Church Power vs Lone-Wolf
Many people in the church today like to exercise authority over others, and people who refuse to submit to that supposed authority are condemned as being false prophets because they are not “in submission.” This article will examine the issue in detail.
A person who is called to be a prophet is only called by God Almighty, not by a church, not by a denomination, not by another prophet. The office of a prophet cannot be imparted, cannot be passed down, and cannot be released. You are either called to be a prophet or you are not. But the office of a prophet is different from the gift of prophecy which is one of the nine gifts of the spirit. The gifts of the Spirit can be imparted by the laying on of hands. And a person can prophesy without being a prophet.
The problem is that from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, men have desired to be in positions of authority and control over others. And they like to do exactly that; exercise their authority and control. All who do not submit to them are called false prophets. So they came up with the idea that God does not have any lone-wolf prophets; that any prophet who is not part of the accepted church system is, therefore, a false prophet, so say those who desire to control others.
The prophet Jeremiah was a priest; only Israelites from the tribe of Levi were priests, so he had a position that could not be taken away. But in addition, he was called of God to be a prophet. He did not ask the high priest permission to prophesy, he did not ask to be sent out by anyone. God said, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you” (Jeremiah 1:7).
Elijah did not seek or ask for approval from any man. He was called as a prophet and was in charge of a company of prophets. When God spoke he acted. That is the way of a prophet. But the established authorities of power within Christianity today do not like anyone that is not under their thumb because they see such a person as a threat to their authority and power, especially denominations. When Moses protested that he was not the best-qualified man for the job, God merely told him,
“It doesn’t matter who you are, for I will be with you.” And thus it will ever be with the call of God. Humanly speaking, Moses was not ideal for the job, but divinely speaking, he was God’s choice, and that is all that matters. (Hamrick, John. “The Quest.” The Morningstar Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, page 76)
God speaks, you listen, that is the way it is whether you like it or not. John the Baptist did not prophesy with the approval of the religious establishment, but he denounced the Pharisees and Sadducees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7). John the Baptist prophesied by the authority of Almighty God and none other; that is actually a requirement for being a true prophet. Prophets are needed to steer the church and to denounce any wrong that God reveals. If he were in the position of deriving his authority to prophesy from a church or denomination, then he would not be free to speak whatever he needed to say lest he is replaced.
Jesus was baptized by John but that is not how Jesus got his authority to heal and teach and cast out demons. Jesus began his ministry and carried it out by the command of God. Jesus spoke what God told him to say, and did what God told him to do. While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the chief priest and the elders of the temple went to him and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism– where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men’– we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Matthew 21:23-25,27)
The Pharisees believed that John was not a true prophet because he condemned them and acted outside of their authority. But John’s authority came from heaven, as did the authority of Jesus. And so Jesus refused to answer those that questioned him about his authority. Jesus, in effect, said that he did not have to answer to any human authority.
The religious authorities did not like Jesus acting without their approval. If Jesus had gone to them and asked to be sent out by them they probably would have done so because they knew that he would never speak anything against them and his actions would serve to strengthen their authority and power, since he would have been acting under their umbrella. And so that is the way it usually is within Christianity today.
There are only a few independent ministers who dare to speak out against the false doctrines of the majority. If you speak out against a favorite doctrine of a Christian TV station, you can bet your life that you will never be invited to be a guest on that TV station.
Such use of power does not meet with God’s approval. That is not how God operates. God calls, and if you do not listen then the consequences will be upon your own head, but if you call the person a false prophet because you do not like the message and because the prophet is not acting within the systems that man has set up, and you discourage others from listening to the prophet, then the blood of many people may be on your hands.
The twelve apostles were chosen and sent out by Jesus, so the apostles made a mistake when they cast lots to choose another apostle. It should have been the call of Jesus. Like John and Jesus and the first twelve, Paul was not chosen by men but was called and sent by Jesus when Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus. If the church had not accepted him, he would have been just as called and just as chosen because God does the calling. Paul made a point of making that clear, and defended himself as a true apostle. Paul said,
Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father . . .
