MODELS OF LEADERSHIP 

 

Introduction: This article is not about the Lord's people; it is about the religious system of men that has caused us to stray off the narrow path.  As most now recognize that we are moving closer and closer to the return of the Lord; the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 gives a glimpse of the Father's heart. 

As a father myself; I can tell you that when I see one of my younger daughters sleeping on the couch; a deep love and pride fill my heart.  I am certain that even though some of the church is spiritually asleep; our Father in heaven has a fullness of love for each of His children. 

With this understanding though; let us not lose sight of the fact that a Holy God will execute His vengeance on every institution of man that keeps His children from walking in the light of His truth and experiencing the freedom purchased for us at the cross.

As we enter into a discussion of leadership issues, it would be helpful to first have dialogue that hopefully expresses in a prophetic sense what our intent is.  When we consider how vast God’s word is, from the time of Adam when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” calling out to Adam saying “where are you?” – to the time when Jesus described the Father’s heart waiting for His prodigal son...”when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”  – To the end of the age when the Word of God beckons us...  And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him who hears say, “Come!”  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

We can see then that the heart of the LORD God our Father is as He proclaimed to Moses, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.

As you consider what is written below, it is our hope that the eyes of your understanding will be opened and your resolve will be for holiness in the camp of the LORD tempered by patience and compassion for those who may not yet see what the Lord has made you aware of.

The purpose of these pages then is to speak to the “Prodigal” son (the church) and say, open your eyes for you are squandering your inheritance on riotous living; you are feeding on food defiled by doctrines of demons.  Lift up your head, for the Bread of Life that came down from heaven is in the Father’s house.  The Father is saying “Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

The complexity of the challenges facing today’s church is only compounded by the issues within the leadership or if you will, the segment of the church known as the “clergy” whose characteristics generally fall in one of the following categories:

 

1) Sincere men and women of God (The Philadelphia Church) that are aided by an equally sincere body of believers who’s mission is shaped by the will of God as expressed in His word.  Shilohouse Ministries would like to uplift or  aid in any  way possible the success of this type of ministry.  In the sharing of thoughts or insights on this website, being  unwilling  to help another group of believers meet the challenges facing today's church would  only  be offering  intellectual agreement to “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”  (Ephesians 4:3), and would in fact be nothing more than casting stones at another precious child of God. 

 

I cannot stress enough how much of a burden is in our hearts for the many wonderful men and women of God struggling to lead in today's churches, if God supplies His grace, we do want to help those who are honestly looking for answers.

 

 2) The second category consists of sincere men and women of God that are surrounded by institutional mechanisms that diminish the increase of His government.  The authentic cry in this leader’s heart for the cause of Christ is usually undermined by a complex political establishment whose underlying spiritual reality is best illustrated by the environment that Jesus described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. 

 

The challenges presented by these influences are actually compounded by our misguided belief that growing the institution is somehow synonymous with growth in the body.  In fact the opposite is generally true. 

 

Often in a corporate sense, we experience the phenomenon of  “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” 

 

Many times leaders and members’ best intentions are under cut by institutional mechanisms that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and work against His authority, as these devices are not sufficiently grounded in His word and in many cases are not found in the Bible at all. 

 

Regardless of the individual situations, what should remain foremost in our minds and bring forth a brokenness and weeping in our hearts is the advancing of the forces of darkness upon the body of Christ.   In most cases, when we use the methods of men in an attempt to do something 'for God', the devil and his forces gain ground within the church.

Tragically, part of the result of this in modern times is the annual loss of an appalling number of precious men and women of God who can no longer bear the weight of leadership.  To those congregations looking for answers, Shilohouse Ministries will humbly and prayerfully consider helping to identify on a case by case basis what may be necessary in restoring a fruitful congregational mission.    To reiterate what was said initially, we don’t have all the answers, we just believe that the God we serve is full of grace and mercy and He desires to execute His justice and mercy among His people.  And His justice will restore His people.

