SO, YOU'VE GOT A CORNER ON THE TRUTH?
You’ve heard blindfolded people trying to figure out by holding parts of an elephant what they’re touching. Right, it’s the tassel on the end of a curtain! Then the fellow holding the elephant’s trunk thinks it’s a large fire hose. The guy holding the leg thinks it’s a Dutch Elm tree, etc. Each one thinks he’s got it figured out—after all, he’s got a “corner on the truth” – so he’s got the “whole thing” figured out.
How does this kind of attitude affect an ekklesia when the “whole ekklesia” comes together (1 Cor. 11:17-18) or what are the implications of a gifted minister—apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher—who thinks that the truth (aka, “the message”) he/she has is so incredible that, in point of fact (in their heads) no one else “sees it?” “The truth resides with ME!” Normally, when one takes hold of the elephant, they usually assume that their part is the sum of all the parts and anyone else in the Ekklesia simply doesn’t have the “thing” figured out . . . in other words, “I don’t need ‘lesser revelations’ when I’ve got the goods in the first place!”
Indeed, this person, and those he may have overly influenced or hoodwinked into believing he actually is the purveyor of supernatural revelation (which no one else has seen—well, “they” see bits, parts and pieces, but “TRULY, I SEE IT ALL”) undoubtedly suffers from an overweening sense of his own propriety. Notwithstanding, he believes he’s got it all figured out—he knows for certain it’s definitely a fire hose! He does NOT suffer from a lack of self-esteem. In point of fact, this presumptuous member of the Body of Messiah (and he is a member; notwithstanding, a super-duper member in his own eyes) hasn’t quite discovered EACH OF YOU HAS:
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26).
THE LONE RANGER
Have you ever been to a “Christian Conference” where all sorts of speakers share their insights from their experiences with the Lord, from Scripture, or minister from their gift given to them by the Head of the Body? Sure you have. I just returned from a marvelous conference which had nearly 30 speakers for the 450 attendees—a veritable gospel smorgasbord; and, along with the incredible fellowship—well, a weekend of refreshment in the presence of the Lord.
And, what was so incredible about this gathering on Lake Erie near Cleveland was the diverse aspects from the Word, testimony and the prayer and fellowship of the saints. Everyone was encouraged to search the Scriptures—do their own research to “see if these things be so”—I really appreciated that.
Now, I’ve been to some such confabs and noticed (not at this one) that some invited speakers had little interest in hearing anyone else but themselves! They may have sat in one or at the most two other sessions—but why do so when YOUR MINISTRY is so important, so full of revelation, and so necessary that you can’t stop talking about it straight through the entire one-two-three-four-day conference. Instead of listening to someone else—they busy about propagating their own revelation or vision or exercising their own “spiritual gift.” If you were to ask them if they heard anything at the conference, they would probably give a very generic answer as in: It was great—everyone’s response to MY MESSAGE informed me they were listening!
As long as everyone’s lining up with what “I have to share” – “Well, what can I say, the others just missed out if they weren’t tuning in to ME – as in the form of the ‘Lord’s Oracle.’” Who needs a posse when you’ve got the Lone Ranger? Yes, and normally, the guy can’t find the time of day to listen to anyone because he’s got the corner on the truth—and if he feigns to listen, it’s just to get the other guy’s attention so he can insert his own “truth” into the conversation—how sad.
Eventually, he’s got his whole group—his sphere of influence—totally on board with his “corner of truth” which is the “whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help that man!”
Charismatic leaders – be they Bible expositors or Worship Leaders – tend to develop a “following.” Now, I’m not saying this is wrong—but “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12) doesn’t auger well when it comes to Ekklesia-style gatherings. You see, when EACH ONE HAS is a little different than “All members of the Body are equal—some are more equal than others!”
What’s tough on a “minister” is when an Ekklesia convenes and the minister has to “sit in on” a corporate, participatory, engaging, contributing environment wholly centered on everyone sharing for the common good—for building up the Body in love. Forbid! He may have to “wait his turn” because he’s found himself in an Ekklesia! Notwithstanding, it may be that a lot of those participating might be considered his “groupies” but at the Ekklesia—there’s ROOM FOR EVERYONE!
