Apostolic Leaders

And he (Christ) himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ…

Ephesians 4:11-12

Some people say that there are no longer apostles today. And if by that they mean the 12 apostles (Matthew 10:2-4) who were the first 12 disciples, then they are correct. (Really Matthias should be swapped out for Judas Iscariot – see Acts 1:13 & 26) Typically this view understands the apostolic role mainly as those who wrote scripture, and in order to protect the authority and canonization of scripture, the claim is that apostles were exclusive to the first 12 or at least to the first century church.

But there are many problems with this view. The first glaring issues is that there were many people named as apostles in the New Testament (at least 20). Most of these people did not write works found in the scriptures.

Barnabas and Paul were considered apostles (Acts 14:14). Andronicus and Junia (a woman) were listed as outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7). Paul calls Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy apostles along with himself (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:4-6). Paul also calls Apollos an apostle along with himself (1 Cor 4:6-9). Apparently, James the half-brother of Jesus was considered an apostle (Galatians 1:19). It’s also possible Epaphroditus was considered an apostle if the Greek word apostolon in Philippians 2:25 is translated as “apostle” instead of “messenger.” 

So it is clear that the title and role of “apostle” extended well beyond the first 12 apostles. While we can acknowledge that the canon of scripture is closed and that the first 12 apostles had a unique role in church history, we must also acknowledge that “apostle” must have been a role that was open to many who fit the description.

This is why I believe the apostolic role was always meant to be a normal leadership role in the church today (similar to what the early church eventually called “bishop”). This lines up with what we read in Ephesians 4:11 as Paul lists the different leadership roles or leadership anointings that exist in the church. 

Some ministers will carry an anointing for pastoring/shepherding and others for evangelism or teaching. Though we tend to call all church leaders “pastors,” we’ve all felt our pastors lean in one direction or another based on the gifting and anointing on their life. And the same is true for the prophetic and the apostolic. Some of our “pastors” actually have the anointing for the apostolic role. I have a few different pastor friends who aren’t just shepherds or teachers. They have been gifted with an apostolic anointing.

Based on what we see in the New Testament, throughout church history, and in the church today, the apostolic role brings with it certain characteristics. The apostolic leadership role typically means a person is over a grouping or network of churches or at least has influence of some kind over more than one church. The apostolic also seems to specialize in taking new territory in some way for the Kingdom of God (whether that means starting non-profits, planting churches, launching businesses, or advancing the Kingdom in a particular sector of society).

Finally, signs, wonders and miracles are often involved in apostolic ministry. People are healed, demons are cast out, and prophetic words seem to flow easily around the apostolic. After being around someone with an apostolic anointing, we will find that the fire of the Holy Spirit has usually been fanned into flame. Often, new gifts of the Spirit are released or existing gifts are set ablaze.

So, are there apostles today?

Well, it is true that the first 12 apostles had a unique role and purpose in church history. That will never again be repeated. However, if we’re talking about the apostolic role and apostolic anointing in general, and if we use the definition and descriptions that I’ve laid out above, then the answer is “Yes.”

There are many in the church today who function with an apostolic anointing and who could rightly be called “apostle” just as we call other ministers “evangelist” or “teacher” or “pastor.” The irony is that those most qualified to be called “apostle” generally don’t use that term to describe themselves. This is, in part, due to enduring humbling opposition similar to what Paul had to face in regard to defending his own apostleship (see 2 Corinthians 11 & Galatians 1 and 2).

One final note: it’s important to state here that there is no such thing as a legitimate “self-appointed” apostle, just as there shouldn’t be any “self-appointed” pastors, teachers, or evangelists. People in these roles should first be affirmed by a community of people who recognize the calling and anointing on someone’s life for this particular role in ministry. And there should be healthy accountability structures in place for anyone serving in any ministry role. The purpose of all of these leadership roles and leadership anointings is not for self-promotion but to build up the body of Christ and equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Tremble

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.

Psalm 96:8-9

Throughout the Psalms, and the Bible in general, we see that a normal response to the tangible Presence of God is to tremble. When theophanies happen in the Old Testament, people often tremble in the presence of God.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:16-17

We get the sense that in a face-to-face encounter with the fullness of the living God, our bodies can’t handle all the power, our sin can’t handle all the holiness, our eyes can’t handle all the light, our hearts can’t handle all the love. The healthy and reverent fear of the Lord hits people and they begin to tremble. We might call this trembling a “physical manifestation of fear” or a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed.”

I grew up in a Baptist church where we used to sing a hymn that spoke to this reality. It was called “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”

 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Stanzas 1 & 2

All of this got me thinking about trembling as a “physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” To clarify, this is different from trembling that is a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed” (although emotions may accompany it). When the Holy Spirit causes the physical manifestation, it is not showing up in our body because of our emotions. While emotions may be a part of the experience, physical manifestations of the Spirit are when the Holy Spirit himself causes our body to react to an increase of his tangible presence. And while our bodies can react in a number of different ways, trembling is a common one.

Both Jonathan Edwards, in the First Great Awakening (1730s), and John Wesley, in the Second Great Awakening (1790s), recorded the phenomenon of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit. In subsequent revivals (Azuza Street in the early 1900s, Charismatic renewal in the 1960s, Toronto and Brownsville in at the 1990s) the experience of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit was very common. While this reaction of trembling has been recorded by historians in nearly every revival, it sometimes gets explained away with accusations of some combination of groupthink and mass hysteria.