3)The third category of leaders in the body of Christ is best described by the prophet Ezekiel in Chapter 34, verses 1-10.  —  “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!  Should not the shepherds feed the flocks

You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.  The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 

So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.  My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” 

‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! 

Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”

In Matthew 23:25, Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites because they cleansed “the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”

Paul echoing these thoughts made a very penetrating statement when he wrote: “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”  (2 Corinthians 12:14b)

Many times, the leaders that have fallen from grace are blinded to their condition and remain in that state because the institutional mechanisms that played a part in their moving into a leadership role in the first place, can also be used to protect them from a genuine process of biblical correction outlined in Matthew 18 verses 15-20. 

The problem in part is that many in the body fail to grasp the true intent of this.  Biblical correction is not meant to tear down or destroy a minister, rather it allows for righteous judgment to be set in motion. 

Galatians 6:1 says "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”  So then the intent of biblical correction is restoration and wholeness that comes as a result of righteous judgment.

What compounds the challenge of bringing biblical correction to leadership is that in many American churches we too often recognize and promote elders customarily with a greater weight being given to their socioeconomic status and their business acumen versus their spiritual standing according to biblical guidelines.  While faithfulness in natural things should never be overlooked, (per 1Timothy 3) we are not to give preferential treatment to ones “in fine apparel” (see James 2:1-9).  According to verse 9 if you “show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

It is certainly true that many successful Christian business owners are doing a wonderful job serving as elders, the problem is that “entrepreneur” has often been added as an unwritten prerequisite to the list of credentials outlined in 1Timothy 3. 

We tend to gravitate towards the familiar and elders whose experiences include raising up successful businesses tend to lead to eldership teams that have as a primary focus the improvement or enlargement of church incorporated while the spiritual issues that confront (and undermine) a community of believers are often not given the proper attention. 

Many times the correction (or righteous judgment) that a leader may desperately need, is set aside as the focal point of our attention remains the expansion of the institution. 

When we only concentrate on Church Incorporated; many leaders (pastors) fail to be subjected to a “Matthew 18 process” meant to restore spiritual fruitfulness to their ministry. Instead what is generally portrayed is the appearance of accountability through the presence of some sort of umbrella organization that has few genuine relationships within a local congregation. Instead of allowing this to continue, we should clearly raise a standard that communicates to the body of Christ that there is neither room for, nor do we condone or excuse the avoidance of biblical accountability and correction for anyone in a leadership role.

Another aspect of accountability that hasn’t even been mention yet is what happens when a leader is in open sin or rebellion.  Remember Matthew 18 is for those situations that start out as a trespass between two believers; and in our example a leader may be just one of the two parties involved.  However where there is open sin or rebellion; a “Matthew 18 process” is not always what should happen; as this allows the leaven to spread in the midst of the congregation. 

While the "Matthew 18 process" is implied in the next scripture from 1Timothy; it appears that where sin or false doctrine are involved in eldership; there are situations that arise where one should go directly to rebuking "in the presence of all."   1Timothy 5:19-21 says “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all that the rest also may fear.  I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”

An example of this type of situation where Matthew 18 might be bypassed is outlined by Paul in Galatians 2:  “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?"  Obviously Peter as an example was being emulated by others and was immediately called into account for His actions

Where there is lack of accountability, (coupled with other issues), it only complicates the dynamics of congregational life since the leadership should be walking as “examples to the flock” (1Peter 5:3).  A “minister” that will not walk in accountability to fellow elders will only cultivate through his example a people that will not accept oversight in their lives.

As was previously mentioned, these types of situations are in part a result of the spiritual realities that Jesus spoke of in Revelation 2 and 3.  Be sure that what follows may be offensive to some, but our prayer is that instead of offending, it will cause Godly sorrow (that) produces repentance leading to salvation. As you read through these examples, remember they are not meant to be all inclusive, instead they should serve to illustrate the tip of the iceberg in each area.

