Teen Magazine Christianity

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Luke 9:22-24

The invitation of the gospel is to come and die. It is to surrender our way of living so that we can enter into an eternal kind of living. The gospel declares that our sin was damaging enough that Jesus had to go to the cross to redeem what we had destroyed. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we were healed. Now, as those who have been made new, we are invited to a cross of our own.

This invitation seems to be missing in most church growth strategies that I read and listen to. There is a lot of advice going around about how to reach out to the next generation. There’s a lot of podcasts, blog posts, and YouTube seminars about how to get people to come to church in our post-Christian culture. The problem is that most of them sound like advice found in a teen magazine to insecure adolescents.

“7 Ways to Make People Like You.” “How to Capture His Attention in 10 Easy Steps.” “Get Popular By Using Social Media.” “How To Act Like A Brand Instead of A Human Being.” “Why You Have To Put Yourself Out There On A Personal Vlog to Make Friends.” “The 5 Best Make-Ups To Get People to Notice You.”

You get the idea. The advice to pastors these days sounds a lot like a teen magazine website’s advice to insecure girls who just want to be popular and liked by the boys. Much of it revolves around the idea that Gen Z lives an entirely online life, viewing themselves more like a brand than a person. Much of the advice is about how to capture their distracted and divided attention and get them to join the church.

What seems to be missing is the gospel. The gospel message is not, “You are the center of the universe. We will go out of our way to try to get you to subscribe to our YouTube channel because we desperately need you to like us.” The gospel message is, “Your life is broken. You broke it. Come and die. Come and give up that life if you really want to find abundant life. Jesus is the center of everything, not you. He is absolutely worth it!

In other words, being invited to be a follower of Jesus is the greatest honor of my life. It is a privilege to be a part of the Body of Christ, not a burden. Jesus is the most captivating person I’ve ever met. His love, kindness, and grace has completely transformed my life. Whatever He asks me to give up are only things that are destructive to me anyway.

The church is full of imperfect, sinful people all trying to follow Jesus together as a community. But we’re not there because people are awesome; we’re there because Jesus is awesome. And along the way we learn to love people even in their imperfections. We stop playing the victim as if we are the only one hurt in this world, and we realize that we’ve been doing the hurting as well. We live by grace, both for ourselves and for others.

I don’t come to church because they have the best marketing. I don’t come because I can be guaranteed that no one will offend or hurt me. I don’t come for their social media platform. I come because of Jesus. I experience His Presence in unique ways in Christian community that don’t happen anywhere else. In Christian community, the parts of me that are not like Jesus get exposed and dealt with so that I might be more like Him and less like my old self. I come to church to die, that I might truly live. That’s the invitation. I come to exalt Jesus, not my brand. He alone is worthy!

What follows is Jesus’s church growth message. We might call it, “The One Step Method of Killing Consumer Christianity.” Notice how Jesus doesn’t sound like an insecure teenager longing to be liked. Notice that He offers people so much more but many just weren’t ready for it:

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

John 6:48-53, 61, 66

Instead of trying to make church more palatable to our human self-absorption, we need to invite people to more. The gospel invites us to so much more! There is an abundant life of freedom and power that awaits all who are willing to receive it. But we step into this new life on the other side of taking up our cross and following Jesus. We find full life only when we fully surrender to Jesus.

The church is not an insecure teenage girl desperately wanting to be liked. She is the beloved and cherished Bride of Christ, dressed in robes of righteousness, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. It is an absolute honor to be counted as a part of her.

Leadership Anointings

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it…

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 4:7, 11-13

As the church shifts into this new post-pandemic culture, I believe we must move from teaching to training. We must shift to become equipping centers. Each believer must be equipped to take the power of the gospel back into their own neighborhoods, workplaces, and spheres of influence.

In the above passage of scripture, Paul describes the leadership anointings that were given to the church in order to accomplish this kind of equipping and training. Each leadership anointing is a gift from Christ to empower the church.

Apostolic: this leadership anointing breaks new ground. It allows a person to push into enemy territory and take new ground for the Kingdom of God. It often leans into miracles, signs and wonders to do so. This anointing often receives God’s blueprints for the way things should be and God’s designs and strategies for moving things forward.

Prophetic: this leadership anointing sees what’s coming and is able to say it. It allows a person to have an intensified ability to hear from the Lord. It often leans into dreams, visions, and impressions from the Lord. This anointing can often expose the plan of the enemy before it happens and call people to repentance.

