Leadership in the church

The ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are not titles that one can assume – they are functions in the body of Christ.

Church leader, you cannot demand commitment or submission; in fact it is foolish to do so. People expect a certain standard from you – meet that standard and you will have their allegiance. Don’t and you will have all sorts of trouble on your hands – your congregation is not so much at fault as you are, so cast the log out of your eye first.

In order for you, dear leader in the church (be it pastor or elder or bishop or any of the ministry positions) to be respected, you do not need to be perfect, as a minimum the following characteristics must be visible in your life –

1. You must be fully submitted to Jesus Christ. Paul calls himself a slave or bondservant of Christ/God (Phil 1:1, Titus 1:1). A leader who has no other allegiance but to Christ, is a leader that will be looked up to. He has no other aim but to please Christ. That is a leader people want. If people see that your affection is divided, and that you place other matters such as self or family above Christ, they will not respect you. We have had enough of preachers building their own kingdoms and placing self and family above Christ, handing over ministries to their children and lording it over the flock. We need leaders who are fully submitted to Christ, period.

2. You must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts each and every one to be filled with the Holy Spirit in Eph 5:18. How much more should you endeavour to be filled with the Spirit. A man who walks in the Spirit will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The Spirit will lead you to make the right decisions. We do not need an orator or a philosopher or a person who just spews words, empty words and more words; we need a man filled with the Spirit. In the early church, people who served tables had to be full of the Holy Spirit. We want to hear God, not you.

3. You must live in accordance to the Word (must be seen to be honourable). When Paul was taking a monetary gift from the Corinthian church to send it to Jerusalem, he was careful to guard against any criticism for the way he handled the money. In 2 Cor 8:21 (NLT), he says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honourable.” It is not enough to be honourable before the Lord but to be seen to be honourable by everyone. In the same way, you must live before the Lord in accordance with His word and must also be seen to living in this manner.

4. God must attest to your ministry. Acts 2:22 (NLT) says ” People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders and signs through him, as you well know.” Your ministry must be endorsed by God through miracles, wonders and signs and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have had enough of words, we need to see and experience God’s power. The people of Israel said to Joshua in Joshua 1:17 “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses.” They wanted to see evidence that God was with Joshua and endorsed him.

When people see these qualities in you, they will gladly submit to your leadership and work with you to build the kingdom of God. So, the next time you are tempted to point a finger at your congregation, I would suggest that you look at yourself first. You may be the reason why you find yourself in trouble in the first place. If you cannot demonstrate these characteristics, I suggest that you take a break and seek God until He meets with you. Then you could provide the leadership that both God and the church are looking for.

Note – I have worked at a secular job and led a church for several years. I am currently involved in holding a secular job in Kuala Lumpur while equipping the saints through preaching, teaching and writing. God has opened doors for ministry in the Philippines since November 2014, so I travel there to minister to the churches and the pastors.

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Unity

What is unity?

Unity is primarily a spiritual union or bond between disciples of Jesus Christ that is effected by God Himself. Secondarily, it is about having the same mind and purpose.

Unity must not be confused with uniformity. Uniformity is about externals; unity is about internals – the spirit and the mind.

How is spiritual unity effected?

1. 1 Cor 12:13 – “For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” God has placed us in the body of Christ by the Spirit and we have been made to drink of the same Holy Spirit. There is a spiritual union between us by virtue of being placed in the body of Christ and by partaking of the same Holy Spirit.

2. John 17:22 – “And the glory which you gave me I have given them that they may be one just as we are one.” We have received this glory (Holy Spirit) from Jesus by means of which a spiritual union has been effected between us.

3. 1 Cor 10:17,18 – NLT – “And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. Think about the people of Israel. Were’nt they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?” Communion is sharing in the body and blood of Christ. This makes us spiritually one or united since we are partaking of the same bread and cup. Every time we partake of communion, the spiritual union between us is reinforced.

We are spiritually united because we have Christ in us. The Christ who lives in me is the same Christ who lives in you. By virtue of having partaken of Christ, we are already united in spirit. Remember Ephesians 2:15 – Christ and the Jew is one new man; Christ and the Gentile is also one new man. Christ is all that matters and He lives in all of us (Col 3:11b).

What about unity of mind and purpose?

In Phil 2:2, Paul says “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul is speaking of unity of mind and purpose, not just with regard to the core elements of our faith but also with regard to other aspects of church and life. Having differing opinions is perfectly fine, but when it comes to issues where a common stand or decision is needed, it involves submitting our opinions to the opinions of others. I see that unity here is difficult because of the following reasons –

1. It involves submission to the church leadership although we may not agree with the decision or stand being taken.

2. It involves submission to one another – again although we may not agree with the decision or stand being taken.

There is never a problem with the core issues of our faith – it is always the non-core issues that cause disunity to manifest. We need to realise that we do not have to agree with everything that involves the church; we can still be united despite our disagreements. We can still stand firmly behind whatever decision has been taken although we may not agree with it. It just involves submission. This is why it is so difficult – our pride will be affected. Unity of mind and purpose has to be worked on – with God’s help, it is possible.

Jesus prayed to the Father to keep (protect) us through His name that we would be one just as Jesus and the Father are one.

 

The kingdom of God

In the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension to Heaven, He appeared to his disciples and spoke to them of things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Since He spent so much time speaking about the kingdom of God, it will be worth our while to study and meditate on this and apply it to our lives.

I will portray my understanding on this topic and while I realise that you may not agree with it, I urge you to think about these things and come to a conclusion in this regard. We must realise that what is of paramount importance is not just talking about or debating the kingdom of God, but entering it and experiencing it.

The kingdom of God can be understood as the rule of God or the dominion of God. 

1. It was spoken of by John the Baptist, that it was at hand – Matthew 3:2

2. From the days of John, the kingdom has been forcefully advancing – Matthew 11:12

3. The kingdom came when Jesus, the king came to earth – Mark 1:14,15; Matthew 12:28; Colossians 1:13 (the kingdom of Jesus)

4. The kingdom arrived in power when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost – Mark 9:1; Matthew 12:28; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:33

How do we enter this kingdom?

1. John 3:3 – Unless you are born again, you will not see the kingdom of God. To see the kingdom is to understand the kingdom. We cannot even begin to understand the things of the kingdom of God unless we are born again. To be born again is to repent of one’s sinfulness and to believe in (receive) Jesus Christ the Lord. This is a work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in the heart of man.

2. John 3:5 – Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. To enter the kingdom is to experience the kingdom. Unless we are born of water (baptism in water) and born of the Spirit (baptism in the Holy Spirit), we cannot experience the kingdom of God.

What are the characteristics of the kingdom of God? Let us look at ten important characteristics. If we claim to be in the kingdom of God, we must exhibit these characteristics in our lives.

1. Romans 14:17 – Righteousness, peace and joy.

2. 1Cor.4:20; Acts 1:8 – Divine supernatural power to be witnesses to the King.

3. Daniel 2:44 – It destroys all other kingdoms, cannot be destroyed, stands forever.

4. Luke 9:1,2; Luke 10:19 – Authority over demons and sickness and over all the power of the enemy (Satan).

5. Galatians 5:22,23 – The fruit of the Spirit.

6. Acts 10:38 – Power to heal sicknesses (oppressed by the devil).

7. John 14:12 – Power to do the works of Jesus and greater works than those.

8. Gal. 5:16; 1 John 3:9 – Victory over sin and the flesh.

9. 1 John 5:4 – Victory over the world.

10. Matthew 13:31-33 – It grows and spreads.

Hebrews 1:6  shows us that faith is the “currency” of the kingdom. All transactions in the kingdom are effected by faith.

The kingdom of God has come! Jesus is the king! Hallelujah!

Let us submit to the King, enter into the kingdom of God and be worthy citizens of the kingdom.

To the promised land

I was invited to a church in the Philippines on the 1st of February 2015 to speak on a theme that they had set for this year – “Going with God”.

While seeking and waiting on the Lord for the content of the message, he showed me the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land.

The journey from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan has three parts to it – the beginning, sustenance during the journey and the destination. The Christian life is similar to the journey of the Israelites as we too are on a journey with God – from the land of sin and bondage to our promised land.

1. The beginning – Prior to even starting their journey out of Egypt, one event had to take place – each of the Israelites had to encounter the Passover lamb. They had to kill the lamb at twilight and apply the blood to their doorposts and lintels and stay inside the house until morning. They had to encounter the lamb and take refuge under its blood. That month was to be the first of their months – their calendar started that month. Similarly, your calendar, dear Christian, starts with your encounter with Jesus Christ, the Passover lamb and your taking refuge under Hs blood. Until you have this encounter, you are no Christian. You may speak the lingo, smell like one and even look like one, but you are’nt one. It is not about a mental assent of the truth about Christ, but an encounter with Him. Jesus is the way to the Father, through his death we are reconciled with God, He is the door. The main reason why Christianity is dying in the western world is because people have not had this encounter with Jesus. Without this, Christianity is just a set of rules which no one can keep. Today too, sadly in our churches, we have a lot of talk and preaching and teaching, but no encounter with Christ. The church is to be the fullness of Christ, people who come to church must encounter Christ. This encounter must be a daily encounter for us as Christians.

2. Sustenance during the journey – The Israelites had need of food and water during the journey, just as the Christian needs spiritual food and water during his or her spiritual journey. So God gave them manna from heaven to eat and water from the rock to drink. They ate manna every day of those 40 years that they were in the wilderness. The manna stopped once they entered the promised land. In John 6, Jesus says that he is the true manna that cam from heaven. He is the bread of life. If anyone eats of this bread, he will never die. Jesus also said in John 4 that He was the one who gives living water. In chapter 7, he says that everyone who thirsts could come to him and drink. The living water that Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit. 1Corinthians 10 speaks of the Israelites drinking water from the spiritual rock that followed them, who was Christ. So, dear Christian, you need to see that Jesus is the sustenance for your journey. You have to feed on Him for Jesus said in John 6 that he who feeds on him would live. We can only be sustained during this journey with God when we feed on Jesus each day; he is our food and he is our drink.

3. The destination – The destination for the Israelites was clear – it was the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of prosperity, safety and blessing. The Christian too has a destination, a promised land. What is this destination? There are two parts to this destination – one is fulfilled right here on earth, while the other is fulfilled when we get to heaven. The Bible says in Romans 8:29 that God has pre-destined us to be conformed to the image of His son, Jesus. Our destination then, while on earth is to be conformed to the image of Jesus. It is certainly not anything else, just being transformed into the image of Christ. While on earth, we must also realise that we ought to experience all of Christ’s salvation; we must experience all that Jesus died to provide us with – freedom from and victory over sin, sickness, the curse, the world and Satan, Christ living in us, being filled with all the fulness of God, knowing Christ. So, our earthly promised land is to experience Christ’s salvation and to become like Him.

The second leg of our destination is fulfilled when we get to Heaven. Paul says it so well in Philippians chapter 1. He says that although staying alive would be beneficial to the believers, to depart and be with Christ was far better. He sees Heaven as a place where he would be with Christ. So, dear Christian, our heavenly destination is to be with Christ.

I hope you can see this journey you are in with greater clarity now – you start this journey with an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and His blood; you are sustained during the journey by feeding on Christ and drinking of Him; your earthly destination or promised land is nothing but experiencing all of Christ’s salvation and being transformed into His likeness, while your heavenly destination is to be with Christ.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Enjoy the journey, fellow Christian! The Lord is with you.