1. Leaving their First Love — Many times in our zeal to minister to those around us, we end up leaving behind the One who called us in the first place.  We need to remember that true ministry engages believers in obedience to God’s word and is accompanied by intimacy with our bridegroom, Jesus.  When we fail to place our relationship with Jesus first, the well of “living water” that Jesus spoke of in John 4:10 -14 seems to dry up, and we end up ministering from our own limited resources instead of the unlimited supply that comes through the Holy Spirit.   

A helpful question that you might ask of yourself would be; ‘Do I talk more about what I am doing for Jesus than I talk about Jesus?’  There is not a black and white answer to this question; our response should merely serve as an indicator of which way the scale is tipped

2. Deeds & Doctrine of the Nicolaitans — The term “Nicolaitan” comes from the Greek word Nikolaos (Strong’s reference G3532) which means “victorious over the people.”  Jesus said that He hates this “lording over” that happens in man-made religious institutions.  He went on to say in John 15:14-15 that “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” 

Paul echoes this thought in Galatians 4:7 by writing that we...  “are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” 

It is amazing to think that even though the words of our Lord would elevate us to a place where we “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, there are those leaders who seek to make others obedient to a political process that tempts believers to pursue the favor of men instead of the honor that comes from God alone

In these times, the problem arises in part from men attempting to lead through a positional authority that is granted by religious institutions which is in contrast to men (and women) leading as a result of servant authority granted by the Head of the church – Jesus Christ. 

Putting it more candidly, Senior Pastor is an official position given to those immersed in religious institutions. A pastor (or apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher) is a spiritual function within the Kingdom of God. 

There is only one ‘official position’ within the body of Christ, and that ‘position’ is the Head of the church and Jesus Christ alone occupies this place. 

There are many leaders in the church who know in the deep recesses of their heart that the spiritual function they began with has been compromised by the official position that they have accepted within the religious institution.

3. Blasphemy — In Jesus’ time, there were many Pharisees who through careful examination of the Holy Scriptures came to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.  While some struggled with the implications of this paradigm shift (i.e., Nicodemus), “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7b)  In contrast to this, there were many scribes and Pharisees who resisted the messianic role of Jesus to the point of accusing Him of having a demon.  (John 8:48-52)

 

In the Hebrew language the word "blaspheme" is expressed as "nakav" which means to pierce or bore.  Jesus began the beatitudes by saying,  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – and progresses in thought to conclude – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

 

Unbelievers who are unable to perceive the power of God that matures a new Christian often ridicule this process of consecration.  Many times, this sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is mocked within the church as well. 

 

The established leaders and church “members” seek to conform maturing believers to the religious codes and practices of an institution, rather than encouraging them to be conformed to the image of Christ. 

 

You see, there was a spirit of religion that was behind the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and this same spirit is alive and well in today’s church and is still trying to kill the deposit of Jesus that is in each believer.

 

Paul wrote in Romans 2:28-29 that a believer “is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter;** whose praise is not from men but from God.” 

 

Remember Jesus said  “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not...”From this we can deduce that those who are not truly “Jews” practice only an outward expression that thrives on the praise of men.

 

So then, when we divert a brother or sister from heartfelt obedience to the Spirit of God (an inward work) and instead press them into obeying a code of conduct (performance) rooted in the traditions of men, we enter into the realm of what Jesus referred to as blasphemy. 

 

Unfortunately, in most cases the leading of the Holy Spirit and what He is calling us to do is vastly different from what may be expected of us within a “program based” or institutional church.

    

**Note: To our precious Jewish readers, it is not our intent to be disrespectful in anyway with what is written; on the contrary some of the loftier expressions recorded in the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) concerning relationship with G-d are considered “Jewish” by nature.

 

4. Holding the doctrine of Balaam — Another way of expressing this would be to “run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” – (see Jude 11). 

 

As the gift of prophecy and the five-fold equipping gift of a prophet have been and are being restored to the church, certain “guidelines” have been introduced into the mix that cause this gifting to be manipulated for the purpose of upholding certain institutional doctrines. 

 

One such practice occurs when someone with a prophetic utterance is required to have what the Lord has given pre-approved by the leadership of a church to see if the word applies to their situation or to see if it “flows” with what those in ”authority” already see. 

 

I have even heard it suggested that when someone perceives that God has given them a “word”, they should wait and share it with the pastor and then if he feels o.k. about this “word” then it can be shared at a later date. 

 

These doctrines or practices of man directly conflict with the Word of God. 

 

Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 14:31-32 that “you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”  When does this happen?  “Whenever you come together” (vs. 26).  Verse 29 says “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” 

 

So then there is no elapsed time between the receiving of a prophetic word and the speaking of this word, and this word is discerned or judged by other prophets not by a pastor or another religious leader in the midst. (Certainly a “prophetic word” that is judged openly by other prophets in the midst of an assembly will deter those who have a tendency to operate “in the flesh” especially if those who prophesy are encouraged in the Lord to continue to seek Him concerning the use of their gifting).

 

It is also true that when we fail to adhere to biblical guidelines, our tendency is to smooth over what has been given.  It is a certainty that the gift of prophecy is for “edification and exhortation and comfort”, and while this is evident, we must differentiate between the gift of prophecy and the five-fold equipping function of a prophet. 

 

A five-fold prophet may foretell of pending catastrophic events that move beyond the scope of what is generally thought of as the gift of prophecy, (see Agabus in Acts 11:27-28, 21:9-11) or a five-fold prophet can be used by the Lord to expose sin in the midst of a congregation. 

 

Pastors, on the grounds of “protecting the sheep” many times resist these types of prophetic utterances.

 

This motive is obviously admirable, but sometimes the motive is not only for protection, as sometimes in the midst of prophetic moments fear rises up as we become concerned about possibly offending someone in the meeting.

 

We have obligated ourselves financially to many things within the traditional / institutional church and maybe we begin to think about how much brother and sister so and so contribute and become concerned that the prophetic word might offend them. Within many traditional settings, there are high expectations for a church service to go a certain way and the pressure exerted to meet these expectations is considerable.

 

Many times the planning of a church service has in mind (at least subconsciously) retention and/or growth in the membership.  The logic being that if we can have some nice music, and bring forth a nice message, and end our services at a predetermined time; then this predictability will help facilitate church growth. 

 

We are creatures of habit, and given the opportunity, we tend to erect comfort zones for ourselves, and our congregations.  This type of thinking then will conflict with prophetic meetings, since prophecy is inherently unpredictable.

 

2 Corinthians 3:17 says “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”    The liberty that is central to a prophetic meeting many times run against what a pastor may deem as proper.  The gift of prophecy that is for “edification and exhortation and comfort” certainly will make you feel good and generally stays within the comfort realm of many, while the corrective word of a five-fold prophet will many times leave you feeling uncomfortable, bewildered, or convicted. 

 

It is a human tendency to give more to ministries or causes that make you feel good, and only allowing positive “feel good” prophetic words to come forth in a congregation will maximize this effect.  We believe this practice is an abomination before God and is a form of running “greedily in the error of Balaam for profit.”

 

5. Allowing Jezebel, to teach and seduce God’s servants — So much has been written and taught about the spirit of Jezebel, that it would be best to confine our discussion to a couple basic thoughts.

 

Whenever we talk about the spiritual influence of Jezebel and committing sexual immorality we need to understand first that the reference to sexual immorality can relate to our spiritual unfaithfulness to Jesus, our bridegroom. 

 

John the Baptist said in John 3:29a “He who has the bride is the bridegroom”... which reflect an earlier thought in Isaiah 62:5 — “For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”  

 

We believe it is a forgone conclusion that the teaching and seduction of the bride by Jezebel moves God’s people away from the heart and purposes of the Bridegroom.

 

Before we can discuss the influence of Jezebel, it would aid our discourse to have some understanding of what swayed Jezebel and what the implications of that are in this discussion.  In the times when Jezebel lived on the earth, many of the children of Israel were given over to the worship of Baal.  In the Hebrew tongue this word can mean  “possessor” and signifies at least indirectly the god of the increase, whether this increase involves land or wealth or influence.

