We find ourselves in an interesting place in church history right now where we are in transition between an old system and an old church governance model and a new beginning, a new governance model, where the body Christ begins to accept the idea that anyone can walk into the fullness of their identity. And this is not something I am making up. This is biblical. God told us what it should look like in his Church and to this day not many churches reflect this example.
I want you to try to imagine a winding river where some people are standing on one side representing the old system. These are churches where people are satisfied with the status quo and the old the way of doing things; one leader, one vision, one voice. On the other side of the river are another group of people who know something new is about to be released. They are a nameless, faceless tribe of people, a resounding chorus of voices who all have something to add and say in addition to those who represent the closed priesthood of a few. In the middle of the river stand a few, uniquely qualified individuals who live between the old and the new way of doing things. They are a small band of people who possess not only favor and credibility with people in the old system, they also occupy a vision for the new transformation, or new thing that is coming. They are transitional leaders who are helping us usher in the new season that has yet to come.
I recently read an article by Matthew Brodeur titled, Factory Church, a tale of 3 churches. In his article, Brodeur explains his view of 3 types of churches that exist today – Fantasy Church, Factory Church and Living Church. He writes:
Churches are like a mouse on a wheel: They are working hard and expending a ton of energy but never really arriving anywhere. Many churches have lost the real metrics for measuring our success and have defaulted to a set of measurements that are irrelevant to the priorities of Jesus. We measure attenders, income, buildings and events. Jesus measures the transformation of souls, saints and spheres. In the Fantasy Church, the majority of our time, energy and money goes into simply maintaining the status quo and managing our members until they get to heaven. Only a small percentage of our resource is used to actually advance the Kingdom of God.
Let me begin by saying that I believe we are in a season where the kingdom is supposed to be “forcefully advancing” when in many respects, it doesn’t appear we’re advancing at all. After all, if society is any gauge, we’re retreating, not advancing. As my friend Janice Seney recently told me, “For whatever reason, when it comes to kingdom, God is moving really, really slow right now.” While I can attest to my own feelings on that subject, I am not so sure that it’s only God we’re waiting for as much as he is waiting for us. As Brodeur points out, we’re so busy with the business of church that ministry of the kingdom gets lost in the process. And while the idea of maintaining some of the status quo of church is not entirely without its merit, if week after week, month after month and year after year goes by and nothing really ever substantively changes in the church, then we’re not really advancing the kingdom, we’re ruling one. I find that this not only explains “fantasy church,” but it describes most churches in general where everything happens so irritatingly slow.
So where are we supposed to be going?
We are all searching for the “model” of what a kingdom church is supposed to be and therein lies our problem. We’re looking for a format or the instructions booklet. That’s the wrong thing. There is scripture in Ephesians 4 that tells us what it looks like…
God gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, teaches and pastors…
But what we lack are real instructions for how to get there. Let me posit that God did that on purpose. Why do you think God chose to be silent about the process? Could it be because he wanted us to work it out ourselves? Sure, that’s part of it. But there’s something more in Ephesians 4:11 that he wants us to see. So while we are all trying to figure out what it means to be an apostle or identify who the prophet is and what the prophetic looks like in church, I believe God is wooing us over to something else that functional builders do not naturally see.
It’s relational, not functional
While I’m as certain as I can be that the way forward toward raising up kingdom churches is not supposed to be prescriptive, I do believe that God has shown us some keys for the way forward, if we’ll trust him and proceed. These keys are merely tools. There is no one step-by-step plan from God because every church is different. It’s dynamic and it must be uniquely built. God planned for the kingdom to be about relationship. Ephesians 4, as well as 1 Cor. 12:28 is about relationship between the giftings of people in church and what they are to bring to the body so the body can be raised up in a well-rounded fashion. Just as it is more ideal in any family that children be raised by a father and a mother, in the same way, God desires for this bride to be raised up by a family of 5 key leaders, all uniquely made to bring their individual favor and perspective of the kingdom so that we will be “built up and reach unity in the faith.” We are not getting that today and it’s not even close if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves.
