God has always worked through leaders in the lives of his people. From the beginning, as soon as God had a people, he raised up leaders amongst them through whom His redemptive purposes were accomplished. We had Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, the Kings of Israel, the prophets and the priests. Jesus Christ came as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He came as Prophet, Priest and King – the ultimate anointed one.
In the Old Testament only some people were anointed by the Holy Spirit. Prophets, priests and Kings were all specially anointed by God. You could not function in these offices without the anointing from God.
In the New Testament, it says in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a Royal Priesthood”. Peter is writing to all believers, not just the leaders. In Revelation 1:5,6 it says, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” In Revelation 5:10 it says, “You made us kings and priests to our God”.
We believers all now have an anointing from God, according to 1 John 2:27. If we are truly in Christ, we are priests. We have a ministry to offer spiritual sacrifices to God, and to reconcile men to God, by pointing them to our High Priest, Jesus Christ, and His great sacrifice for our sins. We are also kings, in the sense that we may exercise spiritual authority over the works of the devil and even to some extent over the things on earth. And we can all prophesy according to our faith, as the Spirit of God leads, by the prophetic anointing poured out upon all flesh (Acts 2:28,29).
Now if this is so, how do we work together? Normally, the priest or the prophet or the king had his sphere of authority from the Lord. He could work in that sphere and it was fine. If he stepped outside his sphere, he was judged by God. King Saul wanted to do the ministry of a prophet when Samuel delayed, and as a result he lost the Kingdom. But where are these boundaries today, and what should be the attitude of church leaders to the anointing and ministry of priesthood and so on that God has put in the congregation?
It is the reponsibility of leaders to truly show where these boundaries are. This requires an enormous amount of wisdom and humility. It cannot be achieved by simply plugging the church into a kind of canned ministry program.
I have noticed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been virtually driven out of many of the pentecostal churches today. Pastors tend to want to keep these gifts out of the main church services, which are the ones where we raise the money. They also tend to want them out of the cell groups as well, by dictating the program and format and teaching of the cells to the point where we no longer require the development of leaders who know God and His Word but rather obedient “facilitators” who can just plug into a system. These facilitators are trained to “connect” people relationally so that they will come to the main facility and hear a special class of “anointed” ministers who will collect the tithes and offerings for the next building program expansion. This is all very well except that it really falls short of the glory to which the Body of Christ is called in these last days. It might be a good starting point, but I’ve noticed the tendency has been to move AWAY from empowered lay leadership towards a army of disempowered and docile lay facilitators who have know need of the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfil their role.
The tendency has been to create a special class of ministers, the clergy who should rule over the laity, in matters of the church. Roman Catholic theologians, to get around the implications of the priesthood of all believers, have invented a term, “common priesthood”. This is the priesthood that all their members supposedly have, and what it means in practice is that they are not “priests” like those who have taken the sacrament of “Holy Orders”. But nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus made “common priests” out of his saints. He only made Royal priests, not common priests.
The Pentecostal mega churches have created various “levels of leadership”. Everyone is supposed to be submitted to those in higher levels of leadership if they want to operate in a ministry. This may be fine, but one thing is sure – many of those at the top are spiritually blind and full of sin. Furthermore, they are unaccountable to their own congregations. How is it that so many prominent ministers have been moving amongst their fellow “apostles and prophets” for so long without the vilest of sins being rebuked in their lives? Where is the spiritual discernment of those who would claim the right to shut down the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in “their” churches? I fear lest we are moving into a second century church paradigm, in which that which is apostolic is being replaced and subverted by that which is merely episcopal (or pertaining to bishops). We are starting to follow Ignatius rather than the Apostle Paul, and we should know that this path leads directly to Rome.
There are therefore two extremes we can fall into. One is the rejection of strong leadership and the rejection of any church structure with more influence than a small home group. Such groups may or may not practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they never seem to grow. The other extreme is the creation of religious structures based on business principles alone, in which we have things so well worked out that even if the Holy Spirit was to leave we would be able to carry on quite well without Him. There is a third way. We can embrace strong leadership, pray for it, and yet learn to operate supernaturally with God. If we are leaders, we can seek to create opportunities WITHIN THE CHURCH for believers to learn to move in and operate in their gifts in a significant way. It is a RARE person who can rise above the stifling atmosphere in most church cultures to truly move supernaturally in the “marketplace”.
I believe that the home groups are the best place for spiritual gifts to learn to be practiced. It is also a place where people can learn to be LEADERS and not just facilitators. Such groups need to be MODELLED by those who profess to be called by God to EQUIP the church. And we need to develop the skill of encouraging people to speak from God whilst simultaneously being able to learn how to improve their operation of the gifts by listening to correction. And shutting people down and leaving them down is not what I am referring to. This is not equipping, it is stripping.