Written – 5/1/91
I have an increasing burden concerning our lack of unity, and the associated lack of government for the Church in the Shoreline. There have been some specific developments in recent years, months and days, which have served to focus my attention on this problem, but before mentioning, the specifics, please allow me to share the increasing, all be it more general, burden of my heart in this connection.
Not wishing to go beyond my sphere or measure, I certainly am not the apostle Paul, nor any apostle, for that matter, but I identify with his burden, as he ministered to the Ephesian elders, “warning them for 3 years, day and night with tears,” concerning those who would divide the Church at Ephesus:
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”1
Geographically there were two sources of danger, those on the outside, and those on the inside.
No matter where the danger originates, the best defense against that which is false, is for the elders to “…take good heed to themselves…” If the elders are not in touch with each other, then the Church is already divided. They have each already led “…disciples away after themselves.”
What are the indications that this has already happened? It is that the elders, “…each go their own way.” They look everywhere, except to each other for insight, support, counsel, encouragement, and affirmation. In short, their primary source is outside the area, rather than within. I have certainly done this myself. In the past, I have been willing to spend a good deal of time as well as money in order to be with leaders out of town – anointed ones, out of town.
Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “I myself am fully convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in Knowledge and competent to instruct one another…” Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles writing to a Gentile
1 Acts 20:29-31
Church which he had never visited, was convinced that God had equipped them for building each other up in love. Today, the thought of spending time and money in order to, or in connection with being together with local leaders is almost inconceivable.
Even if I am convinced that I can find more truth, counsel, encouragement, teaching, and wisdom out of town, it gains me nothing, if in the pursuit of it I violate the unity of the local body. Even if, out of town, I can attain “…prophetic revelation, understanding of all mysteries, deep knowledge, and even great faith…” but in the process do not have love for the local brethren, I am wasting both time and money, self-deceived in the bargain.
This is not to say that bringing in outside help, or going elsewhere to receive ministry is illegal according to the Word:
“News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.”2
“I Wrote to the Church but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”3
We certainly do not wish to be found in the company of Diotrephes. On the contrary, we have always tried to welcome those who were apostles indeed. Our concern is with that which is false, either in person or in principle.
Certainly one facet of the restoration of the Church in our own day is the restoration of prophetic and apostolic authority. This having been said, please permit me to reexamine several passages of Scripture, which, I believe, have
2 Acts 11:22-27
3 3 John 9, 10
relevance, particularly where the restoration of apostolic and prophetic ministry is concerned:
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet (Baptist?) will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man (baptist?) will receive a righteous man’s reward.”4
Applying this at the local level, we must confess that it is certainly easier to receive someone from out of town, than it is to receive one another:
“Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”5
The implications are that we would be wise to receive, even local prophets. Certainly we should receive local pastors, and the other fivefold ministries. Note that it is expected that receiving prophets is not quite as easy as receiving pastors. As a result, The Lord, Himself, offers some added incentive, “… a prophet’s reward.” (On second thought, a prophet’s reward, more often than not, being rejection, perhaps this is a warning rather than an incentive.)
Notice also, that the failure to honor one another, results in a very substantial reduction in the divine power to bring blessing to one another as well as the “…flock of God over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” In Mark’s Gospel, the passage ends with the observation that Jesus “… could not do any miracles there…”
If, in preference to seeing and honoring The Lord in one another locally, we have a predisposition to go elsewhere to hear the “prophet’s voice,” then we are ripe for deception, and the resulting division of the Body of Christ where we live.
4 Matthew 10:40, 41
5 Matthew 13:54-58
In Jesus’ eschatological discourse, as a matter of first concern, He warns us about deception in connection with apparent anointing:
“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”6
It would not be beyond the original meaning to paraphrase this in the following way: “For many will come in my name, claiming to have the anointing of Christ, and deceive many.”
John, in his first Epistle, tells his audiance, “… you have heard that anti-christ is coming…” He goes on to explain that, already many anti-christs had come. It is clear that what was to come in a personification was and is already in the world in principle. It is also clear that these anti-christs have their roots, at least in part, in the Church, “… these are they which went out from among us.” Paul was having constant problems with those who went out, even from the Church in Jerusalem. In the first instance, the “circumcision group” were adding things to Christ, resulting in a “…different gospel.” This was, and remains a big problem in the Church.
Symptomatic of the problem is that they went rather than being sent. An apostle is a “sent one,” not a “went one.” “Wenting” is a big problem in our own day, characterized, as it is, by such great mobility.
The point I would like to make here, is that it is possible to be anti-christian in principle, function, method, authority, and content, without being entirely beyond the pail. We need to be careful to test, not only the man but the content, style and spirit as well.
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”7
6 Matthew 24:4, 5
7 Matthew 24:23-27
As examples of my more specific concern, allow me to share the following: Frank Wren, who is for me, a kind of father in the faith, recently asked for my comments on the Kansas City Fellowship.
