The Hard Work of Christian Unity

By Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

Romanticism and Idealism Hinder the Work of Unity

Hard-Work-Ant-e1416262281822There’s an old saying that if we ever saw sausage being made, we would never eat sausage! Saying you favor Christian unity is like saying you love sausage.  Anyone can wax eloquent about the philosophical virtues of ideal sausage. The question is, do you have the stomach for the process of making sausage? Yielding to the processes of God that will actually yield John 17 Christian unity rather than cheap counterfeits is an entirely different matter than agreeing about the eternal priority of unity. How unity is defined, implemented, and embracing its cost will separate sausage lovers from sausage producers. God has called us to produce sausage, not just rhetorically extol its virtues. It is not for the faint of heart.

Too often unity is defined emotionally, psychologically, and culturally rather than biblically. There can be a mindset that if we could just recover some imagined idyllic condition of the first one hundred years of the Church, or if we were just “nicer” to each other, that we would have unity and revival. Here are a few snapshots of the “ideal” first century church:

  • At the end of his life, Paul was abandoned by almost everyone. Did he/they not value unity?
  • Paul confronted Peter, publicly. How does that make for unity?
  • Jesus called people names and insulted them. Is that the way to build “unity?”
  • The Corinthian church was divided over relational apostleship. Paul writes a letter that was read publicly, rebuking them all. Is making people uncomfortable in public good for unity?
  • The Judaizers were aggrieving the Galatian churches. The Gnostics were dividing the Colossian and Ephesian churches. Doctrine just divides. Shouldn’t we just love everyone in unity?
  • Paul publicly mentions people by name as causing division; he puts fornicators out of the church. That is so harsh and judgmental. That’s not conducive to unity.

There’s no place in the ekklesia for romantic notions regarding Christian unity. With romanticism out of the way, let’s take a look at sausage loving unity and then finish up with some real sausage making.

Church Culture Unity – unity based on similarity of expression, style, practices, tastes, preferences, likes and dislikes, age, economic status, etc. We are united as long as we all think, look, and act alike and value the same things. This is conformity of culture, not biblical unity.

Programmatic Unity – unity driven by doing projects and events together. We come together to “work,” but there is no spiritual substance beyond that. There is no genuine cost to this type of unity, because all the participants know that after the event is over, there is no pressure to have to relate with fellow participants. The event is the bond, rather than genuine love, the only legitimate biblical cement (Col. 3:14). The best program unity will ever produce is the context for the possibility of real unity.

Persecuted Unity – I once knew a missionary who lived in Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. He discovered that while Amin was martyring thousands of Christians, there was a “coming together” and unity in the Church.   Unfortunately, as soon as the pressure of persecution ceased, so did the apparent unity. Everyone reverted to pre-persecution habits and patterns. Even life and death persecution cannot produce real unity.

Socio-Cultural Norm Unity – unity based on avoidance of conflict and confrontation. Individuals who have embraced this will emphasize inordinate sensitivity on not doing or saying anything that upsets anyone. The objective is that no one would feel any discomfort for any reason, at any time. It is a unity that avoids group discipline. Anything goes. There is nothing in scripture that remotely hints that avoidance of subjective discomfort is the basis for Christian unity.

Denominational Unity – is unity assumed to exist within a given denomination or group. I know many ministers who attend their denominational meetings and are heartbroken because of the absence of genuine unity and organic relationship. Wearing the same uniform does not produce unity. The uniform is supposed to be a symbol of something genuine.

Vision Unity – is similar to programmatic unity. Often times there can be an exciting “vision”’ or presentation of Gospel truth that attracts and becomes the gathering focus for unity. The problem with vision unity is that if a more exciting vision comes down the line, the unity built upon the previous vision evaporates. Vision unity is like jumping on the bandwagon for a passing fad. The latest “new thing” becomes the unifying factor.

Lowest Common Denominator Unity – is the “leave-your-distinctive baggage-at-the-door-unity, the curse of many “pastor’s prayer networks.” Of course, it is always the “other guy” who has to leave his baggage at the door because we don’t have any baggage! This unity lowers the bar for participation as low as it can possibly go, out of fear of being exclusionary or hurting someone’s feelings. Participants cannot be, do, or say who they really are for fear of offending someone else, who will then take his or her ball and go home, thus ending unity.

Prayer Unity – centers around prayer and fellowship only. Not only does it normally not go much beyond that, but sometimes it is also forbidden to go beyond that because any thing approaching authenticity in relationship would be considered bad for unity. Prayer may be a good place to start, but too often it is the place we settle for because the cost of going deeper toward reality in authenticity as human beings and brothers is simply more than most are willing to pay. You don’t have to trust someone to pray with them. Prayer unity is, again at best, a starting point as a context for the potential for real unity.

Political Unity – is the shallow, glad-handing spirit that prevails in many pastors’ networks. The unity meeting is a means of personal advancement and self–realization and the self-promotion of the minister, the minister’s organization, and personal agenda. Transparency and honesty are avoided because they hinder the path of self-esteem, peer-esteem, and ministerial advancement. I have had more than one pastor tell me explicitly: if they got real in relationship, it would cost them everything “they have built” and they are unwilling lose that. That attitude is unworkable unity material.