Still, it’s not easy for a “gifted brother/sister” to hear various “factions” in an Ekklesia proclaim their insights—be it a “psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation” when “I have a corner on the truth!”
Normally, as well, such “truth possessors” have an extremely difficult time giving credit, where credit is due. They have a habit of plagiarizing—coming up with “truths which they claim are their own” but really they’re at best “borrowing” or flat-out stealing the work/research of others without giving due consideration regarding the source of their “revelations.”
I once was in the office of a person I initially considered extremely spiritual, charismatic, and most definitely, a mature “man of God.” To most observers, he was “deep” – and I mean “God’s man on the earth today” – speaking as the Oracle of God. He had a vast library which I viewed—indicating he was well researched in many top evangelical writings and certainly, so I observed, some of the most spiritual ones. I remarked how impressed I was about his library. He paused, and proceeded to inform me with profound sincerity with these words: “Brother Doug, you don’t have to read any of these books, just The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray – all the rest are unnecessary.”
I thought to myself: “Wow, just The Spirit of Christ” and, of course, this man’s writings and someday I would be as deep as he! Looking back, it was like “burn all your religious writings” and just follow me—almost like forget everything and read Mao’s little “Red Book” or burn it all and read Hitler’s Mein Kampf!
Others, at times, boast by saying: “All I read is the Bible, you don’t need anything else—it just muddies the waters—just the opinions of men. You should do exactly what I do.” For some inexplicable reason it all vaguely sounds like “I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12).
I should have known then regarding this “Spiritual Man” that his spirituality was based on his inflated view of himself. He didn’t need the insights of others—he was “his own man” and didn’t need other brethren to shed further light upon his own revelations.
I know, I’m bouncing between MINISTRY and EKKLESIA—there is a difference here. Ministry IS by definition a fairly structured affair. Remember when Paul preached into the wee hours of the evening and Eutychus fell off the ledge—having fallen asleep—then Paul raised him from the dead (Acts 20:9)! You can get away with such a “ministry” but that wouldn’t do well in an Ekklesia environment. Bringing your preachment to an Ekklesia where “you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be encouraged” does not resemble in the least a Eutychus encounter!
I would be remiss in not stating that far too often a gifted minister will take occasion to gather an Ekklesia and then at its close take opportunity to share—normally, consistently, wherein his ministry predominates at the expense of the Ekklesia coming together. Why not? Isn’t it fine and dandy to have such ministry after and/or before or during such a gathering of an Ekklesia? Frankly, no it isn’t. Taking advantage of the saints in this manner is just that—taking advantage to project your own gifting. Do it on your own time—not at the time of a “general assembly.” I know, sounds legal, but what’s worse – to manipulate the people of God for your own “ministerial aggrandizement” or allowing the saints maximum time in lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ where “all can prophesy?”
But let’s get back to the self-absorbed minister – sorry, he’s still trying to figure out a way to insert himself into this discussion. How interesting, and spiritually debilitating it is, when some ministers, akin to the doings of the Lone Ranger, have so few peers with whom they can share, let’s say, the pulpit. In Philippians 1:27 we read:
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together (lit. “teaming up”) for the faith of the gospel.”
The Church in Philippi (Phil. 1:1) had “issues” (shall we say) wherein at least two dear sisters, servants of the Lord, were at odds with one another. Yep, Euodia and Syntyche were at loggerheads—so Paul IMPLORED THEM to be of “the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). They were wrestling, alright, but with one another, and were not acting like a “tag team” as the essence of the Greek text suggests in Philippians 1:27: “Teaming up for the faith of the gospel.” If they had been, then the rest would follow: “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which to them is an evident token of their perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God” (Phil. 1:28).
By “fighting the battle in the Body” (not fighting on your own), these two sisters in the Lord could have pounded their common foe—but instead, they were off the mark fighting one another!
