Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Purpose Driven or Presence Shaped?".

I have remained vividly impressed by Exodus 33:16 where Moses argues with God and it culminates in him asking that God would "show me Your glory". The argument was in the context of God's anger at the people's sin. God said that although an angel would take them up into the Land, He would not go with them. Moses drew the line here. His argument was that if the Presence of God did not go with them then they were nothing. Has anything changed?

Terry Virgo wrote; "This is what makes God's people unique - His presence goes with us".

The title of this blog was taken from a conference that Mark Stibbe arranged and invited Terry Virgo to. Terry admitted that of course there is nothing admirable in being purpose-less and drifting without intent but he asked are we in too great a hurry to wait for His Presence to fall upon us by the Holy Spirit? Terry wrote;

"Let's not simply believe in the great objective truth of God's omnipresence, let's also take advantage of the fact with a sense of wonder that when we gather in His name, the Holy Spirit wants to make manifest the reality of His presence. How much more would happen in our gatherings if we did! Not just purpose, but presence! Not just music, but presence. Not just routine or rush, but presence. Get an appetite for the presence of God! When we plant a church and gather in His name, His presence comes with us. Because you gather in His name, God's presence comes to town in a unique way".

I wrote a few days ago that in revival the one universal thing that is restored to the Church is the manifest Presence of God. But do we have to wait for revival to come to enjoy once again the Presence of God? Look at just a few of the wondrous benefits of God's Presence being with us!

(Exodus 33:14 NKJV) And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

(Psalms 16:11 NKJV) - "In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore".

I have been extremely interested in two comments made over the last few days concerning the vital place of the Ephesians 4 Ministries especially the Apostle and Prophet. A comment was left on this blog and the gentleman voiced the concern that we should not be seeing academics becoming the guiding forces in our churches but rather the Ephesians 4 Ministries. In his powerful prophecy Greg Haslam saw the Ephesians 4 Ministries as being a "catalytic agent" to the Church moving forward into a new era of treasuring the Presence of God and truly seeing Ephesians 2:20 come to pass.

So why are Apostles and Prophets better placed to guide the Church of Jesus Christ into receptiveness to the Presence of God, rather than academic theologians?

1. Immediate Revelation Rather Than Studied Concepts.

I actually have John MacArthur to thank for this thought although I am sure he would not thank me for it. After all in the same sermon he said, "We don't need Apostles today because we already have doctrine". Don't need? Don't need??! MacArthur's bolder than I am. I'm not sure I would like to be in the position of telling the ascended Christ that we "don't need" His gifts! But much thanks to him anyhow for helping me with this.

In the sermon MacArthur spoke of the root meaning to the word "Apostle" - it means "Sent One". The suggestion is that there is a direct anointing for a direct task. Just as similarly with prophets, MacArthur emphasises that they had three functions; they remained in a local ministry, they spoke revelation from God and they taught apostle's doctrine. The emphasis is on the immediate, the "Now" and it is clear that the apostles and prophets called to the ministry must depend on God. They cannot depend on scholarship or degrees.

Please understand I am not against scholarship or degrees. My friend Pete and I are soon to embark on Masters Degrees in theology! What I am trying to examine is the fact that scholarship and degrees are worthless if they do not lead us into a deeper communion with the risen Lord whom is the object and desire of our studies and while there are many theologians such as D A Carson, Gordon Fee and John Piper who would do exactly that, I think it is the apostles and prophets who are best placed to guide the Church into openness to the Presence of God because they have been anointed for exactly that task.

2. Mission to the Nations Rather Than Studying Orthodoxy.

Once again let me make it clear that I am not trying to dispatch with studying orthodoxy! It is a vital call that the Bible makes clear we are all called to do. Paul said we must "prove all things" in one case. David Holden wrote; "Doctrine ... vital though they are, will not of themselves produce mobility". But this question remains to be answered: is it academic theologians or Ephesians 4 Ministries who are best placed to lead the Church into being "Presence Shaped" and thus mission orientated? Before I answer this, how can I presume the immediate link between the Presence of God and mission. To begin with the restoration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the Charismatic Movement was a very personal thing for personal blessing. But with men like Arthur Wallis, Bryn Jones and Ern Baxter about it became evident that the coming of the Holy Spirit was for a purpose - to enable us and empower us to go to the ends of the earth. David Holden wrote; "From Pentecost to the return of Jesus, the church is never called to slow down, to become static or settled in this age". And I think it is clear that it is the Ephesians 4 Ministries rather than academics who are best placed to do this.

On Apostles, David Holden wrote; "Apostles ask questions and challenge you as a local eldership about expansion and making a greater impact on your locality, catching you and your church up on a mission to reach the nations. They are not there just to meet your church needs but also to provoke you to ask ‘where next?'".

On Prophets, he wrote; "The prophetic never sits comfortably with something that is static ... Prophets exercising their ministry into something static can become very frustrated. We may lack the prophetic in the church today because we are static, but when the church gets more mobile the prophetic will come to the fore".