What Does Genuine Christian Unity Look Like?

Psalm 133 is the Old Testament classic on the subject: the tribes in Jerusalem were gathered to worship Yahweh at feast time.

The first thing we need to remember is their diversity. Other than their worship, they did not share values and priorities. A landlocked Israelite would not have the same values or priorities as a covenant brother living on the Mediterranean coastline. Their unity could contain those differences. Secondly, the Psalmist uses a Hebrew literary device—the metaphorical couplet—to convey a unified thought: the oil on Aaron’s beard and the dew of Hermon.

The oil was poured on Aaron’s head and ran down to his collar, not his feet as is commonly believed (The KJV ‘skirt’ is a most unfortunate rendering). The priestly anointing oil was held in very small quantities in a cruse or horn. The reason for the small quantity was because of its costly preciousness. The oil was obtained by crushing different costly spices and the oil together.

Genuine Christian unity that commands the blessing is not some cheap sing-along where we all get together, smile at one another, sing a few non-controversial hymns and go home. God’s unity begins with crushing and cost. God’s unity starts with Calvary: Calvary for us, and Calvary in us. Only those who walk in the spirit of Calvary who themselves have allowed the crushing experiences orchestrated by the Holy Spirit in their lives to have full effect, will ever be workable material for the unity that commands the blessing.

Mt. Hermon was on the northern border of the Amorites at the full geographical extent of Joshua’s victory. Hermon’s dew was carried by winds and settled or watered Mt. Zion and was known for being refreshing.

Both poetic metaphors are analogies of descent, (something starting from above, downward) andtransference. The psalmist’s point is that commanded blessing unity:

  1. Does not have its source in us.
  2. It comes from above/the Head
  3. It must be transferred.
  4. It is refreshing and sweet.

Transference is a download: one source has it; another doesn’t, but needs it. Biblical Christian unity is transferred from the heavenlies to earth. It doesn’t start with us. It must descend and be transferred upon us. It cannot be organized and legislated from below. It can be received and entered into. The commanded unity blessing will only occur when individuals who themselves have been “touched from on high” and who have experienced the inner healing of identity and the outer healing of relationships,gather together in determinate love one for another. A collection of Cross-dodging self-centered people will never produce biblical Christian unity.

If our lives are broken, marriages fragmented, families shattered, and local churches relationally inauthentic, merely gathering the aforementioned in one place under one purpose will never produce biblical Christian unity. It is just an agglomeration of dysfunction trying in the power of the Adamic nature to fulfill John 17. The only thing worse than dysfunction is thinking that if we just gather more of it in unified purpose under unified government, something wonderful will happen!

So is John 17 a pipe dream? Was Paul an idealist? Not at all.

Unity is not difficult. It’s just costly. Our unity must be in Christ, and Christ alone. Unity must begin and be sustained by our revelation of our union with Him and one another. It is the logical overflow of superabundant love. No vision, no organization, no plan, nor dream will ever realize that which is only possible in response to a gracious heavenly outpouring that transforms hearts causing us to fall irrevocably in love with one another. We simply must become necessities for each other, in the deepest and most genuine way.

If my American rights to independence and privacy in time, personal space, and money are more important to me than you, your pain, and your needs, we can forget romantic ideals of Christian unity, on any scale. Any model of unity that is based upon mere cooperation or group conformity is doomed to fail because that kind of unity must be maintained by external pressure rather than internal empowerment from transformation. Unity that is maintained by external constraint betrays the Spirit of Christ in the process of pursuing the unity in Christ.

As long as pastors, ministers, and other types of leaders view people, money, property and assets as “theirs” there will never be Christian unity. As long as leaders insist on the primacy of their own parochial self-interest masquerading as the “mandate and vision God has given me,” John 17 unity will remain a philosophical platitude.

Unity that is Spirit-born, touched with Calvary, descending from heaven, transforming us inwardly so we can unite outwardly, is in indeed precious. It is circumstantially indissoluble because its quality is eternal. No offense of humanity or attack of the devil can dislodge the Calvary-saturated, commanded blessing unity.

Christian unity is relational and covenantal. It is based on His cross: revealed, appropriated, and applied. It is covenantal love that is maintained in the presence of conflict and differences at great emotional, spiritual, psychological, time, and financial cost. So are you and I sausage lovers or sausage makers? Are we serious about the hard work of Christian unity? Are we ready to give ourselves to the real thing, or are we going to settle for the less costly counterfeits? Jesus is for us, and in us, to accomplish through us, what our flesh and ego will allow.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you can download the Framework and Notes here, free of charge.

Copyright 2015,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 4)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

Church-Interior-Design-Ideas-1-600x341Parts 1-3 presented us with some sobering perspectives on what it means for the church to be the flock of God’s pasture.  Now we will consider what impact these perspectives should have on contemporary church structures.