Evangelistic: this leadership anointing has a heart that burns for those who don’t yet know Christ. It allows a person to know how to articulate the gospel in a way that reaches through to people. It often leans into an emphasis on outreach, hospitality, and connection to the wider world. This anointing often comes with a boldness to proclaim the gospel and a focus on the person who is not yet a part of the church.

Pastoral: this leadership anointing cares for the hurting. It allows a person to sense other people’s wounds and have insight into how to bind up the brokenhearted. It often leans into counseling, listening, and care for the marginalized. This anointing often receives words of knowledge and words of wisdom about what is happening inside a person, their motivations and broken spots.

Teaching: this leadership anointing identifies truth from error. It allows a person to have insight into ideas and concepts and apply those truths to people in a practical way. It often leans into study, instruction, and training. This anointing often comes with the ability to break down difficult concepts into more easily understood truths. It also comes with a keen discernment for what is true and what is not.

I have found, in my own life and in the life of others, that leaders in business and in the church may operate out of one or more of these leadership anointings. I often find that people blend at least two of these together as they lead an organization. What Paul was telling the Ephesians is that the church needs all five leadership anointings in operation in order to fully equip the Body of Christ. A church becomes mature when all five are in full operation and are bringing their leadership anointings to bear in the equipping of the community.

These anointings are gifts from Christ to the church. They are His way of empowering leaders to build up the church so that we all can attain to the whole measure of fullness of Christ.

Do you see one or more of these anointings operating in your own life?

Unforgivable

I have found that there are consistently two kinds of people that many Christians either don’t want to forgive or struggle to forgive. It might not be who you think.

We have a prayer ministry at our church, so I have prayed for a number of people. We offer extended, scheduled prayer sessions where we pray through really complex issues. During these sessions we always start with forgiveness. Forgiving those who have failed us and hurt us is the most important step in experiencing spiritual freedom and inner healing. And I have seen people pray and forgive people who have done horrendous things to them. Watching God empower people with His grace to forgive others is so incredible!

I have seen people forgive their abusers, their violent ex-lovers, their neglectful parents, and their selfish friends. I have seen people forgive all manner of harm, both physical and emotional. Especially when the Presence of God fills the room, I have seen people forgive in a moment what might seem impossible to forgive in a lifetime. Yet, there are two moments of forgiveness that tend to be particularly difficult for Christians.

Forgiving Oneself:
There are often moments when I or my prayer partner senses that there is a need for the person to forgive themselves. This kind of person usually does a wonderful job forgiving others. Yet, they carry the weight of shame and guilt around their neck like a heavy yoke. Even after they receive God’s forgiveness, the yoke still seems to be there. It isn’t until they stop condemning themselves that their yoke lightens. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I have seen people who just forgave a number of people without a tear in their eye completely break down and weep as they try to forgive themselves.

We often have to remind this person that they don’t have to be the Holy Spirit. They don’t have to try to enforce conviction in their own lives. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, and He’s really good at it. The Holy Spirit brings conviction without shame and condemnation. When we try to do it, we easily fall pray to perpetual shame and guilt.

Maybe it’s time you forgave yourself. Maybe it’s time you stop judging yourself so harshly. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, clothed in righteousness, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Take some time to forgive yourself. Pray out loud something like this, “In Jesus’s name, I choose to forgive myself for ___________.”

Forgiving the Church (or Church Leadership)
I was at a large conference and I was serving on the ministry team there. We were the ones praying for people during the conference. I was there a day early with the rest of the team for some training. In a group of nearly 50 people, I was one of only 4 or 5 pastors in the room. In one of the sessions, I could sense that many of these amazing men and women–people who were incredibly gifted–had been ignored or silenced by their church leadership. This was especially true of the women in the room and those with prophetic gifts.

I asked our leader for permission to say something to the group. I stood in the center of the room with everyone encircled around me and I asked them for forgiveness on behalf of all the pastors who hurt them. A few other pastors joined me in the middle and we knelt before the whole room. After I was done repenting and asking for forgiveness, a few of the people who had been hurt declared forgiveness out loud to us pastors. It was an incredible moment! Something unlocked. I received some testimonies later where people said that they never again interacted with their church leadership the same. Their willingness to forgive shifted something.