In 2010, I was in church when God gave me this picture. Reviewing it from the bottom up, notice how unity is not attained until we establish the offices within the body? All this time we’ve been running about being busy with church and the one thing we hope to bring, unity, is a by-product of first the establishment of the offices which raises up the people to reach maturity. What this is saying is that we cannot get to our goal from where we are today until we adjust our model. We do not have the maturity that we seek most amongst our people, because we have not released the things that brings spiritual maturity about. In other words, God is waiting on our leaders to recognize this and the rest of us are left wondering why it seems like God is moving “really really slow.”
If we do not invest in more relationship than we have today, we will never truly become a kingdom church. We will only ever be deceiving ourselves hoping functional church miraculously transforms into kingdom church without adjusting our government. That’s not faith, people, that’s believing in magic.
Just as Jesus commissioned his apostles in Mark 3 to reach their potential by sending them out to preach the gospel releasing them with authority, the church’s government must also be structured properly to reach its potential and by also operating in all of its own ultimate authority.
The entire theme of the bible is about relationship; one to another and all to God. And that theme is carried through Eph. 4, five core leaders in relationship together bringing the fullness of the gospel, not the “halfness.” Therefore, as an example, if we as leaders only reach out to people we’re grooming for leadership when they don’t attend our meetings, we risk communicating that we’re not interested in relationship, only their attendance. Yet, if we want to bring the fullness, we must invest in relationship and we gain their faithful attendance in the process. Scripture is clear. Any leader that does not take the time to build relationship with their current and future core identified leaders, will never get to Eph. 4. In Titus 1:6-9, Paul lists off his qualifications for leaders that are largely dominated by matters of the heart. How would Paul ever know their heart if he doesn’t have relationship with them? So at some point, relationship must be the primary motivator in the kingdom church.
We’re not getting any younger
Because relationship takes time, we need to start now. It’s before we start ministry that we must be taking the time to invest in relationship by expanding our spheres of influence with our core leaders. I have worked in digital marketing for almost 20 years now. I make a living in Search advertising and optimization. If I had a nickel for all the times business leaders put off fixing their organic search while they got their businesses in order to fix paid search, I would be rich. But organic search takes time. It needs attention and time to get traction with the search engines before pages on a website become highly ranked. In the meantime, we build paid search campaigns to hedge against the slower organic listings until they rise to the top. One needs the other, they are not mutually exclusive. In the same way, we can’t become 5-fold churches without unity (relationship), and we can’t have true unity without becoming 5-fold churches. I believe that relationship is the only way forward to becoming true kingdom churches and we will never get there unless we break down the ivory towers and pedestals that we put leaders on.
A rebel with a cause
Just a quick gut check. Anyone that thinks I just have an axe to grind against the current church doesn’t know me. I admit, I probably am a rebel, but not without a cause. I’m aware of all the scriptures about leadership and authority and believe them. In fact, let me quote one from Heb. 13:7 here:
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
I believe these scriptures. But I do not think they are one way streets. Just as no man has authority over a woman before he takes her as his bride, in the same way, relationship is a required component in the body of Christ as well. I do not think the average believer signs over their life’s authority to another just because they walked through the doors of a church. I believe a leader must work to form a relationship with his followers and should never demand submission alone because a better way is when submission is granted automatically where relationship exists. In my opinion, if we demand authority without relationship we misunderstand the heart of scripture and how he is with us. As God said, “We love him because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19. And who doesn’t want to do something for those that love you?
“Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no respect.” – George Bancroft
Only the first step is “top-down”
Everything starts with a choice. As a pastor once stated, faith is a cold-blooded act of the will. It’s something we choose, not feel and this is no different. The first step for the senior leader of any church is faith in something that God is saying. After that it’s just a choice to cooperate with heaven. What kind of church is s/he leading? Is it a team of leaders holding offices of which s/he is a leader among equals, each uniquely qualified by God to raise up the church as Ephesians 4 describes, or is it one leader who does the benediction, the preaching, the baptisms, the offering, the blessings – you get my drift. But that’s where top-down ends. S/he has to be as flexible as everyone else when the process begins. If we fall back into top-down patterns, we’ll revert back to the old system and only have what we have today. That’s not following scripture and we’re only putting off the kingdom that much longer. And the enemy is fully aware. When it comes to stall tactics, the devil can wait an entire lifetime – yours!