Responsibilities of God’s Sheep

Covenant responsibilities of the sheep (in Parts 1 and 3) remained somewhat consistent across both the Old and New Testaments, requiring them to:

  • listen attentively to the voice of their divine Shepherds (namely Yahweh and Jesus) as expressed either directly by God (as Father, Son and Spirit), or through the mouthpiece of the prophets/prophetic giftings;
  • respond in obedience together as one flock to both the voice of their divine Shepherd, and to the admonitions/guidelines of Scripture (note Proverbs 28:9);
  • trust in their divine Shepherd’s continual presence to lead and protect;
  • know God’s ways by treating all the weak, oppressed and needy among or around them with God’s love and compassion, meeting their practical needs; and
  • remain faithful to God alone, seeking only His kingdom rather than pursuing one’s own self-seeking agendas.

Forms of New Testament Obedience

Pointedly, nowhere in the Bible are the sheep specifically directed to generally heed/obey the voice of human under-shepherds other than in their role as God’s mouthpiece or skilled handler of Scripture!  It is essentially the divine voice only that must be listened to and obeyed!

This does not contradict certain passages exhorting believers to obey their leaders, because there are different Greek words for obedience which have important distinctions:

  • Persuaded obedience (peitho) arising from being convinced to the point of relying upon and being confident about someone/thing is used only once in respect to submitting to those church leaders who lead by good example and responsibly watch out for the sheep as those who have to give account, i.e. to the divine Shepherd (Hebrews 13:7-9, 17), just as all believers should be persuaded to obey the truth (Galatians 5:7-8);
  • Yielded obedience (hupeiko) arising from giving way to, ceasing to resist, authority is used only once in the whole New Testament, and that concerning leaders who led by example and responsibly watched out for the sheep in the context of believers tempted to fall away from the faith due to persecution (Hebrews 13:17);
  • Submitted obedience (hupotasso) arising from a voluntary submission to, bringing under the control of, another person is used only once in respect to obeying leaders like Stephanas who wholly devoted himself to the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15-16), in the same way that all believers are to submissively obey Christ Himself (e.g., Ephesians 1:22; 5:24; 1 Corinthians 15:27), and citizens are to submissively obey government authorities, wives their husbands, children their parents, younger people their elders, and all believers one another (e.g., Romans 13:1, 5; Ephesians 5:21-23; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 2:13; 3:1-5; 5:5; 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 2:5; 3:1; note 1 Corinthians 16:16); and
  • Listening obedience (hupakoe) resulting from a stillness and attentiveness to hear another is used very sparingly only in respect to apostolic authority required in particular contexts (2 Thessalonians 3:14; Philemon 21; note Acts 7:38-39 concerning the Israelites heeding the voice of Moses who received the living oracles of God; compare 2 Corinthians 2:5-9; 7:15; Exodus 16:19-20; Deuteronomy 1:42-45), for the sheep are to listen to and heed/obey the faith/truth (Romans 1:5; 15:18; 16:17, 26; Acts 6:7; 1 Peter 1:22; compare Romans 6:11-17; Philippians 2:12) through the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8) which is in effect heeding the voice of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5-6; 1 Peter 1:2) and the Father (1 Peter 1:14), just as Christ Himself learned listening obedience to fulfil His call to suffer death out of His prayerful relationship with the Father (Hebrews 5:7-8; compare Romans 5:19; Isaiah 50:4-9), and children are to listen to and heed their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20).

Effectively, the church is urged to heed under-shepherds only when they speak, write down, or otherwise communicate either the actual words and directives of the divine Shepherd, or command in accordance with the dictates of the Gospel/faith which is all about following Jesus anyway (compare the use of tereo, observed obedience arising from keeping an eye upon and hence observing something, in respect to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20; John 8:51; 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-4; 3:22-24; 5:2-3; and the faith in 1 Timothy 4:7; compare 1 Timothy 6:11-14).

Jesus the Living Word as the Over-Shepherd

It is not surprising then that God’s sheep are to heed only the voice of Jesus because:

  • Jesus is the Word Himself (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13);
  • Jesus is the Word of life (1 John 1:1-3);
  • words spoken by Jesus, like Yahweh, stand forever (Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 1 Peter 1:24-25; Isaiah 40:3-9; Psalm 119:89; 102:26; compare Isaiah 55:8-11);
  • the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23; compare 2 Peter 3:3-7); and
  • because it is alive, the word of God increased, spread, and grew in power (Acts 12:24; 13:49; 19:20).

In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts the churches to allow the word of Christ to dwell within them richly.

The reliability and life-giving properties of divine words contrasts sharply with the poisonous and untameable human tongues which inevitably speak words that cause conflict, stumbling and destruction (e.g., James 3:1-12; compare Psalm 12:1-4; 120:1-7; 140:1-3; Proverbs 10:19-20; 13:2-3; 15:4; 16:27; 26:21, 28).  Relying on human leaders to speak into our lives is fraught with danger when it is not communicating the voice of the divine Shepherd.  Only at the absolute pinnacle of Christian maturity can leaders truly tame their tongue and therefore completely bridle the desires inherited from Adam, hence the warning not to seek becoming teachers as they will be subject to a greater strictness of judgment (James 3:1-2; compare James 1:26; Matthew 12:36-37; Romans 14:10-12; Mark 7:14-23).  This is why church is structured organically and not hierarchically.

Traits of Bad Under-Shepherds

Some rather interesting parameters also come to light concerning what it means to have the privilege of being God’s “human” under-shepherd.

