PART 1 – JUST SO YOU KNOW – THIS IS NOT AN EKKLESIA by Doug Krieger Backseat Drivers?
I’ve repeatedly been asked: What does an Ekklesia (or “Ecclesia”) look like? May I be a bit more ambiguous? Shouldn’t an Ekklesia look a lot like my ministry? ANSWER: No. What about looking like brother so-and-so’s ministry: ANSWER: No. Frankly, it shouldn’t look like any person’s ministry—It’s not of Paul, of Peter, of Apollos, and not even “of Christ” (for the “spiritually discerning” types). But aren’t these gifted ones rather obvious figures whose ministries have had amazing impact upon the overall Body of Christ, and shouldn’t we honor them? Of course, to deny they exist is foolhardy—but once we come into an Ekklesia experience these beloved brethren must take a back seat. Now, get this—they’re still in the car—but they’re not driving the Ekklesia. “No backseat driving allowed!” The Ecclesia’s Driver is the Holy Spirit—no one-man’s ministry drives it. I know this analogy will infuriate some as too evasive: Yes, it should look like Christ; however, its essence looks a whole lot more like “spiritual democracy in action.” Sometimes—and I think this is one of those times—it’s better to explain the negative, as in: Ekklesia isn’t happening if the following elements are festering within those assembled. As we expose the negative, we might illuminate the positive!
KEEP CALM AND SUBMIT TO MY AUTHORITY
Submit or Else . . . or Else What? “It’s starring you right in the face!” “But I can’t see it because I have a predisposition to follow the leader . . . no matter where it leads (at times) because this ONE seems to know where they’re going; and, since I don’t, I may as well keep following someone who is so assertive . . . well, I could go on, but this guy’s utterly convinced me he’s on the right train and if I don’t get on board, I’ll miss it!” If you find yourself impressed by so-and-so’s ministry and tend to follow that person around because you’ve gotten and keep on getting (as far as you are concerned) help from following that sterling apostle, oracle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, etc. – fine, all well and good, but be careful, be VERY careful, having UNQUESTIONED trust in the leadership expressed in any group is not only unwise, it can be flat-out dangerous. The Scriptures suggest that we should be “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). But, please note: It’s to ONE ANOTHER. One-way submission may impress some but doesn’t impress all—especially, some who are “more equal than others.” What do I mean by that comment? Have you ever met a “wonderful leader” in a ministry or who shows up in an attempt to have Ekklesia practiced, who talks a good game about “submitting to one another in love” but rarely do you see him actually submitting to anyone . . . take note, some who acclaim the practice usually have difficulty in doing the same. In other words, they “talk a good game” but when the chips are down, you’ll rarely see them defer to someone else’s opinion—especially, on the big decisions. It’s like a family. Oh, sure, they humbly submit to the big decisions as in “Who’s going to win the World Cup” but the little decisions like what house we’re going to buy—then the real person shows up, digs in, and adamantly refuses to yield an inch! In other words, “submitting one to another” is NOT a one-way street. You may be impressed that Brother Bob is such an illuminator of the Word of God that he is altogether worthy to follow and emulate—BE CAREFUL, your unquestioned following of that “leader-type” or of that “group think” (aka, known as “clump mentality”) can be nothing more than what I call the “lemming longing” wherein everyone follows—right over the cliff!
