Tag Archives: Apostles

Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 5)

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

5. The church has to become small in order to grow large.

Most churches today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not by forming big congregations of 300 people to fill cathedrals and lose fellowship. Instead, it multiplied “sideways,” dividing like organic cells, once these groups reached 15 to 20 people. This then made it possible for all the Christians to get together in city-wide celebrations, as in Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is by comparison, a sad compromise, neither big nor beautiful, an overgrown house church and an undergrown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both

6. No church is led by a pastor alone.

The local church is not led by a pastor, but fathered by an elder, a man of wisdom and engaged with reality. The local house churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), circulating from “house to house,” like the circulation of blood. Here there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-12). A pastor (shepherd) is an important member of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and he has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way.

To do a jigsaw puzzle, we have to put the pieces together according to the original pattern, otherwise the final product, the whole picture turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make any sense. In the Christian world we have all of the right pieces, but we have fitted them together in the wrong way, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy, and a power and control mentality, just as water is found in three forms – ice, water and steam – so too the five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – are found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places. They are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no one.

Just as it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new – and at the same time age-old – forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return to the Maker’s original blueprint for the Church.

8. Out of the hands of bureaucratic clergy and on towards the priesthood of all believers.

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive, religious consumers, Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament.

The heavy professionalization of the church since Constantine has been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into an infantilized laity and a professional clergy, and developing power-based mentalities and pyramid structures. According to the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in between Himself and His people. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way.

To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems because it basically only asks two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity; no room for real life. This may be all right in politics and business, but not the church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, putting it into the hands of ordinary people who God has made extraordinary and who, as in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume or revelation.

(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Conclusion)

praying

The internationally known prophet asked for prayer after his meeting at the church, which I attended at the time. Some of us gathered around him and began praying. After a few minutes, a prophetic word crossed my mind.

“The calling of apostle will come upon you in the near future, but first, I see you pastoring a small church,” I said. “The Lord wants you to really understand people before he moves you into the apostolic calling. From the small church, you will walk into a world-wide apostolic ministry.”

Most believers would have been happy to receive an encouraging word like this, but not that particular man. This same prophet, who had taught us earlier in the evening about the love of God and about the importance of humility, rebuked me sharply.

“I spend lots of time in prayer,” he said with angry eyes glaring at me. “So, don’t you think the Lord could speak prophetic words like that to me in my prayer time?”

To be honest, I was shocked by his reaction. “Uh, well, uh, I guess so,” I answered.

“Then why do I need a prophetic word from you?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I answered, not knowing what else to say.

This eye-opening incident really happened to me twenty-three years ago.  It’s as alive in my memory banks today as if it just happened yesterday.

The crux of the matter was not whether the prophetic words were accurate or not, but rather, it was that I was not at the prophet’s spiritual level. I was a nobody. If I had been a Billy Graham, Rick Warren, David Yonggi Cho, or some other well-known international minister, he never would have spoken those words to me. Instead he would have said, “Thanks for the prophetic words. I’ll pray about them.”

Now, if you think this is a unique and seldom occurring event, I have news for you: it’s not! For most of the tradition church system, there is a hierarchy system set in place where only certain people are allowed to speak words of direction or correction to the ministers who lead (usually called the clergy) and the pew sitters (known as the lay people) have little voice in these matters.

But yet, when one of the original apostles, Peter, became a hypocrite in Antioch, the young apostle Paul had no problem handling the situation:

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had, to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-13)

Do you think Peter was embarrassed? Probably. Do you think Peter wanted to lash out at Paul? Probably. This is usually how our flesh reacts to being rebuked, or at least, this is how mine reacts.  Then, what do you think Peter felt when he saw the above letter sent to the churches in Galatia and his name mentioned as a hypocrite? Once again, he was probably a little miffed, but did he hold a grudge against Paul?

