God’s Leadership Model

bible1Last week, I wrote about God’s design for His church, specifically in terms of the leadership structure. If you didn’t see it, you can read it here. In today’s article, I want to describe briefly the function of each role mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13. Another Scripture passage that mentions some of these roles is 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”  The following are very brief and simplified descriptions – entire books have been written on each individual role. 

The first role mentioned is apostle. Interestingly, the word was not used in religious circles until the New Testament; it was a secular word meaning, “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” Their key role is authority, as seen in the life of Paul and other apostles, who operated in supernatural power, performing miracles of healing, deliverance from demons, and raising the dead, among other acts. Paul was commissioned by Jesus Himself and sent as an apostle to the Gentiles after supernaturally receiving the gospel through direct encounters with the Lord. Peter was appointed an apostle to the Jews. Other apostles mentioned were Barnabas, Timothy, and Silvanus, in addition to the original twelve. Within the Church, modern day apostles serve the body by equipping them in apostolic ministry and overseeing the other ministries of the church. They receive regular revelation from heaven that they bring to the other leaders who also use it to equip the body. They use their gifts to bring the body to maturity and unity.

Prophets work closely with apostles, as both roles receive supernatural revelation for the purpose of training and equipping the body. A prophet’s key role is to train the body to hear from God for themselves, and to properly discern, interpret, and deliver His personal words with increasing accuracy, love, and grace. In the Old Testament, there were “schools of the prophets” which trained those called to that office. Many believe that if one is called as a prophet, they will instinctively know how to prophesy, but that is not true. All the gifts start as a seed and must be developed, nurtured, and exercised in a safe community where mistakes can be made without judgment. We don’t believe it is odd to train pastors and teachers, and the same is true for all the other gifts. Both apostles and prophets are more Kingdom-minded than Church-minded; as visionaries, they see the big picture and live with an eternal perspective.

Evangelists are given to the Church to train and equip the people to share their faith every day as a way of life. Their key role is reproducing witnesses.They are not there to “do” the work of evangelizing the lost. All God’s people are called to be witnesses, but many do not, out of fear or insecurity, because they’ve never been trained. A true evangelist will enlist an army of believers to go out and win the lost wherever they go. This will result in a great harvest coming into the Kingdom!

Pastors are called to guide and protect God’s people. With the revelation given by the apostles and prophets, they help people to see the bigger picture of the Kingdom and eternity, rather than focusing on the present with its trials and struggles. They provide counsel at times, but also want to help the people become responsible for their own spirituality and walk with God. They provide assistance, within reason, to enable them to navigate the process of growing up in Christ. Their key role is to protect and prepare the people.

Teachers are provided to teach the people how to personally appropriate the revelation and information given by the other four leadership roles. Their key role is education, and they believe everyone’s issues center around needing more of it. They love to teach classes and recommend courses, books, videos, conferences, and anything else that will help God’s people learn.

These five leadership roles are very different and unique from one another. In order to properly equip and bring God’s people to maturity and unity, it requires great humility and submission to each other and the Holy Spirit. Jesus will build His Church as His appointed leaders do their part by building up the people. It cannot, and will not happen any other way but His. All five of these gifts are critical to successful preparation of the bride.

Historically, we have almost exclusively seen only pastors, teachers, and evangelists recognized and accepted within the local church. Without the supernatural aspect of apostles and prophets, our churches have been largely powerless to affect the real change we need. Only transformed people can transform cities and nations. Until we come into alignment with God’s chosen design and structure, we will likely continue to see more of the same.

 

 

The Jesus You Thought You Knew

As I continue to contemplate what God is doing in this season of my life, I recognize road-to-emmausanother “theme,” for lack of a better word. I am reminded of a book I read years ago by Graham Cooke called, Hiddenness and Manifestation. The gist of the book is how God reveals Himself differently in different seasons of life in order to broaden and deepen our revelation of who He is and what He is like. It also speaks of how, at times, He is easily seen and felt in our emotions, and other times it seems, He is a million miles away. We can’t see or feel His presence and it may be more difficult to hear His voice.

I went through an incredible eight year season of manifestation that began in 2004 and began subsiding in 2012. It was as if God was right beside me continually – I could feel His presence, hear His voice, sense His heart, feel His pleasure towards me. It was the most incredible season of my journey thus far! I was full of joy, nothing angered or upset me, I didn’t worry about anything…I had never before experienced this level of intimacy with my Lord. Even the difficulties I went through didn’t detract from the peace and confidence I felt.

