… I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…”
1 Timothy 3:1f “…an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…”
1 Corinthians 11:3f “…the head of the woman is the man…”
Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands…the husband is the head of the wife…”

May the joy of God’s original purpose of gender equality, that was lost at the fall, but found in Christ, become all the more yours in your home, the Church and in all of life.

God bless,

Rob

Leadership, Real Church, The Body of Christ, Unity

Church Leadership through Consensus

Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis
Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis

God’s Way Sacrificed

To many, the idea of church leadership through consensus sounds like leadership is taken from God and given into the hands of men. Nevertheless, it is precisely God’s way of seeing His will done in and through the Church. Sadly, the church is full of stories of leadership abuse, which could have been prevented if we had implemented God’s way of directing the church.

Authority

Church leadership only has authority to implement God’s leading concerning the whole church when group consensus is reached by the whole church. While one person may have God’s word on a subject, and with that the authority to share it, he or she still needs to obey God’s way and seek consensus before action can be taken.

Consensus Builds True Unity

This may seem like a painful process, but in the end it builds real relationships and true unity around issues. Outside of consensus, leaders easily default to the sin of preeminence where they employ the world’s ways and steam roller their ideas into action. Sadly, many church leaders justify this style by the success of their ministry, but the end never justifies the means! An environment of love is the only way to the outcomes that we seek and may often be more important than our goals.

Consensus Protects the Group and the Individual

Consensus is a way of protection. For example, in the case of church discipline in the New Testament, consensus is sought by involving everyone. This way a fair judgment can be reached through unity and also the fear of the Lord can be on everyone involved.

Consensus is the Fruit of Faith

Seeking consensus puts faith into practice. It is the belief that Jesus really is the head of the Body of Christ and is able to lead each member in unity.

Right and Wrong Examples

Acts chapter 15 is a good example of how the whole church is involved in resolving serious decision making and of how everyone was involved. Conversely, 3 John 1:9-10 shows Diotrephes as a leader who sought preeminence and bullied his way in the church.

For more on this subject you can read these related posts:

Church Leadership

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 3

Who Calls the Shots (Decision Making) in the Body of Christ?

Rank or Respect

Church Governance 101

Does the Bible Support the Position of a Senior Pastor?

The Super Guru Culture

Rob

Leadership, The Body of Christ

Are there Apostles in the Church Today?

Acts of the ApostlesThe term apostle is used throughout Scripture, but is it a role that is still found in the church today? To explore this possibility, let’s consider what the Scriptures have to say.

The Twelve

Generally we associate the term apostle with the twelve disciples that Jesus called apostles during His earthly ministry, see Luke 6:13. These men were with Jesus from the early days of His ministry witnessing all that He taught and did. As representatives, they were sent out during and after Jesus’ earthly ministry to testify of Him and His kingdom in word and power.

But, did the term apostle end with them?

Matthias

In Acts 1:15-26, Matthias is chosen to replace Judas, who was one of the twelve and who betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide.

Paul

Most of us,  without much thought, automatically associate Paul as an apostle. But, most of the evidence to Paul’s apostleship is by way of his own letters, where he calls himself an apostle, which alone could appear to be a dubious self-appointment.  However, Peter, one of the twelve, rather than take exception to Paul’s claim to apostleship, instead ratifies it when he called Paul’s letters “Scripture” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

Also, although Luke’s account in Acts doesn’t directly refer to Paul as an apostle, it clearly shows Paul to be one by the call on his life, through his teaching and by the miracles associated with him. In fact, it appears that Luke purposed to show in his narrative that Paul’s apostleship was just like that of Peter’s by intentionally choosing to reflect on the similar miracles that each did.

The term apostle didn’t end with the selection of Paul.

Here is a list of persons who are also called apostles in the Bible:

Barnabas – Acts 14:14

Andronicus and Junia – Rom. 16:7: – they were shown to be apostles depending on whether the text is to mean “among” or “to” the apostles

Timothy & Silas – see 1 Thess. 2:6 in context to 1:1

Epaphroditus – Phil.2:25 -“messenger” is the same word translated apostle elsewhere

Apollos – 1 Cor. 4:9

Evidence for Today?