FOLLOW THE LEADER—OVER THE CLIFF
It’s a very thin line—trusting someone who is trustworthy (i.e., worthy to emulate). Usually, such a person comes in the person of an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, and, most likely, a dynamic pastor-teacher type. Normally, it is considered a commendable trait to “receive the equipping” from such an individual; yet, doing so in an “unquestioned” fashion provides fertile ground for the following—please note immediately following the “gifted” are issues less commendable: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [i.e., “equipping’] of the body of Christ: Till we all come in 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 fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:11-14) Have you ever noticed how being tossed to and fro while being carried about with every wind of doctrine, along with the “sleight of men” with their “cunning craftiness” and deceitful ambushes immediately follows gifted brethren who should be equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry? Yep—THIN LINE, indeed! Seemingly, Prophet Smith, has a most unusual link up with the Almighty—whereas you don’t? Isn’t it grand that you can sort of kick back and let the biggie prophet in the group care for your spiritual well-being? What’s so gratifying is to pursue further fetes of submission on your part whereby the perks given back by said noble leader in the form of greater responsibilities in the group; along with accolades heaped upon you whereby your level of submission accelerates. Wow—receiving the approbation of the “leading one” in the group (if that’s what’s manifesting) may put you on a “spiritual high” . . . all the while “they lie in wait to deceive” the unsuspecting! Beware of them bearing gifts—remember, HE GAVE SOME and “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing TO EACH ONE INDIVIDUALLY as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). An overweening sense of Brother Smith’s propriety is probably a major red flag—the higher he’s uplifted; the greater will be the fall. Wait ‘til you find out he’s only human! In sum: Keep your eyes on the prize—and guess Who the Prize is? In an Ekklesia experience the GIVER OF GIFTS and Rewards (even) is THE SAME SPIRIT, not brother so-and-so. He may equip but the Spirit gives the gifts! We’re it – the Overcomers – the Remnant – the Elite! The Ekklesia the Lord’s building is designed to withstand the “Gates of Hades” – consequently, if it doesn’t achieve this, then something’s amiss. The Ekklesia is not a social organization, a Masonic Lodge or Lion’s Club. But we are a rather unique bunch—that’s why He tagged us THE CALLED-OUT ONES—even, “Many are called, few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you” (1 Peter 2:9). Don’t let it go to your head . . . say what? That’s right. You can claim to be God’s tiny, little elite corps of the “chosen few” – the “remnant” – but, again, BE CAREFUL, lest you get the “Babylon Complex” wherein all others are in Babylon (especially the APOSTATES) but we, the few, the noble, the extremely humble, are standing for the “one true faith once delivered” while we bemoan everyone else who isn’t!
THE ELITE CORPS
How we get such a high-falutin’, rootin’ tootin’ impression of ourselves MAY have to do with our “fearless leader” or the fact that we’ve become so insulated as a “click” (not an Ekklesia—which is “open-ended”). Here’s a safeguard that’s worthy of our consideration: “We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who [supply testimonials to] commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools” (2 Cor. 10:12-Amp. Ver.). Think of it – we set our “elitist” standards and then measure ourselves by the standards we set for ourselves against the alleged standards of others who have no idea what we’re talking about. In a word, Paul says we’re nothing more than FOOLS! The temptation to set up “religious standards” is the bane of cults which compose certain formula deemed as “spiritual standards” in which, if the compliant follower will achieve, then they will be given greater responsibilities and be acclaimed a more excellent inductee into the group’s “inner circle”—having absolutely nothing to do with “unto a perfect man – unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It’s US vs. THEM We’re under attack! An Ekklesia “environment” is – don’t get me wrong here – assailing the “Gates of Hades” – which means: WE’RE ON THE OFFENSE. That’s completely different than being on the defense. What am I getting at here? Simply put: The Ekklesia is not a place where we undergo securing a “persecution complex.” This is what I mean by “circling the wagons” – yes, we know the “world’s out there” and that entanglement with it is antithetical to the Lord’s calling for His Ekklesia. In other words, don’t let the religious or worldly world squeeze you into its own mold. Notwithstanding our valiant cause in crushing Satan’s head, we, nevertheless, tend toward a mentality when others criticize what we’re doing in doctrine or practice, it must mean we’re “under persecution” thereby validating our doctrine and practice is spot on! A persecution complex leads to greater isolation which in turn reinforces circling the wagons ever tighter. How’s that? Once the “attack” begins—especially from other Christians (all, of course, well-meaning) we tend toward ever greater security from the group’s leadership.
