this will be controversial
For some of us, our church is actually a group of people who are spread out across nations, even. While this might feel lonely at times, I have never felt closer and more purposed with others than I do these days, with my church that is definitely spread out. I am amazed that everywhere we go, He gives us true Communion. A local expression always exists when two or three are gathered. That is a spiritual law. There is a light and a reflection of Christ in that place at that time.
For most of us obviously this is not in place all the way, but it will be. For the last couple of years, I have struggled at times wanting to run out and make something happen–sometimes out of loneliness, sometimes out of a desire to see people connect, sometimes wishing that there were a more organized way of giving each other teaching, or equipping, or prayer. In the midst of all this the Lord kept reminding me to be patient. There were right times and seasons for everything. Some seasons he is just working on your marriage. Some seasons he takes you through pain and trauma. Some seasons he lets you get really really dry and wilderness-y so that you learn to recognize his manna.
He is patiently but painstakingly building something so beautiful and amazing that one day will look like a whole being of Christ radiating out into the earth. Jesus is going to have ONE whole bride. It’s important to know who your church is, who your people are, and how to be connected to them. None of us are perfect at this, but He really does want to join us with others who connect with us in the ways He wants to connect Himself. His blood needs to flow through veins–and not some arbitrarily joined pieces of the body.
Of course there will be controversy and counter-movements. These always happen when He is trying to birth something new. When the body begins to be formed in the beautiful, fluid and spirit-formed way that will bring unity to the WHOLE body, this will mean 1. great freedom and diversity and 2. unity that spells a lot of trouble for the enemy. And so the enemy is going to try and use controversy and ways big and small, but always very deceptive, to destroy this thing. The church is the light and presence of the spiritual kingdom–it will demonstrate what the kingdom is all about. And so the enemy is going to aim at this presence of Christ in the earth.
What would the enemy like to do to keep us from getting the full vision and revelation of what it means to be ONE in Christ… and ultimately, what it means to be a people that Jesus is going to inhabit and make His Body on earth again. Now let’s think about it: Jesus wants to make His own Body WALK on earth again. That means it is all about Jesus getting to incarnate again, that means it is all about Him making HIS OWN body join at all the right places so that His own blood can flow. We are not going to be some bruised, disconnected, dismembered, severed group of people by the time this earth closes up His story. Oh no.
The enemy is trying to guard the way to this revelation. What will he try to keep the church from becoming free to be?
I have already written about how he preys on our own wounds and cynicism toward church and Christianity. Another assignment here is the guardian of accountability. Ironically, accountability is actually a creation we made as a church. But because a lot of it is driven by the soul’s understanding and not the Spirit’s, the enemy has taken it and used our own zeal to keep people from being connected to Jesus’ body the way Jesus wants to do. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that we do not actually know what true spiritual accountability means yet. I don’t think we’ve seen it, don’t think that we’ve really sat down and let Him make it His way. Most of what now passes for accountability is a thinly veiled work of the religious spirit. We are often afraid that somehow Jesus can’t fulfill His own work in others, and so we make up ways of keeping others in check, keeping others connected, keeping others rooted out of fear that someone will run away, won’t grow, whatever. Are we willing to risk trusting the Holy Spirit in others? Jesus says, “I will cause Myself to stand.”
I am continually floored at the sorts of growth and changes the Spirit brings about in my friends, especially those who have no “formal” accountability. I have watched people become amazing warriors, teachers, lovers of Jesus, people who are clinging to Him every day, and yet who have no program of how to do it. Not that He doesn’t use programs, but most of the people who are even reading this know full well that no amount of contrived discipline or arbitrary community ever brought you lasting change and spiritual growth in your life.
A few years ago He showed me that there was actually a spirit of control that masqueraded as accountability, which actually kept people from soaring in Him. It is a blockade to deeper intimacy with Jesus. There are times when people need to make mistakes–especially when we are young at something. He uses mistakes to grow and mature us. He uses failures and struggles to teach us. He doesn’t apply the same discipline to every situation, and if you are pastoring or discipling someone, you really need to be following Him in how he is treating that person or else you are applying rules to their lives that are impossible to follow in the long run. This same spirit would like to keep us from making relationships and church with others that the Holy Spirit would lead us into.
you can’t have this
Here is another potential guard that digs in when new movements come about. Because we think we “have it” and because we are convinced that others don’t, it’s very easy for even new things to get territorial and then also controlling about the way people experience God. Even the prophetic movement has suffered a lot of control spirit–because we are afraid of reactions or trying to convince people that prophecy is real, etc. etc. we create all of these forms of “how to prophesy” and all kinds of accountability restrictions etc. etc.