Yet, these simplistic dismissals can’t account for the wide rage of personal experiences that people have had with the Holy Spirit. How do they account for people continuing to experience these physical manifestations of the Spirit while they are alone in the privacy of their own prayer time with the Lord? How do they account for their regularity? How do they account for people with no prior religious experience experiencing these physical manifestations despite not wanting them and even being skeptical of them? There is too much personal and historical evidence that one of the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit is the phenomenon of trembling.

What’s fascinating to think about is that while people who experienced trembling were not necessarily experiencing a theophany in the traditional sense–they weren’t face to face with the living God–their bodies were reacting as if they were. It’s as if their bodies were picking up on the reality of the tangible Presence of God in a way that their eyes weren’t. What if their bodies were responding appropriately to God’s tangible Presence even when their mind wasn’t able to?

Have you ever had a moment where your heart was ahead of your mind? Your heart picked up on something and tears began to flow but your head was still unaware of what was going on. You were crying but you weren’t sure what you were crying about yet. Your heart was ahead of your head. Only later, upon further reflection, did your mind begin to understand what your heart already knew. Has that ever happened to you?

I suspect the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit that happen to our bodies, like trembling, are versions of this. It’s like our spirit and our body picks up on God’s Presence in a way that our mind hasn’t yet. Our body and spirit are ahead of our mind. Only later does our mind make sense of it. And this completely makes sense when we begin to recognize the truth that we have the Spirit of God actually dwelling in us. When the Spirit within us connects with the Spirit falling upon us, our body will react to that powerful connection often before our mind can catch up.

We may begin trembling in a way that is beyond our control. If this happens to us, we shouldn’t fight it as if there is something wrong with our body. Quite the opposite. Maybe our body is actually responding appropriately. Maybe it’s the rest of us that has to catch up. We’re experiencing the profound Presence of God in our midst, and maybe whatever walls may be up in our heart and mind need to come down so that they too can join in on the moment.

Intensive Prayer Sessions

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

At our church we have an intensive prayer ministry where one can schedule a 2-3 hour prayer session with our prayer team members. These sessions are all about a person taking the next step in being sanctified “through and through” in their “spirit, soul and body.” We use an integrated approach because we try to address the whole person. It’s also an integrated approach because we as prayer ministers try to use every spiritual gift and tool available to us in order to help the person we are praying for. Our goal is: 1) that they feel loved (by us and by the Father) and, 2) that they walk away more free than they walked in. If we do those two things, we’ve been successful.

In order for a person to feel loved by us, we have to operate with care and compassion. We employ the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (listed in 1 Corinthians 12) and we do so in ways that are careful and kind.

In order for a person to feel loved by the Father, we must facilitate an encounter with the tangible Presence of God. Just knowing, in one’s head, that God loves you is a good first step but is often insufficient in bringing life-change and freedom. As prayer ministers we are responsible for ushering the person into God’s tangible Presence. This means that we move beyond a mere head-knowledge of God’s love into a place where the person actually experiences God’s love. This can show up emotionally as the Spirit touches a person’s heart. It can also show up physically, as they tangibly experience God’s Presence in their body.

In order to facilitate a divine encounter, we must utilize every heavenly resource and every spiritual gift available to us. Practically speaking, this means moving through five major avenues of encounter. These are the five main ways that God puts His love on display and makes His love real for the person receiving prayer.

