Who wants to be an Apostle?

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How many of you would like to be an apostle?  

 

The apostle Paul gives us a clear job description of what the life of an apostle is like.

 

1 Corinthians 4:9-13

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, we are dishonoured! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

 

So let’s clarify the points:

 

o   End of the procession

o   Condemned to die in the arena

o   Spectacle to the whole universe

o   Fools for Christ

o   Weak

o   Dishonoured

o   Hungry and thirsty

o   In rags

o   Brutally treated

o   Homeless

o   Work hard with our own hands

o   Bless when we are cursed

o   Endure it when persecuted

o   Answer kindly when slandered

o   Scum of the earth

o   Garbage of the world

 

Still got any takers?

 

Please leave a comment.

 

“Christian” Idols

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There is a very disturbing verse tucked away in the Bible.

2 Kings 17:41

Even WHILE these people were WORSHIPING THE LORD, they were SERVING THEIR IDOLS. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.

We all know that there are people, ancient and modern, who worship idols. There are people who are given over to a lifestyle of greed, sex, or power. And as Christians we immediately recognise the evil of such idolatry.

But as John Calvin said, “Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols.” The human heart is a factory for idols. Idolatry is not as easily displaced as we would like to think. As this verse points out, while people worshipped God they simultaneously worshiped their idols. And this is why this kind of idolatry is so hard to detect. On the face of it, it looks like real Jesus worship. But it’s not. It’s the heart clinging to other gods while appearing to worship Jesus.

Turning a good thing into an absolute thing

Idolatry is turning a good thing into an absolute thing that overturns every other allegiance or value. Origen said, “What each one honours before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is God.” Idolatry is putting anything in the place of God. It is what our heart loves, trusts and obeys. It is what we draw our identity, security and comfort from. Ultimately it is what we worship. It redefines reality in terms of itself. Tim Keller says,

“Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life…The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the centre of our lives, because we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfilment, if we attain them.”

The “Idolatry-Detector” Test

J.D. Greer in his book ‘Gospel’ lists a couple of helpful questions to help detect what our idols are. Answer these and see what they point to:

  • What one thing do you most hope is in your future?
  • What is the one thing you most worry about losing?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself right now, what would it be?
  • What thing have you sacrificed most for?
  • Who is there in your life that you feel like you can’t forgive and why?
  • When do you feel the most significant?
  • What triggers depression in you?
  • Where do you turn for comfort when things are not going well?

If you have ever had the unpleasant task of challenging someone’s idol you’ll know when you’ve hit it. Either stony, offended denial or a volcano of anger!

 

Sacrificing to feed idols

 

Ezekiel 16:20

And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and SACRIFICED them as FOOD TO THE IDOLS. Was your prostitution not enough?

God was angry at the Israelites for prostituting themselves to idols. And then He was incensed because they even sacrificed their sons and daughters to feed their idols. Sadly, some people are still doing the same thing today. You know an idol is in someone’s life when they will sacrifice everything else for it. No price is too high to pay to make it happy. No relationship is beyond abusing. Every other ball can be dropped but not that one. Every other person can be disappointed but not that person.

Two common Christian idols

My guess is that if someone is a committed Christian, the most likely idol they have is either their ministry or their marriage. Because committed Christians know that the typical idols of the world are blatantly wrong they refocus their hearts away from those idols to more acceptable idols. They turn ministry or marriage into the central point of their life. They turn the good thing of ministry or marriage into an absolute thing that overturns every other allegiance or value. You know ministry and marriage are idols when they become the centrepiece of someone’s life. Every other priority – including God – is re-ordered around satisfying this idol. Instead of Jesus having the place of supremacy (Col 1:18) and seeking first the Kingdom (Matt 6:33) and doing the will of God (Matt 7:21) – ministry or marriage have the place of supremacy, are sought first, and whose will is done.

Ministry or marriage look so spiritual and noble that no-one would think of challenging our allegiance to them. Even though ministry and marriage can both be counterfeit gods that steal our devotion from God, they get under the radar of scrutiny and accountability. And because of that they thrive in Christian churches.

The Mistress of Ministry

Because of the idolatry of ministry and the damage it has done to marriages many Christians have called it the mistress of ministry. It is very easy for the work of God to eclipse the God of the work. For the temple of God to eclipse the God of the temple. For ministry to become our mistress. Out of a need for recognition, security, assurance, or even salvation, it is possible to make our ministry an idol. Our identity is wrapped up in our role. Our worth is defined by our performance. If we were to stop doing ministry we would have an internal collapse. “It’s my destiny, my calling, my anointing, and my ministry and don’t you dare touch it!”  This is especially true of the more appealing ministries like apostle, prophet, church planter and worship leader. Some people are so defined by these functions that to stop them would be to die.