About eight years later, the trials became more intense and seemed to multiply in different directions – health, ministry, relationships, finances; it seemed I was being bombarded from every direction. Gradually, over time, the nearness of His presence began to wane. It was more difficult to hear His voice and sense His heart. In short, He was transitioning me to see a new revelation of Himself. Job went through a similar situation. After the loss of his wealth, children, and health, he realized he didn’t know God as well as he thought he did. He said, “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.”

Mary Magdalene also received a new view of Jesus after His resurrection at the tomb. She first thought He was the gardener because He looked differently than He had before. When He says her name, her response is, “Rabboni,” (which means Teacher). Up until that time, that was the revelation she had of Him – a Teacher – yet here she saw Him in His glorified state as the One who conquered death and the grave.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus also saw a new side of Jesus. As He walked alongside them on their journey, “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures  concerning Himself.” Yet they didn’t recognize Him as the Living Word until He broke bread with them and their eyes were opened.

There are many other examples, of course. What about you? Has Jesus revealed Himself to you in ways you didn’t recognize at first? Has He hidden Himself from your emotions? He does this to prepare you to see Him in a new way. Ask Him today, “Lord, open my eyes to see all You would have me to see, that I may know You and love You more.”

 

4 Steps to Biblical Faith

Charlene S Hughes

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the necessity of having patience in order to inherit faithGod’s promises. If you didn’t see that, you can read it here. The other ingredient we must have is faith. Faith, like love, is a word that is used so much we seem to have lost the significance of its meaning. For the past several years, I have been wrestling with the concept of faith. Here are a few nuggets I’ve come across so far; I hope you find them helpful as well.

From what I’ve observed in many churches and in the majority of Christians I’ve ministered to for many years, it seems faith has been reduced to a mental agreement with certain beliefs. This is in stark contrast to what is depicted in Scripture. What preceded belief in the saints was a firm conviction. This conviction was birthed through revelation…

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God is Our Refuge

You who live in the shelter of ‘Elyon, who spend your nights in the shadow offortress Shaddai, who say to Adonai, “My refuge! My fortress! My God, in whom I trust!” (Ps. 91:1-2)

I love Psalm 91. It has been one of my favorites for many years. I especially love it in the Complete Jewish Bible because it uses the actual Hebrew names of God. Meditating on the Psalms, or any Scripture for that matter, brings such a depth of insight and revelation. Reading and studying the Word is good too, of course, but I find meditation satisfies my soul like nothing else. The rewards are more than worth the time and effort it takes!

In these first two verses, two places and two actions are mentioned. Living in the shelter, and spending nights in the shadow. It uses three different names of God. ‘Elyon means “God Most High.” Shaddai means “Almighty,” or “All Sufficient One.” And Adonai is translated as “Lord.” Each of these describes a different nuance of God’s character and nature.

The word live means to dwell, to abide, to be inhabited; it can even mean to marry. Shelter refers to covering, secret place, a hiding place, or secrecy. Spend your nights literally means to stay or lodge somewhere overnight. Shadow literally speaks of a shadow or shade; protection.

We are to abide or dwell in the revelation that God is Most High. He is above everything else and we can hide, be covered, and secretly live in Him. He is our covering. God Most High covers us, hides us, protects, and shelters us. He inhabits us through His indwelling Spirit.

Night symbolizes times of darkness, even distress, yet He is All Sufficient for every need. He is Almighty over every problem. His shadow or shade can only be seen in daylight. It is always light when He is there, which is always. Spending the night also speaks of temporary lodging.  Difficulties, though they come, are short-lived and fleeting as Paul described in Romans 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning! (Ps. 30:5)

When we truly know Him as Lord (Adonai), we will experience Him as our refuge and fortress. In the place of true surrender to His leadership will we have peace that He has our very best interest at heart. We can trust Him, no matter what may come against us, for we know He is always for us. You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. (Isa. 26:3) His name is likened to a strong tower we can run into for protection. (Prov. 18:10) We are hidden in Him. (Col. 3:3)

A fortress is a place of protection in times of war when the enemy is trying to beat down the door. Spiritually speaking, it is a place in God that is impenetrable. The enemy cannot breach those walls. He cannot touch us there. Rather than trying to fight the enemy, we can retreat into Him. We can hide in the secret place of His love, strength, and might.