  1. Prophetic Words: In the morning before we pray for an individual, we ask the Lord, “How do you see this person?” Then we wait and listen to what the Spirit has to say. We write down thoughts and images that come to mind that we sense are not our own. These are words from the Lord or sometimes called “prophetic words.” Listening to the Spirit like this takes practice. But the more you do it, the more accurate you become (as is the case with nearly every other spiritual gift). After a brief orientation, we deliver these words to the person and tell them to “eat the meat; spit out the bones.” In other words, we’ve done our part in listening and telling, now you do your part and discern what is truly from the Lord.
  2. Inner Healing: After we give the prophetic words, we usually move into a time of praying for inner healing. This is when we address things like heart wounds, unforgiveness, harsh words spoken over a person’s life (especially by those in authority), generational sin and curses, fears, sexual brokenness, addictions, etc. These are areas where the enemy likes to attack people. If these are not addressed, they function like open doors and windows in a person’s life allowing the enemy easy access to wreak havoc. Most of our prayer time is spent on these. People experience tremendous release and healing as we pray through these issues.
  3. Deliverance: While inner healing must come first, sometimes we recognize (either through demonic physical manifestations in a person’s body or just through the gift of discerning the spirits) that the enemy has not only attacked a particular part of a person’s life but has actually infiltrated it. Deliverance ministry is when, in the authority of Jesus, we function as police officers commanding demonic spirits “off of” or “out of” a person’s life. If a spirit is simply “attached” to a person (picture a vulture with its talons dug in someone’s back), we command it to get “off” in Jesus’s name. If a spirit has gotten “into” a person (picture a thief hiding out in one room of a person’s house), then we command it to get “out” in Jesus’s name. If a person is heavily demonized, we often see strong physical manifestations occur at this point as the demon never wants to leave. So in its attempts to stay, it causes bodily sensations, bodily pain, or bodily movements. In extreme cases, it will try to take over a person’s face and voice. But, in many cases, demonization is only at the level of “attachment,” and these things simply lift off a person at the name of Jesus.
  4. Physical Healing: We also like to address people’s physical needs during these prayer sessions. There are two kinds of physical ailments that we address. The first is simply a physical illness or injury caused by something natural. In these cases, we pray for Jesus to come and physically heal what is broken. We’ve seen the incredible healing of the Lord get poured out as we prayed and people could feel the sensation of heat while Jesus was healing them.
    The second kind of physical ailment is when the physical illness or injury is caused (or prolonged) by a “spirit of affliction.” These little demonic spirits are assigned to cause people bodily pain or sickness. Once they are cast out, the pain or sickness ends. It’s fairly easy to determine if it is a spirit of affliction causing the problem because, as soon as you start praying for healing, the issue worsens or suddenly moves. I’ve seen neck pain “move” to the shoulder as we prayed and then to the arm. This indicated that it was not a physical cause but a spirit causing the issue. As we commanded it to leave, it went down the arm and out the finger tips.
  5. Impartation: We sometimes (not always) conclude our prayer sessions with impartation. Impartation prayer is when we recognize that the Lord either wants to give this person a brand new gift of the Holy Spirit or He wants to fan into flame what is already there. So as we pray we ask the Lord to freely do in them and give to them what He has freely done in us and given to us. We essentially ask the Holy Spirit to fill this person to overflow, ignite the gifts that exist in them already, and pour out new gifts to them. If this concept is new to you, here are some scripture verses to check out (Matthew 10:8; Numbers 11:16-7, 24-25; Deut 34:9; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).

By the end of these prayer sessions, I’ve seen people radically transformed by an encounter with God. Usually, at least two of the above avenues of encounter end up being really profound for the person to experience. Occasionally, we have people who get profoundly impacted by all five avenues of encounter. Those prayer sessions are really memorable. The person is never the same after that. When we have a tangible encounter with the Lord, it’s nearly impossible to ever be the same again.

Fruit of the Fear of the Lord

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.

Acts 5:3-5

I believe God wants to return the church to the fear of the Lord. But before we could return to the fear of the Lord, we had to learn about the love of the Father. Once we know we are loved completely, then we can have the right heart posture when it comes to the fear, awe, and reverence of the Lord. Fear of the Lord isn’t about being scared of an abusive father. Fear of the Lord is about being in total reverence of an awesome God such that obedience is all we want to do.

And the fear of the Lord brings really good fruit. Ananias lied to the church and to God about his offering. After he dropped to the ground dead, the rest of verse 5 says, “great fear seized all who heard what had happened(Acts 5:5).

Then when his wife Sapphira came in three hours later, she delivered the same lie to the church and to God. After she dropped dead before them all, the Bible says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11).

But fear is bad, right?

Well, some kinds of fear are bad. Certain kinds of fear can be used by the enemy to paralyze us into inaction and disobedience. But this kind of fear, the fear of the Lord, led to really good fruit. Notice the report that happens right after this event.

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 

Acts 5:12-14

When people take a heart posture of awe, reverence, and holy fear of the Lord, God seems to love to move powerfully through that. Something similar happened to the apostle Paul.

Paul was doing “extraordinary” miracles as he saw people healed from illness and delivered from demonic oppression. Some of the Jews who witnessed Paul’s ministry were so impressed that they tried to imitate what he was doing. Though they didn’t believe in Jesus, have a relationship with Him, or have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, they still attempted to use Jesus’s name to cast demons out of people who were demonized.

It didn’t go well.

The demons recognized the name of Jesus, and they even recognized Paul’s name. But the demons saw that these seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were operating outside of the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. So these seven brothers got completely beat up by the demonized man they were praying for. It was so bad that these seven guys ran out of the house naked and bleeding (see Acts 19:13-16).

The very next lines of scripture are instructive:

When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Acts 19:17-20

Did you see the fruit of the fear of the Lord?

  1. The name of the Lord was held in high honor.
  2. People began to openly confess and repent of their sin and rebellion.
  3. People left their old way of life that involved the occult and witchcraft.
  4. People were willing to surrender things of tremendous monetary value just to follow Jesus.
  5. The gospel spread widely.
  6. The message of the gospel grew in power.

A couple years ago I had an encounter with the tangible fear of the Lord. It is hard to describe but I try to do so here. It was like the Lord pulled back the curtain and gave me just a taste of the fullness of His Presence, and I was completely undone. God is indescribably awesome, powerful and fearsome. God is love, more than we even know. God is also holy. He isn’t someone to take lightly.

Romans 11:22 advises us to, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…” The word in the Greek translated here as “sternness” means “severity or sharpness,” like a sheer cliff. You know that feeling you get when you walk to the edge of a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet either to the ocean or to the rocks below? That feeling of awe, wonder, and heart-pounding fear? That’s what the fear of the Lord is like, and we, as the church, need to return to it. If we do, good fruit awaits us there.