Nearly a half century ago I met a “Man of God” who was so overwhelmingly impressive, he rarely, if ever, was found “sharing the pulpit” with anyone who could have been considered “contemporary” with him. The strength of one’s ministry is not in the singularity of it but in its ability to collaborate with other ministers of the Lord. Likewise, the ability of that ministry’s leadership to “blend into an Ekklesia-style gathering” demonstrates, even more, the strength of that minister(s) in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
Did this brother (and he was certainly a brother in Christ) have opportunity to co-labor with contemporaries – many of whom saw the “elephant” differently from his particular insight/vision? He most definitely had such opportunity; and, initially, he did (when he started his ministry) share with co-equals. But, he considered himself a “master builder” and not in need of anyone else to “share his ministry.” That was, actually, not the issue—a minister has a ministry—that is most definite . . . but that minister is “spiritually obligated” to “team up” with other ministers in the faith of the gospel lest he be overwhelmed by the foe and find himself isolated from the greater Body of Christ.
How tragic it has been when so many outstanding evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers, and even those in position of apostolic leadership, find themselves without proper “covering” – by that I mean, with brethren who see the overall plan and purpose of the Almighty a bit differently than they do? Again and again these brethren find themselves vulnerable and unable to co-labor with other ministries—and, when they are tempted, they have no one with whom they can trust nor be in fellowship to sustain themselves from the overwhelming flood.
Sure, they may have a board of directors—normally, a “rubber stamp-style” board. Or, quite possibly, they find themselves in some kind of denominational structure with a Board of Deacons or some kind of “system of responsibility” designed to “keep tabs” on the minister—but far too often such “coverings” are simply “window dressing” and have little, if any, true accountability . . . so the “Man of God” is utterly “exposed” when he/she could have received gracious help from fellow ministers, saints, those who truly cared for his/her soul.
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES
Far too often such a minister of the gospel surrounds himself with YES MEN who simply reinforce the minister’s excesses. He’s NOT in fellowship with them, per se, but simply “uses” them as a sounding board of sorts to reinforce his control over those to whom he ministers. He feigns “balance” but, actually, he’s in total control of “his little ministry” – simply manipulating the pawns on his customized chessboard.
When crisis hits—and his failure is crudely exposed (usually some inappropriate financial dealing)—he seeks refuge in his “inner circle” who will “take the rap” on his behalf with a mealy-mouth declaration which goes something like this: “We should have warned our beloved brother of the dangers of his actions—instead we kept our mouths shut and now we have endangered the ministry” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Indeed, if they would have warned their brother, he would have ejected them from his “inner circle” or he would have scolded them for intruding on his bombastic image—DARE YOU INSULT MY MANAGEMENT SKILLS!
Alas! These YES MEN think they serve God’s purposes by “covering” their brother who has convinced them that the revelations enveloping his ministry are so superior to anything else “out there” that if they were to go elsewhere they would in essence be leaving “God’s final move on the earth today!” HOW COULD THEY?
Normally, such stupidity and/or leadership intimidation, has, at its core, some derangement that is financially or morally off the chart—it is, tragically, allowed to fester until scores of innocent believers are damaged by such “ministerial control mechanisms.” I don’t need to prolong this diatribe—in that so many large (e.g., the Roman Catholic Church) or smaller ministries have been afflicted by these incessant “cover-ups” all done in the name of “protecting the ministry.”
This is NOT how it’s supposed to work—unless and until we are of one mind and spirit through Paul’s injunction in Philippians 2:1-8 neither a true gathering of the Ekklesia, nor the fruitful results of a God-ordained ministry, will manifest!
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Brethren, as Paul implored these two sisters—why can’t we implore one another to be of the same mind and spirit – TEAMING UP for the faith of the gospel at the close of this age? Yet, far too often “gifted brethren” who appear to have a successful ministry, only reveal their own inadequacies and insecurities when they insist on holding their own “followers/groupies” far too close to themselves—suffocating the release of additional ministries which should have been the case if these gifted ones were truly “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.”
ONE BODY LIFE ministry does not have all the answers – we believe in tone and in practice we are striving together for the faith of the gospel – but we could and have been known to be “insufficient for these things” for:
…”Such confidence before God is ours through Christ. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim that anything comes from us, but our competence comes from God. And He has qualified us as ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.…(2 Cor. 3:4-6).
Know this, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
May the Holy Spirit grant us greater insight “when the whole Ekklesia comes together” as we “team up” as ministers for the faith of the gospel!