Monday, June 22, 2009



So what happens when someone turns from his own ways to follow Christ, the real Way?
Christ called, “Follow me!” and then invited disciples to “Come and see!” (Jn 1:39)
Step out, see where and how Jesus really lives! Beckoning, exciting, adventurous…
dangerous words! When we give ourselves wholly to Him, the resulting transformation will be beyond comprehension, exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think! Take a look!

How many times is ‘disciple’ used in the Gospels?…230.
How many times ‘apostle’? …8.
Jesus calls and relates with followers today the same way He did then: as His disciples.

Then in Acts, changes happen when the gospel is put into action in and through us.
Jesus’ followers gathered to Him and were ‘sent out’ into the world.
Here they are called ‘disciples’ 30 times and ‘apostles’ 30 times -- equally balanced!

However, in the Epistles, the emphasis changes again: they are ‘apostles’ 40 times,
but never ‘disciples’! Not one time, no, not at all, nada - 0!

What happened! Their identity in Christ had been transformed! They had moved into a further glory from the stage of student disciples to released apostles! They were first called ‘disciples’, but once Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits to heal the sick, they were sent ‘apostles.’ There is progression here and it’s from glory to glory!

Furthermore, when Jesus sent His disciples in His power, they were commissioned to make more disciples. (Matt 28:19) In other words, His ‘seed’ produced like kind. Think about this: believers are to be prime examples of godly character, reproducing in those to whom we minister. As we pour out our lives, we’ll be like ‘gifts that keep on giving’.


One of Christ’s major emphases in this discipleship process is transforming us from egocentric, self-absorbed individuals to selfless team players.
Unfortunately, self subtly motivates and marks much ministry today.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit can effectively expose, unmask and deny self an opportunity to lie hidden among ministry’s baggage. He wants to freely minister to and through us; He wants us to be free so He can do this! Ministry is not something we do ourselves; it’s what He does through us. Ministry is the overflow of Jesus’ Presence in and through us; so let’s get full of Him and let Him overflow!

There are a few pitfalls that exist in church structure today; however, when unearthed can reveal further foundational truth about apostolic government. In most denominational churches, government order and structure is very pastoral, centered on the leader, most often called ‘pastor.’ Pastors today have so many responsibilities and things to do that many of them ‘burn out’. Why? It seems strange to me that ‘burn-out’ is so rampant among ministers today when it’s not even mentioned in Scripture! Perhaps much of our present-day ministry focus is so out-of-focus that Scripture doesn’t even recognize its legitimacy? Perhaps so much so-called ‘pastoral’ ministry is not really pastoral at all, but administrative book-keeping and bureaucratic paper-pushing that ultimately consumes pastors who are not really administrators, but only gifted people trying to do something they’re not called to.

God does not equip you for what He has not called you to.

I believe that’s one of the main reasons why so many ‘pastors’ burn out. They are stuck in offices day after day, not relating with people (where their true gifting lies), preoccupied with maintenance, not able to give themselves to “prayer and ministry of the Word.” Yet they are also expected to come up with weekly messages that please the people, nourish the flock and maintain the church. It’s this maintenance-mentality that kills church life and burns out ministers. The goal of Christian church life and ministry is not keeping the flock comfortable, trying to keep as few as possible from leaving church.
When this becomes a ministry’s focus, it drains and depresses.

It’s not easy being in a rat race! But, I ask you, what are sheep doing in a rat race? If the rigors of pastoring burn pastors out, perhaps we need some ‘foundational forms’ of pastoring challenged and changed! Actually, I would think the leaders caught in this kind of abusive system would be the first ones to call for and embrace reforms to the ‘form’.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
(Eph 4:11, 12)

God’s answer to 1-man burn-out is team ministry!
The work of the ministry is based on the call of God. If you don’t have the call, you aren’t cut out for the work. Relationship also is essential to fulfill the call —intimate relationship with both God and other leadership giftings in order to flow in your call together. Learning to work together as a team to equip others to do the work is God’s way, or we ourselves will be wasted.

It’s 5-fold ministry with this purpose: ‘edify’ means ‘build up’ and ‘edifice’ = ‘high structure’;
together: ‘build up the church’, a body bigger than your own self or ministry. In one little word like this, we can see that God is not just building a bunch of individual bungalows or personalized mansions for us to glory in. His church is to be an ‘edifice that edifies others and glorifies Christ.’ We are to build one another up in faith and the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we need to ask God to breathe His life in and through us. His breath brings life to the work of the ministry ‘for the edifying of the body of Christ’. His ministry may burn us up, but not out.

Now who is supposed to lead this? The pastor? No! ‘Pastor’ is only one of 5 offices.
God gave 5-fold ministry and by its very nature, this is an apostolic team: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The 5-fold ministry is not just one person. It functions out of relationship to take the pressure off just one person. We are not supposed to do the work individually; we are supposed to be built and build together: working as a team, training up members of the body, releasing and sending them to do the work.

The true proof of a pastor is not that he pastors a large, ‘successful’ church himself, but he so cares for his flock that he raises up more pastors who in turn care for this ever-growing church. An evangelist is not just one who preaches the gospel, but one who raises up other evangelists.
A prophet is one who inspires other prophets in truth to answer and proclaim the call of God.
A teacher stirs students’ hearts to seek and teach others also.
Apostles are fathers who raise up next generations of mature sons and daughters.