But when God, . . . was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1:1; 1:15-17)
Paul made it very clear that he was not preaching under anyone’s authority or approval but that of God alone. Many people wrongly state that Paul was sent out under the authority and covering of a church when he began his missionary work. A careful reading of Acts reveals that belief to be false.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. (Acts 9:19-20)
In the above verse we see that Paul did not spend 3 years being descipled as commonly taught, but immediately began teaching and preaching because he was already well educated in the Law of Moses and he at first went only to the Jews. Paul was so successful at “proving that Jesus is the Christ” (9:22) that Jewish leaders in Damascus plotted to kill him. Throughout the New Testament you will find the majority of the time that the religious leaders killed or tried to kill the apostles, it was because of jealously. The Jewish leaders did not like seeing someone who was not an official of their synagogue, preaching and teaching so successfully, and who was not doing so with their approval; it was about power and control.
Now if Paul had gone to the Jewish leaders and explained to them what he wanted to teach and asked them permission to teach it, they probably would have approved, the same as the case with Jesus described above; he would have been operating under the authority of the synagogue and so his work would have served to strengthen the power and authority of the synagogue rulers. So why didn’t Paul do that? Because there would have come a time when the rulers began telling Paul what he could preach and what he could not.
When Paul learned of the plot to kill him, “his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:25). Notice that Paul had “followers,” though there was not a separate church at that time, because all the believers were Jewish. (Peter had not yet had his dream and went to the home of Cornelius.) They continued to worship on the Sabbath as usual, they just believed also in Jesus.
The Jewish leaders did not like someone teaching in their synagogue who knew more about important Scriptural matters than they did. Paul was preaching and teaching so successfully that he had followers, which made the Jewish leader angry. The same happens today. Any time someone is teaching or preaching whatever God tells them to, and they refuse to change their beliefs to agree with those of the Assembly of God or some other church, then that minister is denounced as being as false prophet and work against him. If he were willing to come under the authority of the Assembly of God, and change his doctrines to match their’s, then he would be welcomed and given recommendations for preaching throughout the world.
When Paul left Damascus he went to Jerusalem, but the Christians there were afraid of him because he had been a persecutor of Christians before his conversion. But Barnabas witnessed to the fact that Paul had “preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). So Paul stayed with the Christians there “speaking boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28). It doesn’t say that he was given permission to preach, it merely says that he was welcomed as a fellow Christian rather than a persecutor. Because of his call to the ministry, Paul went out and preached boldly:
“He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:29-30)
What this tells us is that the Christians in Jerusalem paid for Paul’s journey to Tarsus. It does not in any way infer that Paul was acting under the authority of the Jerusalem Church. The Jerusalem Church did not give Paul orders to go to Tarsus. In fact, it was Jesus who told Paul to go to Tarsus:
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. ‘Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'” (Acts 22:17-18)
The book of Acts then says that the church enjoyed a time of peace and “grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31). This tells us that a year or two or three passed. During this time, or just after, Peter had his dream and the first Gentiles were converted.
As a result of God granting salvation to the Gentiles as well, the Christian Jews who had been scattered during the persecution that started with the death of Stephen, began preaching to Gentiles, especially at Antioch where a “great number” of people became Christians. As a result of so many converting, the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to teach them, to be their pastor. Apparently Barnabas felt he needed some help so he went to Tarsus and brought Paul to Antioch.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. (Acts 11:26)
You can see from the above verse that Paul was not being mentored by anyone, and he was not being descipled for a time; he was in fact second in command of the church at Antioch, he was an associate pastor.
After Paul and Barnabas delivered some money to Jerusalem to help the Christians there, “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). Notice that it was the Holy Spirit, or God, that called Barnabas and Paul to be missionaries to other Gentile cities. Jesus is the head of the church, he alone decides who is called and where they are to go. So “they placed their hands on them and sent them out” (Acts 13:3).