Tongues: An Interview

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31

The gift of tongues has caused much controversy in the life of the church. This was true in the first century in Corinth and was part of the reason Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians. He felt compelled to address this issue. It’s also been true of the modern church ever since the Azusa Street revival broke out in 1905. Since then much of the church has been divided over this gift of the Spirit. However, I believe we are entering a new season that is bringing clarity and understanding where previously there was only confusion and misunderstanding.

What follows is a conversation between a Christian who is curious about tongues and their pastor. We’ll name the curious Christian “CC” and the pastor “P.”

CC: My first question is this, “Is the gift of tongues even operating today?” Some traditions of the church don’t believe it is.

P: Yes, I believe all the gifts of the Spirit are still operating today. We have no indication from scripture that they ever stopped.

CC: I’ve heard that some parts of the church believe that if you haven’t spoken in tongues, you don’t have the Holy Spirit. Is that true?

P: Well, maybe some churches somewhere believe that, but that is an exaggeration of a theological view called “Second Blessing” theology. Most charismatics and Pentecostals believe that if you believe in Jesus you have the Holy Spirit. Period.

The source of some of the confusion is that many people have testified to having a second experience with the Spirit, after salvation, where they felt set free from sin and empowered with gifts in a new way. Many call this second experience being “baptized” in the Spirit or “filled” with the Spirit. Charismatics and Pentecostals often witnessed people speaking in tongues during or after this second experience with the Spirit. What developed over time was “Second Blessing” theology that states, “if you haven’t spoken in tongues, you must not have been filled with the Spirit.” This is the theology that most other evangelicals find troubling.

CC: So do you think that if a person hasn’t spoken in tongues that they aren’t filled with the Spirit?

P: First, we need to understand that “receiving” the Spirit at salvation is one thing and getting “filled” with the Spirit is a different thing. I like to say that when we are filled with the Spirit we don’t get more of the Spirit but the Spirit gets more of us.

As to your question, my answer is “No.” I don’t think tongues are the only sign of someone experiencing a filling of the Spirit. I think there are many “signs” that a person has experienced a “baptism” in the Spirit or “filling” of the Spirit. One of those signs may be that they now pray in tongues. But I believe there are other signs that accompany that experience. Some people weep, others shake, others fall down under the weight of God’s power and glory, and the list goes on. I believe tongues is sometimes a sign and sometimes not.

More important than the initial sign is the actual fruit in a person’s life. If a person truly did experience a filling of the Spirit, they will have increased victory over sin in their life, increased power to live holy and surrendered, increased intimacy with the Lord, likely brand new gifts of the Spirit and/or gifts that were already there get lit on fire by the power of God.

CC: Are you saying you do think there is such a thing as a “baptism in the Spirit” that is different than what happens when we receive the Spirit at salvation?

P: I believe that we receive all of the Holy Spirit at salvation. I also believe we can experience these moments after salvation were we get “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). When charismatics and Pentecostals talk about the “baptism of the Spirit” I believe they are referring the the “first time” a person experiences a filling of the Spirit. Yet, I believe we can have many of these moments throughout our journey with Christ.

Evangelicals tend to believe that the “baptism of the Spirit” is what happens at salvation when you receive the Spirit. Yet, I grew up in the Southern Baptist church where people would have moments after salvation that they would call “rededicating their life” to the Lord. These “rededication” moments sometimes involved a new victory over sin and a general turn around in their life. I wonder sometimes if they simply experienced a “filling of the Spirit” in those moments and, because we were Baptist, just didn’t have language for it.

CC: So where do tongues fit into your theology?

P: Like I said, I do believe they can be a sign that accompanies a moment where a person has an encounter with God and experiences a filling of the Spirit. I also believe it can show up like any other gift. For me, I had a radical encounter with God that was a “filling of the Spirit” more intense than anything I had ever experienced before. Charismatics and Pentecostals would probably call this my “baptism in the Spirit” moment. But for me, this moment was preceded by a process and this moment did not involve speaking in tongues.

Imagine wading out into the ocean until finally a wave crashes down on your head. This is how it was for me with the Holy Spirit. There was a year and a half process of wading deeper and deeper into the waters of the Spirit until I experienced a wave of the Spirit that crashed over me. Pentecostals might call the wave crashing my “baptism in the Spirit” but really, it started with a process and culminated in an event. It wasn’t just about the event.

After that I kept having new and fresh encounters with the Lord in different ways. It definitely was a “filling of the Spirit.” But for me, when a person is filled with the Spirit it isn’t that they get more of the Holy Spirit. It is that the Holy Spirit gets more of them. That’s what happened to me.

For six months after that I didn’t pray in tongues. I wasn’t given that gift. But I did want that gift, so I asked a friend of mine to pray for me that I receive it. And it didn’t come like a volcano, erupting out of me from the depths of my belly like it does for some. It came more like a slow trickle. Then the trickle became a stream and the stream became a river. It grew in me much like many other gifts have. It was a process.

CC: So you speak in tongues?

P: I pray in tongues. Meaning, I have a prayer language that is in tongues. I do not have the corporate gift of speaking in a tongue in a public setting and having it interpreted. That is a different kind of tongues. What people may not realize is that there are many kinds of tongues, and the Greek in 1 Corinthians 12:10 is in the plural. There is the tongues that erupts out of some people when they are filled with the Spirit for the first time and it acts as a sign (and less like a continual gift). There is the tongues that is the prayer language. There is the tongues that is the public gift that should be interpreted in a public setting. There is the tongues that is a literal human language given to people for the spread of the gospel in missionary settings. All of these are real and all of these are a version of the gift of tongues.

