Many today (especially in Charismatic and non-denomination circles) claim for themselves the title and ministry of apostle. Most I have met do not claim equivalency with the twelve disciples of the Lamb. Yet they seem to invariably claim for themselves rights, privileges, primacy of place, and “positional governmental authority in the church” to which others must yield. The phenomenon is sometimes couched in language of “spiritual covering.” What they espouse and claim for themselves as apostles has no biblical legitimacy.
When simple terms like gentleness, humility, and meekness take on modern cultural definitions rather than culturally sensitive biblical ones, we will end up creating God in our own image. We will also likely create faith communities that reflect cultural values rather than biblical ones. We do not have to become Jewish nor import their culture into our world. But neither should we export our culture into the text and think we are being “Biblically faithful.” Jesus and the apostles were not white Americans from Nebraska in 1954. Gentleness, humility, and meekness can become grossly distorted in our day if we do not at least understand what the terms meant to the people of the day, before we try to live out an ethic that may have no biblical foundation at all.
The heavy-handed application of Matthew 18:15-20 leaves a trail of pain, broken relationships, and human carnage among God’s people. Controlling authoritarians use Matthew 18 to silence dissenting speech, prophetic criticism, and to label people as trouble makers–sources of contamination in the assembly that must be purged.
Have you ever known someone who is a zealous reforming advocate for some cause that they were once part of themselves, like alcoholism or drug addiction? In their newly found zeal they are often overbearing. I was that person in the early days of my Christian experience. I had a hard case of Christian idiocy. It is a relationally toxic and unsafe mix of sincerity, ignorance, zeal, and self-righteousness.
Every year about this time, social media is saturated with naïve and manipulative Christian “blessings” and “predictions” like this: “In 2019 God is going to take you to new levels!”
That kind of language is not just associated with New Year promises, but it is also stock and trade language in many churches. Well it is 2019, and here is my prediction: God is not going to take you to new levels. Why? Because there is no such thing.
I have been a Charismatic believer for forty-two years. I was a weekly “worship leader” in Charismatic, “prophetic and apostolic” environments for thirty-five of those years. I get the picture as someone who has been on the inside for a very long time. I thoroughly understand the history, theology, values, beliefs, and practices behind Charismatic praise and worship expression. I also have had serious concerns and uneasiness about the theology and practice for a very long time.
So you believe in “city-wide” Church unity?
Saying you believe in unity is like saying you believe in gravity: It is self-evident and doesn’t mean much. It is in the making of unity where the real work lies. Programmatic and event-based attempts at church unity are at best temporary relief for our nagging conscience. They rarely produce lasting results. Why? As long as leaders and churches cling to their right to these things there will never be John 17-type unity:
If you have spent any time at all in Western/Evangelical/Charismatic Christianity, you have heard things like these:
- God is big, you need to dream big.
- God has big dreams for you.
- Your faith needs to be big.
- You need to be a dream chaser.
- Your faith is too small.
- You are destined to be a world changer.
- Overcome your ministry limitations.
- Take your ministry to the “next level” . . . and so on.
American cultural values of success: size (numbers in attendance), finances, and fame (sff) –bigger is better–more is “God,” have spread through Western (American) popular Evangelicalism like a bad outbreak of athlete’s foot fungus in a men’s locker room.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
Next to death of a loved one or a divorce, fewer things are more emotionally and psychologically challenging than changing a “church” association. Often when people begin to question their church experience and consider “leaving,” they feel alone, misunderstood, accused, disoriented, and perhaps even crazy or thinking they are losing their mind. They often feel unloved and unsupported. In this first session of an eleven-part series called the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, I introduce the topic and provide a frame of reference for understanding that you are not alone.