CIRCLE THE WAGONS
In order to secure our people from the arrows of the enemy we resort to ever-greater scheduling of the saints with more “training” – more meetings—all justified or cloaked in the righteous garments of “enduring to the end” until the foe is defeated. We didn’t plan on this kind of isolation from other believers but once we became aware our critics were launching forays at our “doctrinal” positions and/or “practices” – that did it! We cut off fellowship with them posthaste (wasn’t much to cut off; most contact was already gone) and simply figured out how to “talk among ourselves” – good grief, we begin to act like one another, dress like one another; it begins to look like we’ve gone tribal . . . drawn ever closer to the leader(s) of the group who has our best interests, no doubt! The “Jezebel spirit”: CONTROL, Control, Control… If it isn’t controlling the actions and thought patterns of the group through indoctrination; then how about a few stories on what happens to members who dare leave the “ministry’s” fearless leader—you know, the one whose life of dedication demands our own dedication to the same? Grief, I might be “cast out into outer darkness” – never “overcome” – all in the context if I ever leave the enchanting ministry of Oracle of God—you know, the “prophet of the age.” Losing one’s salvation is always another favorite theme of those who’d dare control the hapless adherent. Where and how to live. From the sublime to the ridiculous – the infamous “schedule” of events during the week to occupy one’s time cranks up in the wee hours of the morning for “corporate prayer” – then noon-time “fellowship” at the job site – then an evening meal together, along with “praise and worship” – forget so-called “free time” or any time alone with the Lord – it’s o.k. to talk about that, but in practice, you’re probably too exhausted; worn out by what’s become a “fire hose ministry, Inc.” Most activities are rather sublime, even absurd but it’s when someone who has “left the group” and is killed in a plane crash (usually within proximity of having left the group) that the “curse” forecasted by the leader becomes a fulfilled prophecy! Likewise, your “Ekklesia experience” is now fraught with scores of opportunities to express your “service to the Lord” by volunteering your labor (free of charge) on behalf of the leader and his astounding ministry. Shame, shame, and a whole lot more shame, be upon those “Leaders” who heap riches upon themselves at the expense of the saints. Isn’t it absolutely plain as day when the “fearless leader” flits around in a private jet and lives a life of extravagance? Frankly, how dumb can we be to support such selfish aggrandizement? Answer: Really dumb! In her chapter on “Notes On How To Rule From An Ivory Palace” from her text, Jezebel vs. Elijah . . . the great end time clash, Dr. Bree M. Keyton elucidates upon the controlling spirit of Jezebel: “Jezebel knew how to “stir up” her victims. She manipulated her husband, everyone and everything around her. “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did SELL himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife STIRRED up” (1 Kings 21:26). “The word ‘stirred’ (cuwth) means seduce, stimulate, inspire, soothe, entice, persuade, provoke, stir up . . . Jezebel walks in dominance, surrounded by bitter envyings and a constant atmosphere of confusion. Jezebel finds it difficult to delegate authority. She gives orders, but won’t allow them to be carried out without humiliating the other person involved. Then, she takes back the authority. If she delegates, she retracts it, unable to allow others to function in positions of responsibility. She belittles and gossips, operating in bitter envying and strife.
JEZEBEL VS. ELIJAH - Dr. Bree Keyton
“Jezebel uses anger or silence to control. This is witchcraft. Jezebel tries to control pastors and churches. Some pastors have this spirit, and through it they seek to control their congregations. Some Jezebels manipulate from behind the scenes while others are blatant and in your face. Jezebel won’t get along with anyone she can’t dominate. When in the presence of a Jezebel spirit, one fervently wishes to be elsewhere. Sometimes a horrible creepy-crawly sensation permeates the atmosphere. When leaving, one just wants to take a shower. Yuk! “Some people are attracted to Jezebel’s company and find amusement through her as she/he ridicules others with her rapier wit. She engages in sarcasm, mocking friend and foe alike. Those who are attracted to her for this should take heed, for she will turn on them as well, like a viper, without pity or feeling. “Jezebel dominates others by her vanity, hatred, disdain, insecurity and jealousy. She publicly humiliates others, including spouses. With the tongue she wrecks, demeans and destroys. Through character assassination, she makes others fearful of her sharp tongue, willing to compromise in order to avoid the tongue-lashings. Jezebel questions the manhood or ability of others, making them feel small.” (Jezebel vs. Elijah, by Dr. Bree Keyton, pp. 73-75) Dr. Keyton’s quote above barely scratches the surface to her incredibly mesmerizing text—so clever is the “Jezebel spirit” who “lies in wait to deceive” the seeking soul! When such a “spirit” manifests in what proposes to be an Ekklesia environment—then it would be wise to do what Paul suggests: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine, which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple . . . but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple [lit. “innocent”] concerning evil” (Rom. 16:17-19). Emotional Dependency Works! I could have titled this section: “Overkill or Too Much of a Good Thing.” A true Ekklesia experience IS the manifestation of 1 Corinthians 13—the greatest of all these is love. To the point, the love of Christ which constrains, maintains the vibrancy of any Ekklesia—it is the hallmark of gathering around the Lord. That said, a most subtle occurrence known as “emotional transference” to the group, can occur which is NOT spiritually healthy. This is when deference is shown to one member in hopes that (usually new) member will find, through greater acceptance, emotional dependence upon the group, along with the “group think” that goes with it. Instead of worshiping and exclaiming, “God is among you of a truth” the would-be uninformed or unbeliever is overwhelmed by “group love” rather than the Lord Himself. Again, the focus is riveted upon the group, the individual, rather than the Christ, the Son of the Living God. One of the distinctive characteristics of Christ vs. the Antichrist or the Lamb of God vs. the Beast in the book of Revelation is as follows: “. . . telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He (the False Prophet or Second Beast) was granted power to give breath to the IMAGE OF THE BEAST, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:14-15). What is seen here are those who, under the inspiration of the Second Beast, are beholding the Beast and becoming the REFLECTION of the Beast himself—i.e., the people become the IMAGE of the Beast. Much like propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels drew Germans to behold and then reflect the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler—what they beheld, they became: The Image of the Beast.
