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Spiritual fruit - Part 2 Created 11 February 2014

This article is a continuation of Part 1.

We shift our focus to spiritual fruit delivered by the Church. The Bible does not describe 'the Church' as a place. No, Church refers to people who belong to the fellowship of the Father and His Son (1 John 1:1-4). In bite-size statements we may also describe it as:

There are other descriptions of the biblical Church. However, I want to focus on the last point.

Jesus said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, … (Matthew 28:18-20) The two operative words/phrases I want to focus on are “therefore”, which denotes a conclusion from previous information ("All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"), and “Go ye”, which means that born-of-the-Spirit-believers will be doing things actively and continuously.

In short, Jesus was saying, ‘because all authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth, My disciples will go out and get things done in the same way I got things done’ (paraphrase). That is Church; it is believing people who go OUT from where they congregate to get things done, where, at the very least, the world around them changes on account of prayer (James 5:16).

So, where is the problem?

Before proclaiming that love is the GREATEST GIFT, Paul makes a list of other gifts, which the Holy Spirit of God HAS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH. This is what he says: All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

Elsewhere, Paul sums up his list of ministry gifts for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Thus, there are given apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors so that the Church may be properly equipped for the work it needs to do as Jesus sent us out to do.

Here is the issue: the world is in the shape it is in (partly) because the Church is not equipped to deal with it.

Here is the other issue: the Church is in the shape it is in (partly) because it has deviated from the above model. We no longer have ordinary believers who live out their calling as Apostles, Teachers, Prophets, Pastors and Evangelists. These different minsitries - by the decision of man, seemingly - are now rolled up into one. We call them "Pastors". I suggest that it is grossly unfair to them to expect that they will successfully fulfill all of these ministries all at once.

Here is the conclusion:
Pastors are called pastors irrespective of their primary ministry gift, be it evangelist, apostle, pastor, prophet or teacher. But where does it say that an evangelist or prophet, for instance, must be someone who has gone through theological college or seminary and ordained by a government sanctioned church body? Nowhere! Yet, this is the system we follow like non-thinking slaves.

It so happens that I know quite a few ordained pastors. These are good people who have a love for God and want to serve Him. But they’re stuck in dealing with ‘people issues’ more than half the time, (they’re stuck in having to offer pastoral care more than half the time) and they do not get to live out their ministry calling. Why? Because the church system ensures that the working of the gifts of the spirit is limited to those who have been ‘approved’ to do so.

A friend of mine in another city – a man with a prophetic ministry – recently asked this question of the Lord: ‘Shall I continue with what I am doing? Is it just me or am I really hearing from you, Lord?’ It was a good question and the kind of thing a responsible man or woman  of God should be asking frequently. He asked it because he was concerned that his messages were often quite sobering and critical to the state of Christians and Christianity alike. But, the answer he got from the Lord was an emphatic yes, which has seen him continue his ministry. Indeed, this man hears the Lord very clearly. But here is the thing: how many church people hear him? In relative terms, not nearly as many as should be the hearing him. Why? Because he seeks NOT after social acceptance – he speaks truthfully all the time even if people are offended – just as prophets do – and he does not speak in churches. And why is that? Perhaps because churches in general do not recognise the work of Spirit-filled, God-led men and women who are not ordained.

That is a tragedy. Judging from Paul, believers congregating in such churches – which include the vast majority in the Western world – ARE NOT BEING “EQUIPPED FOR THE WORK OF THEIR MINISTRY”. They are not being equipped to deliver godly fruit - to do the work Jesus sent them out to do; to serve Him through the authority He has given them:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, … (Matthew 28:18-20)

Now, here is the thing that I see so frequently. Churches want to engage the community, so they work out ‘best practice’ in getting through to the unbelieving world around them. They adapt a new (socially acceptable) language, dress in funky (socially acceptable) clothes and hair styles, listen to the same funky (socially acceptable) music, participate in the same (socially acceptable) rituals (Halloween, rock concerts), watch the same (socially acceptable) movies and generally behave in the same acceptable way as the world around them. This, they believe, is “loving the world” and “reaching out to the community”. Foley indeed, as Paul shows us the correct way:

My message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. (1 Corinthians 2:4-6)

You see, Paul did not rely on socially acceptable methods. He relied on the working of the Holy Spirit through him – he allowed the Spirit of God to yield His authority through him. That was Paul’s success.

You get my drift: without the ministry gifts – apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors - operating through ordinary congregational members in a Church the gifts of the Spirit will not come to fruition.

But where they do – as I have witnessed in some Churches – believers are regularly liberated from all kinds of vices, healed from all kinds of diseases, the pastor is lifted up and supported in prayer, there is a unity of spirit in the bond of peace, marriages flourish, teenagers know their place, God has provided sufficiently for what needs to get done in and through that congregation and genuine humility is not something that is merely read about. Is this where you congregate?

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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