So many people will forgive anyone and everything but the Church. They walk around daily with resentment and bitterness toward the Church and toward church leadership. These same people who can forgive horrendous abuse sometimes can’t seem to forgive smaller offenses they have experienced in church. Their bitterness and resentment start to paint the church in awful ways. They grow distant from God because they refuse to forgive the church for making mistakes. For these folks, everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, but not the Church and definitely not church leadership. They think they are holding the church accountable, but really they are just holding on to unforgiveness. And it ends up imprisoning the person in a cage of resentments and offenses.

Maybe you need to forgive the Church in general for decisions it has made. Or maybe you need to forgive particular people in the church who have offended you or harmed you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. It just means you’re acknowledging that you are not their judge and jury. God alone is the Just Judge and you are surrendering everything to Him. You are giving up your right to bring revenge and punishment, and you are laying down your bitterness and resentment. Unforgiveness is so toxic. Forgiveness is when we choose to bless those who have hurt us instead of cursing them. The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers“(Galatians 6:10). If there is anyone we should get good at forgiving, it is the “family of believers.”

Who do you need to forgive? Don’t let unforgiveness toward the Church imprison your life with Christ. Don’t allow the enemy to bury you under a pile of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is your way out if you’re willing to take it.

Powerless

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will be awful and will go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13). He also described these people in this way, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Timothy 3:5).

Does this not describe much of the Church, especially in America? Powerless. We often look like those big beautiful Texas homes that were hit hard by the winter storm recently. Looking good on the outside…frozen and cold on the inside with either no water or contaminated water flowing internally.

We must operate in the power of the Holy Spirit or we’ll never be able to live this Christian life we are called to. We can’t do it on our own strength. Power is not optional! It’s an absolute essential! We need His power to love our enemy, forgive those who hurt us, and serve the outsider. We need His power to release healing, deliverance, and miracles. We can’t do it in our own strength.

We were never meant to be a powerless Church. And the global church–especially in places like Brazil, China, Pakistan, Mozambique–seems to understand this truth better than we do. Though they are often persecuted, they operate in tremendous power.

The Three Rs

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…

1 Peter 2:4-5

The three “Rs” of education have classically been reading, writing and arithmetic. The Church also has three “Rs” of transformation. The three “Rs” of transformation in the Church are Renewal, Revival, and Reformation.

Renewal is the term that describes when the Holy Spirit begins to refresh and renew individuals in a church through a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. People begin to have new encounters with the Lord that they’ve never had before. The gifts of the Spirit are renewed in the church and people begin to experience the supernatural in their midst. When a whole church goes through “renewal” it means they collectively begin to be refreshed and renewed by an outpouring of the Spirit throughout the congregation.

Renewal tends to be disruptive as new wine gets poured into old wineskin. Things break and tear and a new wineskin is sought after to hold the new wine being poured out. As individuals get brought into a fresh intimacy with the Lord, the whole church starts to feel different. As individuals have personal visitations of the Presence of God, this gets brought into the corporate worship setting. The whole atmosphere of worship begins to increase in the Presence of God. But this is only the first “R.”

If Renewal continues, it leads to Revival. Revival happens when there is a transition from visitation to habitation of the corporate Presence of God. Revival happens when there is no longer fighting about the Renewal and instead a unity in pursuit of more of God. Revival happens when there is corporate repentance and corporate pursuit of holiness. When there is unity in the Body of Christ, the church functions as a holy Temple of the Lord inviting a continual habitation of His Presence. Each member of the church carries His Presence into their homes and workplaces.

As Revival spreads from local church to local church, it begins to bleed out into society and culture. This is Reformation. Reformation is when society is changed because of the Revival culture that is spilling out of the Church in the region. Reformation is when there are mass salvations, healings, and deliverances that happen on the streets, in the bars, and at the schools. During Reformation, laws change as a response to God’s outpouring. Societal structures change. Politics change. Even those who don’t know Christ begin to adopt the ethic of the Kingdom of God because of the fruitfulness that they witness around them.

We as the Church are described in a variety of ways in scripture. We are the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Yet, we are also described collectively as a Temple, a spiritual house, where the Spirit of God dwells.

The Temple had three main areas: 1) the outer courts, 2) the Holy Place, and 3) the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place was where God’s Presence dwelled. Only the High Priest could enter there and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Holy Place is where the priests would minister inside the Temple. The outer courts were where the offerings and sacrifices were made among the people.

Renewal is when we experience the Presence of God in the Most Holy Place for ourselves. Revival is when the Presence of God in the Most Holy Place breaks out into the Holy Place and fills the whole Temple. Reformation is when the Presence of God breaks out of the Temple entirely and breaks out into the outer courts and throughout the city of Jerusalem.