The above list from Scripture shows a continued and broader use of the term apostle outside of the twelve. So, clearly, along with the unique apostleship of the twelve, Jesus chose others as apostles after His ascension.

This goes hand in hand with Eph. 4:11-12 where it mentions certain role players in the body of Christ, namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were given as gifts to the churches “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”

Can the list of names above, along with this scripture, be considered evidence for the role of apostle continuing to this day? Many, who are uncomfortable with persons being referred to as apostles in the church today, would have no problem with persons being referred to as an evangelist pastor, or teacher. But, for some reason, using the term “prophet” and “apostle” for someone today is considered anathema.  Why is this so?

Ignorance and Tradition

I believe that it’s because of ignorance and tradition that we sit with a narrow concept and use of the term apostle. And, also, out of ignorance and tradition we have incorrectly associated rank with this role and as such cannot imagine any regular person attaining the much elevated rank of apostle.

Now, although apostleship is a very significant role in the body of Christ that carries certain important responsibilities, it has no rank over anyone else in the body of Christ. The title or rather term apostle simply means “messenger” or “sent one” and as such describes a function or role in the Body of Christ.

Reverence and respect for an apostle should be no more than for anyone else in the body of Christ. Further reverence should be spared for the function and who the apostle is representing and not in a title of rank that we’ve created out of a title of function. This is hard for us to grasp, because in this world we typically associate rank with titles. However, Jesus taught his disciples differently, see my post, No Rank, Only Roles in the Body of Christ.

Jesus

It would be fitting to mention the most outstanding apostle, Jesus. Those preoccupied with the idea of rank might consider referring to Jesus as an apostle a demotion. Yet, in Heb. 3:1, He is called this, not as an inferior title, but rather as the description of His role as a messenger or sent one from heaven. However, unlike any other apostles, in this role Jesus does carry preeminence in rank and is certainly superior in its execution.

Today

I believe that to this day many have carried out the role of apostle, but have been referred to by other terms. Certainly, some have been among the leaders in missions. Yet, whether they have been known as such or not, the ministry of the apostle has lived on in Jesus’ Church to this day.

Look around in the body of Christ and perhaps you will notice an apostle or two among us. Don’t tell them though, as the false issue of rank associated with the role might make them giddy and fall :).

Rob

Leadership, Real Church

Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus – Welcoming Differences, Avoiding Division – part 7

Fostering Wolves
Fostering Wolves

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Fostering Wolves

When we elevate individuals in the church by kowtowing to them and their opinions, they can easily begin to think that they are superior to the group. And, very quickly they can seem distant and untouchable in the minds of regular members. It’s already a challenge to hold regular people accountable to one another and God’s word; imagine how much harder if someone has the idea of having preeminence. And, all the harder still if others believe the preeminence to be true.

These elevated individuals can subtly influence the flock or even blatantly rule them. Either way, it’s an environment for fostering false teaching. Paul warned the elders of Ephesus saying that “savage wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. Indeed, some of your own men will come forward and distort the truth in order to lure the disciples into following them” (Acts 20:29-30). Ever wonder why we have anointed men and women speaking different messages to one another to their own band of followers? I suggest that elevating people or allowing them to elevate themselves has contributed to this.

Super-Gurus

Paul readily used terms of equality when referring to people that he was a leader among; terms like, brother, partner, co-worker and fellow soldier. It shows his mindset and that of the early church. Super-gurus existed, but weren’t elevated.

There are, no doubt, some incredibly anointed teachers in the body of Christ, but as anointed as they may be, they are not above anyone else or above having their message examined in the light of God’s word. The Bereans, in Acts 17, didn’t dance around Paul, and they were commended for testing his message against scripture. In the same way, we should be able to test a speaker’s message and openly share our opinions if we believe the Bible to be saying something different. Also, this kind of interactive environment with a teacher can allow for more growth than simply hearing a one-way message.