Like the elder brother when we make our ministry our god we will sacrifice every other relationship for that god – including our Father and our brother (Luke 15:29-30).

The False God of Family

We are right to eschew ministry that neglects family. It truly is tragic to see people who have put ministry first and then lost their families. I recently heard Benny Hinn publicly confess that the reason he nearly lost his marriage (they divorced and then remarried) is because he adamantly and repeatedly put ministry before family.

However it is possible for the opposite extreme to happen. Because people have seen the devastation of neglecting family there are some who idolise family and put it not only before ministry – but before God. “Family first” is their motto. Their God is not Jesus – it is their wife! Their God is not Jesus – it is Mr. Right.

There are some single women who have never been cured of their “bentness” to men (Gen 3:16b) and are so desperate to get married that their entire life is defined by this “crisis”. They will do anything, marry anyone, receive any prophecy, and so obsess over the issue that they become consumed by it. This is idolatry.

There are also some married men that are so hen-pecked they barely have a feather left! In an effort to be a good husband they become driven to go to any lengths to please their wife. They hide from God behind their marriage, doing the will of their wife and not God. Afraid of their wife’s wrath they never lead her or guide her into healthy behaviour. And sadly these men are often married to women who are only too happy to have a husband-come-butler who leaps to attention at their every beck and call. In the name of servant leadership and not marrying the mistress of ministry these men become puppets, manipulated and cajoled into ever-increasing demands. It’s almost as though these needy wives receive some sort of sick enjoyment out of making their man jump through hoops, bow, scrape and apologise. These men get reduced to a circus dog responding to commands with a spank for disobedience and a “good boy” for obedience. How sad to see needy, broken women become domestic dictators. How sad that men who are called to be “the glory of God” (1 Cor 11:7) turn into ragged, haggard, empty shells afraid to lead their wives. This is not love; this is co-dependence and idolatry.

I pledge my wife to heaven, for the gospel

 

I once heard Keith Green sing Pledge My Head to Heaven, a song that went:

Well I pledge my wife to heaven, for the gospel,
Though our love each passing day just seems to grow.
As I told her when we wed, I’d surely rather be found dead,
Than to love her more than the one who saved my soul.

 

Well I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel.
Though he’s kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorn.
I will teach him to rejoice, and life a thankful praising voice,
And to be like him who bore the nails and crown of thorns.

 

Well I pledge my son, I pledge my wife, I pledge my head to heaven,
I pledge my son, I pledge my wife, I pledge my head to heaven, for the gospel.

It seemed extreme when I heard it, but when I found out that he died in a plane-crash with two of their children it made sense (and must have been a relief to him) that he entrusted his family to God first.

May we do the same.

Do you think it is true that ministry and marriage are the common two idols of committed Christians? How have you seen it play-out? Please leave a comment below.

Continuing the Pursuit

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David had been on a long journey into the heart of darkness.

 

He had been the “blue-eyed boy” of the kingdom having killed Goliath, become Israel’s most successful captain, and marrying King Saul’s daughter. But that was a distant memory to him now. His father-in-law and King had turned on him with vicious hatred driven by obsessive jealousy, and not a few demons.

 

The litany of his sufferings was heart-wrenching. He had been betrayed and hunted by Saul, his wife given to another man, and he lived as a fugitive in the harshest, remotest locations. He had hidden in places whose very names indicate desolation – the cave of Adullam, the desert of Ziph, and the Crags of the Wild Goats.  He once had to act like a madman to escape, and he was betrayed by people he helped again and again.

 

In a ploy to win Saul’s favour he had tricked Achish the Philistine into thinking he was raiding Israel and wanted to fight with the Philistine’s against Saul. But his plan of turning against the Philistines in the battle against Israel was foiled when the Philistine’s refused to have him in their army and sent him back to Ziklag. Deeply disappointed and exhausted from the three-day ride they returned to Ziklag and discovered the sum of all fears:

 

1 Samuel 30:3

When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it DESTROYED BY FIRE and their WIVES AND SONS AND DAUGHTERS TAKEN CAPTIVE.