Many churches have yet to experience any of this. They are dry. They are dying. Yet even those experiencing Renewal in their midst have only just begun the journey of transformation. The purpose God intended for the Church was never just about getting renewed and refreshed in the Spirit. God wants His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. He wants to do this through the conduit of the Church if we are willing. This means we must pursue not only Renewal but also Revival and Reformation.

The three Rs–Renewal, Revival, Reformation–must be pursued in their fullness and in that order. Pursuing Reformation without first pursuing Revival becomes another failed social gospel. Pursuing Renewal without Revival splinters the Church into “haves” and “have nots.” Pursuing Revival without Reformation leaves no lasting impact on the world. We need all three.

False Accusations

Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”

I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

Nehemiah 6:2-8

Nehemiah’s enemies were trying to disrupt his leadership and his ability to complete the mission for which he was sent. They try to distract him with multiple invitations to “talk.” They know if they can sap his energy and patience with endless conversation, he won’t be able to complete the wall in Jerusalem. They also wanted to get him isolated so that they could harm him.

But Nehemiah doesn’t fall for it. So after four rejected invitations, Nehemiah’s enemies resort to a typical tactic that we see used over and over against leaders trying to accomplish God’s mission. Sanballat starts with, “It is reported…” This is typical. Anonymous accusations are a classic tool of the enemy against leaders. Today it sounds like this, “Some people are saying…” They don’t want to be named. They don’t want to be held accountable for their false accusations. They just want to spread damaging rumors.

Then notice the second common strategy against leaders who are busy doing God’s work. The accusation itself is that Nehemiah’s leadership is all about an attempt to exalt himself. Whenever someone is leading something new, this accusation will always come. If the opposition can’t discredit the actual actions of a leader, they will try to discredit the motives. They’ll make false claims about “hidden, selfish motives” as a way to put the leader on the defensive. Against Nehemiah they claimed he was about to set himself up as king. They were claiming that his great leadership and the rebuilding of Jerusalem was really just about Nehemiah’s ego and selfish ambition.

The people of God did the same thing to Moses and Aaron when they were leading them out of Egypt and through the desert. Notice how “reasonable” their attack against Moses and Aaron seem.

They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

Numbers 16:3

The Lord is the one who called Moses and Aaron to be leaders of the people of God. But Korah and some of the other Levites didn’t want to follow their leadership. So they accuse Moses and Aaron of setting themselves above everyone else. Notice how Moses responds.

Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enoughfor you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

Numbers 16:8-11

In other words, Korah wasn’t rebelling against Moses and Aaron; he was rebelling against the Lord. It was the Lord who set Moses and Aaron apart. It was the Lord who called them to lead. It was the Lord’s doing. To reject the Lord’s call on a person’s life and claim that it is arrogance, selfishness ambition, or a personal agenda isn’t just an attack on that person, it’s an attack on the Lord’s work in their life. It’s an accusation against the Lord. And if you keep reading Numbers 16 and 17, things don’t turn out so well for Korah. God gets rid of the rebellious group of Levites and confirms the calling of Aaron through supernatural displays of His power.

We need to be very careful about accusations we make against leaders, especially leaders in the church. The anti-authority milieu of our culture loves to rail against leaders in every level of society. And often, leaders give us every reason to rail against them. But in the church we need a different heart posture toward leaders. The apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy was this:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching… Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:17-19

When leaders are in the wrong, they need to be called out and held accountable by the other leaders of the church. We’ve seen too much abuse of power in the church that was left unaddressed. But we can’t let this lead us into an error on the other side of the continuum. If someone is being called into leadership, we need to honor that calling. Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward”(Matthew 10:41).

We need to remember that a calling to step into a greater anointing and a greater leadership role in the Kingdom is a call downward. It’s a call to servanthood. It’s a call to die to self and an invitation to go lower. Stepping into leadership in the Kingdom is not an elevation of self but a sacrifice of self. It’s a call to carry more weight and more responsibility.

The foundation of a building is the lowest place and the place that has to hold the most weight. That’s why Paul told the Ephesians that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). The apostolic and prophetic roles are the foundation of the Church because they must go lower. They must support everyone else. They must hold the most weight. They must be solid and level or the whole church could topple over. And they must be willing to endure, more than others, the false accusation of selfish ambition and self-promotion.

The Harvest

Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is clean,
but an abundant harvest is produced by strong oxen.