WORSHIP OF THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST - DAS VOLK
What’s fascinating here is not that they “worshiped the Beast” (which they most definitely did) but that they began to worship the image of the beast—DAS VOLK. Nazi Germany became the reflection or image of the Beast—if you did not worship the people, the Image of the Beast, you were put to death! How different is the contrast between the worship of the Image of the Beast and the worship of the Image of Christ: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Thus, the saints of the Lord are, by beholding like a mirror beholds an image, are being transformed into the image seen in the mirror—which is the Lord Himself! So, the Image of Christ, is the Ekklesia—the very reflection of Jesus Christ Whom they behold. Now, at the conclusion of the New Testament—the Revelation—John declares: “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2) When Paul speaks of the “great mystery” in Eph. 5:32 he speaks of “Christ and the church” and speaks of this great mystery in terms of the wife’s relationship to her husband. In this glorious metaphorical expression of “Christ and the Ekklesia” we see “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Ekklesia; and He is the Savior of the Body…therefore, just as the Ekklesia is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:23-24). What is clearly manifested here, both in Revelation 21 and in Eph. 5, and again in 2 Cor. 3:18, is the very “Image of Christ” is the Bride of Christ who is subject to the her husband in everything—but she is NOT worshiped . . . she, as the Image of Christ only worships her husband, the Head of the Body. Can you follow me here? Let’s put it this way: She only has eyes for Him, none other, and most definitely, not herself; whereas, in the worship of the Image of the Beast, that Image demands to be worshiped. Let me illustrate: In Nazi Germany “volks” were expected not only to attend “Hitler Rallies” but enthusiastically so. If a parade was marching down the street—and you had an apartment overlooking—better hang out the Nazi Banner/Flag. If you didn’t, you might get this opportunity: “Herr Schmidt, I see you did not unfurl the Fuhrer’s flag. Perhaps you need to attend one of our special re-education seminars? After all, we’re all in this together, now, aren’t we—or am I missing something here?” We must be VERY careful NOT to worship the Image of Christ. How’s that? You see it all the time: Wow, what a choir we have! What an incredible gathering we held. Behold our “church building” is magnificent! We have a program for virtually every recovery group imaginable—and something for every age group—we really have our act together—especially, our administration. Our pastor is altogether ascendant—if you want to hear an incredible preacher, then show up at First Glorious Church of Paradise! Such adoration of the Image of Christ looks a whole lot like the “worship of the Image of the Beast” – as the comedic psychotherapist advised: STOP IT! Heaping “inordinate love” upon any member as described borders on the “worship of the Image of Christ” – keep the focus on Christ which isn’t easy but the lack thereof is antithetical to what should take place at a real Ekklesia: The worship of Christ alone! Our ultimate dependence is upon the Lord Himself. As much as the Body of Christ is attractive—she should never replace the Lord Himself! Each one has a Revelation?