CC: So you pray in tongues. What does that mean?

P: It means in my private prayer life, I will often shift from praying in English, my native language, to praying in tongues, which is more of a Holy Spirit language. Paul said, “If I speak in tongues of men or of angels….”(1 Corinthians 13:1). Some people’s private prayer language sounds nothing like a human language. Some people’s private prayer language sounds just like a foreign language that they don’t know.

This shift into tongues can happen whenever I choose, but it sometimes happens without me choosing. Specifically, if I am praying either in great celebration and joy or in great agony and pain, I find that I will almost automatically shift into tongues during those moments. It’s like the Spirit is saying, “Here, since you don’t know what to pray, I’ll pray through you.”

CC: Fascinating! What would you say is the purpose of praying in tongues if you don’t even know what you are saying?

P: The way I describe it to people is this…you know how you can start a worship service feeling disconnected from God or just distracted. Maybe your heart and mind aren’t really focused on Jesus. But then you worship, and 30 minutes later you feel totally different. You feel connected to God. You feel His Presence. Your heart and mind are focused on Him. Your worries have dropped to the ground and your faith is rising. You feel His love for you and your heart feels like it is back to a place of peace, grounded in Christ. When you pray in tongues, what would take 30 minutes of worship to get you into that place spiritually takes only a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds.

The apostle Paul said the purpose of a person praying in tongues is to “edify themselves” (1 Corinthians 14:4). In other words, praying in tongues quickly realigns your heart and mind toward Christ and ushers you quickly into the Presence of God in a way that few other things can. When a person prays in tongues for extended periods of time, there is a kind of saturation of the Spirit that happens where hearing God becomes easier and communing with God feels natural.

CC: Are there other purposes for praying in tongues?

P: Definitely. The other kinds of tongues have other kinds of purposes. But “praying in tongues” specifically can also be used in spiritual warfare. I have found that demonic spirits hate when people pray in tongues. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to them. So there have been times in deliverance prayer sessions where we used it as a kind of weapon to weaken and expose the enemy.

CC: Are there certain times you pray in tongues more than others?

P: I try to pray in tongues every morning more as a spiritual discipline. But I especially find myself praying in tongues in moments of need. Like, if I am on my way to pray for someone who is critically ill and desperately needs healing, I would likely pray in tongues. In that moment I desperately need to hear from God, feel His Presence, and bolster my faith. Tongues helps that happen in a very short amount of time.

Or, if I am in a worship environment that is supercharged with the tangible Presence of God, I will likely find myself praying in tongues. This happens not because I am in a state of desperate need, but more as a reaction to the manifest Presence of God. It’s like the Psalmist wrote, “deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7). The Holy Spirit in me is responding to the Father making His Presence felt in the room.

CC: Do you pray in tongues out loud in a worship service? And if so, does that distract the people around you?

P: When I am praying for a person individually or I’m in a worship service, and I feel the urge or need to pray in tongues, I tend to do so under my breath. I don’t do this because I am somehow ashamed of tongues. Not at all. I love the gift of tongues and would want it for everyone. But I pray under my breath out of respect for the people around me who might take issue with it. I don’t want to be a distraction or a hinderance to their worship. But, if I am in the company of people that also pray in tongues or don’t object to praying in tongues, then I will do so in a way that is more vocal.

CC: Do you think people who don’t pray in tongues are somehow lesser Christians or less mature?

P: No. God is more concerned with our character than our gifts, and tongues is just one gift among many. It’s an awesome gift and a useful tool, but it shouldn’t be used as a barometer of spiritual maturity. There are plenty of spiritually immature Christians who can pray in tongues and plenty of mature Christians who cannot.

CC: Any final comments about praying in tongues?

P: The apostle Paul said, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” and “do not forbid speaking in tongues“(1 Corinthians 14:5, 39). And I understand why he felt this way. It’s a great tool for the believer to have. So if you want to pray in tongues, pursue it. Pray for it. Ask someone who can pray in tongues to pray over you to get this gift.

But also understand that we shouldn’t fret over not having this gift. The Holy Spirit decides who gets which gifts. And while he does respond to our asking, he also is sovereign. If you don’t pray in a tongue, don’t worry about it and don’t judge others who do. Those are the two errors I see people fall into the most. Often out of insecurity, they either fret about not having the gift or they get cynical and judge others who do have this gift. Both reactions are unhealthy. Grow in the gifts you already have. Be a faithful steward of those gifts and trust God with the rest.

Leading the Church

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

In the Church, Christ has released five different leadership anointing (sometimes called the five-fold ministry gifts)–apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching. These anointings are found throughout the church in many different people but are sometimes solidified into leadership roles or staff positions when the community recognizes a strong anointing and calling on a person’s life. Each of these anointings cause a person to lead the church in slightly different ways and create a slightly different culture for the church body. Let’s briefly look at each one:

The primary question for the apostolic person is, “What is God doing?” Sunday Worship is about giving God total devotion and experiencing a divine encounter. Apostolic people are often given blueprints or strategy from the Lord for an entire organization. They are risk-takers who want to gain ground for the Kingdom of God.

