"No Steeple, Just People"

Oct 7, 2005

Before we can attempt any reformation of structures our spirit must be clean. Only by turning from dead works – from every humanly derived activity – from our innate rebellion and independence – will we be released by God into the reformation of structures.

Without this deep work of the Spirit we will only replicate the past. The rivers of reformation only ever flow from the deep wells of regeneration. For this reason Jesus refers to the final rectification and revolution of His kingdom as "the regeneration" (see Mtt 19:28).

Having established the deeply personal heart-foundation of reformation let us move from the individual to the corporate – from the new wine of the processed heart to the wineskin of corporate life.

Like the Reformation of the 1500's the new reformation will be triggered through the revelation of truth. 

However, the unfolding of truth in its restoration is progressive – "The path of the just is as a shining light shining more and more to the perfect day". Jesus explained that, "Man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God" (Mtt 4:4). The verb "proceeding" is present tense. There is always a 'present and proceeding' word for every generation. Martin Luther received it concerning 'justification by faith', John Wesley 'holiness', and the Pentecostals the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit'. But what is the word for this generation? God give us an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today!

Priest, Prophet, & King 

As the consummate and final word of God, Jesus is revealed in three dimensions: as Priest, Prophet, and King. 

He showed Himself in the historic Reformation as our 'Great High Priest', resulting in the recovery of 'justification by faith', the 'priesthood of the believer', 'water baptism'; and two centuries later through Wesley, 'sanctification'. The ascension-gift ministries restored in this time were that of the teacher, pastor, and evangelist.

In the revivals of the 20th Century, particularly in the mid-century outpourings, Christ was revealed as 'Prophet', resulting in the recovery of 'the laying on of hands' and the ascension-gift ministry of the prophet.

And now, in the coming outpouring Christ will be revealed as 'King'. Through this last great outpouring of the Spirit the ascension-gift ministry of the apostle will be restored hand-in-glove with 'resurrection life and eternal judgement'. The body of Christ will finally come to maturity – to the "full measure of the stature of Christ" (see Eph 4:11-13 & Heb 6:1-3). Parenthetically, I might add that the restoration of the ascension-gift ministries has only been in measure. We view them very much through 1,900 years of tradition and Greek worldview. Their fullness awaits that time when Christ, who is the "Apostle and High Priest of our calling", reveals himself in full measure to the church. At that time He will release mature apostleship as pivotal to the full emergence of the other ascension-gift ministries.

The Crux of the Current Reformation 

The spiritual unveiling of Christ as Priest triggered revolutionary structural reformation, likewise the revelation of Christ as King. Christ revealed as Priest cut off the human priesthood at the knees, and so the revelation of Christ as King will cut off the human kingship at the neck.

This is the crux of the current reformation. 

Through the prophet God protests, "They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval&ldots;" (Hos 8:4). This is alluding to 's rejection of Samuel for a king. They had relinquished the Priesthood to Aaron but now they went the next step, tragically relinquishing the Kingship to Saul. The old covenant church (ancient Israel) had been called out from the nations to be corporately a "kingdom of priests" (Ex 19:5-6) – to be God's vice-regents spreading the knowledge of the glory of the Lord throughout the earth by a personal and intimate knowledge of the true God. But now through her rebellion and rejection of this knowledge of God she sold her calling, losing it to a separate caste of kings and priests.

As a type this foreshadowed the greatest miss-development in the entire new covenant church's history – her relinquishing of the 'royal priesthood' (1 Pet 2:9) to a separate caste of kings and priests – the clergy – and therefore, to human control. The second and third centuries saw the rise of the 'monarchical bishop'. As did ancient Israel, the church effectively declared, "Give us a king like all the other nations" (1 Sam 8:5). Rejecting the Samuels, the men of the Spirit (apostles and prophets), they were replaced with a human office – the 'monarchical bishop', the direct equivalent of 'senior minister' (pastor) in today's church. Authority gradually shifted from a relational and spiritual base to a hierarchical and organisational one, plunging the church into progressive idolatry and spiritual decline.

Confusion between Secular & Spiritual Authority

This was accelerated by state patronage of the church under Constantine and subsequent emperors. The pagan role of the Emperor as high priest, as Pontifex Maximus, was used to legitimise his interference in the church. The lines between secular and spiritual authority became completely blurred as the Emperor presided over church affairs and bishops acquired civil jurisdiction. Spiritual authority was effectively replaced by hierarchical authority.

The teaching of Jesus on this issue was ignored resulting in confusion between secular and spiritual authority. They are two completely different kinds of authority relating to two separate spheres. Jesus taught this when He said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant" Mtt 20:25-26; also Mk 10:42-43

One is 'secular' relating to the civil/business sphere (the Gentiles) and the other is 'spiritual' relating to the house of God (it is not this way among you). The former is organisational and hierarchical (lord it over you), the latter is relational and spiritual (greatest shall be your servant).

The former is upheld by the "sword of the magistrate", by legal, organisational, and ultimately coercive means (eg police, courts, laws, rules, constitutions etc) and the latter by the "sword of truth and love" (the word of God and conscience only). The former is reflected, for example, in the employer/employee relationship requiring obedience to a position of authority. This does not imply that the person who occupies the position may not be a good or kind employer. If so, they are merely functioning as a 'benevolent despot'.