Leaders Entangled in Sin

God’s word speaks of “the sin that so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Here, the author, a church leader, has clearly included himself with the pronoun “us”. By putting our church leaders over us, they are easily isolated and are more susceptible to fall into sin. Then, once involved with sin and without help, like a python strangling its prey, things can get more and more serious for them. Or, having begun with something small, the sin escalates to something more devastating.

Allowing formal or even subconscious hierarchy amongst us is a trap that can bring awful damage to the leader and to those who have wrongly elevated him. When leaders go astray, it is far less of an earth shattering experience if they are among the flock and not over them. Having been seen as equal to everyone else and just as vulnerable to sin and error, they are more reachable and easily helped.

Leading without Hierarchy

This requires brave leadership. No fear to lose people. Jesus lost many, but gained true followers through the Spirit. Don’t control; Jesus didn’t! You cannot really hold it together anyway. Members are designed to learn and grow in freedom. They are not yours!

For the sake of unity and fellowship it seems that if we focus on agreement over issues and on doctrine that we will always divide and be divided. If, however, we fix our eyes on Him who fellowships with each of us, despite our differences, then we may be able to accept one another with the same mercy and grace shown to us.  He lovingly holds us together in fellowship in His body, made possible by His death, resurrection and ascension.

If the Sadducees and the Pharisees, with all their differences, could come together under one roof, how much more can’t we who are unified by God’s Spirit and placed in the body of Christ. Jesus came under the same roof as people who rejected Him and who would have Him crucified! How far are you prepared to go?

Too idealistic for this world?! Yes, but, remember, we are not of this world!

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Leadership, Real Church

The Problem of Being Different in Church: Welcoming Differences, Avoiding Division – Part 4

Being Different
Being Different

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

When Seeing Beyond is Unwelcome                            

Consider what happens in a church group when a member or two begin to think differently, and perhaps even see beyond the horizons of their group. Most groups don’t facilitate open sharing, and even where some do, anything outside of certain domains of thinking is quickly shut down. And, where there is openness to be heard by a leader or pastor on a subject, you are generally herded by their reasoning into their camp of prescribed denominationalism or particular church bias.

In these environments, members cannot co-exist under one roof with openly professed diverse thinking, never mind different practices. In fact, if you don’t withdraw and conform (religiously called “submit”), then you are likely to hear something resembling, “If you don’t like it here then perhaps you need to find a group that thinks like you do and rather meet and worship with them.” But, is this a suitable outcome?

Prohibited from comfortably sharing their new found views with their brothers and sisters to reflect on, and unable to explore possible growth with others in that area, people may feel the need to then leave the group and fellowship elsewhere. When this happens, those enjoying life within the “safe” parameters of the original group can be very unsympathetic toward those wanting to leave. They can consider them to be rebellious and un-submissive to leadership and their church’s established views.

This type of leadership and group control is destructive both to individual and corporate growth which require personal freedom along with mutual submission to bring about true unity. Also, true unity does not come through controlling people’s behavior, but rather through recognizing that foundationally unity already exists through each member’s inclusion into the body of Christ. We can flow with unity and grow it, but we cannot undo it at its starting point. That said, all fellowship should be founded on this basis alone despite our differences in points of view.

Unfortunate Dilemma

So, the problem with denominationalism, and most groups for that matter, is that if a person’s ideas start to become too varied from that of the group, then depending on the issue, they may be faced with the predicament of needing to choose between staying or leaving. It’s a sad dilemma where they may feel that by staying they would be compromising their growth and that by going they would compromise the fellowship that they have enjoyed.

Clearly, denominationalism, guru following and fellowship based on uniformity of thinking are flawed ways for building on the unity that we already have as members of Christ’s body. Yet, people are content to feed off teachers rather than Christ, be happily ignorant of God’s word and find security in environments that easily fuel division and that one day may serve only to spit them out too.

So, how can we enjoy safe healthy fellowship with one another despite, at times, holding conflicting views?

In my next post I’ll share more on this.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

Leadership, Organic Church, Real Church

Organic Leadership by Jim Wright

Very useful post by Jim Wright, Crossroad Junction, on healthy leadership within authentic organic church plants.