Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Open Letter to the Body of Christ


To the people of God,

I find myself being thankful this day with how you each contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God. So many personalities. So many gifted people. So much passion.

In Ephesians 4:11, the Scriptures point out that some are called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Many of you may be able to identify yourself in one of those giftings; a place where you seem to fit, and where you find energy and purpose.

Have a quick think now. Are you an apostle? Are you a prophet? Are you an evangelist? Are you a pastor? Are you a teacher?


Apostles

First of all, let me address the apostles who are reading this. You might find yourself using the term loosely, because someone has criticized you for even daring to use such a term. I mean to them, the term Apostle was only ever used to refer to Paul and the 12 disciples. Nonetheless, take comfort because to be an apostle, is simply to be someone who is sent. Take note of what the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). You are sent.

Don’t let the criticism of others cause you from being sent, to being spent. You have so much to offer the body of Christ. I am sorry, because at times we have stifled your passion, and squeezed out your ingenuity, because it was daring and revolutionary. I’m sorry because over the years you have had to leave denominations that you perceived didn’t value what you had to offer the church. I apologize.

I encourage you to boldly go where no other leader has gone before. Pull down the devil’s kingdom, where ever he might hold dominion, and do what you do best: storm the forts of darkness.

We’ve wrapped you in cotton wool for too long. We’ve asked you to conform. We’ve sent you out to plant churches all the while hoping you wouldn’t rock the proverbial boat of denominational security. It’s time to let you walk on water and follow after Jesus. When Peter jumped out of that boat, he yelled, ‘Lord, if it’s you, I’ll come.’ Be inspired to hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit, and be prepared to get out of that boat and give it a shot.

If you don’t innovate, the church will become a shadow of its former self, and you’ll sit on the couch years from now, wondering what could have been.

Step up. Fulfil your place in the body of Christ. Lead. Innovate. Create. Make history.


Prophets

Now, I’m over to you prophets. You know who you are. You may not use that term, probably because you’re a little nervous of the reaction you’ll get. But you know who you are. Circumstances arise and everyone seems to be in a theological quandary and all the while you have a burning word on your heart that you hope someone will listen to.

Remember you are not responsible for who and how people respond to what you say. You are responsible for saying what you feel God called you to say. Now don’t run from this. You can’t say to God, ‘Send someone else.’ If you run, God will follow you. Just read the book of Jonah. I don’t mind eating fish, but I’m not keen on being swallowed by one.

When you’re close to Jesus, you have words on your heart. I sense, that you don’t so much have the concern about saying too much, but rather not enough. See, at times you have a word for the church, that is edifying in a challenging kind of way, and you have a fear of sharing it. Though, a word not spoken, is a word not heard. How can the church be inspired by a prophet who doesn’t speak?

I have three young children, and I’m forever telling my children to close their mouths. When they’re eating too loudly, ‘Close your mouth.’ When they’re talking too much, ‘Close your mouth.’ The church has told you too often to, ‘Close your mouth.’ And many times you’ve agreed. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’ve felt the fear of speaking and the fear of the condemnation of those who will hear what you have to say. Forgive us; the church.

You must keep us on the right track. You must spend more time in the presence of God, so that you can utter the words that have been spoken into your spirit, into ours. Stand up, and be prophetic.


Evangelists

Can I just say right from the outset, ‘Wow, what a passion you have for the lost.’ I want us to celebrate that today. Let me validate your ministry, because Jesus definitely articulated that his role was to seek and to save that which is lost. I get your passion. I admire it. You care that people are lost. You worry about what that may mean for someone. You are adamant that people need to follow Christ. What a gift. Praise God.

Though, you know as well as I do, that the body of Christ hasn’t always been so quick to celebrate what you do and the role you play. We’ve criticized you for not caring enough, and not focusing enough on discipleship. We’ve ridiculed you for being too simplistic, too fundamental, too narrow and too legalistic. Forgive us.