For instance, notice that the bad under-shepherds of the Old Testament in Part 1:

  • failed to inquire of Yahweh, turning to their own ways, and consequently leading the flock astray;
  • failed to properly care for and strengthen the flock as needed;
  • failed to seek out and recover the lost/straying sheep;
  • mistreated and dominated/controlled the flock to serve their own ends;
  • protected their own position and affluence; and
  • preyed on God’s flock to satisfy their own needs and desires.

It is interesting to observe how the vast majority of bad OT under-shepherds failed to even acknowledge their abuse of God’s flock until judgment came, by which time it was too late.  Contemporary pastors beware!

Traits of Good Under-Shepherds

Now, notice that the good under-shepherds of the Old Testament in Part 1:

  • were all equipped by the Holy Spirit to shepherd God’s people;
  • did not have the Spirit necessarily remain permanently on them unless they were outstanding prophets/kings like Moses, Samuel and David, signifying how Jesus as the Christ, the Spirit anointed One (e.g., Isaiah 61:1), is the one permanently Good Shepherd, suggesting therefore that shepherding God’s flock as Christian leaders is not necessarily an irrevocable office/calling in itself; and
  • all had Yahweh speak directly to them fairly frequently, so that the under-shepherds only conveyed God’s words and instructions, not their own concepts of what is right (note Numbers 20:6-13; 27:12-14).

New Testament Under-Shepherds

We will look at this in more detail at a later date, but for now, we can note that:People Circle Hold Up Hands Gather Around a Cross

  • Peter as an apostle was required by Jesus to shepherd His sheep, and feed His lambs (John 21:16-17);
  • the overseeing elders of churches were exhorted by both Peter and Paul to shepherd the flock of God under Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of God’s flock (Acts 20:17, 28-31; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 5:1-4); and
  • shepherding-teaching is a ministry gift in the church to equip the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

This means that shepherding in the New Testament church is a responsibility affecting various levels of ministry gifting, all of which are subject to Jesus as the chief Shepherd.

Contemporary Relevance

Those in positions to under-shepherd God’s flock today need to ensure that they not only rely entirely upon the Spirit’s gifting and facilitate the prophetic voice, but also don’t use that privilege to:

  • protect their own position, reputation, and/or privilege;
  • coerce submission to themselves and to their own vision for the congregation, especially if it serves to promote their own importance and prestige in the eyes of their peers;
  • draw people to themselves as followers of their self-aggrandising or altruistic schemes; and
  • prey on God’s people either financially or to meet their own inherent and insecure need for attention/respect/affection, power/control/influence, or prominence/fame/success.

Church Excellence Framework

Getting Jesus back in control of His church so that He can shepherd His own sheep again using His voice, whether directly by the Spirit or through genuine prophetic speech, cannot simply happen overnight.  Various measures have to be carefully introduced which facilitate the underlying changes necessary for reformation.

Hence, the Church Excellence Framework seeks to reinstate the priesthood of all believers so that the risen Lord and Head over the Church can properly speak again to guide and instruct His flock.  To change decades or centuries of church tradition without careful preparation will result in disaster.  Change has to be managed responsibly, which is why education of church members and their participation in the strategies for change have to be wisely planned using a proven system.  The Framework therefore facilitates prudent under-shepherding.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available for download here.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

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Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.

Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

Churches as God’s Flock, Following the Shepherd’s Voice (Part 3)

By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology

74a2b24328b9fd29f4ca3bb09e32d68bIn Parts 1-2, we looked at how Yahweh shepherded Israel, especially by leading them using His voice.  Now, we will consider how Jesus, as the messianic Shepherd raised up by Yahweh, shepherds the church today in the same way.

The Messianic Shepherd

Yahweh will:

  • Himself as Israel’s Shepherd gather the remnant of His lost flock from the exile, from all the places they had been scattered to, bringing them back into their fold where their wounds will be bandaged, the weak strengthened, the lost found, and where they can be fed with good pasture and be fruitful and multiply (Jeremiah 23:3; 31:10-11; 50:17-20; Ezekiel 34:11-16; compare Micah 7:14-17; Zechariah 9:16-17);
  • set up post-exilic under-shepherds over His flock (like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah), but will eventually raise up one particular under-shepherd, the Davidic Messiah, the true Shepherd who will feed Yahweh’s flock and reign over them as a wise king to deliver them so that they will be totally secure, walking according to Yahweh’s rules, obeying His statutes (Jeremiah 3:14-18; 23:4-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-28; compare Psalm 2:9 noting “rule” there is literally “shepherd”); and
  • put His words in the mouth of the messianic prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Note Proverbs 10:21 which states literally that the lips of the righteous shepherd/feed many.

Jesus the Messianic Shepherd

Jesus is the Great Shepherd of God’s flock (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4), the Messianic/Davidic Shepherd predicted in the Old Testament, because He:

  • was born in Bethlehem just like the shepherd-king David (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-11; 1 Samuel 16:1-5; compare Luke 2:1-7, 10-11; John 7:42);
  • will come forth for Yahweh at the appointed time, when she who is in labour gives birth, as the ruler in Israel, one whose origin was from ancient days (Micah 5:2-3; compare Luke 1:30-33, 35; 2:8-12);
  • was anointed by the Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-2, 42:1; 61:1; Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; 4:16-21; Acts 10:38);
  • was struck by both the elders/scribes/priests and the Roman soldiers, after which His disciples were scattered, denying knowledge of Him (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 67; 27:30; Mark 14:27; 65; 15:19; Luke 22:63-64; John 16:32; 18:22; 19:1-3; compare Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27; Mark 14:66-72);
  • shall shepherd His flock in the strength of Yahweh (Micah 5:4; compare Luke 4:14; John 10:37-38); and
  • shall be the peace of His flock, defeating all their enemies (Micah 5:5-6; compare Revelation 7:14-17).