The primary question for the prophetic person is, “What is God saying?” Sunday Worship is about giving God the praise that is due Him and experiencing God’s Presence. Prophetic people often support the apostolic and are given insight into the future of an organization and trends that are coming next.

The primary question for the teacher is, “What truth needs to be taught?” Sunday Worship is about teaching biblical truth from the scriptures and the discipleship of the believer. Teachers tend to make complicated theology or paradoxical truth more easily understandable for everyone. Because of this they are often the “translators” standing between the apostolic/prophetic people and the pastoral/evangelistic people.

The primary question for the pastoral person is, “What do our current people need, especially those who are hurting?” Sunday Worship is about people feeling welcomed, cared for, and connected to community. Pastoral leaders tend to lean into compassion, empathy, and mercy. Their focus is often the hurting and vulnerable.

The primary question for the evangelistic person is, “What does the outsider/new person need?” Sunday Worship is all about the new person, the guest, the person who has been far from church and/or far from God. Evangelistic leaders want to see people give their life to Jesus for the first time and want everything in the church to be geared toward that goal. They tend to be Christians who don’t like church very much or remember vividly what it was like to avoid Christians in their pre-Christian life.

As you can see, depending on who is leading a church and what leadership anointing they may have, the church will take on a slightly different culture. Below is an example of the difference between a church with an apostolic culture verses a church with a pastoral culture.

Pastoral church

Primary Focus: connecting in community

Secondary Focus: healing emotional wounds

Leaders: led by Pastors and pastoral people

Mission: care for the believers 

Discipleship Emphasis: emphasizes slow processes of development over time

People’s Involvement: the people either consume or pastor

View of Church: church is a hospital for the wounded

Leadership Mode: pastoring is the main expression of the church (evangelism feels too pushy and not relational enough, teaching sometimes feels irrelevant, prophetic feels too weird and supernatural, apostolic feels too authoritative and risky) 

Apostolic church

Primary Focus: create Kingdom culture

Secondary Focus: a Kingdom environment (presence of God, supernatural activity)

Leaders: led by apostolic people in the context of the 5-fold ministry gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) 

Mission: taking ground for the Kingdom

Discipleship Emphasis: emphasizes transformation through divine encounter (healing, deliverance, social change, salvation)

People’s Involvement: the people produce or are sent out

View of Church: church is an army sent to reclaim what belongs to the Lord

Leadership Mode: evangelism, teaching, pastoring and the prophetic are all pieces that contribute to the whole but they function under the authority of the apostolic. God’s supernatural presence and activity are paramount above all else.

Pastor Dave Hess

Way back in 2015, I felt prompted by the Lord to launch a prayer ministry at my church. As I was thinking through who did prayer ministry like this and did it well, I was reminded of the church I attended for a few years in college–Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. It was a long shot but I wondered if I could meet with the pastor, Dave Hess, and pick his brain a little.

To my surprise, when I called his secretary and explained my situation, he was willing to fit me in. So a few weeks later I drove up to Camp Hill to meet with Pastor Hess. I can’t remember the date, I just remember that it was cold and snow was on the ground.

As soon as I walked into his office, Pastor Dave greeted me with warmth and kindness. I explained my desire to launch a prayer ministry and to express the supernatural gifts of the Spirit but in a way that was responsible and accountable. My memory of him that day was that he mostly just listened and asked questions. He didn’t give me any great advice or wisdom except this: He said that I had to experience the Lord and profoundly encounter Him first before I could expect others to do the same.

Then he gave me three books for free. He gave me one training manual on prayer ministry, one book on prophetic gifting, and finally he gave me his own book. He talked briefly about his incredible encounters with God through his battle with cancer. It began to dawn on me just how important and influential Pastor Hess had become. The only way I can describe it is this: Imagine going across the street to your neighbors house to ask advice on how they get their rose garden to be so beautiful and in the process of talking about gardening you become aware that your neighbor is the former President of the United States. Here you are with the President and you’re asking him about roses. That was the feeling.

On my way out of his office, Pastor Dave Hess did something that left a mark on me. It was the most powerful moment of the whole meeting and it was totally unexpected. We both got up from our chairs and he thanked me for coming in. Then he did something that to this day I can’t shake from my consciousness. He took my coat off of the hook before I could get to it, he opened it up and waited for me to slip my arms in it. Picture what a butler would do for the head of the house. Or, if you were into watching Downton Abby, it’s what His Lordship’s Valet would do to help him get dressed. It’s what a father does for his children when they’re trying to put on a heavy winter coat.

As it was happening, I was too stunned to put it all together. It was the perfect picture of servant leadership. Here was this great man of faith, this man that I should be serving, and he was holding my coat. He took the posture of a servant with such ease it was clear that this was a regular part of his life. This is just who he is. I can’t even help my kids put their coats on without thinking about this moment. It is seared into my mind and heart. It was the winter version of washing feet.

I know it seems small, but you have to understand that Pastor Dave gets invited to speak at large conferences, he has written multiple books, and he has been the senior pastor of Christ Community for decades. I didn’t really know any of that when I asked to meet with him that day.