 

Greatly distressed

 

The distress was overwhelming. The long years of frustrations, disappointments, suffering, betrayal, and crisis – and now the worst blow of all.

 

1 Samuel 30:4, 6

So David and his men WEPT ALOUD until they had NO STRENGTH LEFT TO WEEP…David was GREATLY DISTRESSED because the men were TALKING OF STONING HIM; each one was BITTER IN SPIRIT because of his sons and daughters.

 

David had now gone to the very depths – he had been rejected and betrayed by his family, his King, his wife, his tribe, and now his mighty men. This was the lowest point of David’s life. What did he do? And what must we do?

 

Strengthen > Inquire > Pursue

 

David did something we must all do. We summarise it as: Strengthen > Inquire > Pursue.

 

  1. Strengthen yourself in the Lord
  2. Inquire of the Lord
  3. Continue the pursuit

 

If we are to defeat the devil and win in warfare we must follow this same strategy.

 

1.        Strengthen yourself in the Lord

 

1 Samuel 30:6

But David FOUND STRENGTH in the Lord his God.

 

2.      Inquire of the Lord

 

1 Samuel 30:8

David INQUIRED of the Lord.

 

3.      Continue the pursuit

 

1 Samuel 30:9-10

But David and four hundred men CONTINUED THE PURSUIT.

 

In a desperate moment of distress and danger David did the first thing we must all do – he found strength in God. And then he did the second thing we must do – he inquired of God. And then he did what we must do – he pursued his enemies until he took back what was stolen.

 

Ride on!

 

But we must remember that David and his men were absolutely exhausted – physically, emotionally and spiritually. They were exhausted from their endangered fugitive existence, from continual disappointment and betrayal, from three days of riding, and mostly from weeping until they had no strength left to weep. 600 bone-weary men set off in pursuit but 200 were too exhausted to continue.  

 

Some may have to stop – and there is grace for them – but we must continue the pursuit. If we do not strengthen ourselves in the Lord and inquire of the Lord we won’t have enough strength to continue the pursuit. There is a time to rest and a time to fight and now is a time to fight! In a time of war we must not stay at home! We must ride on!

 

Whatever it takes

 

1 Samuel 30:17

David fought them from DUSK UNTIL THE EVENING of the next day.

 

400 exhausted, greatly-outnumbered men fought for 24 hours straight! And we also must be determined to fight no matter how long the battle takes. And we must fight until we recover everything.

 

1 Samuel 30:18-19

David RECOVERED EVERYTHING the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 NOTHING WAS MISSING: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David BROUGHT EVERYTHING BACK.

 

Continue the pursuit until you have recovered everything!

 

If something in this post helped you or you have some tips how to Strengthen > Inquire > Pursue then leave a comment below.

 

 

A Nameless, Faceless Generation?

 

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I have often heard that God wants to raise up a “nameless, faceless generation”. What is meant by this is that the time of the famous leaders, preachers, and miracle-workers is over and now God will use unknown people to do great exploits. Is this true?

 

My personal opinion is that it is half true.

 

Every soldier can do great exploits

 

What I definitely believe is that God wants to anoint the whole body of Christ to do great exploits. I believe that the army of the Lord is rising and God will use unknown soldiers in this army to do remarkable deeds.  Consider the following scriptures:

 

Daniel 11:32

The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out GREAT EXPLOITS.

 

John 14:12

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do EVEN GREATER THINGS than these, because I am going to the Father.

 

Mark 16:17-18

And these SIGNS will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

 

Great exploits. Greater works than Jesus. Miraculous signs. And these are not promised to apostles and prophets but rather to those who know God, people who have faith in Jesus, and those who believe. These are phenomenal promises and we need to equip and release the army of God so that every soldier can do this.

 

And it’s important that these great exploits can be done in secret without having to be trumpeted to the whole world. Nameless and faceless implies a deep humility and willingness to do be great in obscurity and hiddenness.

 

Famous nameless and faceless preachers

 

However there is another side. I have noticed that those who promote a nameless and faceless generation tend to be famous! Their names are well known and through media their faces are everywhere.  This is actually inevitable and simply an outworking of the principle of leadership. In the Bible we don’t have:

 

  • The veiled man who delivered Israel from Egypt.
  • The anonymous King of Israel who had a heart after God. 
  • The mystery man who rebuilt the city of Jerusalem after the exile.
  • The unknown preacher on the day of Pentecost.
  • The unidentified serial church planter and author of most of the New Testament.
  • The unheard of beloved disciple who wrote the book of Revelation.

