Sunday, April 22, 2012
Churches without God Given Foundations are Crumbling
This is EXACTLY how I experience the Ministry of a Prophet in Churches. Therefore, Churches are wilting in the heat and dying on the vine. They crumble because they have rejected the foundation that God has given them (Ephesians 4). They try to gin up some kind of hoopla without the word of the Lord. Not PREACHING. The Prophetic. IF you are a prophet, called of God to the Office, You will identify with this. Fortunately I know a FEW churches that are built on the God ordained foundations and stand strong. But way too few. IF there is no voice of the Lord present...crash will follow. AND NO...the Apostle of the House cannot be his own Prophet. Certainly no Pastor can be his own prophet. Nor Teacher, Nor Evangelist. A prophet must have no loyalty to anything other than the revelation God gives him and then be willing to stand for it..in love, but firmly. Even when they try to kill him or hide him in a pit.
This article is excerpted from our book, Healing: Hope or Hype? www.goczn.com/srcrosby
I was once in a nominally Charismatic megachurch that had over twenty individuals on staff. One of the associate pastors admitted to me that they were all pastors (emphasis his).
None of the other Ephesians 4:11 ministries were present. This condition was considered normative rather than imbalanced. I’ve always found it amusing how in some folks’ minds, it’s impossible to have too much of a pastoral anointing, but let one or two prophets show up on the scene, and all of a sudden the phrase “too extreme” pops up and everyone obsesses about the need for balance! Apparently having twenty pastors is not extreme, but having one prophet is.
He admitted that prophets existed in a general sense but said his church had no personal dealings with any. If that’s the situation in a successful church, imagine what it might be like elsewhere. This widespread lack of exposure to genuine NT prophetic ministry deadens the capacity in believers to accurately hear and respond to a prophetic sound unless it’s erroneously understood in one of three definitional categories below:
■Concern about end-time events (Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism view).
■The exercise of a gift: accurately predicting events, giving personal prophecy, words of knowledge, dreams, visions, etc. (Pentecostal/Charismatic view).
■Temperamental definitions: Someone who is passionate, aggressive, or black and white in viewpoint. It’s often considered the equivalent of being harsh, negative, judgmental, severe, or direct in interpersonal style.
All three are extremely unfortunate definitions. At best they’re deficient and at worst, error. While thematic continuity prevents me from digressing into a full consideration of this topic,[i] it’s important to take a glimpse into how the prophetic consciousness differs from a pastoral point of view.
The primary concern of pastors, the lens through which they view the kingdom and process kingdom values, can be generally categorized[ii] as providing people with an overall cheerful and hopeful sense of things. That is, they view their job as assuring that people are well cared for, content, and have an overall good go at kingdom life because of God’s great love for them. Pastors want believers to reproduce (church growth). They understand that reproduction only happens in an atmosphere of peace and a sense of well-being. When “sheep” are being sheared, prodded to move, fighting with each other, or agitated because of a nearby wolf, they don’t reproduce. Pastoral values are not wrong, per se–just incomplete. Because of this focus, most pastors expect prophets to bless and edify the local church based on a misapplication of 1 Corinthians14:3. That verse explains the limitation of the congregational gift of prophecy, not the ministry of a prophet.[iii]
Apostles and prophets lay foundations.[iv] If the foundation is crooked or cracked, or if the Chief Cornerstone is not accurately positioned in preeminence, a prophet is going to see it, call it out, and not let up until the presiding authorities do something about it. A pinhole for most people is an abyss for a prophet. This isn’t a defect, deficiency, or disorder in the prophet. It’s just the prophetic lens and calling. It’s different than a pastor’s and equally necessary. Prophets call existing mindsets, systems, and structures into accurate kingdom alignment. This usually involves clearing out debris before a hole is dug and new concrete is poured. Prophets typically root out, pull down, destroy, and throw down before they plant and build.[v] Bad news often precedes good news in a prophetic ministry. The relentless focus on what is broken or crooked strikes those who don’t understand the prophetic mind as being unduly “negative.”
Blessing and edifying people when there’s no legitimate reason characterizes a false prophet.[vi] Prophets are always accused of being the troublers of Israel.[vii] They normally warn about upcoming captivity when everything visible today says otherwise: “Things are fine! I’m having a great time! What’s wrong with you Mr. Prophet? Let’s ignore all that judgmental negativity! God loves me . . . nothing bad is going to happen to me . . . I have three positive confession verses on my fridge to prove it!” Prophets are not so much concerned about individual blessedness as much as where people are headed and how individuals are treating each other along the way.