Proverbs 14:4 (New English Translation)

This proverb describes in a picture a move of the Holy Spirit. Whenever God moves powerfully in a church through the Holy Spirit, things will get a little messy. If we want to control everything and keep it tidy and clean, we will likely have to ask the Holy Spirit to leave. But if we want a genuine move of God in our midst, we should be prepared to have a mess on our hands. We will have to clean the barn occasionally.

But the reverse is also mentioned in this proverb. When we allow the Holy Spirit to move, despite the mess, there will be an abundant harvest. His works are greater than what we can do on our own. His power is greater than ours. His ability to transform and ignite people far surpasses what our church programs can do.

Yet, feeding oxen is not only messy but it can be costly. Every farmer knows you must pay the price to feed the oxen so that an even greater harvest can be produced through the power of the oxen. Allowing the Holy Spirit to move in our midst will be costly. It require dying to self on many different levels. It will require personal sacrifice and corporate devotion. It will require a surrender of our norms and traditions. It will require getting over ourselves and not being so easily offended by things we don’t understand. Most of all, it will demand that we break from our addiction to control everything.

Our Sunday services will have to cease to be so tightly controlled. Our small groups and prayer times will have to open up to the move of the Spirit and not be quenched by our pre-arranged agenda. Most Christians are willing to give up time, energy, and money for the sake of the Kingdom but few are willing to give up their addiction to control.

Addiction to control looks like having to know 1) exactly what is going to happen, 2) exactly how long it will take, and 3) exactly who will be doing what. If not knowing these things causes such anxiety that you start to feel suffocated with a tightness in your chest–if not knowing these things makes you feel trapped–you might be addicted to control. When we demand that we have control in every environment of the church, we are essentially telling the Holy Spirit that He is not welcome. He is not welcome to do something outside of our scheduled plan.

Most churches have fallen in love with a clean feeding trough and a barn that smells like Pine-Sol. But the harvest is meager and we wonder why.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9:35-38

Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

2 Kings 13:20-21

After Elisha dies, we don’t hear much about the prophets in the book of 2 Kings. This is in part because the prophets who followed him operated less in the miraculous and in part because the prophets after Elisha started to write down their prophecies. The prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos and Jonah were the next prophets to take up the prophetic mantle after Elisha.

It is important to realize that ever since the Hebrew people were set free from Egypt and started to form a national identity, they always had a prophet, priest and king. In the early years, their prophet was Moses, their priest was Aaron, and their King was Yahweh Himself. Moses passed off his prophetic mantle to Joshua and then to those would be raised up as Judges to lead the people. Aaron passed off his priestly mantle to his own descendants and the Levites.

Then the people wanted an earthly king and so the prophet Samuel anointed King Saul, the first official king of Israel. From that point on, there was always an executive branch (the kings), a judicial branch (the prophets) and a legislative branch (the priests) that functioned as the leaders of the people of God. The kings led the people, the prophets heard from the Lord, and the priests helped the people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system.

A similar system existed when Jesus entered the scene, only the prophetic presence has diminished. John the Baptist functioned as the first real prophet in hundreds of years. And the priests had divided their role in two. Part of the priestly role was pastoral, helping people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system; the other part was a teaching role, helping people know the Law and avoid sin in the first place.

Jesus was furious that the priestly role that was supposed to pastor the people and teach the people instead was exploiting the people and weighing them down with guilt and legalistic burdens.

Jesus took these leadership roles for the people of God and adapted them for the birth of the Church. The executive leader became the apostle. The judicial voice became the prophet. The priestly/legislative role became the pastor and the teacher. Then He added one more role for the spread of the Kingdom of God, the evangelist.

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

These five roles together are called the five-fold ministry gifts. Each of these five roles are gifts to the Church which allow it to be equipped and built up. The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are meant to work together, each bringing something special.

The apostle is focused on God’s direction. The prophet is focused on God’s voice, His word to the people. The pastor, teacher, and evangelist are all focused on the people but in different ways. The pastor wants to care for the people and remind them of God’s grace and forgiveness. The teacher wants to disciple the people and help them know the scriptures. The evangelist is focused on people outside the Church, wanting them to hear the good news of the gospel.

The foundation of the global Church and the local church, however, has to be the apostolic and prophetic roles. The apostle Paul said it this way:

…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-21

The foundation of the American church is too often the pastor or teacher. This is not how Christ designed His Church to function. He designed the base on which the church is built to be the apostolic role and the prophetic role. Paul emphasized this truth to the Corinthians.