This passage in no way infers that Paul was acting with the permission and authority of the church at Antioch. Even if the church had said, “No, we don’t want you to go, stay here,” the two would have gone anyway. Paul and Barnabas did not need the permission of the church because they were the head leaders of the church. But the people who are ruled by a spirit of control and authority say that if you go out without the official approval of your church then you are a lone-wolf and that God does not have any lone-wolves. What this means is that Jesus has been replaced as head of the church, by human controlled organizations.
Being sent out by the church at Antioch was not in any way an exercise in authority. As I just mentioned, Paul and Barnabas were the head leaders of the church, which means they were the ones with the authority, the church was under them. How can you get permission from people who are under your authority?
Later, Paul is sent out by churches which he started! This tells us that it had nothing to do with submission to human authority. What it means is that the church: 1) gave Paul and Barnabas their blessing; 2) and that the church financed at least the start of the trib. I do not believe that the church allowed them to go without sufficient money for at least a good portion of the journey.
After a successful missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, “where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed” (Acts 14:26). Now we see a bit more clearly just what it meant to be sent out. The church committed the two into the hands of God, which is a far cry from sending out two missionaries under the church’s authority!
Paul and Barnabas started churches in Lystra and Iconium, where they “appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord” (Acts 14:23). Here is another example of committing someone to God. There was no way for Paul and Barnabas to personally oversee the churches they started, so they entrusted the churches and the elders to God. In other words, Jesus is the head of the church, not any human organization.
After their return to Antioch “they stayed there a long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:28). Most people get the idea that Paul spent most of his life as a missionary, but the Scriptures indicate that Paul actually spent a lot of time as an associate pastor of the church at Antioch.
A few years later Paul leaves again, this time with Silas, “commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:40). Here is yet another clear statement that the church put them in God’s hands, it had nothing to do with authority or submitting to authority.
Though you should seek advice from elders and others who are more mature and experienced in the Christian walk than yourself, the ultimate decision to do this or that or move here or there is totally your own. If God tells you to go to California, you go when God opens the door, you don’t have to get your pastor’s approval or be sent out by the church. But if God calls people to be missionaries somewhere, the church should back them.
Those with the spirit of control, call anyone that decides to follow God a lone wolf and a false prophet. You should not tolerate such nonsense as that, but you do, and more; many of you allow churches and denominations to exert their manmade authority and control over you by believing whatever you are told to believe.
The Authority and Power of Denominations
Some of the disciples apparently had a problem with desiring authority and power. The mother of James and John went to Jesus and asked that her two sons be given positions of power and authority in the Kingdom. Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you are asking, . . . These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:22-23).
Jesus must have sensed that the apostles could have a problem with desiring authority and power over others because his very next statement addressed that issue.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Here Jesus is saying that the future apostles in his church were not to have authority over others in the same manner that the governments of the world exercise authority. In other words, the apostles were to minister to the needs of others, they were not to set in positions of power and give orders. They were not supposed to tell others what to do or how to do it, they were not supposed to tell others what to teach or how to teach it; they were not to be apostles of power and authority but apostles of action, serving others.
Which of the above describes denominations? They are manmade systems of power and authority that dictate to pastors and churches what to believe and what not to believe, what to teach and what not to teach, what to do and what not to do, and who can preach and who cannot. Which means that denominations are acting in clear opposition to the mandate of Christ. In so doing, they limit Christ’s ability to lead his church, and limit his ability to mature his people. Christ is supposed to be the head of all his people, but the denominations and some pastors have taken that position for themselves.