Genuine prophetic ministry always contains a social element, as even a cursory reading of the Old Testament record will reveal. The prophets are concerned about the widows, the poor, unrighteous economics, corrupt political and religious institutions, and their leaders. Prophets have a burning compassion for the oppressed.[viii] By their nature they champion and advocate the cause of those who have no voice or who are too weak to plead their own cause. Out of a deep sympathy for God Himself, His interests in the people, and the people themselves, a prophet personally resents the injuries done to others.
Prophets are compelled by a higher perception of God’s justice than what others possess. This passion for justice is not merely justice for justice sake, which is a misguided perfectionism that obsesses about accurate adherence to some philosophical idea about right or wrong. God is concerned not because a precept of justice has been violated, but because a person has been hurt. Reflecting this aspect of God’s nature, a prophet’s primary concern is not merely the violation of some code, but the presence of oppression of any sort: seen, unseen, conceptual, methodological, or psychological. The prophet’s condemnation of injustice is rooted in his/her sympathy with divine care for humanity, particularly His own people.
God’s justice is always tilted in favor of the oppressed. Wherever power, authority, control, or money aggregate, prophets will be sent to challenge all human power centers–in and out of the church. Prophets frequently singled out the leaders, kings, princes and false prophets of their day as responsible for the sins of the community. A similar situation today threatens insecure pastors and makes them feel like the prophet is either against them personally or the church corporately.
I once had a conversation with a “pastor” of a “successful” church who said that he believed the appropriate response to an injustice done to people by church leaders is silent submission to leadership authority. He said that silent submission to injustice would work godly character into the one submitting and that only the Lord could sort out matters of injustice. The rationale for this perspective was a very unfortunate and erroneous application[ix] of “touching not the Lord’s anointed” taken from the account of David not resisting Saul’s injustices. Well, the way the Lord sorts out injustice is by sending prophets to His leaders! Prophets, by divine design, do not normally show up when everything is as it should be! I was so heartbroken as my friend did not seem to understand how his view approximated the essence of evil.
There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: we remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done to other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. It’s more universal, more contagious, and more dangerous. A silent justification makes evil that erupts as an exception to become the rule, and in turn allows it to be widely accepted.[x] Indifference to injustice is the normalization of evil.
The good news part of the prophetic message is redemptive hope. If untempered by grace and mercy, justice becomes injustice and a sense of hopelessness prevails. Making people feel hopeless is not the prophetic anointing in either Old or New Covenants. God’s rebuke always contains hope for a different future for those who respond to God’s outstretched call to return.
The prophet’s passion and demand for responsive action are a reflection of God’s nature. The accurate knowledge of God is action toward man, sharing His concern for justice. God’s love is sympathy in action. Both Old and New Testaments are explicit on this: you cannot say you love God and not care for humanity. The prophets are the embodiment of this in the Old Testament. Jesus and the Apostles expand it in the New.
Copyright 2011 This article is excerpted from our book: Healing: Hope or Hype? by Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Eloquent Books, New York. www.goczn.com/srcrosby. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.
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[i] This includes expanded explanations about the similarities and differences between the Old and New Covenant prophets. Additional material is available at www.stevecrosby.com.
[ii] There are exceptions and blends. I am speaking in broad generalities.
[iii] Prophecy is to consist of edification, exhortation, and comfort. That’s correct. The congregational gift of prophecy should not be used to peel a congregation’s hide. Paul told the Corinthians they all could prophesy one by one. Anyone could exercise the gift, but that didn’t make everyone the equivalent of an Ephesians 4 prophet.
[iv] Ephesians 2:20.
[v] E.g. Jeremiah 1:10.
[vi] E.g. Jeremiah 6:14 – peace, peace, when there is no peace.
[vii] 1 Kings 8:17: Elijah especially and specifically, but also generally Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, etc. There’s a reason why we prefer our prophets dead: we get to brag about them being ours and ignore what they say. Jesus said (Luke 6:26) one of the signs of a false prophet is when everyone speaks well of you. Esteem and acceptance from the establishment is not a compliment to a prophet.
[viii] The ensuing paragraph is paraphrased, collated, and adapted in part from A. J. Heschel. The Prophets New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
[ix] Neither accurate nor appropriate for a post-Pentecost, New Covenant order of equalization in “anointing.” Every believer is equally anointed. There are no more special classes of anointing enfranchised and disenfranchised people. The Spirit has been poured out on all humanity, both genders, and all classes of people. Please refer to the author’s book Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement for a deeper presentation of New Covenant implications on local church and leadership issues.
[x] Heschel, 364.
Posted by Gene at 7:18 AM