EACH ONE HAS A REVELATION
“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” (1 Cor. 14:26). Strong’s Greek word for “revelation” is apokalupsis (G#602), when defined: “This word is more comprehensive than epiphaneia (2015) and depicts the progressive and immediate unveiling of the otherwise unknown and unknowable God to His church.” The book of Revelation opens with this declaration: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1) . . . which “Revelation” in Greek is apokalupsis (Strong’s G#602). It’s an unveiling of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ—Who He is and what He has done and is doing and will do! Such revelation in the context of an Ekklesia demonstrates that those participating can “on the spot” receive a revelation . . . and such “revelation” should be in accordance with the unveiling of Jesus Christ to be impactful and edifying; however, what an Ekklesia is NOT is the supposed “hidden wisdom” and “knowledge” which borders on Gnosticism. The Gnostics were banned in the Early Church for claiming they had “hidden wisdom/knowledge” that alone could be achieved by certain training or procedures where novitiates would be brought into the “hidden mysteries” and thereby gain the depths of spirituality not available to most. Again, a thin line exists between “revelation” vs. “hidden wisdom” – but know this, once a “Christian group” becomes ingrown to the point their “fellowship” is imbued with certain supernatural revelation which “so few have”—lightning arresters arise! My brother was once in a gathering when a certain “Oracle of God” was speaking and claiming that we must boldly declare that since we are the Body of Christ we must proclaim: I AM CHRIST. Once he said this, literal lightning descended upon the building in which they were meeting and blew out the lights at the evening gathering . . . putting everyone in the dark! Good thing the building had lightning arresters—not good to proclaim one’s personal deity! Watch it – once we start proclaiming that we’ve “seen this or that” to the extent that we commence to delve into some kind of “special knowledge” or “truth”—BEWARE: “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the DEPTHS OF SATAN” (Rev. 2:24). Satan has depths—he has “hidden wisdom” and understanding far and beyond most human effort or genius: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezk. 28:12, 17).
HIDDEN WISDOM OF THE GNOSTIC
Yes, such hidden wisdom is a beautiful thing – such “revelation” can be a beautiful discovery as well . . . but know this, the one who was adorned with the “seal of perfection” was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” but ultimately became a “horror!” (Ezk. 28:19). The Lord may from time to time restore and/or grant us “divine revelation” of His purposes upon this earthly clod; however, don’t let it go to your head – He’s just as apt to speak through Balaam’s ass as He is to speak through a local prophet. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a little humility now and again doesn’t hurt—remember: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). I once knew a most gifted brother who from time to time would head off to the mountains where he had a cabin in which he would be found “alone with God.” Then he would descend the mountain (akin to Moses) and speak in terms of: “The Lord revealed to me” or “the Lord told me” – well, anyone who thought otherwise would examine himself: “End of conversation—once the Lord’s anointed got the message—better affirm it lest I be found challenging God Almighty!” Better yet – what of those who “dream dreams” or have miraculous visions—normally affecting the immediate sheep under their jurisdiction as in: I had a vision the other evening in which God revealed to me in a dream that you brothers will be used mightily of God “as you stay in fellowship” (with me, no doubt)? I call this the ministry of “signs, wonders, and cucumbers” – people who incessantly show up in the third heavens are either inhaling smoke or blowing it. I’m not saying they haven’t gone there, but most likely, their chances of hallucinating whereby they gain greater control of God’s people to do their bidding is nothing more than perpetrating a fraud upon the people of God and should be assiduously avoided! Summing it up… These aforementioned “control mechanisms” will manifest themselves even in the most wondrous Ekklesia gatherings. I’m not being a prophet of doom here. When Paul met with the Ephesian elders, his injunctions were a bit foreboding:
PAUL’S FINAL EXHORTATIONS TO THE ELDERS OF THE EKKLESIA IN EPHESUS
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church (lit. “Ekklesia”) of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse (Lit. “misleading”) things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31). So much for “positive confession” - that’s out there—WARNING, even from our midst those individuals will rise up and draw disciples after themselves. Once we commence to elevate brother so-and-so . . . well, it’s only a matter of time “such an one” will slowly, but surely, draw disciples to himself and “there goes the Ekklesia.” In many cases it’s not the fault of the one being elevated but of those doing the elevating! May the Lord keep us, on the one hand in the “simplicity and purity in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3) but on the other hand, aware of those who would draw disciples after themselves within the Ekklesia of God. God have mercy on us all….