There was a Body before there was a Christian “Bible.” This is a threatening fact for many. It is none-the-less, an indisputable historical fact. The implications can, and have been, argued for centuries, but the fact cannot be.
How should we fund ministry efforts (local and trans-local) in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in a new covenant, grace-based, non-coercive way in community? On the one hand there’s the way we’ve been doing it for centuries, that I hope to have convinced you in this book is at least lacking if not utterly broken: tithe to an impersonal institution to support a professional class of full-time clergy who are the real “ministers.” On the other hand, there are the more reactionary elements who believe that no individual, under any circumstance, should be compensated in preference over an another, as we are all equal as “ministers”–the gift of hospitality is as worthy of compensation as preaching and teaching.
You do not have to be a member of the family of God for long, before you will be exposed to one of the major divides in doctrine and practice among believers: the division over the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and all the gifts of Ephesians 4:11-13 until the return of the Lord. This blog is the first in a series that examines the implications of the full humanity of our Lord on charismatic issues, and many other foundational facets of the gospel. There is much at stake.
Ministry is a word that evokes many strong feelings. Our individual history and experiences likely shape our definition and expression. I don’t define ministry by clergy-laity distinctions. All of life is ministry. The effort anyone engages in, at any time, in any arena, for the sake of Jesus’ kingdom and His interests in people, is ministry. Ministry can be diversified and specialized in the sense of Ephesian 4 callings, but everyone does “ministry” (or should!) and everyone needs to be free of addicted to ministry syndrome!
When Ministry Misleads
Those called to engage in ministry (especially, but not limited to, Ephesian 4 types) must learn a difficult lesson of the Cross. Ministry can be a church-world-acceptable veneer for carnal drive, ambition, and general psychological unwellness.
Our identity, soul wellness, and sense of fulfillment in life must come from our status of being His beloved sons and daughters, not from what we build or accomplish in ministry.
I have been a lifelong charismatic believer. This is declarative, confessional, repentant, and pejorative all at once. I have given my life for the issue of continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and the Eph. 4:11 ministries. However, the adjective “charismatic” has a lot of unfortunate baggage because of the debris it has accumulated over forty years of use.
To my fellows: There is a reason 1 Cor. 13 is between 12 and 14. Love without power is impotent piety. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be “loving” after a sort. We are supposed to be able to deliver something of a foretaste of a quality of existence that others cannot. Power without love is utilitarian. People become commodities for an expression of a phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon serving people. It does not have to be an either or matter, rather, both and: power contextualized and administered in, through, and by love.
I am very suspicious of many anecdotal tales of miracles. I believe in the modern day manifestation of miracles. I have seen miracles with my own eyes and I have been a participator in some cases. HOWEVER, I do not believe that the cause of Jesus and His kingdom is helped by inflated, inaccurate, sketchy, “show time,” and overtly fraudulent claims to the miraculous. If anyone cares, I can personally connect you with the individual involved in the following true story of a miracle of radical grace, who can verify it.
Many bemoan what they perceive as a lack of the Lord’s intervention and deliverance in persistent and difficult situations they face: “Where is the Lord’s deliverance? If He is all He is supposed to be, and we have the Spirit that we supposedly do, why is there so little spiritual breakthrough in my life?” The problem can sometimes be that we want God to make things wonderful for us while changing none of our beliefs, thinking, values, priorities, and behaviors. We don’t “earn” our salvation, nor any of its benefits. Salvation is free, but not cheap. Deliverance is not earned, but it can be costly.
City church is a concept/belief that only one church legitimately exists in a any city, and that it should be overseen by elders of the city, who then submit to regional apostles (overseers, bishops, superintendents–whatever your tradition calls the greater function.). The idea and its variants are prevalent in many so-called apostolic and prophetic groups and communions today, though not confined to those groups. It’s proposed that God wants to restore governmental order to the church under geographic delineations so it can fulfill its destiny in unity. Some consider the concept an essential for the realization of John 17 unity. In this lengthier (apologies in advance) than normal blog, I present twelve considerations or challenges to this idea. I am endeavoring to explore the implications, motives, and pitfalls inherent with the idea. I hope to make the case that relationships, not geography, nor hierarchy, establish spiritual authority and spiritual jurisdictions.
Anyone can wax eloquent about what could, or should be, versus what currently “is.” Idealism without action is a delusional dead end. Preachers, teachers, prophetic types, “apostolic visionaries,” dreamers, philosophers–whatever your language tradition might call them–are particularly vulnerable to irrelevant idealism. It is better to incarnate imperfection, than to romanticize about a never-seen ideal. Jesus can do a lot with folks who will simply “get to it” imperfectly, rather than “talk about it” ideally.
There are only six mentions of the presence of the Lord in the new testament, and none of them have anything to do with praise and worship. When I discovered this, I was shocked, as I had been trained to believe the two were intimately connected. How the change from the old to the new covenant affects our understanding and experience of the presence of the Lord, is not well understood. What follows is a condensed and simplified compilation of the distinctions between the two covenants as it relates to the Lord’s manifest presence. The full book Praise, Worship, and the Presence of the Lord: A Better Way to Worship is available in all formats at: www.stevecrosby.com