Jesus has authority over me because He defeated my enemies of sin and death at the cross. My submission to that authority is a result of love and gratitude and complete acceptance of His Lordship. Jesus did not force me into salvation, but drew me to Himself. Any authority that uses control or fear to hold you, even in the church, is worldly, and not of God. . . . Spiritual authority is given by God, for the purposes of God, so that those who receive it can do the will of God. (Authority of the Worship Leader, by Don Potter, Morning Star Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2)
To pastors and denominations that are lording it over the people, I ask, by what authority do you tell people what to believe and what to do or not do? The only answer is by man’s authority because Jesus did not establish ecclesiastical authority and clearly spoke against it. It was the religious authorities that murdered Jesus and the first martyrs of Christianity.
Shortly after the first modern wave of the Holy Spirit early in this century, the Pentecostals committed themselves to being nondenominational, but because of a spirit of authority that wanted to control what others believed, they divided into denominations. The main impetus for it came because of the dispute over whether God was One or a Trinity. The result was the formation of the Assemblies of God and those of the Oneness belief. Several other smaller denominations followed.
It is my opinion that God was greatly disappointed with the move to form manmade systems of authority and power, so he brought in the Charismatic movement that crossed denominational lines and resulted in the start of many nondenominational churches. But the spirit of control grew up again, and so the Vineyard denomination founded by John Wimber, the People of Destiny, and other Charismatic denominations formed. These have had many troubles.
The latest move of God, known as the renewal or revival, started in a Vineyard church but the spirit of authority and control rose up to denounce it like the Pharisees. So John Wimber literally kicked the Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship out of the organization. Is it a mere coincidence that John Wimber and his son both died of cancer? Perhaps God was showing that he does not approve of this Charismatic denomination, even if they had not kicked out TACF.
Rick Joyner, in “The Harvest,” says,
Nowhere does the Scripture warn us to beware of those who are not submitted to the body; the warning is to beware of those who are not joined to the head. According to many popular doctrines of submission one can be “properly” joined to the body without even being joined to the Head, and many are. . . .
. . . something is seriously wrong with our concept of submission. The moral, ethical, and heretical problems arising from the church are not because there is not enough submission to the body but because there is not enough submission to the head. (page 116, 117)
Those that lack understanding quote passages such as;
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
This passage has nothing to do with “church” authority, it’s about submitting to civil governments that rule over us. Paul was speaking out against those that desired to rise up and revolt against Rome, which many Jews did during the Jewish revolt of 66-70 A.D.
If the passage referred to the church, then no one should have ever rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church or any other church since then. No one can rightly use the passage to promote earthly authority of denominations. Some denominations such as the Assembly of God (AG) say that since they exist then they are an authority that God has established, but they ignore the fact that the Roman Catholic Church also exists and so do the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other false religious groups.
Paul did speak about submission in Ephesians, but it is not properly understood.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ . . . (Ephesians 5:21-22, 24)
Here again, there is nothing to do with the authority of any church or any persons who supposedly have power over others in the church. The only reference to the church is in reference to Christians submitting to Christ, not to any person or organization. In fact, the first part of the statement (v.21) probably refers back to the previous verses that say,
. . . be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
If verse 21 refers back to these verses, then Paul is saying what he said in other places about order in the church (Col. 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 14:26-33). If we have a hymn or a song we should give it, but then sit down and allow others to sing or give a word. It has nothing to do with people submitting to a human organization or to the church submitting to any governing power. It has nothing to do with having authority over other people, but it does refer to submitting to Christ and yielding to each other during a church service.
When it comes to the church, there should only be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers, not denominations. Where is there a mention of denominations with authority over people? It is not in the New Testament or in the early church.
In fact, the New Testament gives us evidence that Jesus actually endorsed the lone-wolf idea. Some of the disciples saw people who were not disciples:
“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
This tells us that you do not have to get the permission of any church or denomination to preach, teach, or engage in any form of ministry. And it came from the mouth of Jesus himself. The Today’s English Version says, “we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.” This makes it clear that the disciples felt that they had an exclusive right to minister in Jesus’ name. Most denominations are the same way.