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 NLT)

Peter, the man who had the revelation that Jesus was the Christ and who was chosen to accompany Jesus on the mountain when He was transfigured and talked to Moses and Elijah, was a humble man of God. He stayed small in his own eyes and was a seeker of truth.

The end-time apostles will not be a part of the church’s hierarchical system, but rather will blow it apart. Will the apostles rebuke the leaders of the traditional church system? Probably very little. But instead, the humility displayed by these end-time apostles will attract the long suffering pew sitters out of the traditional churches and into their royal priesthood callings. The captives will finally be set free.

(Conclusion…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 8)

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An apostolic moment in a fictional book:

As I listened to Cat and Ike, my spirit roared like a lion within me. Something like this had happened in the past when the Lord used me for healing people, but now, it felt like it had advanced three or four levels higher. So much so, that divine strength overpowered my human weaknesses. I saw nothing but impossibilities earlier, but now I saw only opportunities for us.

I stood up and looked around at everyone. I had no thought of what I was going to say. It just gushed out of me.

“Four lepers sat in the midst of a disaster long ago and said to one another, ‘Why are we sitting here until we die?’ The four had nothing to lose so they marched toward the enemy’s camp. The Lord amplified the sound of their footsteps, causing Israel’s foes to retreat from the battle site. Thus, defeat was turned into triumph. A group cowering behind walls of safety did not accomplish this victory, but instead, it came about because a few people decided to ignore circumstances and their own weaknesses and do something.

“Now like the four lepers in 2 Kings 7, we have decisions to make: sit here until we die or obey God. The spiritual gifts through Bonnie have comforted us. The prophetic words through Cat and Ike have stirred us up. It seems apparent that God has spared our lives so He can use us in the midst of a terrible calamity for His glory and to build His kingdom.”

I paused to allow the Holy Spirit to guide His people.

“For those who agree with me, we will head towards Ground Zero tomorrow morning. We will leave some people behind to take care of the children and to search neighboring areas for injured people.

“Those who are heading out will carry just a few supplies with them. Nothing heavy. As we walk toward Ground Zero, we will start a church wherever there are hurting people. We can use a house or abandoned buildings for the new church. We’ll gather people into that location to serve and pray for them.

“After the church is established at a site, we will leave two people behind. The remainder will continue onward. We will repeat this over and over until we have no more church planters left.”

The anointing for speaking lifted off me just like that. I looked toward Cat.

“Honey, do we have enough blankets and pillows for everyone?”

She stood up.

“I think so. Let’s go see.”

We went upstairs while the others figured out sleeping arrangements for their families.

(The above excerpt is from The Day LA Died by Larry Nevenhoven, ©2015, Amazon eBook)

(Continued in Part 9…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Die (Part 7)

praying

The university auditorium was packed to capacity for the debate between Dr. Hiram Love, author of Gays Are Holy, Too, and Paul Simon, a Christian businessman. The middle-aged businessman was a last-minute replacement for a noted Christian apologist who suffered from the flu.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to tonight’s debate,” said the moderator. “The topic for our debate, Is Homosexuality A Sin, seems to be a hot-button subject in our state right now with the Prop 8 vote and its follow-up lawsuits. The format for our debate is that each debater has thirty minutes to put forth his views on whether or not homosexuality is a sin. Then, in the second hour, the two will go head to head in a point and counterpoint match up. Dr. Love won the coin toss and will go first. Dr. Love, are you ready?”

Dr. Love nodded and walked to the podium. His herringbone sport coat with brown leather elbow patches added a professorial look to his thick frame and bearded face.

“Do you know how many times Jesus mentioned homosexuality was a sin in the four Gospels?” said Dr. Love. He paused as his blue eyes scanned the audience, as if looking for an answer. Then, he added, “Not once!”

A short titter raced through the audience.

“That’s right, not once,” said Dr. Love. “Wouldn’t you think that such a supposed vile and abominable sin as homosexuality would have at least been mentioned once by our Lord? He mentioned divorce as a sin. He mentioned greed and idolatry. But not once did he mention homosexuality.”