So with that understanding, let’s get on with the keys to explain how the model isn’t really a model as much as it is a process.
Five Keys for releasing the 5-Fold
1. Establish the Kingdom Government
Ephesians 2:20, 4:11-13 and 1 Cor. 12:28 are about the kingdom government. But before anything can happen, a church’s senior leader has to intentionally and publically release the kingdom government which sets the tone for everything that will follow – even relationship. As it’s been said before, today, almost all churches are led by pastors and teachers when God’s model is to build it through apostles and prophets. And it begins with him/her. Nothing will ever happen until that first step is publically acknowledged, blessed and released by launching God’s kingdom government of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors.
2. Foster relationship with each identified leader
We have all heard the scripture, “Know those who labor among you,” (1 Thes. 5:12). It’s a biblical principle and, ideally, the “knowing” comes before “laboring.” This is not something that happens in the foyer. We have to be intentional about relationship and invest. We show value by invitation. As Brodeur explained further, “The Factory Church can be a mega-church or a cell-church but the eventual outcome is the same. They end up with a system that relies on policies and programs rather than on relationship and personal process.” Relationship and process are both built on a quotient of time. So what are we waiting for? It’s time we dive into relationship. Nothing should happen in a kingdom environment without it.
3. Publicly establish each office and identify and release its leaders
We’re not raising up mascots, we’re raising leaders. We need to publically empower and release each leader as they are ready to his or her destiny and calling and we do that by bringing them up before the church and acknowledging the vision, acknowledging their role and recognizing their authority in leadership that God has given to them in that place. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and it needs to be modeled in leadership first – dare I say, even on our staff. Anything less and we’re only creating 5-fold mascots who serve in name only.
4. Take what God gives you and add as you go along
No two churches are the same and we can’t make a model out of everything. Depending on the body, your team might be two or three. Don’t expect that you will have a team of 5 people ready to serve in every office in the church. Although anything is possible, having 5 ready-to-go leaders called to their respective offices seems very unlikely and far less likely in smaller churches than it is with bigger, more established churches. What is far more likely is that 2-3 will initially emerge and be established in leadership by relationship and God will add others later. At minimum, I do believe he intends to release an apostle and prophet first in keeping with 1 Cor. 12:28 and these will confirm others in their respective offices. Finally, these leaders must be called to the office, not merely gifted in the spiritual gift. Carrying the authority for an office is an entirely different thing than gifting. Our leaders in the various offices must be called by other office holders and should ideally have outside regional leadership influence.
5. Accept that you’ll only discover the 5-fold by doing
I know it’s human nature to want to have everything identified, defined and scripted before we step out, but I honestly believe that kingdom or the 5-fold church, by whatever you want to label them, was not designed by God to work that way. He wants you working together, wrestling it out with him, in covenant relationship between each other, because you’re committed to each other and to God. That’s why relationship is so key. Because relationship is less likely to be discarded than ministry or work. It’s easy to stop a program. It’s not so easy to discard the ministry that two people know was built by covenant relationship with God. Regardless of the team, the idea of that you will know what it looks like before you begin is pure fantasy. When Bethel Church shifted from the Assemblies of God to becoming an independent church they did so knowing each other in deep relationship first. Their model in some cases was literally living together. Out of this, each became known to the other and God used their relationships to reveal his plan. But that only happened after the leaders formed deeper relationships first.
So now is a good time to ask you, do you think God really wants you to do this with you? If you do, there’s no turning back. You’re in it for the long-term, the long haul, because relationship takes time and if we’re not making time for that, we can’t blame God for the state of church or people for leaving if we aren’t willing to invest in it ourselves. And if you don’t want it outright, that’s fine too. God lets us choose, but you will need to accept that you’ll never have it all and you’ll never be the full kingdom church that God designed for his bride. I have a sign on my wall. It reads, “The world needs dreamers, and the world needs doers, but above all, the world needs dreams who do.”