Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My Kind of Broken: The Prophetic

According to JR Woodward the Prophetic Ministry moves like this:
PROPHET - Revealer. Focal Concern: Walking with God. Destination: Spirit transforming communities, standing with the poor and oppressed.
Let's take those elements and a few typically associated ones, one at a time.  First I'll explore the supernatural strengths, then the weaknesses of the gifting.

About Knowing What's Going To Happen

One of my pastor friends told me that interacting with me is like talking to an oracle.  Sometimes that means telling others what is going to happen flat out.  Other times it means knowing what to say in a roundabout manner to help someone move into the space that God is calling them to go.  Both are good, but developing someone else's capacity to hear God is a challenging avenue of the gift.  Think Neo's conversation in the movie Matrix.

There are prophetesses in scripture, in the New Testament (a future post?) and the Old.  Deborah knew God's will, for example.  She knew when it was time to attack Sisera.  She even knew because of Barak's answer that the glory he might have had would pass to a woman.  She knew what would happen before it happened.  How did she do that??  Our head pastor at SFB has said that he knows some people can do this; see things coming.  He also can't explain it, but he's seen it in others before.

I can help people develop their hearing of the Spirit, I've done it a lot and it's what I'm currently challenging myself to provide so disciples might grow.  However, I don't think I get to that level yet with most people.  It comes out in a place of consistent trust with the person I'm interacting with.  Otherwise I just kind of get insecure about using the gift and I falter.

Also someone can't just come up to me and ask what's going to happen in any give situation.  It has to be something I am emotionally engaged in... where I have already sensed that something is at stake.  In that situation if someone asks me what is going to happen, I can get prophetic.  My test results indicated that a score of 30 or higher would mean maturity, so at "27" I'm not there yet.  I'm wrong still a lot.  It is most easiest for me when I spend time in deep meditative prayer - God rushes my mind with information from the things I've seen and heard and He interprets them for me.  Occasionally He tells me what people have said behind closed doors, when they think they have the most privacy.

About Spiritual Transformation

Some examples... I have had dreams on rare occasion.  Dreams warned me and given me stark juxtaposition of a matter so that I can paint a picture of what is going on.  I am good at discernment of people in the places God has called me to be, independent of how long I've known them.  Outside of that, for some reason, I'm off.  The gift of discerning spirits is the ability to tell what spiritually composes a person.  Do they know the Spirit, really, or are they just caught up in the more busy levels of being a Christian?  Most struggles people have that keep them from the Spirit stem from the challenges of life and wounds and fears associated with those.  In some cases, they are spiritual strongholds or even spiritual compromises in favor of a spirit that opposes and mocks God.

On a community level also I can tell what spiritually composes a group.  To me this is the most interesting because it's complex like chess, except I'm a piece on the board too.  I hear the spiritual composition of many people at once and consider how they go into play to affect one another.  Everybody has mission particular to them as an individual.  However there is measurement of mission taken at the community macro level.  The question is, what is God saying to the community?  Groups never really present themselves as either better or worse than others - that's not what the gift points out to me.  What it gives me is a map of how people are listening for God and how anyone might enlarge what God is asking them to do.  That data is useful for someone such as an elder to listen to.  I can see when things are headed in a direction of concern, way before they play out for all to see.  Sometimes I know the players and what they're going to do.  Sometimes it's a surprise to me who enacts what I sensed.  Being merely present informs me, especially body language.

Just walking onto grounds, before I see a single person, informs me.  I can feel it just approaching the property of the community.  I can feel the attitude come into my soul, and information start coming into my brain from God, He totally equips me by walking onto a space.  Then scripture starts trickling in, to show me where God is calling.

About Standing With The Poor And Afflicted

Ahh, finally.  I know what's wrong with me.  Jeesh.  I can't tell you what it meant to me to hear that part of what it is to practice the prophetic way is to stand with the poor and afflicted.  This comes straight from the heart of God.  When Jesus began His ministry He stood up in His hometown and quoted Isaiah 61:1-3,
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
What a mission statement!  It was man's need that made God in Christ arise from His place of splendor in heaven and descend to the earth.  He is compelled.  So might I.  I don't have to feel weird.  It's okay for me to be me.  However, I take a look at myself - I spend so much time being completely at home around the unchurched, and hardly get around to manifesting that unconditional love of God toward the church.  More on this below.