 

The methods employed by Jezebel are designed to undermine biblical decision making that should be kept initially within the framework of a plurality of elders, (see Acts 15 for an example of this).  This controlling influence (male or female) will typically work to appeal to the fleshly desires within a leader for ‘success’ in ministry. 

 

The pattern becomes fairly easy to recognize when we consider the biblical story of Jezebel (see 1 Kings 21:1-16) and how she used Ahab’s own desires to acquire what otherwise was impossible for him to have. 

 

It is interesting to note that in her ability to gain the cooperation of others, she was able to present the public appearance of lawfulness.  This in turn gave her greater influence over Ahab even as he appeared to have acquired greater wealth.

 

Are we implying that all pastors are Ahab type men captivated by their own desires?  Certainly not! 

 

What we are trying to communicate is this:  Until what is corruptible puts on incorruption (1Corinthians 15:50-54) we are always in danger of falling, especially when biblical accountability is not in place and when biblical checks and balances are non existent. 

 

These things are incontrovertible even more so when in America (or western civilization) wealth, influence and fame are well within our grasp.

 

As we examine the modern American church, we need to ask this question: Is the acquisition of land and the enormous facilities that we erect the result of God’s blessing or does it reflect a people who’s hearts and methods have been seduced away from the heart of our Bridegroom?

 

6. Having a name that you are alive, but you are dead — In numerous places, and especially in metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. one can see billboards along the highway proclaiming the virtues of denominational church A, charismatic church B, non-denominational church C, etc. 

 

I am sure that many who are reading this can think of examples of church advertising where you see a larger than life picture of the senior pastor with his name, the name of the church, and NO reference to Jesus Christ our Lord at all. 

 

What kind of satanic strategy have we given ourselves over to when we allow ourselves to think that promoting the names and personalities of church leaders is more effective than lifting up the Name of the Glorious One; Jesus Christ? 

 

It’s as if the advertising strategies of Madison Avenue have supplanted the Kingdom principles for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our land.

 

When we participate in these types of growth strategies, we foster carnality within the body of Christ. 

 

In 1 Corinthians 3:4 scripture says “For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?”  In our day the thought would look more like ‘I go to this place because I like what Pastor Smith teaches, Pastor Jones really loves God; that’s why I attend there.  The response of God’s word would be; ‘Are you not carnal?’ 

 

We think we have a name, and are alive, but we’re dying.  In ancient Shinar there was a people with a common purpose, they said  “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The response of the Lord is the same now as it was then.  “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” 

 

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:4-6 that There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Since this is true, why is the body of Christ so fragmented?

 

In Mark chapter 8 Jesus said ““Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 

 

God has imparted Kingdom truth into many pastors and teachers within His church, however when we are tempted with our own desire for renown and begin to make a name for ourselves, the end result in today’s church is the denominational confusion that allows the gates of hell to prevail against us rather than a victorious people who destroy the works of the devil. 

 

The winds of confusion that are blowing through the church are a direct result of the sin of Babel that we have given ourselves over to.  Our only course of action is repentance that our “sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

 

As a dear brother reminded me recently, the only one who is to increase is Jesus, the rest of us have been given the privilege of preparing the way of the Lord. 

 

In other words we’ve been given a “ministry of decrease”, and “God forbid that I (any of us) should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”   (Galatians 6:14).

 

7.  Being lukewarm — False Doctrine of Grace  -  When Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said that he was innocent of the blood of all men; for he had not “shunned to declare to you the full counsel of God.”

 

I believe that this ‘full counsel’ lies somewhere within the spectrum of two truths that Paul taught.  He taught that we could not be separated from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 8:29-39).

 

In other words he taught about the over-abundant sufficiency of the cross of Christ and the overwhelming power of the blood of Christ that purchased our eternal security.    

 

He also taught us to press on that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of us (see Phil. 3:7-15).  In the context of this passage Paul was simply saying that he had not yet arrived at his destination.