Dr. Love spent the half hour laying out the hypothesis that homosexuality was not a sin by what Jesus did and did not mention. He referred to Jesus’ words, the red letter ones of the four Gospels, as the framework for Christianity.

When Dr. Love finished, the audience softly clapped their approval. He backed away from the podium and walked over to his chair on the right side of the stage.

“Mr. Simon,” said the moderator, “are you ready?”

Paul Simon nodded.

The audience checked him out as he walked from his chair to the podium. His short stature, undistinguished features and ill-fitting sport coat were noticed by all. Who let this country yokel in here? The audience collectively wondered.

“Jesus’ main message was about the Kingdom of God,” said Simon, in a stammering voice. “The Apostle Paul further defined the Kingdom when he wrote: ‘Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge themselves in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Simon caught his breath before proceeding, “The apostle Paul also stated that the Kingdom does not consist in words, but in power.”

Next, Simon stepped to the side of the podium and switched on his lapel microphone. Every eye watched him.

“When I was asked to replace the featured Christian debater, I told them I’m not a great speaker so I had two requests. One was for a lapel microphone. And two, I asked to be allowed to demonstrate my position on the Kingdom of God. They agreed to both of my requests,” he said as he walked down the steps of the stage to the audience level.

He walked over to a woman sitting in a wheelchair next to a front row seat.

“Ma’am, would you please stand up?” he asked.

“What?” said the thin lady who looked to be thirty-five years old, “I can’t stand up. I’m totally paralyzed and have been since an auto accident twenty years ago.”

“In Jesus’ name, stand up,” proclaimed the man.

She jumped out of the wheelchair. Then, realizing what happened, she walked and ran and jumped. She screamed, “I’m healed.”

Her parents ran to her and joined the celebration.

Simon turned away from the lady and continued praying for other people. A blind man received his sight. A woman’s lungs were cleared of emphysema. A college football player’s knee was healed. He prophesied over people and prayed for many others.

When his half hour was up, Simon returned to the podium. He turned toward Dr. Love and said, “Let’s see you confirm your teachings with miracles, signs and wonders. If you can’t, then why should anyone listen to you?”

Dr. Love stood up and walked off the stage, not looking back at the apostle of God.

And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest in the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

This is only a glimpse of the near future because the end-time apostles will not back down from fights.

(Continued in Part 8…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 5)

praying

 

Close your eyes and visualize what you think an apostle should look and act like. Do you see him or her like a classy CEO of a corporation, barking orders to underlings? Or like a authoritative general? Or like a prestigious national leader?

We probably all have opinions about apostles.  Some of our beliefs will be based on our cultures and some on our church traditions or teachings.

But how did Paul visualize his calling of apostle?

For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. (1 Corinthians 4: 9 ASV)

…we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (1 Corinthians 4: 13 NASB)

Not exactly what you had in mind, right? But consider this: our English translations paint a much rosier picture of the apostle than what Paul really visualized when he wrote these verses in his original Greek writings.

Paul actually saw the apostle as a person who was considered by the world as the lowest and worst possible criminal, much like an Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or a brutal serial killer. A person who the world would not have one drop of pity or empathy for at all.

And if possible, the world would capture the apostle and place him at the end of long procession that would pass by crowds who would taunt, spit on, throw rocks at, dump refuse on, and whatever to belittle the apostle. Why? Because the apostle, in the judgment of the world, deserved this abuse because of his calling.

The long procession would eventually parade itself into an arena where the apostle’s death would be the main attraction for the world’s spectators – and also for angels.

The apostle’s death, as visualized by Paul, would not be a beheading or a firing squad or a hanging. No, those types of executions would be much too civilized for a culprit as evil as the apostle. Instead, wild animals, such as lions and tigers, would be sent into the arena to tear and rip apart the apostle. All the while, the world would be looking on and enjoying the bloody spectacle.