Jesus the Good Shepherd

In contrast to hired hands who flee when danger approaches the sheep, Jesus is the good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11-13).  As such, Jesus:

  • knows His sheep, Jew and Gentile alike, as God’s one flock who listen to His voice (John 10:14-16, 27; compare Ephesians 2:11-16);
  • provides access to the safety of the fold for the sheep who follow and heed His voice (John 10:1-6); and
  • is the actual door of the sheep by whom entry is provided to find safety and pasture (John 10:7-10).

Jesus the Responsible Shepherd

As the good Shepherd, Jesus, like Yahweh:

  • seeks the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7; Matthew 15:24; 18:10-14);
  • heals the lost sheep of Israel (1 Peter 2:24-25; Matthew 9:35-36; compare Acts 10:38);
  • teaches/instructs the lost sheep (Mark 6:34); and
  • sends His disciples out to also find and heal Israel’s lost sheep (Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-9, 17).

The Risen Lord Who Speaks

If the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God at the resurrection (John 5:25, 28-29), how much more will the living now hear Him as the risen Lord.  For instance, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared and/or spoke to:

  • Mary Magdaline (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9-11; compare Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8);
  • Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12-13);
  • all the disciples at least three times when they were gathered together in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33, 36-51; John 20:19-29; Acts 1:2-9; Mark 16:14-19; 1 Corinthians 15:5-7);
  • the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-10; 16-20; Mark 16:6-7);
  • seven of the disciples, including Peter, James, John, Thomas and Nathanael, by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-24);
  • Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5);
  • James (1 Corinthians 15:7);
  • Paul directly on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8, 27; 22:6-14; 26:12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9);
  • Ananias in a vision concerning Paul in Damascus (Acts 9:10-15);
  • Peter in a vision on the rooftop at Joppa (Acts 10:9-16; 11:7-10);
  • Paul in a vision in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10);
  • Paul in a trance in the temple at Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21);
  • Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11);
  • Paul in a vision when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, 7-9); and
  • John when he was in the Spirit on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-20).

Christ the risen Lord also spoke through Paul (2 Corinthians 13:2-4), especially considering that Paul’s gospel was given by special revelation (Galatians 1:11-12; 2:1-9).  Jesus even spoke through the Scriptures (Hebrews 2:10-13; 10:5-9), but it is important to emphasise that He also speaks directly to certain individuals, and can speak supernaturally to whole assemblies of believers through the charismatic gifts of speech.how_you_can_keep_volunteers_on_your_team_128727701

The Holy Spirit Who Speaks Directly

The Holy Spirit, in speaking on behalf of the risen Jesus (John 16:13-15):

  • spoke directly to a group of teachers and prophets at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4);
  • spoke directly to Philip (Acts 8:29);
  • spoke directly to Peter (Acts 10:19; 11:12; compare Acts 10:28);
  • guided Paul, Silas and Timothy directly by forbidding them to speak in Asia or to travel to Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7), and indirectly through a vision to travel to Macedonia (Acts 16:8-10); and
  • spoke through the eleven disciples/apostles initially, and then at times through church leaders of all ages, whenever they were dragged before the rulers of the land (Matthew 10:17-20; Mark 13:10-11; Luke 12:11-12; compare Acts 4:8-21, 29-31; 6:8-10).

The Holy Spirit Who Speaks Through Prophecy

The Holy Spirit also speaks through prophecy to:

  • the Christian assembly communally (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:3-5, 29-33; Acts 11:27-28; 15:30-32; Ephesians 4:11-12; Romans 12:4-6; Revelation 1:3; 22:6-10; compare Acts 2:16-18 1 Corinthians 12:3); and
  • individuals (Acts 20:22-23; 21:4, 10-11; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14; compare 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

Nonetheless, we must not diminish how the Spirit also speaks through the Scriptures (Hebrews 3:7; 10:15-17; Acts 28:25).  Note that the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10), so prophecy never contradicts the Scriptural account of the Gospel centred around Jesus.

Jesus the Second Moses

Notice Numbers 12:1-15, with Moses as a type of Christ (Acts 3:20-24; 7:37; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; 34:10-12).  Jesus is the only One who has truly spoken directly to the Father face-to-face (note especially John 5:36-40; compare John 1:1-2, 14, 18; 8:38), and He is the One through whom the Father now speaks to us, and Him alone (Hebrews 1:2; compare Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5).

Any other avenue for the Father speaking is leprous, contaminated, unclean/impure, and in context egocentric and insubordinate (note Deuteronomy 24:8-9; compare Leviticus 13:45-46; 14:1-32; and especially 2 Kings 5:1-27 noting verse 25 where Gehazi no longer stood before Elisha in submission but beside him, after robbing Yahweh of the sole honour of healing Naaman in order to procure goods/luxuries for himself and the school of prophets — on the basis of his own standard of what is good and proper — rather than trusting in Yahweh’s provision).