 

No, we know exactly who these people are: Moses, David, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul and John. They are named and famous.

 

God makes people famous

 

God is so secure as a leader that He has no problem allowing other leaders to be famous. In fact He deliberately makes them famous!

 

Joshua 4:14

That day the LORD EXALTED JOSHUA in the sight of all Israel; and they REVERED him all the days of his life, just as they had REVERED MOSES.

 

So here we see that God made the people revere Moses and then he exalted Joshua so that the people would revere him too. And we see the same with David:

 

1 Chronicles 14:17

So DAVID’S FAME SPREAD throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.

 

1 Chronicles 17:8

Now I will make your name like the NAMES OF THE GREATEST MEN of the earth.

 

What is interesting to note is that behind all this “naming and facing” is God Himself exalting people.

 

Highly exalted for the sake of His people

 

Now of course we can take this too far – and many have. We end up with the “man of God syndrome” and whole ministries built around one person. And soon entitlement, accruing privileges and power, and arrogance and ostentatiousness follow. We want to avoid this at all costs. But at the same time let us not be afraid when leaders get a name and a face – it could be that God is promoting them because He wants to help His people:

 

1 Chronicles 14:2

And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been HIGHLY EXALTED FOR THE SAKE OF HIS PEOPLE ISRAEL.

 

When God gives His favour to a leader it is because He is releasing favour to His people.

 

What is your opinion? Please leave a comment.

 

 

Lowing All The Way

1 Samuel 6:12

Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and LOWING ALL THE WAY; they did not turn to the right or to the left.

 

The book of 1 Samuel tells a fascinating story.

 

Israel had fallen into apostasy and had become superstitious as opposed to genuinely spiritual. They were at war with the Philistines and had lost the first battle. They decided that if they brought the Ark of the Covenant – which represented the Presence of God – to the battle they would win. But God refuses to be used as some sort of mascot or charm, and He allowed Israel not only to lose the battle, but for the Ark to be captured by the Philistines.

 

But once the Philistines had “captured God” they realised that actually He had captured them! They put the Ark in the temple of Dagon as a trophy only to come back the next day to see the idol of Dagon bowing down before the Ark. They propped him up again but the next day they found him prostrated before the Ark – but this time with his head and hands broken off! Then a plague of tumours broke out and death ravaged the city. In terror the city of Ashdod sent the Ark to Gath. But the same thing happened and in desperation they sent the Ark further to Ekron. But in panic the people of Ekron refused to receive it and the Philistines decided they needed to send it back to Israel before the whole nation was destroyed.

 

God or chance?

 

They came up with a simple but clever plan to test if the Lord was really in it or not. This is what they said:

 

1 Samuel 6:7-9

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance.”

 

The Philistines – like non-Christians today – may not have know much about God but they did know about the strength of a “mother’s instinct”. If you take a cow who has just had calves and pen them up, the mother cow will never leave them and go in the opposite direction, especially into foreign territory. If you make it two cows the chances are even stronger that it won’t happen. Now if you yoke the mother cows to an oxcart and they have never been yoked before the chances are now virtually impossible. So the proof to the pagans that God was really in it, was that against all odds, the cows would go against their natural instincts.  

 

As we read at the start this is exactly what happened. “Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left” (1 Sam 6:12). And the Philistines were convinced that indeed, God had done this.

 

Carrying the Presence – but still lowing all the way

 

But I want to concentrate on how the cows went up. Some would say that if God was really in it, and His Presence was really upon you, then there would be no pain in it. That His glory would be so strong that the cows would in fact laugh merrily as they abandoned their calves and fulfilled the leading of the Lord. But this is a fallacy. Although the cows “went straight up” and “did not turn to the right or to the left” it was a heart-rending journey. It says that they were, “lowing all the way”.  These are poignant words, full of pathos, and often describe the glorious-yet-painful journey we are on.

 

Just because we are carrying the Presence of God and doing the will of God, doesn’t mean that all our natural instincts are obliterated. We still have natural desires that long for fulfilment.

 

  • If we are single, we may long to get married and have children.
  • We long for a beautiful home with wide open spaces, sunshine, blue skies, and green grass.
  • We deeply desire to be close to our natural family and old friends.
  • We wish for financial security and stability.
  • We want a place of comfort and safety, not risks and danger.
  • We yearn for peace where we are not constantly harassed by spiritual warfare.
  • We desire time to pursue leisure and pleasure.  