Here is an example of how the Assemblies of God have taken the place of Christ as the head of the church and are exerting their authority just for the sake of authority. A well-known revival evangelist tells the story of how God called him to Argentina. He prepared as an Assembly of God missionary, had a place to live picked out and everything, then he went before the missionary board. He told the missionary board that he was called to Argentina but they said, “we are going to send you to Africa.” The evangelist then replied, “Ok, send me to Africa.” The board then said that since he agreed to go to Africa that he could go to Argentina. Supposedly they do that to all their missionary applicants. And that the missionary applicants who insist on going to where they are called are not able to raise enough support to go.
This tells us some very important things about the Assembly of God denomination. It tells us that they require their missionaries to be willing to rebel against the call of God. This is evil, it’s of Satan, and is very shocking that people cannot see that this is happening. The evangelist tells his story as an example of stiff-necked people who refuse to obey those in authority over them; he cannot even see that the AG requires ministers to rebel against God before they will send them as missionaries.
But, you may ask, what about the fact that God is using the Assembly of God around the world? God will speak through a donkey if he has to. God will use whatever means are available to him, it does not mean he approves of all their doctrines or their misuse of power. Large numbers of converts, by itself, is not evidence of God’s approval; Mormons also make large numbers of converts.
Paul gave us even more information on this subject. Read this carefully:
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? . . . 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe– . . . 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:5-7)
In the above passage, Paul was saying that we do not follow men, we follow God. God is the only one with true authority here on Earth. This is effectively denying all earthly authority. Even so, Paul did exert authority over the churches he started. But they did not have to listen, it was a voluntary arrangement, or submission:
. . . when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority– the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. (2 Corinthians 13:10)
Whoa! Hold on there! Paul said he had authority to build up, but he had NO authority to tear down! This means he only had authority to teach right doctrine, and take action that was beneficial to them. It had nothing to do with, “you must obey because I said so. I have power over you so you must do as I say.”
Larry Powers in Ministries Today magazine said:
“Uniformity is like a bag full of marbles; the marbles are only held together by an external structure. But unity is like metal shavings on a magnet; the shaving are held together by an internal power.” (The Healthy Church, March/April, 1999)
In other words, denominations promote uniformity, but God promotes unity. Uniformity does not equal unity, and unity does not equal uniformity.
God did not establish an official church, official Christianity developed slowly over several centuries. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel originally did not have a king because God himself was the king. The people did not have to answer to any earthly authority but only to God; “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6). The judges of Israel had no power to enforce law, people went to them to get disputes settled, the decision of the judge was not binding but the people were free to follow the ruling or not follow it. In like manner, there should be NO ruling body within Christianity because Jesus is the head of the church. A “fellowship of churches” is as close to formal union that should exist.
Those who love power will use passages such as, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5). But Paul went on to say, “until we all reach unity in the faith” (4:13). Even in Paul’s day Christians were divided and did not have total unity of doctrine.
There were certain men in the early church who were trying to force the Gentile Christians to live like Jews. These men even intimidated Peter and Barnabas by their use of earthly power and authority, but Paul said, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face” (Gal. 2:11). If Paul had given in to the “authority” of the Jerusalem church, Christianity would look a lot like Judism today.
Jesus said, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). The meaning of this is that we should guard against the doctrines of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The same can be said of those in power today. When Pentecostalism began it was because of the gift of the Holy Spirit with emphasis on speaking in tongues, today, most Assembly of God churches are filled with people that do not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the move of the Spirit is not present in those churches. No one gives out a message in tongues with interpretation, except maybe the pastor. The reason is the spirit of control, (and compromising with the world), which are choking out the Spirit. So attending most AG churches is not much different than attending a nonPentecostal church. It’s only those that are being effected by the revival that don’t resemble the churches of dead religion. Having Pentecostal seminaries doesn’t help either. The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.