This means then that the Father speaks through Christ like He did through His under-shepherd Moses (John 3:31-34; 8:26-28, 40; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24).  Hence, Jesus shepherds the church now in the strength of how the Father had shepherded Israel through Moses.

Responsibilities of the Sheep

Consequently, the church, as sheep belonging to Jesus’ sheepfold, are to:

  • believe in their shepherd as the Christ (John 10:24-26);
  • listen only to the voice of their Shepherd, not to strangers, in order to be secure in the safety of the fold (John 10:3-5, 16, 27-28);
  • respond to their Shepherd’s voice when He speaks (Revelation 3:20);
  • beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15);
  • give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and to visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:21-40);
  • seek the kingdom of God, selling their possessions and giving to the poor (Luke 12:29-32); and
  • suffer with and for the Shepherd’s sake (Romans 8:17-18, 35-37).

Note that those who side with truth listen to Jesus’ voice (John 18:37).  This is not surprising since Jesus is the embodiment of truth (see Churches as God’s Household-Temple Revealing Truth Part 1).

In Part 4, we will tie together the implications of Parts1-3 for how churches should be structured as God’s flock.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available for download here.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell.  He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life.  In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide.  He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.

Copyright 2015 Peter Thompson. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.

The Prophetic Manifesto

Revelation-copyThis is presented as something to Consider before God.

By Dr. Stephen Crosby

If after reading this document, you would like to add your name to this effort as either a sponsor (someone who personally identifies with the content) or as a supporter (someone who agrees with the content), please email us at expressing your preference. We will add your name. We give you our word we will neither solicit you for money, nor add you to our routine mailings without your permission. God bless you in your kingdom endeavors.

Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

Now therefore you all are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone in whom all the building fitly framed together continually grows up into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22



  1. Exist without malice or ill will toward those who believe their existence and attestation to the same are aberrant.
  2. Accept the prophetic calling as a matter of sovereign grace and divine mandate, as legitimate as any other ministry gift, regardless of all protests to the contrary.

Prophets are:

  1. Distinct
    1. The prophetic ministry is not merely a persona, facet, style, or emphasis, of other ministries. It is a distinct gift and calling.
  2. Different, not deficient
    1. A prophetic perspective is not inherently a fault to be remediated by other gifts.
  3. Necessary
    1. Prophets are not the equivalent of a spiritual appendix. They are neither optional nor perfunctory.
    2. The purposes of Christ in and through His saints require a full expression of prophetic ministry as well as the other graces and gifts.
    3. His fullness is expressed in our togetherness: we need one another.
    4. Neither better nor more spiritual than other gifts.
  4. Prophets bear no malice or ill will toward those who would try to conform them to their understanding. Prophets reject all pressures born out of artificial attempts at conformity for acceptance.

Prophets accept:

  1. Their calling to speak the truth in love, remembering their own frame, and susceptibility to sin and failure. Prophets are what they are by the grace of God. Their responsibility to reveal the fellowship of the mystery, to make Christ accurately known through the Scriptures, by the Holy Spirit.
  2. The responsibilities that come with their calling. The divine process of maturation that accompanies this calling.
  3. A ministry of tears that accompanies this calling.
  4. Identification with our Lord in His prophetic ministry.
  5. Prophets accept that misunderstanding and rejection by others routinely accompany this calling. Prophets accept this reality and forgive those whose response is rejection.


We, the undersigned, repent on behalf of ourselves, and others of like calling. We sincerely ask the Body of Christ to forgive us:

  1. For the ineptness and immaturity of our youth in which we did harm with our gift. We thank our heavenly Father for the chastening we received and continue to receive, even through vessels who may mean us harm.
  2. For taking our identity and senseofself worth from the exercise of our gift,rather than our status as beloved sons and daughters of God, regardless of any expression of “ministry.”
    1. We often illegitimately project our psychological needs for validation on others in the Body of Christ.
  3. For at times functioning independently and in relational isolation out of a spirit of rejection, woundedness, spiritual superiority, elitism, separatism, hyper-spirituality, and judgmentalism, thus misrepresenting the heart of God in Christ for His people.
  4. For teaching and practicing Old Covenant models of prophetic ministry:
    1. In the Old Covenant prophets sat apart from the community, speaking for God, to the people. In the New Covenant prophets sit among, and speak from, the community, as representative members.
    2. Since Pentecost the prophetic spirit rests upon every genuine son and daughter of God. Together, we have the mind of Christ.
  5. For putting God’s people into bondage and servitude to legalism, merit-based, performance and reward, systems of thought, rather than a revelation of the unmerited grace of God, effective all the days of our lives.
  6. For allowing numerous Gnostic, New Age, and psychic belief systems, doctrines, and practices to be introduced into the Body of Christ unchallenged, including from among our own number, under the guise of “prophetic,” “deeper,” or “third heaven” revelations.
  7. For promoting and facilitating a culture of unbridled subjectivism in dreams, visions, prophecies, declarations, ideas, experiences, and systems that undermine the uniqueness of Scripture and the uniquenessofthe revelation of God in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
    1. No subjective experience or manifestation outranks the accurate exegesis of Scripture, which brings forth a revelation of Jesus Christ, His cross, and His resurrection. God in Christ, can, and does speak to people through dreams, visions, etc., especially in lands and cultures where a biblical record is not readily available. However, this fact should not, and does not supplant the primacy of Scripture, as the revealer of the Person of Christ, as the more sure and final Word of God.
    2. Experience does not validate doctrine. Doctrine validates experience.
    3. The primary ministries of the Holy Spirit are to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment and to testify to Christ in resurrection. He, the Holy Spirit, does not establish His own centrality . . . never.
  8. For promoting and facilitating a culture that equates being “spiritual,” “mature,” or “prophetic” according to various ecstatic enthusiasms rather than transformation and configuration to the image of Jesus Christ.
  9. For failing to preach grace, repentance, transformation, and conformity to the image of Christ as the core gospel message and its outcome.
  10. For believing, teaching, and encouraging that an increase of endorphins in our blood stream defines the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
  11. For failing in our role as watchmen.
    1. Prayer is the language of intimacy. The mind of Christ is known through intimacy, and knowing His mind is the fountainhead of discernment. We repent for prayerlessness and a failure in exercising and vocalizing Christ-centered discernment.
  12. For facilitating an “anything goes” mindset as allegedly being “open to the Spirit” and allowing false, psychic, and demonic manifestations which have resulted in human trauma and pain.
  13. For an unhealthy fixation upon various end time schemes to the detriment of a present reality of the life of Christ in our mortal bodies.
  14. For allowing the fear of rejection and a desire for acceptance, to keep us from speaking out boldly to those in positions of authority and power.
  15. For allowing personal friendships and the esteem of peers to prevent us from saying what should, and must be said.
  16. For allowing our voice to be managed, manipulated, and muzzled by those who control access to pulpits, purse, and media.
  17. For elevating giftedness above character.
  18. For blame shifting: projecting our own failures and lack of discernment on the devil or the alleged failure of other members of the Body of Christ who supposedly “don’t understand us” and didn’t adequately “support and pray for us.”
  19. For using the grace of God and the universality of human frailty as an excuse for a lack of holiness, self-control, and self-government in life and ministry.
  20. For failing to govern and discipline ourselves according to the revelation of Christ in the Scriptures.
  21. For believing that in the presence of aberrant belief systems and practices that remaining silent is a manifestation of God’s love.
  22. For believing that getting along with one another means never discussing anything potentially uncomfortable to human concepts of etiquette and propriety.
    1. Our unity is in core apostolic truth, or it is nonexistent.
  23. For engaging in corrupt, extortive, and wicked financial teachings and schemes which result in significant personal enrichment at the expense of the Body of Christ and to the neglect of the truly needy of the world.
  24. For complicity in building, supporting, and sustaining hierarchal Babylonian systems of man under the guise of kingdom honor and submission.
  25. For promoting a culture of elitism, rank, and privilege through erroneous doctrines of honor and authority, which result in the extinguishing of a kingdom culture of mutuality, love, service, and gift (charis/charismata) exchange.
  26. For failing to engage our culture in the issues of the day with wisdom, tact, lowliness of spirit, and truth.
  27. For indifference to the plight of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the unborn, the oppressed, and all those who have no voice.
  28. For tolerating racism and gender bias.
  29. For tolerating rampant immorality, adultery, marital failure, and sexual uncleanness of all sorts in our midst, while wagging our fingers at homosexuals.
  30. For defining prophetic ministry as solely the prediction of future events, thus “out-ranking” the foundational work of the revelation of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
  31. For a complete lack of functional accountability for those who make predictive prophecies that do not come to pass, or who make them so generically that evaluation is impossible.
  32. For being impressed with success, celebrity, fame, and rank and for allowing these attributes to make us slow to speak, quick to overlook, or purposefully ignore sin and troubling issues of doctrine, character, or practice in our midst.
    1. The presence of “anointing” alone in ministry is an utterly meaningless indicator of spiritual legitimacy and heaven’s validation.


We the undersigned, by the grace of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit are from this day forward committed to:

  1. Speaking the truth in love to power in all forms: secular, spiritual, religious, and hierarchal.
  2. Speaking the truth in love to those within our spheres of influence who have erred in core apostolic doctrine or who have embraced aberrant belief systems and practices.
  3. Discern and function in relationships across the Body of Christ based upon truth, transparency, and honesty.
  4. Not allowing our own insecurities or the insecurities of others to keep us from speaking those things that are needful and necessary for the health of the Body of Christ.
  5. Serving the Body of Christ in our gift and calling, not as micro-managing doctrinal police requiring monolithic adherence to every nuance of doctrine, but rather as spiritual guardrails to the life and ministry of the Body of Christ.
  6. Maintaining our passion and commitment to the centrality of Christ, His Cross, and His resurrection; that He would be preeminent in all that we say and do.
  7. Gladly identifying with Jesus Christ in the care of His Church and in His burden for others, though we may be rejected and scorned by the objects of His love and the objects of our service.
  8. We forgive in advance, and carry no offense. Dead men cannot be offended.
  9. Being satisfied in our calling and our obedience to it, rather than from the responses of those to whom we might minister and any temporal results we might see.
  10. Embracing a call to repentance and walking in humility with God and humanity.
  11. Serving and equipping a younger generation of prophets, if they will walk with us and listen to us.
    1. We will not project our psychological need for validation upon them.
    2. We will give our selves to them as grains of wheat, embracing death for them.
    3. It is our sincere desire that they would excel beyond us and that they would avoid the pitfalls of this and previous generations.
  12. Resisting all attempts to build systems and organizations of man that are dependent on the resources of man and mammon in order to be sustained. Our faith started in relationship, it is maintained in relationship, it goes forward by relationship, and will be consummated in relationship.

