FUNCTION & FORM IN THE APOSTOLIC & PROPHETIC

Part 4

Bill Click

Defining "Vision" Biblically

"Without a vision the people perish" (Pro.29:18). This verse is often used to support various pursuits. What does it mean to you? Unfortunately, the tendency in the church today is to equate "vision" with success instead of the eternal impact which comes from when the Lord manifests Himself in and through the lives of people. This being the case, often "vision" becomes an ability, a drive, or even the desire for accomplishment by those entrusted with carrying and developing it. That, rather than a revelation from the Lord Himself to and through those He has called to reveal Him and establish His ways in the earth.

In the Old Testament, "a vision" could not be separated from a divine encounter. In fact, the word for "vision" in the passage referred to above is transliterated kwahsone (revelation). This is not an imagination, imitation or a speculation worked with until structured and methodologically employed to produce a desired outcome. Instead, it is a disclosure of God Himself resulting from His own initiative (Nu.12:6). Such is only given to those who have become completely opened to His plans and purposes. In fact, this encounter is so rare and so real that it is termed "open vision," meaning that as the eternal reality is revealed it crowds out the natural understanding– what is shown by God to that person occupies them completely, changing them, their direction, priorities and all manner of action (1Sam.3:1).

Without being cruel, examples of the preference for success to that of eternal impact abound in the church today. Success is dependent on and representative of style, not substance. Human nature is much more attracted to a style which brings success rather than it is to a lifestyle which has substance. The human nature ("flesh" or "old man") prefers to be gratified in an empirical way through the five senses (Ro.8:8; Eph.4:22). Therefore, the church today predominantly expresses a human order, essence and character rather than a divine flow and nature (Ro.8:14,29). Which means that the sufficiency of God's nature to establish authentic sons and daughters of God has by and large "gone missing," thoroughly rejected in favor of producing an externally oriented substitute replete with the prevailing cultural priorities on display (2Pe.1:2-4).

Success can be measured, reduced to formula, chronicled en masse for being reproduced by others, and is it wonderful for the ego. Lest we think this argument is all about "them," let's be clear: the preference for "this age" is not limited to those mindsets and methods we may want to consider apostate, liberal or even seeker sensitive. Spirit-filled "practitioners" of every variety (& I mean EVERY) abound and rise to the top of their respective fellowship groups, networks, denominations, various media, etc., because to the natural man "success" means something has been accomplished. Since the "flesh" of everyone wants to accomplish something, it (& those who "make it") become an idol. This is NATURAL.

After all, success is much easier on the "flesh" of those who labor for productivity (spiritualized: "fruit"). Success doesn't require obedience or submission of will to One who is Greater. It relies on skill, methods, and the ability to connect with people at the "felt" level, which is the human nature. (We often call that "ministering to the whole person, but our motive determines the level of its authenticity). The problem with that (& the "successful" have no answer for it) is this:

"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (Jn.4:23-24).

If the Father is not seeking after what we are doing, then we can only be doing it unto ourselves and one another, and not unto Him. Can you imagine how many thousands upon thousands of Christian believers in North America alone believe they are truly part of a move of God because their church, ministry, network or fellowship group is "successful?" Or how many ministers believe their church is superior because it has either broken a numerical barrier, or because 'important,' 'influential' people either relate to them or grace the ranks by their presence? Folks, what we "go after" reveals who we are (Gal.6:7-8).

"Without a vision the people perish" means that the dead works of religion which arise from imitation, methodology, technique, influence, etc. can only bring (at best) temporary success. "Without a vision the people perish" means that the dead works of religion– regardless of their level of popularity or acceptance– will not bring true life to people. Whether this success be longstanding or fleeting, the end result will be the same. It will be devoid of the impact which only comes when the Lord truly manifests Himself in and through people.

This should also begin to answer our questions regarding the lack of true supernatural intervention by God on the behalf of those who need prayer. Seeking after success, being yoked with those who are, and/or learning how to become such cannot and will not ever qualify us for receiving from God. Receiving belongs to those whose faith is true, coming from true relationship and worship of the Father (Ro.10:17; Mt.4:4). And this should also enable us to see just how little actually takes place in the lives of those whose commitment to the Church consists of a weekly (or often less frequent) Sunday AM trek made to hide in a large venue, to "slip in" and then "slip out" of a 'megachurch,' not having any real interaction or relationship with the Body of Christ. Likewise, this pertains to "media Christians," cruise-o-matics, tumbleweed and the bed-side believers.

Making the Shift from Temporal Success to Eternal Impact

By abandoning our preconceived notions of success and stringent organizational paradigms for structuring it we can begin to be engaged by God for envisioning the New Testament church and ministry in our spirits and settings. We must forsake models which squeeze ministers, the body populace and programs into predetermined forms. That is, if we are to ever receive and embrace revelation of "the mystery of Christ" for releasing the uniqueness of each minister, member and sphere of anointing for moving truly forward as Christ intended and is engineering (Mt.16:18).

From our study to this point, just by looking into the three settings of Jerusalem, Antioch and Ephesus we have seen that the Apostolic and Prophetic New Testament church of the New Testament period varied in the spiritual makeup of its personnel, the way each functioned as a body, and the mode in which it received and released ministry and ministers.

The "first wave" of Apostolic Evangelism which birthed the Church into the presence of the Kingdom was released through the Apostles because of the explosion during Pentecost. Jerusalem was "the place" where the Lord Jesus began moving in the Spirit because of the unfathomably wise strategy of the Father to impact those who were spread out but awaiting their Messiah (Ro.11:33-36). Although the Church spreads (by persecution) into Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, the beginnings of everything the Church was and is can clearly be traced to Jerusalem and Pentecost.

Later, we see Antioch becoming the war department of the church. Apostolic mission is conceived, received, and commissioned through the "Prophets and Teachers" there. How does this Apostolic mission arise? Out of abandoning themselves to God's Presence, seeking His face by "ministering to the Lord and fasting." Out of this passage we can see a primary model for Apostolic mission today. The result being not only soul's won to Christ, but reproduction of the various graces of God through powerful demonstration of the Kingdom as the church is sent to "all nations" (Mt.28:18).

Even deeper into the book of Acts, we see references to the church at Ephesus. Of that which we possess in Scripture, the deepest of revelations regarding God's design and purpose for each of us individually and also as the church are both revealed and modeled through these and other references (Acts 18-20, Eph.1:3-14; 2:19-4:17, Rev.2:1-7). It is from the writings directed to Ephesus that we find the revelational foundations for what will follow.

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