Tuesday, December 9

I did not like what you had to share today

"I did not like what you had to share with us today."

"What you had to share really challenged me."

"We're not used to hearing
the kinds of things you talked about."


"Wow, I had no idea..."

Variations of the above seem to be common reactions shared with us after gatherings where we have been invited to speak.

So what is it about our sharing that strikes a chord in people?

Usually, I am just sharing about our life and ministry in Ecuador with the house churches. It is pretty standard fare--the normal everyday ABC's of what God is doing in our midst. I am certainly not one of those "polished" preachers--it's not my gift.

So what is happening?

The more I think about it, a Vance Havner quote keeps coming to mind,

"The church is so subnormal
that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal
it would seem to people to be abnormal."


Could it be that too many of our churches are living so "subnormal" that anything "normal" now sounds so extraordinary that it shakes people up because they aren't experiencing anything even close?

Another thought I can't get away from is that the ministries of apostles, prophets, and evangelists have been so marginalized in our contemporary churches that anyone functioning out these giftings tend to "stick out", and seem "abnormal" (eg. how people react when I share).

I am all for the needed pastoral and teaching gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ... but sadly, I have seen little evidence of functioning apostolic, prophetic or even evangelistic roles so commonly found on the pages of the NT.

Those not functioning in the accepted pastoral/teaching roles, have been largely relegated to "a.p.e." status and silenced to the side lines of church life.

When we silence the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic voices in our midst, we become a crippled body of believers. We can easily miss out on the full measure of what Christ intends for his church. When we ignore those He has placed in our midst with a "different beat" and allow ourselves to only be led by those who functioning out of a pastoral or teaching basis, we do unintentional harm to the body of Christ. The church was meant to be led by a balance of Spirit-empowered functioning "a.p.e.'s" and yes, pastors/teachers.

1Co 12:28 is very clear, and yet so totally ignored, And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues...

It grieves me to see that we are becoming churches that exalt knowledge about the Gospel, over obedience to the Gospel. Passages like 1 Cor. 12:28 have been reinterpreted to make them fit with our current church traditions and practices. But, do we have that right?

Can we even identify who those individuals are that Paul says are FIRST in the church? How about those he appoints SECOND? What ever happened to these roles that in Paul's instructions to the churches was the norm?

I interpret many of those who "compliment" my sharing, as really saying, "we need apostles, prophets, and evangelists in our midst to be the healthy vibrant church God wants us to be." That is what I hear them say. It has nothing to do with me, my speaking abilities, or our missionary stories--it is a realization that something is missing.

My point is NOT diminish the roles of pastors and teachers--the Lord Himself appointed them for the "building up of the body of Christ". What I am saying is, we need to restore to active duty, and RECOGNIZE those apostles, prophets, and evangelist types in our midst. They, like the pastor/teacher types, are equally meant to be part of the Spirit's leadership team help to "equip the saints for the work"...of making disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

What do you think?

9 comments:

jeff w. said...

Guy,

Our Sunday evenings are a cross between an informal Bible study and a general discussion time. A couple of times, I have used blog postings to jump-start the discussions.

Awhile back, I used something you wrote. I was surprised by some of the comments. Some people were angry. Others did not see how anyone could do "church" in such a disorganized fashion.

One problem we face in this country is contentment with mediocrity. Many people are satisfied with the way things are and have little desire to change. Any suggestion that things are not as they should or could be is a threat. I believe that until people get hungry for more of God little will change. Of course, the good news is that God always has a remnant.

Jeff

John said...

I can't do "church" as usual any more. I don't have the time or the patience for it. I also have gotten more than a little ticked off at the Pastor-centered approach. The church definitely is missing the contributions of the Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists. It's time that we refocus on Jesus and let people function fully according to their gifts. Their is no heirarchy in the church. We are all to be brothers and sisters submitting to one another. If order must be maintained let it be through a plurality of elders (including non pastoral ones.) Sorry - I'll step off my soapbox now.

GuyMuse said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your thoughts. I again go back to the Vance Havner quote,
The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.
Today's "normal" is actually quite abnormal from what we find in the pages of the NT. Again, I think part of the answer is to begin acknowledging and validating those in our midst other than just the pastor/teacher types. Once the APE voices begin to contribute to church life, people will begin to see things a bit differently.

John,

Letting people function according to their gifts is risky. We lose control of having things done "our way" when others are given an equal say and participation. That is why APE giftings are sidelined. They challenge the status quo, and those in control feel threatened. I believe in order, but tight control by a select few who call all the shots is not the same thing. The Spirit gave to the church APEPT and it is in this leadership plurality that the church will be Jesus hands, feet, eyes, ears, to a lost and dying world.

Scott in Vegas said...

"..we are becoming churches that exalt knowledge about the Gospel, over obedience to the Gospel."

Sadly, you hit the nail on the head.

...i linked this article to http://www.newchurchreport.com to share it with others...thanks!

GuyMuse said...

Scott,

Thanks for the link. Most of the fussing I hear is not about doing the Gospel, it has been about trying to get others to conform to our Scriptural interpretations and understandings.

Darrell said...

Guy I have come to the sad conclusion that at least in my neck of the woods the traditional church is one of the most damaging things to the expansion of the Kingdom. People who claim to be "Christians" have no interest in reaching out beyond helping at church. The leadership of the typical church just reinforces this attitude because they need $$ and people to run the programs they want to offer. Its a mess. God help us. The area I live in is getting darker and darker. The soil here is so hard. So many workers are needed to GO. I fear it is too late. Perhaps the Lords coming is soon. I pray that the people of God will wake up and run to the battle!

GuyMuse said...

Darrell,

You write, So many workers are needed to GO. Indeed, that is why we must obey Christ's command in Luke 2 to PRAY THE LORD OF THE HARVEST FOR LABORERS. The hard ground you refer to is everywhere. Laborers are needed to not only plant seed, but to BREAK UP THE HARD GROUND so that the seed can be planted and watered by others. In due season we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary. Hang in there and keep doing the work to which God has called you!

Darrell said...

Guy,

How do we break up the hard soil?

What does it mean when you have prayed daily for workers for 3 years and have only seen workers leave? Is there a time when God says "Enough"?

Any thoughts?

GuyMuse said...

Darrell,

You ask, Is there a time when God says "Enough"? In Luke 10 Jesus tells the 70 to "wipe the dust from their feet" if the people are unresponsive. I would not dare try and tell you what God would have you do there in AZ, but in our own context if people are unresponsive, we don't waste time with them, we move on to where there is response. With the unresponsive, we give them our contact information and let them know we will return if they want us to, but until they are ready, we are going elsewhere. We do it in a nice way so as not to "burn bridges" in case in the future God begins to work on them and they want to get back in touch with us.

I don't know what to tell you. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you the next step, or what He would have you do.