The books he gave me, by the way, ended up profoundly shaping the prayer ministry at my church. But the simple act of helping me put on my coat did something more. Can you imagine? One grown man helping another grown man put on his coat? There’s no logical reason for it. It was simply an act of servanthood. It was simply an act of love to a guy he just met. He has probably done that a million times. Serving and loving people are so natural for him that he probably thought nothing of it. But I’ll never forget it. It must have been how the prodigal son felt when his father brought the robe and put it on him.

Why are charismatics so weird?

 “What should we do with these men? For it is plain to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable miraculous sign has come about through them, and we cannot deny it. But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 

And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:16-20

Why is it that Christians who operate in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are so often weird and awkward?

Or put another way, why do charismatics often seem to lack emotional intelligence around people?

In my journey with these supernatural gifts and their proper use, I’m starting to understand why people who use these gifts seem so weird to your average evangelical. First, we need to acknowledge that low emotional intelligence can be found in every tradition of the church. I’ve met super-awkward Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and progressives. So that part isn’t necessarily unique.

But I believe one factor that can sometimes increase awkwardness with charismatics is what happens when one receives these gifts. There is often a massive moment of full surrender in our relationship with Jesus before we start seeing the flourishing of the supernatural gifts. They may have even been there in seedling form already, but the gifts don’t flourish without surrender.

What this surrender requires is a gigantic “Yes” with our life. It is telling Jesus that we will do what He tells us to do no matter what. It is agreeing to operate with quick obedience even if it is hard, even if it is awkward, even if we’re afraid, even if it makes us look bad, even if it doesn’t fit with social norms. If the “fear of man” had a hold on our life, its stranglehold gets broken in this process of surrender.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” The fear of man is being overly concerned about what others will think of us. It is being overly concerned about our image and reputation. It is an oppressive desire to be liked and to have people say nice things about us. In order to fully operate in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, this part of us must die.

So there is a process of surrender whereby we are killing or suppressing the voice that says, “But what will people think?” or “But how will this look?” This voice is often used by the enemy to keep us from stepping out in faith and taking bold risks in obedience to the Lord. The problem is that there is a part of this voice that involves emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is often summarized as having four main parts:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Relational awareness (empathy)
  4. Relational management

When one is trying to be obedient to the Lord, part of putting to death the fear of man in our life is knowing that something will be awkward (self-awareness) and yet doing it anyway. This sometimes comes across to others as someone who doesn’t have self-management or relational awareness. An observer may assume, “If they knew how that looked, they wouldn’t do it.” But sometimes that’s not true. Sometimes the person trying to act in obedience knows how it looks and does it anyway.

Why?

Obedience. Surrender. I gave God my unequivocal “Yes” and don’t want to take it back.

But God would never ask us to do something embarrassing or awkward, right? Wrong. This is a myth that is believed by too many American Christians. We see throughout the Bible and throughout the history of the church that God continually asks people to do things that are awkward, embarrassing, and often misunderstood. And as we witness the lives of the persecuted church around the world, God even asks us to be willing to be killed for the sake of Christ.

Now, all of that said, there is a place for EQ in knowing “how” to do that thing God is asking us to do. He wants us to be loving. Many charismatics, in their deep desire to be bold in faith and quick in their obedience, have forgotten that not all EQ is the fear of man. We still are called to operate in love, and loving someone often looks like the four parts of emotional intelligence.

In other words, the reason many charismatics come across as awkward is because, in their deep desire not to give in to the fear of man, they have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater.” It is, of course, true that some charismatics just have a deficit in EQ like many other Christians. But it isn’t always that.

In my life I have found that, more often, it is a deep desire to be unquestioningly obedient and, in doing so, sometimes missing the mark on the difference between the fear of man and appropriate EQ. Charismatics don’t always get it right. They don’t always know where that line is. But I love their heart of wanting to obey the Lord no matter what. I’ll take that over a life full of fear any day. Being awkward for the sake of obedience to Christ seems like a small price to pay compared to the high price many Christians are paying around the world for their faith.

Self-Limiting

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking a little about the incarnation–God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Nothing can limit or contain God except Himself. When Jesus became human in the incarnation, it was a gigantic act of self-limitation on the part of God. The One who was once omnipresent, self-limited to a time and place in history. The One who never experienced pain, hunger, or thirst, self-limited Himself into a human body that experienced all the basic human needs for food and sleep. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the fullness of God?

No. Colossians 2:9 is clear, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Imagine a dad playing basketball with his young son. If he is a good dad, he will “self-limit” the amount of force and skill that he exerts. He does this out of love for his son. Does this mean that in this moment he is “less” of a dad? Quite the opposite. In the dad’s loving self-limitation he is fully himself and maybe even the best version of himself because his love is tangibly on display. The same is true of Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

What about God’s omniscience and power? Did God self-limit those in the incarnation?

I believe He did.

It is true that we see Jesus know things He couldn’t know without supernatural insight. We also see Jesus do incredible miracles that He couldn’t do without divine power. Yet, I believe that what we see in Jesus is a tiny fraction of God’s total omniscience and power. I believe Jesus only did that which is possible to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He only did that which was possible for a human to do who is completely filled and empowered by the Spirit and perfectly connected to the Father. In other words, I believe Jesus did these things as a perfect human conduit of the power of the Spirit not as God the Son.