Let me say again how vital academics are and how grateful I am for the books they have written and researched that sit in our libraries. But what concerns me is that their writings do not replace the call of the Holy Spirit communicated through Ephesians 4 Ministries to lead us and guide us into 2007. Jonathan Edwards the great Puritan wrote that it is the job of all to find out which direction the Holy Spirit is moving in and move with Him. Let us allow academics to do their job and defend the orthodoxy of aspects of the whole counsel of God to serve us. But let us pray for those in authority over us that they may lead us truly hearing from the Holy Spirit and opening us up and making us receptive to His "coming upon" us as we meet to worship God.


Anonymous said...


James B said...

I think that Sam Storms might agree with your assessment of church priorities Dan. You, like me, will have got his email sermon;

"Let’s get right to the point. This letter to the church in Sardis ought to alert us to the fact that a church can be confident of its place in the community, increasing in membership, energetic in its religious activities, liquid in its financial assets, fervent in its outreach to the broader culture, and yet dead!

I fear it is precisely those reading this who say, in response, “Yes, but that’s not us,” who are particularly in jeopardy. It is the unsuspecting church, the unexamined church, the spiritually smug church that simply can’t believe a congregation that appears to have been so richly blessed by God (“After all, look at how many turned out for our Christmas pageant!”) could possibly be the focus of a divine rebuke such as we find in the words to Sardis".

Peter Day said...

I find it quite shocking that anyone can suggest that having doctrine means we don't need apostles! The apostles did so much more than simply teach doctrine and write scriptures (and others who weren't apostles wrote scripture).

Apostles laid foundations (1 Cor 3v10, Eph 2v20). They planted churches and ensured that they had solid Biblical foundations.

They pioneered (Rom 15v18-21) - stepping out into new territories.

They nurtured churches and were characterised by concern for them (2 Cor 11v28, 1 Thess 2v7-12, 1 Thess 3v10).

They encouraged pastors (1 Tim 1v1).

They appointed elders (Acts 14v23). NT church was not led by democracy and convenience, but by the Spirit of God.

They brought advice counsel and encouragement (Col 1v7).

They were given by the ascended Christ (Eph 4v8) and they remain gifts to the church "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph 4v13).

I believe you are right in that we must be presence shaped. We need apostolic leadership as they scriptures indicate. And we need prophetic direction - the voice of God in the midst of the people telling us "this is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30v21)

At the end of 2005 our leadership was seeking God in something of a low ebb. Much had happened that was not good, there had been great expectation for 2005 and yet little growth had taken place.

We sought the Lord, and the meeting was heavy. But then the Lord broke in and He spoke through one of the brothers "you are not a committee; you are to seek My face and listen to My voice. I am the God who speaks. Wait upon Me and I shall direct your paths."

It was a clear challenge and from that point our meetings changed. We still had an agenda, people still brought ideas to the meeting but instead of discussion of the ideas we laid them all before the Lord and waited for Him to speak. And He did. Every new ministry, every new appointment of leaders, we ask the Lord to show us. And, praise His name, He does.

If we are presence shaped, then the cloud of the glory should be in the midst of us and, like the children of Israel, we should follow the cloud. We need that so much!

Sheila said...

Great ideas to be seriously pondering, Dan. Personally, I feel that a true apostle, a true prophet will hold the church to sound theology....the true 5-fold calling will both call and correct. It will "call the church to" adherence to both a sound theology and a vibrant experience. It will "correct the church" when it diverts from either. I am aghast at the very idea that apostles and prophets are not needed...that any scholarly person would see theology and the apostle/prophet as being an either/or proposition.

Also, Dan, in one of your much earlier posts, you asked to hear from other complementarian women, and then I saw the issue briefly asserted (the "woman issue")in your blog of only a couple of days ago.

So here I am. *sweet smile* I am a devoted complementarian....with a call on my life to teach the Scripture. Isn't that just like God? (I could digress into much Biblical exegesis here, but time won't permit...)

Here is how I, personally, resolve the perceived conflict. (It truly is a "perceived" conflict - the Godhead is neither troubled nor confused about me...I am loved with an everlasting love, and was called and gifted to teach before the foundations of the world...)

I personally cannot condone a woman as pastor, or a woman as a church elder. No woman, if you follow the New Testament pattern, should be in a *governing* position in the local church. There is a great deal of difference between, say, my place in my local fellowship, and that of my husband, or that of an elder. A pastor and governing elders should be of the delightful and wholly capable male gender.

But in any church, "everyone can prophesy, one by one". If a person has a song or a word, gender does not factor in. When it comes to discipleship, on a personal level, gender rarely factors in. Women have, in the New Testament and even to this day, been used of God to expound the Scriptures "more effectively" to a male friend or aquaintance. All this, without coveting governing positions.

What woman in her right mind would want to govern the church of God? Governing positions are necessary, but are also the least effective means of impartation. So there. *perky sniff* I said it.

You have to have men who will set the course, so to speak. Men who set the rules in place and prayerfully call the shots in times of danger and dissention are as necessary to the church as the Bible itself. But even those men, if they are wise, would admit that a governing title does not always equal influence. These men, on a personal level, must sometimes take off their "governing robes", put down the gavel for a moment, and step down from the bench, to truly connect with people.