How Do We Hear What God is Saying?

It is becoming easier to read as I grow up in the LORD.  Mission comes within worship.  Mission (God's will; what God wants us to do, for a person or people group to reach others for the sake of Christ) always comes out of our relationship, nay higher; the very Being of God.  Whatever mission we think we find out of our relationship with God ought to match up with the commands of scripture, and it should be formed and guided by scripture.

So as we worship God and attain His exaltation, that moment of worship is never lacking a referral to people outside the church.  And to have that referral in common with other Christians is what we call "community" - entering into intimate life with others around that mission to achieve it.  Listen to Francis Chan hearing the will of God for his life.  He focused singularly on God for some time, to worship, and walked away with mission.

I hope to get into this issue of "listening" more and more in posts to come.  Especially from a scriptural point of view instead of my words.  I go back in scripture and read and it is just tripping over itself being prophetic within the narratives.  Why is it that we think we are meant to glorify our God with the circumstances of our lives, but conversely we don't really believe that God is also using the unspiritual or earthly circumstances of our lives to show us like a hammer to the head where we're out of alignment with our identity in Him?  Chan didn't need to create God's will from some new wind of doctrine, but he heard right out of the context of the earthly choices he had made that day.

Hopefully the reader is starting to sense how God can mentor us through His Word to speak like an oracle, being certain of what God is saying....  It's a lot of fun to get in touch with the Holy Spirit, to get a big picture of God in our lives.  Bear with me and I'll show you passages where Jesus and His immediate community are ad nauseam unpacking Kingdom from their immediate situations.

I often come out of these worship times with God and unload a message, which just happens to be exactly what the pastor is preaching on, or the speaker is speaking about in the Body where I'm engaged.  Usually I speak it 1-6 days before the message is spoken by others.  On rare occasion my identical message comes a day or several afterward.  Most commonly I have beaten pastors to their messages time after time after time, it's crazy.  It's totally not me, as with all of this stuff - the Spirit is one voice, and He is speaking to all of us what He wants to say.  That, is exciting.

How To Love A Prophetic Servant

All of above are the strengths of this gifting, and I hope you marvel at the Spirit because I do.  Have you ever thought of a strength as a weakness?  I have.  It's very hard to not have people really understand what it is you're doing, can't help but doing.  I can't help being near people who are lonely or left out.  I just can't.  I find myself driven this way no matter how safe and perfect a setting with mature and incorporated Christians might be - I think I spot someone who isn't feeling quite a part of things and I'm drawn like a moth to the light.  It's compulsion inside of me, not pride or opportunity.  My blood boils as I survey the scene, I find that sort of person, and ahh, I feel right at home.  I can't stop and I can't yet develop how God might move me according to some other priority in the Body.  I have to develop ears to hear how He speaks on His various concerns.

Even trying to break away from this directive for months has not done a lot of help.  There is a lot of pain... in feeling alone myself, even though there are others around me.  I guess I feel alone because I am conscious that I'm going to a particular kind of person to the exclusion of others.  I feel that there is a relational space between me and a good percentage of the Body but so unfortunately not intended.  It doesn't really exist, truly.  But because I'm driven to a particular demographic, I feel it emotionally nonetheless.  It's painful to know that God has laid something important on my heart, and I'm not sure if anyone in the Body understands or cares... or approves, even?  I'm afraid of that.  It's painful to be drawn to one kind of spot in the Body and never develop relationships with those who seem to truly feel safe and loved.  I feel the responsibility to try.

One thing the Christian reader here can do to love someone who operates like this, is to invite them.  They are hurting and they don't know how to talk about it.  Pull them out of their rut.  Whether that's a spot on the pew or the grass or into a home for dinner.  Secretly they are hungry to belong, to develop relationships with the mature.  It's just not in their nature to go there first.  Invite them also to speak from time to time on what God is saying, or to use their gifting for your benefit.  They are most at peace when they see that even the mature and secure are also broken and hurting.  That just blesses them and blows their mind.  It expands their horizons and helps them grow up in the gifting.