In its early stages the prophetic movement got a lot of judging from other parts of the church. I think the Lord allowed this to refine it, so that people would learn to accept the rejection as a part of growing in humility. I am extremely thankful for the people who were really breaking ground and taking risks in the early days when prophesy was being accepted in the church at large. Of course there was a lot of controversy around it. But even in their mistakes or perceived mistakes, I think they took “the first hit” and laid a ground that I take for granted sometimes. Most people we know accept and give the prophetic very easily and don’t have to justify it in any way. But that was not always the case among Christians.
Still, a lot of prophetic people suffer rejection, and I am convinced now that this is really something God uses–not to place them under an accountability, but to get them to the place where they stand before God and not before men. If you haven’t been rejected in your spiritual gifts, this might be a problem more than a blessing. (Then again, as I sit and think, most of my friends have been seriously rejected at some point!) Elijah the great prophet himself had to go through this rejection process, until he got to the place where he could stand in front of king Ahab and say, “As surely as the Lord lives, before whom I stand.” –meaning, I am not standing before you, but before God.
Either we accept rejection as a part of the growing process or we react to it. In the prophetic movement, some responded to rejection by trying to prove themselves by their own authority, and by trying to convince the rest of the church that the prophetic ministry was valid and responsible. We all struggle with the need for validation. This has been a growing area in our lives. Some of us have started Bible studies, or home groups or businesses or projects as a way of being validated by either those in leadership or by our friends or parents. To the degree that something is formed out of our need for others’ validation is the degree that He has to refine us. All kinds of seemingly good things done in the name of bringing more people in or giving God to others can be done out of this need.
As a result a lot of tares have grown in with the wheat–the tares are the effects of establishing prophetic authority with our own convincing, by flesh power, and the wheat is the parts that God alone has established. That which is sown by the flesh will have to be maintained by the flesh, and often the only way the flesh can maintain something, even something that has spiritual truth, is by control. And that is where false accountability takes root.
Another assignment against us getting to know our real church is a spirit of relevancy. We really have to get out of our heads that the church is not primarily set up to be relevant. It is set up to reveal Christ. I am using the example of prophets and the prophetic movement to show how some of these things happen but they have certainly gone on the different ways we put together church. In immature moments, prophetic people can deliver words that others want to hear… or hope they are delivering them in a package that others want to hear it in. If we still are motivated by the validation of others–and I know that I have had to grow through this–we will continue to deliver our messages through some idealized vehicle instead of the precious dynamic identity He made us to be.
The spirit of relevancy really affects my generation in particular. Growing up we watched things look sort of gray and unadventurious; we were discontent with the lifeless, systematic way of church as we knew it. But a lot of us ended up in the opposite ditch of trying too hard to look like something that is relevant to others, especially others who have yet to experience Jesus.
It’s okay to be discontented with the church as is but if we are driven by trying to distance ourselves from it and look attractive and appealing to others we can get caught up in self-hatred and a fear of being stupid. A lot of new church is now overly focused on looking relevant to the world and this is going to cause some real crises.
But for you and me, the question is: are we going to be church in the way He is forming it? If we are, things will be much more unique and beautiful than any amount of cultural appeal. No matter how cool our forms are, they will always end up being abstract and divorced from our true identity if they are based on ideals. The church He is building is extremely dynamic and contains strands of DNA, people’s identities linked together through and in Him. Every single expression of Him on earth will look different… and free.
The main thing is that the Lord will establish his prophetic people–and if we fear Him above all else, we will certainly ruffle feathers, but we will also trust him to grow the prophets into mature prophets–because He is able to, and because He wants to. Likewise He is able to–and wants to–establish His church, as a whole body.