As it happens, this new movement had been increasingly on my heart of late, and some perceptions had already begun to clarify. Frank’s request has stimulated further thought and clarification, perhaps even revelation.
At the heart of this latest movement is the restoration of apostolic and prophetic ministry, especially prophetic ministry. This movement is accompanied by many signs and wonders. Having its focus in the person of Paul Cain, it is spreading rapidly through cooperation and association with John Wimber and the Vineyard ministry.
With this much as background, I have several observations. I see some parallels between this current movement, and the “Shepherding Movement.”
I need to say at the outset, that I have the highest regard for Charles Simpson, and the other four leaders who were associated with him in the “Shepherding Movement.” I believe they had been given a task from the Lord, which, at its heart, involved the restoration of relational integrity to the Body of Christ. They all paid a very high price as they labored to bring this about.
I believe that they began in the Spirit. But, “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels…” As it was in the beginning, so it continues, we all have a tendency to start out in the Spirit, and then go on in the flesh, “…returning to those weak and miserable principles…” This is what I believe happened to the “Shepherding movement.” They began in the Spirit, and tried to work it out in the flesh. The result was substantial and wide spread abuse of pastoral authority. The entire “renewed” part of the Body of Christ is strewn with the embittered fruit of this abuse.
This was a movement, which was not accompanied by particularly significant signs and wonders, something else that God seems to be restoring in our day. It had no preexisting institutional structure that would aid in its rapid growth. It did spread rapidly, however, because the people of God were, and are, for the most part, like “…sheep without shepherds.” There is a great vacuum of divine and substantial shepherding ministry to the people of God. Large structures with one man leadership, are no substitute for the shepherding ministry and style of Jesus.
Now, in this latest movement, we have a similar possibility and danger. The spiritual energy behind this present restoration is much greater, and the availability of the Vineyard organization, itself, experiencing phenomenal growth, as a conduit for its spread, increases the potential for great good or ill.
My own view is, that the Vineyard organization probably embraces more of what God is doing today, than any other substantial institution. In addition, I certainly sense, that God is moving rapidly in our day in the restoration of His Church to its “former glory” and even surpassing glory. This includes the restoration of both apostolic and prophetic ministry.
The vision and content of the Kansas City Fellowship, a title they themselves have chosen, appears to contain little if any error, at least as judged by the letter of the Word of God. At the outset, at least, it would seem to be in the Spirit, as well.
I have two concerns, however, which I need to share with leaders at the local level. The first, I have already touched on, namely our adamic propensity to be programmatic. God is Spirit, but we are programmatic. God functions in the Spirit. We function in programs. God starts us in the Spirit, who makes us one, and we go on in a program, which manifests and encourages division.
Powerful moves of the Spirit, tend to have more appeal for young men than old men, older men being slower to move, or as Brad says, “It’s nice being older, because I don’t have the energy to over react anymore.” The Apostle John said, “I write unto you young men because you are strong…” Young men are strong, even strong in the flesh. For this reason they are often easy prey to the temptation to work things out in the flesh. Movements like “Shepherding,” and now this more recent one, have a great appeal to young men who are trying to be somebody or make something of themselves in the Name of The Lord. There is great likely-hood, and early indication that this is going to be true in this present instance. Our concern being that the resulting abuse of authority will add further casualties to the many incurred from the “Shepherding” experience.
The second concern relates to an inherent, as well as an explicit spiritual elitism. This school of teaching, by no means limited to the Kansas City Movement, sees, in effect, at least, two classes of the redeemed. In their case the elite group has been named “Joel’s army.” No matter what name is used for the elite, and there have been many used, even in recent times, whatever it is that distinguishes the elite or makes the difference, is “another gospel.” It is something in addition to or other than, the work of Jesus Christ.
To create a spiritual elite is to further divide the Body of Christ. Ignoring the meaning of “first fruits” many hold that the 144,000 of the Book of Revelation are an elite core of Jews who will function on earth at the end of the age, and take this as justification for preaching multiple classes of Christians. Where sound doctrine is concerned, the unity of the Body is, and ought to be preeminent.
My concern is that, short of the personification of anti-christ, it is possible in principle to violate the Spirit of Jesus’ warning.
In principle, Jesus is saying that, where the anointing is concerned, you do not have to go anywhere to receive it or see it, on the contrary, Jesus told the early Church to “Stay,” “Remain:”
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you, but as this anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
We on the other hand, are inclined to rush out of town for every new spiritual phenomena, or spend our lives making spiritual pilgrimages to visitations of the past. In doing so, we are missing the Christ who shines like the lightning from the east, even to the west. We are missing Christ in each other. The Church is meant to be like a marriage. You don’t make the marriage better by running away from each other. There is also time to put marriage manuals aside in order to talk with each other. The effect of our lack of communication on the Body locally, is devastation. The “joy of the whole Earth…” is a shambles.
Brothers, “Come let us reason together”!
Written – 5/1/91