And so the same applies in traditional church authority. There are many fine men and women of God who occupy traditional positions of authority, whether they are called pastor, apostle, bishop, superintendent etc. The descriptor of the 'position' is not so much the issue, although it is when it becomes a title – a proper-noun rather than an adjective (i.e. 'Apostle Bill' instead of 'Bill the apostle', or 'Bill is apostolic'). The issue, however, is that we unconsciously view the ministry described as a 'position' rather than an anointing. And once we do this it is accompanied with an official authority and title. This is despite Jesus' clear teaching that we were not to carry honorific titles: "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." Mtt 23:8-10 NASB

The contemporary 'apostolic movement' is falling foul of Jesus' teaching at this point. Its fondness for titles (e.g. 'Apostle Bill', or 'Pastor Jack') is only symptomatic of a deeper Constantinian and non-reformational view of authority. Without distinguishing between spiritual and secular authority it will only replicate history – more control, abuse and spiritual confusion.

The root problem was not fully addressed by the Reformation. Despite the recovery at an individual level of the 'priesthood of the believer', at a corporate level priests were merely replaced by pastors. A 'protestant priesthood' with official powers was the inevitable result of the reformer's refusal to distinguish between spiritual and secular authority. The confusion between the two legitimised the Inquisition prior to the Reformation, and the drowning of Anabaptists by the thousands under the watchful eye of the Reformer's during it. In both cases the church (whether Protestant or Catholic) self-consciously used the secular/civil arm.

Because of the Constantinian confusion of authorities great abuse was perpetrated on the people of God. To transfer the same concept of authority from pastors to apostles, often under the term 'covering', is to miss the heart of the reformation. It only serves to perpetuate the historic problem of a human intermediary between Christ and His congregation. And as such it can only be defined as 'anti-Christ' which by definition means 'to be in the place of Christ'. This is a serious indictment on the current 'apostolic movement' and more broadly on both traditional and contemporary church structures. To take the place of Christ over God's inheritance is to invite the displeasure of God.

In the light of the above miss-development, the revelation of the 'priesthood of the believer', and new covenant freedom it demands repentance and rectification. The fear of the Lord is about to fall on the church. Many leaders will see the error of their ways and turn to the Lord.

The Two Streams 

There are two streams apparent in the current reformation. One flows on the surface and the other in the depths. 

The former, flowing on the surface is more visible, but prone to contamination. It pursues a profile and is more accommodating to man's ways and methods usually appealing to the cognitive. It is usually identifiable with particular men or movements.

The latter is hidden, flowing underground and is free from contamination. It is deep calling to deep. It pursues a deep spirituality and doesn't seek a public profile or man's recognition – it does not yield to man's ways or methods. It is more intuitive pursuing the ways of the Spirit. It is impossible to identify this stream with any particular man or movement.

The surface stream was seen in the mainstream Reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. They were given great profile which allowed the Reformation to survive and indeed spread in the face of great opposition. However, this profile led Luther to trade his earlier call for freedom for the patronage and protection of the German princes. The stream was contaminated. Secular and spiritual authority was again mixed and the Reformation retarded.

However, the underground stream refused to compromise on this very point. What has been commonly recognised as the 'medieval underground', a broad-based faceless movement of dissent and spiritual renewal dating back 1,000 years, surfaced almost contemporaneously with Luther. They became known during the Reformation as the Anabaptists. So named for their commitment to rebaptism coming out of the revelation that the church (ecclesia) are the 'called out ones' – a 'gathered community' distinct from the unbelieving one.

This was in stark contrast to Christendom – a prevailing monolithic system consisting of an unholy alliance between secular and spiritual authorities. Entry to this system was by physical birth and infant baptism. One was simply born into Christendom. To be rebaptised as a believing adult was therefore viewed as a declaration of war on the old system and was deeply subversive – both socially and politically. From Constantine onwards Christianity, as the state religion, had been politically used as social cement.

This prophetic posture of the underground in rebaptism, separating secular and spiritual spheres, paved the way for the separation of church and state and the religious freedom now enjoyed in the USA and most Western nations.

The Ultimatum 

However, the ultimatum is this: if the underground stream does not take the reformation to the next level by redefining the nature and function of authority within the church even the religious freedoms that have already been won out in the state will be lost. In fact, the state will either revert to Christendom where Christianity, as a defacto state religion, is used as social cement or to occult paganism for the same reason. To whom much is given much is required.

We have the separation of church and state. But it is now time for the separation of secular and spiritual styles of leadership within the church – for the exorcism of hierarchical and indeed 'Gentilic' authority from the house of God.

Pastors and leaders now is the time to humble ourselves and seek the Lord. He will not share His glory with another. 

It is time to relinquish what belongs only to Him. 

For a fuller treatment of leadership structures refer to the author's book, 'Snakes in the Temple : Unmasking Idolatry in Today's Church', see ch. 9 'Idolatry & Human Leadership'.


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Copyright © David Orton 2005 

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