There is a well-known Assembly of God church in Florida where the members of the prayer team often operate in the gifts while praying for people. They will pray things they had no knowledge of or intention of praying; it is the gift of prophecy or the gift of the word of knowledge at work, or both together. The problem is that the church leadership does not like it when the prayer team members are functioning in this prophetic praying, and does not want them to engage in it. This means that the church is actively working to suppress the operation of the Holy Spirit; the church is working against God. Such is virtually always the case with denominations.
When one of the prayer team was praying for me he said, “. . . ” He had no intention of praying that, and immediately ended the praying and walked off.
Last but not least, in Romans Paul said we have no right to require others to believe as we do in matters that are not the basic foundational beliefs of Christianity. He said this concerning eating meat or not, or observing a holy day or not.
4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. . . . 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:4,6-8)
No one has the right to judge you because you are not their servant, you are God’s servant. We live and we die unto the Lord, we do not live or die under the approval or disapproval of any person or religious organization.
10 You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. . . . 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10, 12)
In other words, we must answer only to God.
Pastors of Power
It is because of denominations that pastors have taken upon themselves positions of power and authority that the Bible never gives them. The apostle Paul said that Jesus,
11 . . . gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Notice that pastors are mentioned fourth on the list. But because of the false authority of denominations, pastors have been elevated to the first position and they expect prophets to be in submission to pastors. The text does not say, “pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists.” Pastors are in fact supposed to be in submission to apostles and prophets, and in New Testament times even evangelists had more standing than pastors who were seen in the New Testament as nothing more than chief elders.
The order given above is not arbitrary, because Paul repeats it in 1 Corinthians and makes it even more clear:
28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Nowhere in the New Testament is there an example of a pastor or even a person identified as being a pastor (that I know of). Yet, they hold the chief positions of authority in the church today, deriving their authority from denominations; denominations that have rejected the God-given authority of apostles and prophets. Though some pastors can also have the calling of being an apostle or prophet, if they are in a denomination they most likely are not an apostle or prophet. An apostle goes out and starts his own church while a chief elder is appointed or elected, which is how denominational churches choose their pastors.
According to the New Testament, a pastor is “an” elder that serves in the position of teaching or preaching;
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)
This means that elders (pastors) should be appointed from among the elders or by the apostle that establishes a church. Notice that Paul did not say, “the one whose work is preaching and teaching” but “those whose work is preaching and teaching.” That tells us that there should not be one chief preacher in a church, unless he is an apostle, but preaching and teaching should be done by two or three or even more. This is how it was at Antioch where Paul was one of the teachers:
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen . . . and Saul. (Acts 13:1)
If all the churches followed this example then pastors would not be overworked and not suffer from burnout or discouragement, and there would not be such a high percentage of pastors quitting the ministry. They are not following the Biblical example.
But sadly, some pastors like to be pastors because they like power and authority and control. Some pastors do exactly what Jesus commanded that they should not do, they lord it over the people, often acting as if they owned the sheep. Some will even tell you that you should never quit a church, that God put you there so you should not quit! Denominations and pastors forget that the shepherd is not the owner of the flock, but is merely a hireling. Jesus is the true shepherd of the people, he alone has the authority to tell someone to stay in a church or leave a church because he and he alone is the head of the church.
Some pastors will tell you that, how the church is run is none of your business, that he is the pastor and he will do as he pleases. If he decides to start a multimillion-dollar building project, then that is what happens. But according to the New Testament, churches should be run by several elders, as described above.
You may be surprised to learn that many pastors spread gossip and lies more than the people they preach to; they spread this information among themselves. One preacher will call another and say that this person is a false prophet or is sexually immoral, and so the person has nowhere to attend church. It is especially bad when there is, in fact, no proof of such (false) allegations. Such men will be rewarded with a burning hell, whether in this life or the next. I know of a retired pastor who made a wrong judgment about me and spread the lie to my pastor that I was a homosexual. He even slandered me to potential Christian employers. