Many years ago, probably the foremost prophet in New Zealand at the time, Nev Winger, prophesied over me for some time and a part of that included these words:
“I will bring upon you the burden of a church that is moving away from me day by day”.
Over the years I have had the privilege of seeing many wonderful moves of the Holy Spirit and of being a part of them. In the late 1960’s and through into the 1980’s the world was swept with the Charismatic Movement and New Zealand and the church we were attached to in Palmerston North was intensely involved in this wonderful move of God. In the early 1990’s we saw again a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit which started in Toronto, Canada and again we got deeply involved in this as the turn of the century came and went. These two great events and their subsidiaries effected much of the christian world in their time.
However, as always when the overwhelming presence and moving of the Holy Spirit wanes people gravitate back to their earlier theological, denominational and intellectually doctrinal positions. In fact maybe it is the human need for the security of these positions that slowly assert themselves within us and finally grieve the Holy Spirit and He retires in humility.
When the Holy Spirit comes in great presence and power there are no leaders in meetings. The spiritual authority of the overwhelming presence of God releasing the Life of God rules. If anyone tries to control or lead in any personal way that person is simply rendered irrelevant by God moving again as He wills. During these times many people rise to prominence because they are being used as catalysts of the presence of God. They may just stand up the front, or laugh, or cry, or speak, or just look at the congregation of people gathered and God moves in power all around the room in people’s lives. These people are revered and loved and rightly so because when they are there God sweeps through our hearts and works wonders in us. God sweeps through our hearts because they are there.
Which brings me to my point.
When there is no moving of the Holy Spirit in these ways we are tempted to gravitate back to perspectives and ways of church life that were formulated in the absence of the dominant presence of God. This can focus some on a perceived need for leadership over the church. Hence we see, when the Spirit of God is still, a focus on ‘raising up leaders’ through myriad leadership training programs etc. This draws many for a cross section of motives many of which are simply fallen ambitiousness and desire for prominence.
(Why anyone would want to have lots of people following them I cannot imagine.)
The words leader and leadership are specifically condemned in scripture. Paul says to not follow even himself or Peter as leaders. He condemned those who saw Moses as their leader and encouraged them to not follow Moses but to follow the One Moses followed. Jesus told people not to follow in obedience the even great words of the prophets, Holy men and apostles who wrote the words of the Bible. He said all of the writings of these people were not to make us followers of the writers and their writings but that by hearing of God through the writings we would seek God Himself. We don’t follow leaders we only follow the voice and reality of God that can be manifested through people who can bring that reality to us. This is the imperative. We follow the voice and reality of God when it is directly revealed to us as Him, not the ones through whom we heard the voice of God.
Jesus said in one place, ‘my sheep hear my voice ….. and follow me’.
Jesus came into my heart and life in a paddock of a farm 51 years ago. The reality of His presence in and with me has been my life and only desire ever since. As I have heard hundreds, perhaps thousands of preachers, teachers and speakers since the one thing that has been my focus has been whether I can hear the voice of God to me through them at that time. I have always been focussed on do I feel, sense, smell and touch the presence of the One whom I fell in love with so long ago.
You see Paul was not a leader! Paul was a carrier of the manifestation of God. He was one who walked in a triumphant procession consisting of God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit and who knows how many angels and other heavenly realities. Paul was a sacrament, God was revealed in him. Paul was one who had an indwelling Person who shone out of Him. Where he went people were able to smell and touch the aroma of Christ. Where Paul was God drew people to Himself. Paul said he was nothing but one who plants or waters. His ministry did not come into the concepts of leadership.
Oh, I know many who may read this will say, ‘what about this verse or that verse?’ The arguing mind will come up with all kinds of justifications and rationalisations to validate their ‘leadership’ purposes. I have a good arguing mind myself. But I have been around all of those mountains too and come back again and again to the reality that mans plans and ways cannot do the work of God. Use your non biblical ideas of christian ministry but you will find that as my old helper on the way Ken Wright said, ‘big wheels turning in little circles’. You cannot have a ministry you can only become a ministry.
Christian ministry is a bottle of perfume. You can lead some organisation even very well, but if you have no bottle of perfume you’re not building the Kingdom.
How do you get a bottle of perfume?
A life lived loving the Lord alone. A dying to all human ambitions for significance, legacy leaving and having a reputation of any kind. (It has taken many people and mostly my own foolishness followed by the judgemental advertising of the self righteous for me to be relieved from the burden of a reputation and freed into the grace of God alone as my backbone).
It takes even a dying to the calling of God on your life so you become a God made man or woman of heaven not a humanly made idea of a man or woman of God. (Trying to learn to be a christian leader is your attempt to become what only God can make you.)
A life of many many encounters with God in your gethsemane’s and many many times of intimate and personal words spoken to you in secret. A path away from the values of this world and a path into the ways and thinking of God. Becoming one who knows what God has said not just because it’s written but because He has talked with you directly about it. One who does not follow even great men but follows what great men followed. It takes an inexorable love for God that will be food abundant for you and you’ll care not whether there are any benefits in return.
You cannot earn a bottle of perfume through devotion, obedience or faithfulness. You cannot claim it by faith, by standing on promises or believing for it in the shallows of positive thinking and spiritual entitlement cultures.
You only become a player on the great field of God’s moving for the redemption of mankind at God’s discretion. (Wanting to be or becoming a leader is rendered presumption under this light.) And because you see Him and love Him you will have your joy in that others see Him and love Him as you do. You will only be able to do what He does through you and you will have no say over the time extent, ministry content or effect of ‘your’ perfume.
Because it was never yours. It is only and always, gift.
Oh so wonderful.