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism as He was led into the desert to be tempted. Then, having been victorious over Satan in the desert, Luke 4:14 says that Jesus returned to start His ministry “in the power of the Spirit.” It’s not until this happens that we start to see Jesus do miracles, healings, and deliverances. So I believe that the “supernatural” aspect of Jesus’s ministry was Him acting as a human fully empowered by the Spirit and completely connected to the Father. I don’t believe they are instances of Him flexing is divinity (though He had every right to as God the Son). So even His miracles are an aspect of His self-limitation.

We know that the power He could have displayed could have been so much more overwhelming. Jesus even said, leading up to the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“(Matthew 26:53). There was so much more power that could have been unleashed but wasn’t. Again we see Jesus’s self-limitation.

Though Jesus knew things about people that He couldn’t have known without supernatural help (see John 1:47-48 & 4:16-18, Luke 5:22 & 9:47), I believe this was Him operating in what the apostle Paul would later call gifts of the Spirit like words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Yet, we still see that Jesus self-limited His foreknowledge when He talks to His disciples about the end times and says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus’s self-limitation in the incarnation was a radical act of love toward us. It also leaves us followers of Jesus without excuse. We can no longer write-off parts of Jesus’s ministry with the statement, “Yeah, well, He was God.” We sometimes like to think Jesus’s divinity gets us off the hook from having to operate like Jesus did in the fullness of the Spirit. But, though He could have operated out of His divinity, I don’t believe He did. Everything He did He did as a human fully surrendered to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. And though we will never be the perfect conduit of the Spirit that Jesus was, we are still called to be a conduit just the same.

Washing Feet – Revisited

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 

John 13:6-15

I love when the Lord shows me something new in a passage of scripture I’ve read a hundred times. I read the above passage the other day and felt like the Lord showed me something new. We tend to think of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet as an act of humble service whereby He then instructs His disciple to do the same for each other (that is, serve each other). But consider that there’s more that Jesus is addressing here. 

We know that Jesus isn’t just talking about personal hygiene. And I believe He’s talking about more than just service. When He’s talking about taking a bath, He’s really talking about baptism/salvation. He’s talking about the cleansing of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

And when Jesus is talking about washing feet, He’s talking about the regular cleansing that we need even after we are saved. Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath (been saved) need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” Meaning, we who are followers of Jesus have already been forgiven of all of our sin, and yet we still need a regular kind of cleansing because of our regular contact with sin and the contaminants of the world. We’ve been cleansed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out (our spiritual bath), yet we still get the muck and grime of the world on us simply by walking daily in the world. After we have had a “bath” we don’t need to get saved over and over again, but we do need a different kind of cleansing. We do need a foot washing.

We see this same kind of “dual cleansing” demonstrated by the priests at the Temple. First, they offered the sacrifices of animals to account for their sin. The spilling of blood addressed their guilt from sin. Yet, the priests also had to wash in the wash basin before entering the Holy Place. The washing with water addressed anything they may have had contact with that made them “unclean.” And these wash basins were made from bronze mirrors. They would have literally seen a reflection of themselves as they washed away the contaminants of the world with water. I don’t think it was an accident that a time of reflection accompanied this time of cleansing.

Jesus introduces a new kind of “dual cleansing” for the new priesthood of believers. First, baptism represents the full and total cleansing of our life from sin. Jesus’s blood is what would enable the Holy Spirit to come and bathe us in righteousness from the inside out. Then, a foot washing, which represents the ongoing need for forgiveness, repentance, and cleansing from the muck of the world.

Not only do we need a spiritual “foot washing,” a regular kind of repentance and cleansing, but this cleansing is something we believers can offer to each other. Jesus commands, “…you also should wash one another’s feet.” We not only are called to serve each other humbly, but we are called to participate in helping each other stay clean. The cleansing water is the Holy Spirit, and He does what only the Spirit can do. Yet, we can participate in this by metaphorically washing each other’s feet.

I have seen the reality of this kind of cleansing happen over and over in the prayer ministry we have at our church. People come in for prayer with the muck of sin and the muck of the world caked on them. They feel ashamed and defeated. They feel oppressed and depressed. They know there is more to this Christian life than what they are experiencing but they just can’t seem to tap into it. They are followers of Jesus who have been bathed in the waters of baptism, but they still need a foot washing for their soul.

Then we start praying, and the increased Presence of the Holy Spirit begins to be poured out. We as prayer ministers bend low to wash feet and the cleansing power of the Spirit does His work. I watch as time and again people get set free from sin, free from shame, free from unforgiveness and hurt, free from the heavy weight pressing down on their shoulders, free from the heaviness on their chest that keeps them from taking a full breath. As the cleansing water of the Spirit is poured out, the Light comes, lightness is felt, freedom is experienced, hope returns, and a cleansing takes place right in front of us.

When Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet, I do think he had in mind humble service. But I also think He had in mind ministry that brings freedom and cleansing, ministry that one believer can offer to another. We have the honor of ushering in the cleansing power of the Spirit for each other if we are willing to bend low. This ministry of cleansing is the ministry of washing feet and inviting the Holy Spirit to come and wash souls.