Sunday, June 27, 2010

A time for...prophets?

"The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven;" Ecclesiastes 3:1

"And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he (the Anti-Christ) corrupt by flatteries: but the people who do know their God shall be strong AND DO EXPLOITS. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many:..."

Recently, I was asked about my testimonies of my conversion and my call to preach. Since then, through some comments from my wife as well as some gentle nudgings of the spirit, God has had me go back and reexamine the passages he used to call me to preach. One of them was Jeremiah 1: 4-10.

The part that stuck out at me was, "I ordained thee a prophet...". I know what you're thinking: "Who is this guy to think he's a prophet? Will we see him on TBN soon? First of all, I don't think of myself as a prophet, most assuredly not one like the name it claim it hucksters of our day. God has been dropping some disturbing (to me) thoughts into my mind about this. Maybe I should think that way. In fact, maybe we should all think about ourselves that way.

We are entering the very end times. We are watching the beginnings of the final horrible days ahead. Some say we won't be here for the church will have been raptured. I don't happen to agree with that, though I wish it were true. Who really wants to be here and live through the time of Satan's wrath on Earth? Yet, we are told by another prophet (Daniel) that "the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits". In the midst of the awful days to come, we are told of how powerful God's people will become in the Lord. After all, doesn't the word also say that, "the glory of the latter house (us) will be greater than the glory of the former house" (the early church).

We've all been looking for that end time revival. We've all been praying for it to come, yet very little seems to be happening in God's kingdom nowadays. What's the difference?

In the OT, the revival was always brought on by a prophet- God's man for that hour- who would come with God's word for that generation. Many times he was used to show God's power in the land. When God's power was manifested, the people repented.

In the early church, it was the same, yet different. Yes, God had powerful leaders, and he showed up and showed out! Everything from casting out demons, to healing the sick, etc., was being done and many were converted. However, I would submit to you that our church structure seems to be the opposite of theirs.

"And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph. 4: 11-12

Our modern churches seem to be set up as a TOP DOWN hierarchy. We read these verses and are taught by many that these verses mean that:
It is the five fold ministries job to a) perfect the saints b) work the ministry, and c) edify the body of Christ. The sheep are to show up, worship, give their offerings, and hang on every word that their "enlightened leaders" say. Then they are free to go home and be all starry eyed about having been in the presence of God and, by extension, God's man. What if that's not what these verses mean?

What if they really mean that a) it is the 5-fold ministries job to help perfect the saints so that b) THEY (and us) can do the work of the ministry, in order that c) the body of Christ is edified (or grown and lifted up). What do I mean? It is the leaderships job to pray for, teach and correct, and lead God's people to higher places in God. For what reason? So that they, too, can learn to be used in ministry!

There are nine or more gifts of the spirit listed between 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12. These gifts are there and are available to the whole body of Christ, to be exercised by whoever God wishes to use in these capacities. "These signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE.." Mark 16 says, yet in many churches, we are given the idea that only those special few on the platform can do these things. Indeed, in some places, the "sheep" are not allowed to operate in the gifts. If they do, they are accused of stepping into the pastors authority. How absurd!

On the flip side, if a congregation is encouraged to operate in the spirit of God, and taught how to do this, this gets a congregation excited! Why? They're involved. Their not just money giving pew warmers. They are an active part of what God is doing there. How many have been lost and have given up on God because they were not allowed to operate in the way God wished them to?

When they see a need for prayer and have the freedom to go do that? OH, what a difference that makes! When they have an opportunity to give a Bible study to a sinner, and that person (or people) get born again as a result? How excited will they get? How many more Bible studies will they give? How many, when they see the tears of joy and release on the face of the family that they just helped with groceries or a car, or their bills, or clothes, etc won't be encouraged to help more? Especially when they see the family they helped reached for God!

That's how it's supposed to work! We teach and preach and lead. We do take part in doing the work of the ministry, but God's people are let loose to let God work through them as well. The more God works through all of us, the more we are all willing to do more work for God. The more we see God doing, the more excited we become and want to see and experience more. This circle naturally edifies (lifts up and grows) the whole body of Christ. We all get closer and closer to God and see God doing more and more.

One of the gifts of the Spirit is Prophecy. We tend to think of it as "foretelling the future or giving divine warnings". If God chooses to use people that way, so be it. However, simply put, prophecy means, "to speak forth the word of God". Yes, there are gender specific requirements to certain offices in the church. But, anyone can be used to speak a word in due season to a hungry soul that they meet- if God directs. Anyone can be used to pray.

Yes, there is a specific office called a prophet that is part of the 5 fold ministry (prophetess is not a part of this), but anyone can prophecy. What does it say in Revelations about the end time saints (our generation?)?

"...And he said unto me, these are they they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb." (Rev 7:14) See, we are going through the great tribulation. Sorry, had to throw that in. But, how did they (we) make it through?
"And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death" (Rev 12:11).

That kind of commitment only comes through great spiritual excitement and freedom. The TOP DOWN church system does not bring revival. Only a people that are freed to follow God and experience their own love affair with him can do this.

I'm not advocating "no fences". I'm not advocating the abolishing of "pastoral authority". Yes, people need guidance and people need correction. All of these things are covered, in detail, in the scriptures. My point is that the five fold ministry was never intended to take the place of God in peoples lives. When we do, we hinder the move of God. When we preach or teach what God gives us, and the service is over, other than prayer, that message is now between the hearers and GOD. We have no authority from God to run other peoples lives.

Will they make mistakes and mess things up? Of course! But would a parent rather help a fallen toddler get back up and try to walk again, or would they prefer that they never walk because there's a possibility they may get hurt, hurt someone else, or inconvenience us? If we want to see more people staying in the church and getting excited about the things of God, then we've got to let go the strangle hold we think we have to have in order that they won't get out of control. The beauty of living for God is that HE"S IN CONTROL, not us. We're just blessed to be able to be used by him to serve others.

We need more people to walk in the gifts of God, not a centralized few. We need more people to prophecy, not just the leadership. We need more people to teach God's truth and reach out to the lost, and help the hurting, and pray for the sick, NOT JUST "THE MINISTRY". Everyone who is born of God has a ministry. I say, let the saints loose and see what God does!

After all, in the end times, "The PEOPLE (not just the ministry) that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits" and "they that understand among the people (not just the ministry) shall instruct many. Let this begin the era of the "ministry of the saints" and watch God work. Let the prophets arise!