A Possible Picture of the Ecclesiology

The three men in the video below I would guess are all gifted differently concerning the 5-fold.  There can be a good deal of misunderstanding and confusion and questioning that needs to happen just to create awareness that none of these gifts individually have the whole picture of how to best serve the church.  It's uncomfortable to air all your thoughts with people who are driven differently.  But thank God these men went there.  In spite of the rockiness of what you see below, this is a mostly healthy picture of ecclesiology - especially if they should grow to trust one another once they get up from the table, not feel threatened by each other.  Do you see how each one of them could, potentially, walk away with feelings of being attacked, offended or ignored?  It's there.  Joshua Harris is the author of books such as "I Kissed Dating Goodbye."  Mark Driscoll started the missional organization known as Acts 29 churches.  I believe Francis Chan is a depiction of how it is possible to be simultaneously in complete obedience to God individually and yet have a narrow perspective.

The sweet spot for a prophetic servant is to have a trust relationship with elders, or with the Body generally, who commit to hearing a good deal of what the servant wants to bring out, and then, for the prophetic servant to step back and say "the rest is up to you - and I trust you to interpret and apply it out as you see best."  Then the prophetic servant can kick back and enjoy the love and bond with the Body knowing they've done their part, and they can experience incorporation and ministry at once.

Monday, August 06, 2012

5-Fold: Introduction

It is refreshing to have recently gone through the Forgotten God by Francis Chan DVD Study Resource in a group of ladies this summer.  In the first few chapters Chan asks us to think about what role the Holy Spirit has in our lives and how we see and experience His work.  What is He capable of?  Chan says that there are pretty much two options in the average Evangelical array of churches: pentecostal sorts of exuberancy, and then something close to almost cessationism where the Spirit doesn't have much expression at all besides an intellectual thought-experiment (as my friend Tim describes it) in reading the Bible alone.

Missio writers have called this way of being Christian "cognitive discipleship."  Chan asks, where is the power of God in the circumstances of our lives that the apostles experienced in the Book of Acts?  Where is Jesus building His church in a way that people know this is not what men are doing but only what God does?

It's nice to begin to talk about the supernatural without being forced to the extreme of the pentecostal example.

Through other missional resources I took a Spiritual gifts test and this is what I got:
Apostle 18, Evangelist 18, Pastor 20, Prophet 27, Teacher 11

Within the missional movement there is growing discussion over something called the "5-Fold Ministry," or it is sometimes called "APEST."  There are 5 Spiritual giftings mentioned in Ephesians 4:11.  They are: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors (also called Shepherds) and Teachers (APEST).  This video helped me a little bit, though most of it went over my head.

I think the missional movement is so much in its infancy, I get new information of what is going on all the time.  Everybody is working out these things as we speak, and it's exciting.  There are three major missional organizations in the U.S.; Missio, 3DM, and Acts 29 (which includes Soma).  Missio is incorporating 5-fold training, 3DM leaders of course do that, and I just heard that Soma is now going that direction, too.

I was told there is hardly any academic study that has been done in a long time on the 5-fold ministries from Ephesians chapter 4.  Here is the context of the verse; Ephesians 4:7-16,
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Most people accept the last two gifts as active in the church today - Pastors and Teachers.  However there hasn't been total acceptance for the gift of evangelist, especially prophets and apostles.

Alan Hirsch has published the first academic piece just last February titled, The Permanent Revolution.  I haven't read it yet.  I know this sounds absolutely uneducated of me.  That's true.  The point is less for me to have all the answers but to create some discussion together.  I don't know what I ought to believe about the 5-fold, and I don't have to figure it out immediately.  

As with entering into the Free Grace movement, I didn't check my brain at the door.  I was so enriched by the theology, but I found a place where I could contribute my voice.  This led to something two friends and I started to write about called 3D Theology within the free grace perspective.  (Of course, my friends were entirely more capable of teaching than I could ever be.)  Trust me that as I go, I plan to put to use all God's enabling to discern things, and if something doesn't seem to be right, I'll admit it.  I will need to hear from others on this too in order to honor God's Word to the fullest.  Embark on the 5-fold journey with me?