 

The reality of the Calvary Road

 

The apostle Paul, who was certainly as spiritual as they come, felt the same way:

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

 

A Day will come when all sorrow and crying is washed away but that is not this day. Today we walk the Calvary Road in the footsteps of our Master. It is a road filled with victories and joy but also of sacrifice and pain. And there is no shame in that. In fact these very sacrifices will be the point at which our non-Christian friends will be convinced that God is indeed with us, and will be the very things Jesus rewards on that Great Day.

 

We may have unfulfilled longings as we carry the Ark home, and we may be lowing all the way, but let us not be discouraged. There are days when it may not feel worth it to follow the Lamb wherever He goes – but be encouraged – in the end it will all be worth it and we’ll be so glad we kept going straight up, not turning to the right or to the left.  

 

If something here resonates with you leave a comment!

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Sacrificing Every 6 Steps

Has God ever located you in Scripture?

 

It happened to me on Saturday evening. I was in the prayer meeting before our church service. I was about to preach on Restoring the Tabernacle of David. And suddenly I had a clear impression that I was like David sacrificing every 6 steps as he brought the Ark back to Jerusalem. As God gave me that revelation it suddenly all became clear to me. My life-season made sense.

 

Restoring the glory

 

Let me explain. The Tabernacle of David is a prophetic picture of the New Testament Church (Acts 15:13-18). The central feature of the Tabernacle was that it housed the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was Israel’s national treasure. It was the place where God’s Presence lived. Where the Ark was, God was. And not in some hidden, omniscient way, but in a visible, tangible way. Jews would speak of the shekinah glory of God – the blue flame of God’s Presence that dwelt there.

 

The Ark had been lost to Israel and then in a supernatural turn of events returned to Israel. But Saul the previous king had neglected it and left it in obscurity on the border of Israel. But David earnestly desired for it to be back in Jerusalem. His passion was to restore the Presence of God to the centre of the nation. And like David I share that passion. To restore the open manifestation of God’s Presence to Berlin and Germany. That’s what church planting is all about – the supremacy of Jesus in the totality of life.

 

Every 6 steps

 

The journey of the Ark’s return is fascinating but the part I want to focus on is that David sacrificed a bull and fattened calf every 6 steps of the way!

 

2 Samuel 6:13

When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken SIX STEPS, he SACRIFICED a BULL and a FATTENED CALF.

 

From Obed-Edom’s house to Mt. Zion is between 12-15 km making it about 30 000 paces. That means David and the whole nation stopped and sacrificed over 3 500 times! Imagine how David felt as he went through this bloody routine over, and over, and over again. As Rick Joyner says, “From Obed-edom’s house to Mount Zion, the procession left in its wake a trail of blood and guts as far as the eye could see. It was not a pretty picture. No wonder David was dancing with all his might when they finally made it through the gates!”

 

Dying to our own strength

 

6 is the number of man and oxen represent our strength. A fattened calf is supposed to be the very best meat. In order to restore the glory David had to completely die to his own strength and give God his best. And he had to do it over and over and over again.

And that’s exactly how I feel. Pursuing a great vision of Germany aflame with the Presence of God and swept up in a great reformation. But feeling the intense pain of sacrificing again and again and again. Feeling like I have given up all my strength and there is nothing left to give.

 

Church planting is like that. It may look glamorous to others. You may even be considered a hero to some. But you feel the pain of dying every day (1 Cor 15:31). You feel like every 6 steps the whole parade stops and only carries on when there is blood and guts everywhere.

 

Strengthened

 

But despite the sheer pain of the story I was hugely encouraged when the Holy Spirit showed me where I was. My pain, frustration, and sacrifice was suddenly put in perspective. Everything we are giving up is not for nothing. It’s not in vain. In some small way it’s paving the way for God’s glory to come back. It’s building a highway for God’s Presence to flood in. For the sake of His glory I am resolved to keep making those sacrifices. Even if it’s every 6 paces.

 

My head cleared, my spirit was strengthened. It’s what happens when God locates your life in Scripture.

 

Does this story resonate with you? Where would you say you are in Scripture? Please leave a comment.

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New Reformation – Component 6

6.   Organic

 

  • The Anabaptists were right about the church.

 

Organic means motivated by love, based on relationships, and structurally simple and reproducible.