4 Steps to Biblical Faith

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the necessity of having patience in order to inherit faithGod’s promises. If you didn’t see that, you can read it here. The other ingredient we must have is faith. Faith, like love, is a word that is used so much we seem to have lost the significance of its meaning. For the past several years, I have been wrestling with the concept of faith. Here are a few nuggets I’ve come across so far; I hope you find them helpful as well.

From what I’ve observed in many churches and in the majority of Christians I’ve ministered to for many years, it seems faith has been reduced to a mental agreement with certain beliefs. This is in stark contrast to what is depicted in Scripture. What preceded belief in the saints was a firm conviction. This conviction was birthed through revelation from God. God spoke either directly or through another person, and His words pierced the hearer’s heart, convincing him or her of truth. Once convinced, the hearer was moved to action, making the choice to believe and acting accordingly. Conviction produced repentance. Biblical repentance means to change the way you think, resulting in a change of behavior.

This is the pattern for biblical faith and it is seen over and over throughout God’s Word. One example is Acts 2:14-41, Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. After receiving the baptism of the Spirit, Peter began to explain the phenomenon that had taken place. He then launches into a powerful message to all who had gathered, anointed by the Holy Spirit. What followed was conviction – “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (2:37) Notice their question – “What shall we do?” Through the Spirit, they received revelation, producing conviction that moved them to act. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (2:41). Afterward in verses 42-47, the result was a change of behavior.

From this and other examples we see that there are basically four steps to biblical faith:

  1. Begins with revelation received through an anointed message, or directly from God.
  2. Revelation produces conviction, a convincing of the heart that the message is true.
  3. Conviction brings repentance, a change of thinking.
  4. Repentance provokes an action, a change of behavior.

What is often called faith in our culture is a mental assent – an intellectual agreement or compliance. It is usually based on what you’ve heard repeatedly and know you should believe, because it is what you’re supposed to believe if you’re a Christian. The problem is that when troubles come we fall apart, get into fear, doubt, and unbelief, question and even blame God. This is basically what happened to Israel during their trek in the wilderness. As a result, a whole generation died there in their unbelief.

This is not to say that true faith does not waiver from time to time. We all struggle with doubt and unbelief as we grow into maturity. But when doubt and unbelief is a repeated pattern, we need to be honest with ourselves and God. If this is a pattern for you, ask Him for revelation of the truth. Revelation is the seed bed of true faith and can only come from Him. Pray for ears to hear, which is a willingness to believe what He tells you. Commit to respond when He speaks. Trust that He is both the author and finisher of your faith. He will complete the good work He has begun in you!

 

What is God really like?

Blue treeI believe the greatest need in the Church right now is the true knowledge of God. Our personal knowledge of God – what He is like, how He thinks, feels and acts, is the most important thing in our life. It determines how we relate to Him, to others, even to ourselves. If we see Him as mostly angry and disappointed with us or with others that is how we will treat both ourselves and others. If we believe He is demanding and perfectionistic we will demand the same standard of ourselves and those around us. If we view Him as loving and forgiving we will love and forgive ourselves and others. Our actions are always an indicator of what we believe, so if we treat others harshly, with impatience, intolerance, or any other negative way, it should be a clue that we are in need of a greater revelation of God.

Our personal revelation of God must come directly from Him. It must impact us at the deepest level of our being in order to transform our thinking and actions. We come to know Him just as we get to know people – by experiencing them (spending time with them, talking, doing life together). It requires a real relationship, day after day, week after week, year after year. Apart from this, we have no hope of ever knowing Him.

The good news is that God LOVES to reveal Himself to us if we will simply ask Him. Paul knew this when he wrote, “In my prayers I keep asking… the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you will have full knowledge of Him.” (Eph. 1:17) Usually He will choose one particular aspect of His nature to reveal to us in depth. For me it has been His faithfulness. Through many trials too numerous to mention here, He has demonstrated His great faithfulness time after time after time. He has done this so much that whenever I’m facing another trial, I know without a doubt that He will be faithful to carry me through it and it gives me great peace.

I have discovered that what He reveals of Himself to us is what He wants to form in us, for we become like that which we behold. And whatever part of Him we become like is what He wants us to display to those around us. He really, really wants everyone to know Him and we’ve been given the privilege of making Him known to a world who wants to know Him whether they realize it or not. We were made to know Him and will never find our true purpose or fulfillment in life until we do.

What aspect of God’s nature is He revealing to you? Leave a comment below.