Therefore, as a woman, I have been given a far more powerful means of impartation...the freedom to influence without my motives being questioned. No one in my church suspects me of wanting to be ordained as an elder. Hearts are fully opened to me, in most cases. I am not climbing some unseen "corporate ladder" when I minister to them.

I have many close friends, male and female, who want to see me ordained. They have heard me teach, and their lives have been impacted. I just smile, appreciate the vote of confidence, but tell them that it'll be a cold day in you-know-where before I'd allow that. I think it is decidedly unBiblical.

Lastly, Dan, I absolutely MUST share a link with you that is completely unrelated to the discussion at hand. (she says, as she apologizes!)

I just read one of John Piper's latest messages...freshly delivered in 2007, and IT, my friend, is a "home run". Piper hit the ball clear out of the park on this one, and I have to share the link with you. Here it is:

If you trust my judgement at all, Dan, this is a "must read" when you get the time.

Blessings on your day!

Baxter's Boy said...

As always dear Sheila, you write so much and there is so much to ponder!! :) It is always a great joy hearing from you and I love your provokation to thought. Thank you too Pete and James for your comments.

Firstly re: MacArthur. I'm not usually one to run to his defence because he seems quite capable of doing that for himself. And I'm sure the friends he makes for himself can also fill in ;). But I earnestly believe that MacArthur's passion is to defend the canon of Scripture and that is something to be applauded. His fear as others (I guess) is that apostles set themselves up as writing infalliable words that will seek to add to Scripture. While that is admirable, pardon me - but I haven't yet discovered an apostle who is proclaiming he is writing Scripture! All I see are God-anointed servants with a passion to see churches planted. So we should make that distinction. Bravo MacArthur but no one is trying to add to Scripture I think.

Many thanks Sheila for the "voice" for complementarian women. You set a wonderful example and make a far more powerful case just by speaking than many men around today.

I did indeed take your advice as I value it highly and have read the Piper article. AWESOME!! Absolutely AWESOME!! If only this message was more characteristic of church leaders. The ones I come into contact with run a mile when any mention of sexual sin is spoken of and their methadology for dealing with it is "pluck out your eye and cut off your hand". Literally.

But Piper presents an awesome vision of superior pleasure that will be far stronger than any external restraints like being bodily mutilated! There is a call on our lives to fulfill - a commission to see come to pass - and sexual sin detracts from that. If we want to see the Bride of Christ come to her beautiful finished state then we don't have the time to mess around with sin!

Thanks so much again. John Piper is an awesome servant of God who we're so blessed to have in the Church.

Sheila said...

Well, while we are engaging in "The Great Conversation" here (about Scripture - which is a much greater basis for conversation than "EVEN" classic literature! *smile*) and while I have time - as the chili simmers in the pot, and hungry offspring make their way home - let me pop back in and say:

I actually LIKE John MacArthur. (blush) Is that Charismatic Heresy? He makes me crazy sometimes...but I like him. I do admire his passion for pure and right Scriptural interpretation. I just happen to disagree with him in some areas. And I disagree with him in fear and trembling...honestly, I do. Because I believe he is a man of God. Far be it from me to "touch God's anointed".

But I love Piper so much better. And I have a newfound esteem (dare I say "love"? Probably...) for the heart and writings of Ern Baxter.

WOW, I'm good at segways! So thank you for the time you devote to the conversation, at the round "table" in the pub...or coffee house...or gathered in a livingroom...wherever we are, in our imagination, it has been rich, and I pray it will continue to be a rich blessing, both for you, Dan, and for those who come here for refreshing (or for a fight! ACK!).

And I realize I say the word "personally" FAR too often. When I get into "stream of consciousness" writing (typing as I go, with no editing) I commit many mortal sins as a writer. Personally, I need to work on this. *she says, laughing out loud*

OBJECTIVELY, I say - "Talk to you soon...Grace and Peace be to you and all who visit here." :-)

Baxter's Boy said...

I would probably of liked him if he hadn't been shoved down our proverbial throats throughout my teenage years as the answer to charismatic excess. To be honest the first book I read of his was "Charismatic Chaos" and I found myself enjoying and getting hugely stirred by accounts of charismatic behaviour that MacArthur was obviously horrified by! Like for example Jack Hayford's vision of the Risen and Reigning Christ dispensing the Holy Spirit like coronation oil. Sounds absolutely amazing to me!

You're right - who are we to judge, and I certainly don't want to shoot him with the methods that he uses that upset me! Yes we can applaud his passion and sincere love for the truth of the Word of God. We need men like that. I guess that's why (like you Sheila) men like John Piper and Ern Baxter appeal to me more. They have the same passion and sincere love for the Word of God (although MacArthur would rank Ern as a charismatic heretic if 'Charismatic Chaos' is anything to go by) but they manage to focus on the good and the optimistic rather than constantly criticising.

I love the conversation. I really do. I don't write for comments because that's not the point of writing but I love it when people like you take the time to speak out with your opinion and it enables me to judge what I have written and re-think some of the random thoughts I have thrown out. Surely that's part of what being in the wider Body of Christ is all about?!

Church rules!!