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.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28

What the people of God need right now is not more pastors but more people operating in an apostolic anointing. What the people of God need right now is not more teachers but more people operating in a prophetic anointing. Both the apostle and the prophet are focused first on God–His direction, His voice, His signs, wonders and miracles, His Presence–and not primarily on whether they will be liked by people. Apostolic and prophetic people do not fit well in consumeristic Christianity. Their target audience is an Audience of One. Their opinion polls are filled out by One and Only One.

Who will be the ones to stop pretending to be pastors and instead step into the apostolic role they were created for? Who will be the ones to stop just teaching and instead deliver the prophetic words from the Lord as they were called to do?

The Church Gathered

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

The church has gathered in homes from the very beginning. The persecuted church still does this today. No worship band. No big building. No stage. Just a small family of people, gathering in a home around the word of God and the Spirit of Christ. There’s something special that happens when the Church gathers this way.

Because of the social distancing protocols in place, most churches around the world had to gather in homes rather than in buildings last Sunday. In our home, we gathered as a family of five. My wife and I let our three kids each pick one worship song for us. We all sang along to whatever favorite worship song each child picked. Then we listened to a pre-recorded sermon. I worked together with a member of my speaking team to create a podcast for our local church that was a combination of dialogue, teaching, and story-telling.

There were a few things that happened that I wasn’t expecting.

First, I began to sense the power of the Spirit so present in our living room that I began to tear up as we worshiped. Jesus reminded me that He’ll gladly show up for a family of five just as He will for a family of 500. Jesus promised, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Secondly, I loved worshiping as a family. With my daughter sitting in my lap and all of us singing together, it was a special moment. So often when we gather in a larger group on Sundays, we come as individuals. But it is impossible to stay stuck in that kind of individualism in a living room with your own kids. We didn’t worship as individuals; we worshiped as a family unit.

Finally, physical distance from my local body of believers actually created greater connection to the global Body of Christ. As my little family gathered in my living room, as we sang and listened to a sermon, I imagined thousands upon thousands of families doing that same thing all over the world. I was suddenly connected in my spirit to all of those worshiping families. Every nation, tribe, people and language were gathered in living rooms and under trees to worship The One who is worthy. We’re not just members of our local church; we’re members of the global Church. Our brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t just the ones standing next to us on a normal Sunday, but they are also the ones half a world away, gathered in a living room around a Bible.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

The Holy Spirit doesn’t need us to be physically near each other in order to connect us in the spirit. Last Sunday I felt more connected to the global Body of Christ than ever before. Maybe this is what the apostle Paul was experiencing when he wrote to the churches in Colossi and Corinth:

For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit…

Colossians 2:5

…even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit…So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present…

1 Corinthians 5:3-4

So as we gather in living rooms instead of worship centers and sanctuaries, let’s keep our hearts and eyes open to what God may be doing in our midst. Could it be that through this crisis the Lord is teaching us deep truths about His Church that are long overdue? Could it be that revival is on the other side of all of this?

Healing Brings Praise

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matthew 15:29-31

Physical healing naturally brings praise to God. Notice that even though Jesus likely healed hundreds of people that day, and some with extremely severe illnesses, the crowd instinctively knew to praise God for the healings. They knew a man could not heal unless God was working through him.

People today get so worried that if someone has gifts of healings (one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9) that all the credit will go to the person instead of God. But this is just not true. I have seen it time and again, that when someone experiences healing, the most natural thing in the world is to give glory and praise to God alone. We exaggerate our fear that a person will take the credit for the healing and it keeps us from engaging in more healing prayer in the church.

Through Jesus, the crowds “saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing.” This is what people should be seeing in the Church, the Body of Christ on the earth. We are His hands and feet in the world. We are His ambassadors. “…In this world we are like Jesus“(1 John 4:17). We are called to pick up the mission and ministry of Jesus and continue it today. As more and more people in the Church pray for healing and see people get healed, more and more praise goes to the Father for His goodness and faithfulness.

This is who we are called to be as the Church, ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. We need more people pursuing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, including gifts of healings (in the Greek both the word “gifts” and “healings” are plural). It needs to become commonplace for people to walk into church sick and walk out healed. Just as a nutrition plan has become a new addition to many people’s treatment plan for their illness, we need a new normal where people add regular healing prayer to their treatment plan.

How are you going to pursue more healing prayer in your life with Christ?

If you’re looking for a place to start, this book can help: Power to Heal by Randy Clark