Okay, get the picture?

Now, how would you feel about having an apostle, like the one Paul visualized, come to your church? Would it bother you that the world, maybe your friends, relatives and neighbors, would think of him as an evil criminal? Would you like being linked to his name and assumed to be just as guilty as the apostle because of your association to him?

(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 4)

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A year after my salvation, I had breakfast once a week with three or four Christian men. We fellowshiped, prayed for each other, and usually one gave a short teaching.

The only teaching that I can remember from those breakfasts was given by a young man who stated, “Our heavenly Father is a good God.”

As he said the words, a revelation exploded within me: “Of course, that has to be true because my own earthly father is a great dad. So, my heavenly Father has to be a good God.”

This simple revelation has remained with me for more than thirty-three years. It has comforted me in my worst times, just knowing that God is a good God and that He absolutely loves me.

Over the years, I have been with many different groups and befriended many Christians. All have mouthed the words, “God is a good God,” but sadly, I have met very few believers who really, really believe that God is a good God.

It’s not that the believers did not love God because they did. It’s just that the believers did not have the child-like abandon of knowing that the Father loved them and was cheering for them on their good days, as well as their bad days.

Most believed that they had to perform at a certain, but undefined, high holy level so that the Father would love them. They did not see themselves as little children and God as a loving Father who absolutely loved and doted upon them, even when they made mistakes.

Some of these believers had less than perfect earthly fathers, and a few were even abused by their dads. And to be honest, this may hinder a person’s revelation of God being a good God, but at the same time, God is able to give anyone a revelation of His love and goodness. We just need to ask and keep asking until we receive this revelation.

But most (98%) of these believers, who had difficulty believing God was a good God, had Christian leaders over them who did not reflect the Father-Heart of God to them.

For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4: 15)

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12: 14)

Because the traditional church system is set up with a definite separation between the clergy and the laity, most church leaders look at church members as a means for advancing their own personal visions. After all, their personal visions came from God, right? And the laity has been the traditional money-source for hundreds of years, so why change?

The end-time apostles are willing to spend themselves for other believers.

(Continued in Part 4…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Condemned to Death (Part 3)

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In 2007, I had a weird dream in which I saw a bunch of five bananas. Four of the bananas in the bunch were rotten and one was perfect. End of dream.

I told Carol about the dream, but even with her help, I had no clue what the dream was about. As with all of my dreams, I wrote it down in a notebook so I could review it sometime in the future.

Afterward, I walked into the kitchen to make myself breakfast. I poured cereal into a bowl and grabbed what looked like a perfect banana. As I peeled it, I was surprised to learn the fruit was rotten. Not one portion of it was fit to eat. I tossed it into the trash can.

Next, I grabbed another banana and began peeling it. Surprise! Surprise! It, too, was rotten. Then, I grabbed a third and a fourth one. Nothing was eatable on the rotten bananas. The trash can looked like a compost bin.

Finally, there was only one banana left in the bowl. I picked it up and checked it over. Just like the others, there were no marks on the peel.  It looked perfect from the outside.

What do I have to lose? I thought.

I peeled it. And in fact, it was perfect in every possible way, not one bruise on it.

As I stood there looking at the banana, the Holy Spirit spoke to me heart: “The first four callings have been restored to the Church and are mostly rotten. The fifth calling is now ready. It will be perfect.”

The Holy Spirit was referring to the five-fold callings –

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11)

But even more, I felt the Holy Spirit was especially referring to the end-time apostles when he mentioned the fifth calling’s perfection.

The rottenness of the first four callings – teachers, pastors, evangelists, and prophets – is due mainly to the traditional church system rather than to the personal character traits of the people in these callings.  The traditional church system has shoved these four callings into a box and sculpted each of them by its traditions and hierarchy.

The end-time apostles are not coming to fit into the traditional church system’s mold, but instead, they’re coming with sticks of dynamite to blow it apart.

(Continued in Part 3…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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