 

Church should be about relationships, friendships, community and spiritual family – not just a building with a one hour Sunday Gottesdienst with preaching and the sacraments. And its structures must be simple, easy to reproduce with built-in flexibility and fluidity. Systems and structures that are complicated, bureaucratic, centralised, and controlling will no longer be valuable in the coming Reformation.

 

The church also needs to be contemporary and relevant and have a style that reflects the culture. Not that it must chase fads or is a slave to culture; but it must not be stuck in a cultural style that is now extinct.

 

The Anabaptists have not been represented well in History and especially European history because they lost the historical battle to the state churches. In previous centuries they were tortured and massacred and in literature have been stigmatised, slandered and misrepresented. An example of this is how Thomas Müntzer, The Zwickau Prophets and The Peasant’s war were all blamed on the Anabaptists. Thomas Müntzer was actually a Lutheran and not part of the Anabaptist movement (but he came to realise that infant baptism was not Biblical although he himself was never baptised as an adult). The militant Zwickau Prophets were not Anabaptists and were never baptised by immersion as believers, and a very low percentage of Anabaptists were discovered to be involved in the Peasant’s Uprising. But because the movement has been caricatured this way, Europeans have been able to reject the important truths they brought and have suffered greatly as a result.

 

America was colonised by Christians who had been persecuted and wanted to enjoy religious freedom and as a result many of the Anabaptist ideals were adopted. On the other hand, Europe remained under the control of state churches, whether Protestant or Catholic, and this has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the Gospel. Because Luther was a strong advocate of state churches and was not willing to take the Reformation he started to its logical conclusion, he viciously persecuted the Anabaptists and this is still the prevailing spirit over Germany and much of Europe. Free churches may not be persecuted the same way but they are still considered with deep suspicion and often labelled cults – which to a German is the ultimate curse.

 

But consider the legacy of the Anabaptist movement:

 

  • The Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice.
  • Freedom of religion – liberty of conscience.
  • Separation of church and state.
  • Voluntary church membership without forced conversion.
  • Believer’s baptism by immersion.
  • Self-governed local churches
  • Local church trained clergy
  • Evangelistic zeal.
  • Priesthood of all believers.
  • Pacifism or non-resistance.
  • Separation from the world and holiness of life

Whilst there were some extremes in the Anabaptist movement such as millennialism, refusing to take oaths, or to hold public office; the world-wide church have by-and-large accepted their points and blasted forward, whilst the European church have refused to change and are stuck and declining.

 

Luther was right about the Gospel but he was wrong about the church. Luther challenged Catholic doctrine but the structures he adopted for the Lutheran church were largely Catholic minus the statues and the confessional. The Anabaptists however, had a much more Biblical ecclesiology (theology of church) which we must learn from. Luther restored the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer; but the Anabaptists restored the ministry of the priesthood of the believer.

 

There is always a need for new wineskins to contain the new wine. If there is going to be another great wave of the Spirit then new wineskins will be forming to hold the new wine. We do believe in the importance of the renewal of the state churches but we also think radically different structures and mentalities are necessary to express what God wants to do. Lutherans of all people should understand the need for new wineskins! If we say there is no need for new wineskins then what we are saying is that we all need to revert to the Roman Catholic Church – which no Protestants are willing to do.

 

One particular reason we need new wineskins is the danger of a centralised system. In many denominations the local church does not own their church building and the pastor is paid a salary from central funds. If a pastor decided to move with the Spirit he would be expelled and immediately lose his accommodation and salary which makes it very hard to move with the Spirit. This kind of control must change.

 

So some of the recommendations we are making for a new Reformation are:

 

  • Free churches – free of state control and free of denominational control.
  • Locally led congregations – the Bible speaks of elders who govern and shepherd the church.
  • Mobile apostolic teams – that influence the churches but don’t own them.
  • Churches comprised of confessing believers who have repented of sin and are water baptised by immersion.
  • Cell groups and house churches who gather to make disciples.
  • Not requiring academic theological degrees for pastors – but rather practical, local church based training and proving, and studying as you go.
  • Bi-vocational pastors.
  • Rented venues and venues that don’t necessarily look religious.

 

A church will not become a missional church unless it is an organic church. If we want the whole church – not just a professional pastor – on mission then we need to have structures that reflect that. Organic structures make it easier for everyone to be a disciple and to make disciples. To be a church where every person is involved in the Great Commission.

 

On with the Reformation!

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