JR Woodward is teaching Missio people right now about these five giftings.  As soon as I started to write down what he wrote on the whiteboard, I started to flip out.  I knew immediately which one I am and exclaimed, "that's me!"

It's because I can see myself in a certain gifting here, I am willing to give APEST a theological go.  I know people ought to start with scripture first to prove the truth, but when it comes to the relevance of the gifts today, we kinda have to look at our lives to a point and ask us to see what we can see.  I understand there is risk of deception here, I do.

If you would like to take the test I took with your own graph, you can take it online.  It is provided by 3DM here.

Why Should I Care About Acnowledging the Apostlic and Prophetic Gifts?

Well, because within each Body of believers there are what Mike Breen calls "settlers" and "pioneers."

Pioneers enjoy doing new things.  Instability does not scare them, and they are flexible to deal with whatever comes their way.  They are driven to break out from the routine and discover new challenges and go places others are not going.  To stay and develop a program that is established seems frustrating to them.  Pioneers are: Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists.

Settlers are interested in how to develop safety and stability.  They like to grow and develop what exists rather than scrap things for something new.  They like to see things finished well.  Settlers are: Shepherds and Teachers.

Think of the American old West.  Some people are natural pioneers who are driven to explore a new land.  Others crave developing the new towns that have been established by the pioneers.  Their passions are in conflict.  Both are necessary for the church to make successful disciples of the nations.

That the traditional Western church usually only recognizes the settler (developer) gifts of Teacher and Pastor means that when someone wants to call the church for a new territory, there isn't the language and legitimacy to back them and support their innovation in the church.  This lack of legitimacy for the pioneer giftings may be expressed in church splits and parachurch organizations.  The people writing about the 5-fold ministries make the case that the church needs the gifts of the pioneering end in order to fulfill the great commission and also they should be encouraged to stay put in the churches and train up other Christians to do the same things.

The Results of the Test
"He was never in time for his classes,
He was never on time for his dinner;
Then one day he wasn't in his time at all..."

Mike Breen makes the case in his book Building A Discipling Culture that we all have a base ministry, but are called at different seasons of our lives to develop Spiritual ability in the other 4 gifts.  He says you know that it's not your base gifting if, after awhile of practicing another gifting, the grace seems to run out, and all you can think about is going back to what you can't help but do.

I'm pretty certain that my base gifting, what I can't help but do, is prophetic.  That doesn't mean that I believe in Prophets like the Old Testament, sent by God to say "Thus says the LORD."  It's kind of like a reversal of my earthly self.  In real life, I'm late everywhere I go; and ironic that in the Spirit I keep time quite well.

I don't think of Spiritual offices or titles.  It's not the same as it was at the beginning of the church....  But at this point, I would say there are personality tendencies, or grooves, or ways that we operate in the Spirit.  These Spiritual tendencies I would say, for now, could be the 5-fold perspective from Ephesians.  Here is what JR Woodward summarizes about the 5:

APOSTLE  Awakener.   Focal Concern: Living out our calling.  Destination: Following Jesus and cultivating the growth of the kingdom.

PROPHET  Revealer.  Focal Concern: Walking with God.  Destination: Spirit transforming communities, standing with the poor and oppressed.

EVANGELIST  Teller.   Focal Concern: Incarnating the good news.  Destination: Becoming a people of welcome and redemptive agents.

PASTOR  Healer.  Focal Concern: Pursuing wholeness in the community.  Destination: Experiencing healing and pursuing wholeness and embodying reconciliation.

TEACHER  Giver.   Focal Concern: Inhabiting the sacred text.  Destination: Immersing ourselves in the Sacred Text and living faithfully in the story of God.

There are much more lengthy descriptions of each of these at the bottom hotlinks under the page of my results, here.  They describe their strengths and faults.  In the next 5 posts I'll share what I can gather at this time about the five gifts, in order of how my score went, highest to low.  I'm not interested in challenging church structures and hype pioneer gifts over the settler gifts.  I just want some information on why in the world I am driven like I am; why I keep acting broken in predicable manners.

If you want to take the test online for free, it's here.

Here is an article in Christianity Today on the 5-fold, Three Overlooked Leadership Roles.

If you need a theological approach to sell this to yourself, Alan Hirsch's book: The Permanent Revolution.

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