I get it now. You’re an evangelist. You’re not a chef. You’re not a teacher. You’re not a nurse. You’re more like a doctor in the emergency department administering spiritual CPR to a dying patient. Forgive us then, for trying to make you in to someone you’re not. We want to validate who you are and call you to rise up and be the evangelist God has gifted you to be.

And let me say something: STOP LEAVING! Stop running away. Too many voices have told you to stop what you’re doing and change your ways. Though, how will anyone hear the gospel, if no one proclaims it to them?

I suspect I know what happened. Denominations, in their early days witnessed the salvation of the lost. Then the lost climbed the mountains of spiritual success. They bred children who grew up in Christian households. They experienced such redemptive lift, that they forgot the sin that so easily used to entangle them. Then, in the epitome of hypocrisy they ridiculed you for continuing to do the work that was the impetus for their salvation so many years prior.

If you don’t evangelise, the church will crystalize.


Pastors

What a gift! The very fact that you care, is gold in the eyes of a broken world. See, when others turn their back, you are there. When others don’t have the time or the inkling to provide nurture in someone’s time of need, you don’t bat an eyelid. The church needs to honour this pastoral heart.

Now, let me clarify, I’m not talking about people who are necessarily ‘ordained Pastors’, I’m talking about you whose first response is one of care. Now you already knew that, I’m just clarifying to others. To care is not to fulfil some element of a position description relegated to those in ‘fulltime’ pastoral ministry.

We need people of compassion the world over. The fact that the world is in such disrepair is because we lack the care and compassion towards each other. So, I want to say, ‘Thank you.’ Your compassion inspires me. I don’t know how you do it to be honest. I wonder how you sit with someone for four hours in a Magistrate’s court, waiting for the restraining order to be finalized. I don’t know how you persevere with someone who takes 3 steps forward only to take 3 steps back. You must sure like to dance.

I digress.

I want to say something that has been left unsaid for a long while. I’m sorry, that we haven’t always cared, that you care. I mean, you’re gifted at caring, and sometimes we’ve abdicated our responsibility of the care we need to show others, because you care. Help us do better. Show us how to care.

Our world is yearning for care and nurture. Continue to seek after the same compassion Jesus had when he looked upon a crowd and deeply sensed they were like sheep without a shepherd.

So who cares? Well, we all do, but you do it best.


Teachers

Thank you that you teach. Well actually, thank you that you learn, so that you can teach. That teaching is what keeps the body of Christ grounded in what it believes. While some in the body are gifted to show grace, you are gifted to reveal truth. And when that truth is discovered with the help of the leading of the Holy Spirit, then the church has something to learn.

So continue to teach. Raise up the next generation. Don’t just throw them in a theological quagmire of unsubstantiated ideologies, but help them piece together God’s revelation, bit by bit. We must raise up a church that is not just aware of all the different possibilities of truth, but a church that is quietly confident of the beliefs it adheres to. If the church remains confused of its purpose, it will be devoid of direction. That’s where your job comes in. Now, this is no easy feat. We must teach people, to give them a foundation to predicate their faith upon. Your job as teacher is not merely to shake the theological foundations, but help establish them in the hearts and minds of the people.

I don’t envy you. You need to stop reading this, and go learn some more. Read the word of God afresh. Ask the Lord to reveal something new to you as you read it. Teach us what you’re learning. Strengthen us. Help us. Teach us. We’re ready to learn.


One Last Note


I can’t finish this letter to you without giving you one last reminder.

You are not gifted by the Lord, simply because the Lord revels in your giftedness. You are gifted by God, because God wants you to empower and equip the people of God for works of service, so that the body of Christ may reach unity in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, by all means, be affirmed. God has created you as a unique part of the body of Christ. Understand how God has gifted others, and so, together by God’s grace, complementing and serving one another, we can make a difference in the world, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Heaven knows we need to make a difference.

We can only do that in unity.

God bless you.

Pete.

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