We deeply regret that many churches and individuals have experienced abuse and pain from distorted and corrupted representations of what should be legitimate New Covenant prophetic ministry.  We have both caused pain, and been the recipients of pain. We forgive and pray that we might be forgiven. We cannot control the teachings and behaviors of others, but we do apologize for them.

However, by the grace of God and with your prayers, we are determined to not let past abuses and corruptions hinder us from legitimately manifesting authentic New Covenant prophetic ministry. We desire to bring honor to Christ and increase to His Body through the ethical and honorable stewardship of His prophetic grace that has been planted in us.

To this end we covet your love, friendship, and prayers.

By the grace of God.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you can download the Framework and Notes here, free of charge.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.

Copyright 2015,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact


From the CEO of the Church Excellence Framework

We have seen some incredible examples of true apostles rising up showing us real revelation . One example is Ian Clayton. I personally have seen an immense difference between pastor/ teacher material and apostles. Many churches do not have apostolic input or many are not really true apostles. A new definition of apostle is now one who has seen God face to face in heaven. This is a stunning article showing why we need apostolic input. Does your church have this?

We now have a new page to the site where we show resources for those who want to explore the immense revelations coming from Apostles. Called Heavenly Realms support.

We have a great diagnostic tool for church health. Many churches are structured poorly so we are expecting pastors to deal with all things and many are sinking and not able to cope with high level strategic input. We are finding many are not opening themselves to challenge.  This is the responsibility of the body to start playing their part where we are all pastors. Lets keep working with pastors to make sure they are not just working maintaining the status quo.

By Brad Brisco

Missional-Quest-e1365902537830The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there. ~ H. Richard Niebuhr

We have suggested that recruiting apostles is strategic to the renewal of the organization, and at the very least, it gives equal legitimacy and access to reverse the exile of distinctly missional forms of leadership. To exclude apostolic influences from any position (as the church has typically done up to this point) is to effectively lock out the distinctly missional leadership that churches so desperately need to recover. We need to level the playing field, give equal access, widen the gates, and expand our vision of what biblical ministry is. Consider the following deficits that emerge when apostolic ministry is left out of the equation:

Without apostolic multiplication, we stop at evangelistic addition. Salvation is seen as individualistic as we fail to see how God wants to start a gospel pay-it-forward movement though the life of every believer.

Without apostolic action, we fail to experience the promised presence of Christ. Spiritual authority comes when we operate as an apostolic people sent to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18–20).

Without apostolic clarity, our identity and purpose become murky. We fail to think strategically about the underlying value systems and core ideologies that define a community.

Without apostolic modeling, we miss out on a culture of releasing and empowering. Instead we contend with a culture of management and control.

Without apostolic parenting and releasing, multigenerational mentoring and leadership development are replaced by a dependence on the ministry of professionally training clergy.

Without apostolic accountability, we fail to ask the obvious questions of strategy and sustainability behind our best practices. Consider these examples: “Do we really need to have million-dollar budgets, seminary-educated leaders, and fifty to one hundred Christians to start a church?” “Do we need to have land and a building to be the church?” Because apostolic ecclesiology is more movemental in nature, it can go beyond thinking of the church in concrete ways.

Without apostolic imagination, we fail to ask questions of scalability. Instead of reproducibility and scalability, we opt for “go big” and “launch large,” forgetting that big movements grow out of small ones done well. The New Testament is our best and most basic example of this.

Without apostolic vision, we fail to ask the questions of reproducibility and transferability. We so complicate the message and training process that few know it and are able to pass it on to others.

Without apostolic passion, we fail to embrace our role in the big picture of kingdom mission. Rather we busy ourselves with the smaller vision and goals of our organizations instead of embracing our calling to actively participate in the global movement of the kingdom.

We believe the idea of custodianship establishes the correct relationship that apostolic people have in relation to their Lord, the gospel, and the ecclesia—namely, that of a slave or a servant. A great deal is contained in this idea: the custodian both seeds and guards the theo-genetic codes of the church, and this helps generate and sustain movements as well as catalyze the incredible potential locked up in the ministry of Jesus’s church. Exclude the apostolic, and it becomes hard to see how a fully formed, mature, and expansive ecclesia can possibly take place. Most likely the church would be limited to good preaching, groovy contemporary worship, and Bible studies. We suspect that Jesus intended much more for the movement that he started.

To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available for download here.

Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.

Join our Facebook group to receive regular updates and daily updated content.