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.

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.

The minister of Christ

Are they ministers of Christ? 1 Cor 11:23

Let a man so consider us, as ministers of Christ… 1 Cor 4:1

….you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ….1 Tim 4:6

….that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles…..Rom 15:16

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…..2 Cor 6:3

Therefore, since we have this ministry,…….2 Cor 4:1

The term “minister” of Christ means a servant of Christ, one who serves Christ, who follows his instruction, one who is totally submitted to Christ.

As ministers of Christ, we are called to receive from Him and transmit or dispense or give out to others what we receive from Christ.  An examination of 2 Corinthians 3 reveals that the minister of Christ is called to minister the following –

1. The New covenant – vs 6. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the new covenant, not a mixture of the old and new covenants. We are to minister the new covenant of grace, not a covenant based on performance.

2. The Spirit – vs 6. Jesus said in John 7:38 that he who believes in Him would have rivers of living water flowing out from him. He was referring to the Holy Spirit when he spoke of the rivers of living water. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the Holy Spirit. Note that although Jesus is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit, we are expected to have the Spirit flowing out from us like rivers of living water.

3. Life – vs 6. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the life of God. The Holy Spirit always brings life – he raised up our Lord Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies too (Rom 8:11), he will bring life to our souls (Rom 8:6 NIV) and will bring life to our spirits (1 John 5:11-13, 1 Cor 3:16). He is called the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2).

4. Glory – vs 8,9. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the glory of God. Jesus gave us his glory (John 17:22) and we can transmit his glory to others.

5. Righteousness – vs 9. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the righteousness of God. In the gospel,  the righteousness of God is revealed (Rom 1:16,17; 3:21,22). This righteousness is what we ought to minister to others.

May we examine ourselves to check whether we are ministers of Christ or whether we are serving ourselves. Let us be cautioned that we are expected to minister the new covenant, the Spirit, life, glory and righteousness. The fragrance of Christ ought to emanate from our lives, not the stench of self.

God’s purpose for the church

An examination of the Scriptures will show us God’s purpose for the church, enabling us to aspire to be the church that He wants us to be. There is a desperate need in our time for churches to have the solution for the worlds ills. The world should be going to the church for answers, not the church to the world.

I believe that we are guilty of a great sin – that of misrepresenting Jesus Christ. We have portrayed Jesus to be weak and feeble by our own lack of power and have been satisfied to be preaching a godliness but denying its power. We spend hours arguing about the second coming and prophecy, we take pride in being different in our interpretations of the Word and tear down anything that does not fit in with our view of Christianity. We can have conferences on the dotting of an i and the crossing of a t, oblivious to the fact that we have no spiritual power. While this charade goes on, the world despises us for they do not see Christ but several groups of people content with squabbling among each other, certain that the other groups are deceived and going to hell.

Thats why I want us to be reminded of God’s purpose for the church so that we could find our bearings and return to the Lord to do His will.

1. Ephesians 1:23, 24 “And He put all things under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” God’s purpose for the church is to contain the fullness of Jesus presence and power.

2. Eph 2:22 “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” God’s purpose for the church is for it to be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.

3. 1 Tim 3:15 “…in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” God’s purpose for the church is to be the pillar and foundation of the truth.

4. Eph 4:15, 16 ” …may grow up into him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” God’s purpose for the church is that the church receives life and direction from Christ. Also look at Eph 5:24 and 1 Cor 12:27.

5. Eph 3:10 ” to the intent that now, the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” God’s purpose for the church is that through the church He might demonstrate His wisdom to the powers of darkness.

6. Matt 16:18 “…on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The picture here is not that of an embattled church holding the fort in the face of a heavy onslaught, waiting to be raptured but rather of a victorious advancing church, before whom the gates of Hades crumble and fall. God’s purpose for the church is for it to destroy the gates of Hell.

7. Eph 4:13 “…..till we all come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 5:27 “that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” God’s purpose for the church is that it might be perfect, glorious and holy.

May we have a mighty visitation of God, we desperately need it. May we be the church that God intended.

 

Blessing

My definition of blessing is this – “Blessing is divine enablement and favour that results in spiritual, material and physical prosperity.”

God’s blessing upon a person will result in –

1. Us turning away from sin – Acts 3:26 “To you first, God, having raised up his servant Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities.”

2. Righteousness, peace and joy – Rom 14:17, Rom 5:17

3. Protection from evil – Psalm 91

4. Financial sufficiency and abundance so that we can be generous – 2 Cor 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance unto every good work.”