 

What are the implications of this?  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24 — “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” 

 

The course of this ‘race’ that Paul speaks of was described by Jesus when He said “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14). 

 

This ‘difficult’ path was walked out by Jesus, His disciples, and countless brothers and sisters over the last two millenniums. 

 

When we consider the epistles of the New Testament, most of them invoke ‘grace’ upon the readers.  What was this grace for? 

 

Many times the meaning of ‘grace’ is somehow perverted to mean that God for some reason has chosen to ignore our continuing in sin after we have been “saved.” 

 

We believe that this false teaching cultivates a lukewarm spiritual condition in the body of Christ. 

 

The cross of Christ is our sufficiency for sin, and in the midst of this, the grace of Father-God is so that we might walk the ‘difficult' path of life with a prevailing faith and joy that causes us to lay hold of the fullness of God’s purpose for our lives.

 

So then the true intent of God’s grace is not to be used as some trump card that we continually play over and over again every time we sin, rather the grace of God teaches “us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).

 

It is possible to enter into an endless theological discussion that would bring forth the glorious truths concerning the power of God to deliver us from sin, instead let us consider this question:  Can we continue in life long habitual patterns of sin and have confidence towards God? 

 

1 John 3:18-21 says “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.  For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.”

 

If we fall into sin and our realization of this produces godly sorrow, then certainly every conceivable provision from our Lord is available so that we might overcome; if however sin in our lives produces a theological response concerning our eternal security then we have a lukewarm faith and our standing with God is fragile at best.

 

 Some Concluding Thoughts

What is so tragic about the spiritual influences in Revelation 2 & 3 is how they affect men and women in the Kingdom of God that began the race with the most honorable of intentions.   I believe the Holy Spirit is truly grieved over these things that keep us from Him, things which separate us from the fullness of what God has for us.

 

Many times during the course of writing this; it has become apparent to me that all of us have  participated fully in much if not all of the practices that have been exposed on these pages.   This being true, how can we in good conscious stand on the outside pointing an accusatory finger at the rest of the body of Christ.

 

In conclusion we at Shilohouse do not desire to be in a place where we stand apart accusing our brothers and sisters; rather we would stand with and stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters / fellow ministers in the institutional church.  We would stand with them saying: Father-God… Abba forgive us for we have sinned, forgive our iniquity, forgive our backbiting, and forgive the traditions of men that we walk in – making your commandments void of meaning and purpose. 

 

Forgive us Father for walking in the vanity of our own hearts, our own minds, forgive our pride; turn us Father, turn our hearts towards you and heal us, so that we might serve you in reverence, in holiness, and in joy. That we might be a fruitful branch, that we might bring forth Your Word of Life to a dry and thirsty world around us.

 

Thank you Father that You are merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. 

 

We thank you for hearing our prayer according to the promise of Your Son, our Lord and Savior; Jesus Christ.  For it is in His name we pray, amen.

 

 

 

 To the precious Saints of God who are currently in the midst of the types of challenges spoken of here, (and many are) we find it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Remember the battle is the Lord’s and He may be asking you to stay and continue to do your best to work through the challenges before you.

However there are, those reading this who have already sensed that the Lord is calling you out, or perhaps you have already left a local fellowship of believers.  We know that spiritually, this is a very difficult time in your life.  We exhort do not forsake the assembling of yourself with other believers, especially since we all know that The Day of the Lord is approaching. 

Our appeal to you is to not let the wounds you received in the last church you attended keep you from being engaged in the body of Christ and walking with biblical expressions of servant-leadership.  If you feel led of the Lord to seek out another traditional church, then it is our prayer that what has been written here will be useful in helping you choose your next church home.  

On the other hand, the Lord may be impressing upon your heart to return to a first century type - house to house - relational expression of fellowshipping.  If this is you, then we humbly submit what we believe to be a biblical paradigm for walking with the Lord and other believers.

The Vision posted in the following pages may seem incomplete.  If this is true, consider this: maybe it will seem fuller once you have added the part that the Holy Spirit has given to you. 

 

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