Sometimes, however, church is anything but relational, and we foolishly compare ourselves and our ministries on performance-based competition. 2Cor 10:12 clearly states this is not wise, so why do we do this? I’ve been to pastors’ conferences and the first question after basic introductions is invariably: “How many people are in your church?” Sometimes it varies: “How big is your church?” or “How many does your church hold? The latter is so evidently ridiculous: churches should raise up and release people to the call of God, not hold them!

I remember when our church got hit by Renewal and grew from 100 to 35 in about 3 weeks. Not exactly the successful model which church growth seminars extol! Nor what many ministers accept as a legitimate growing experience. Here is what happened: I was seated for lunch at one of these pastors’ gatherings. The pastor on my right asked the inevitable first question and when I told him ‘35’ (the truth at that time), he abruptly (and, I would add, quite rudely) turned away from me and started talking with the pastor on his opposite side! I thought news was out that I had the plague and perhaps some similar leprous ‘growth’ would hit his church if he talked with me any longer. Shaken by what had just happened, it took me a while to recover. But recover I did and I resolved to be ready for the next ‘fellowship luncheon’. Sure enough, at a similar scenario a few months later, my opportunity came.
The inevitable first question…but this time I was ready.
“Oh, anywhere from 6 to 8 thousand!” I answered.
My surprised colleague gasped noticeably.
With great difficulty, I sought to maintain a serious composure.
“Really?” he replied, choking on his salad.
“Oh yes!” I continued to feed him, "6 to 8000!" enjoying the unfolding irony immensely .
In good conscience, I was not lying. I had clearly enunciated 6 to 8,000 (and if all who had ever been at our church during the previous years had decided to show up on one particular Sunday, I’m sure we would have exceeded even that size of crowd). But depending on what the questioner wanted to hear (fuelled and conditioned by his greed, gullibility and pride), he heard 6,000 to 8,000 rather than the more humble, singular ‘6’ I had clearly spoken.

After playing with him a while longer, I mercifully clarified my response and the pastor embarrassingly turned a beet red. He apologized, saying he felt sorry for me.
I smiled and said I was sorry too …but for him and that totally un-Christian attitude, sadly all too prevalent among ‘Christian leaders’.

False images will always be exposed and deposed by the Holy Spirit. These not-so-subtle idols in our hearts must fall. I used to teach a class entitled ‘Church Leadership’, but I refuse to call it that anymore. It seems many Christians can’t handle the ‘leader’thing; something weird goes off in their brains and they immediately begin competing for control, arguing over who is greatest in the kingdom of God, vying for authority to lead.
Really they just want to tell everyone else what to do.
I changed the name of the course to ‘Christian Stewardship & Serving.’
Amazingly, that changed the spirit of the entire class!

We judge others externally by what we think we see. In response, God rightly challenges these pet concepts and prejudiced perspectives. We need a paradigm shift in our hearts and minds in order to have real kingdom vision, kingdom mentality, kingdom concepts, and kingdom world view! That was the first message Jesus delivered — “the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk 1:15) He continued with: “Repent and believe in the gospel,” and when He saw Simon and Andrew He called out, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (v17)

When Jesus gathered His disciples, their view of God’s kingdom was a whole lot different than His! Their preconceived ideas needed to be sifted, separated and discarded if they were going to truly become Jesus’ disciples. And those ideas were challenged and dropped! Likewise, our pet idols need to fall so we can be true disciples and future apostles of Christ. Really, that’s the heart of a disciple—a student and learner, someone teachable, willing to be molded and changed into His image. Not someone who takes Christ’s name, but continues in his own agenda.

Furthermore, many of our concepts are really centered in self rather than God and His kingdom. We often read the Word of God to suit ourselves; we have our own favorite passages. We take our spiritual scissors and cut out what is not comfortable to us. That’s what Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, did. He actually cut out passages in his Bible that revealed Jesus as God or any miraculous, supernatural signs and wonders beyond what he could accept as reasonable. His Bible is in the Smithsonian Institute today. It’s not your regular Holy Bible; it’s just a Bible with holes in it!

Yet, we mentally clip the Word of God too. That’s NOT what it means to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)! God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and a sword is meant to penetrate. Let it penetrate your heart first!
Only if you lose your life (and the limitations of what you think are reasonable) will you find it.

Learn to be a disciple in the kingdom of God. Learn purity, integrity and humility from the One who is all of these.
If you want to be a leader, then learn to be a follower.
If you want to be a boss, learn to be the best employee.
Want to be a teacher? learn to be a student.
How about a father? learn to be a son or daughter.
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? then learn to be like a little child. (Matt 18:3)

That’s the journey God calls us on so our natural bent will be truly transformed; we will be His strong disciples sent out as true apostles.
Advancing daily, you will progress much further than the narrow, performance-oriented limitations of your own ministry. Instead, God will give you supernatural grace to first realize your identity in Him and His destiny in you. After all, He made us to be human beings, not human doings.
Jesus the Good Shepherd leads us. He sees us as God created us to be. He didn’t call His disciples “dirty old fishermen;” He called them ‘fishers of men,’ and they became great apostles, winning thousands to Christ.
Your destiny is released when you actually realize who you are.
And your identity releases your destiny.
Discovering who you are is not complicated when you learn to just trust, walk hand in hand with Jesus and enjoy His simplicity. Abide in Christ, He abides in you.
Don’t focus on your presumed destination.
God alone is your destination... to be like Him from glory to glory.
Jesus calls you to an intimate personal walk of friendship and wants you to enjoy the adventure!
‘Follow Me’ leads to ‘Come and See!’ It’s His call and He will make the necessary changes —

“Be confident of this very thing, He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.”
(Phil 1:6)

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