5. Divine health – Psalm 91, 1 Thess 5:23

6. Supernatural intervention in time of need

In the New testament, you will never find one prayer pleading for God’s blessing. Strange, is’nt it? Are’nt we accustomed to praying for God’s blessing to come down upon us? In the Old testament, however, you will find instances of people praying for God to bless them.

A look at Ephesians 1:3 shows us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Look closely, and you will see that the statement is in the past tense – God has blessed us in Christ. This points to an event in the past that has caused God to bless us.

Similarly we will find verses in the New testament speaking about healing, deliverance, outpouring of the Holy Spirit among others. All of these are in the past tense – showing us something that has been already done.

1. Eph 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.” Note the words “HAS BLESSED”.

2. 1 Peter 2:24 “who himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.” Note the words “YOU WERE HEALED.”

3. Col 1:13 “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” Note the words “HAS DELIVERED US.”

4. Rev 1:5 NIV “To him who loved us and freed us from our sins by his blood.” Note the words “HAS FREED US FROM OUR SINS.”

5. Eph 2:5,6 “made us alive together with Christ……….raised us up together …….made us sit together……in Christ”. Note the words, MADE US ALIVE, RAISED US UP, MADE US SIT”.

6. Acts 2:33 “having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you now see and hear.” Note the words “HAS POURED OUT THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

All of these verses point us to an event in the past – the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus as the basis for God’s blessing , healing, deliverance, freedom from sin, pouring out the Spirit.

How then do we experience this in our lives?

This involves what I call “appropriation”.

Look at it this way – Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, right? Yes.

Well then, is everyone saved? No.

Why?

Only those who have believed, repented and received Jesus individually are saved. This is appropriation.

It is the same with blessing, healing, deliverance, freedom from sin, receiving the Holy Spirit and every other benefit in the New testament.

These benefits are already ours – they need to be believed and received. In this context, remember 2 Corinthians 4:13 – “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed and therefore I spoke, we also believe and therefore speak.” We need to speak out what the Word of God says in this regard. Appropriate every benefit of Christ’s salvation and they will be yours.

You have been blessed in Christ.

God works through the church

There are certain things that God will not do for you, except through his church.

Remember when Saul was met by Jesus on the Damascus road, he was told – “Go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” Jesus did not tell Paul what to do – he wanted Paul to receive instruction from a member of the church that he would understand his dependence upon the church and also the union between Christ and His church.

I pity the loners, those who choose not to be part of any church, who think that it is sufficient to be part of the universal body of Christ, who find fault with every church and every minister they meet, who criticize everything and everyone they do not agree with, totally blind to their own pathetic state. This, unfortunately is an evil that I have seen under the sun.

There are answers to prayer that I have received only when the church has prayed for me, when certain ministers have prayed for me; answers that have eluded me although I have prayed much. In hindsight, God was showing me my dependence upon the body of Christ. I make it a point to get as many people as possible praying for me in times of need. Humility, after all, is an attitude that results from a recognition of our total dependence upon God and our total dependence upon the church.

I pray that we would all learn this lesson well – you have been placed in the body of Christ. It is together with all the saints that we will understand the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ. Christ is returning for his church.

The church – a simple fact

Eph 1:22,23 says “And He put all things under his feet and gave him (Jesus) to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
These verses show us the simple intent of God – the church is to contain the fullness of Jesus. The church is the fullness of Jesus. Eph 2:22 says that the church is the dwelling place of God in the Spirit. It is a place where Jesus is supreme and has preeminence (Col 1:18).
In our own experience, I am yet to find our churches full of the presence of Jesus. There are occasional instances when the tangible presence of God fills the place, but they are few and far between.The one place where I did experience the presence of God on a continual weekly basis was in a church at a small town outside of Muscat, Oman. That was the place where I baptized my oldest daughter in 2013.
My heart yearns for our churches to be places where the fullness of Jesus dwells, places so full of God’s presence and power. Since the church is not just as building but consists of people who are disciples of Jesus, maybe the restoration ought to start with the individual – the pastor first and then each member of the congregation. Each one ought to be full of the presence and power of God – when we then congregate, I have no doubt that the whole atmosphere will be supercharged with the presence of Jesus and His power. We will see unbelievers saved and glorious demonstrations of the power of God.
Remember this – it starts with you.

God, I want to experience this before I leave earth.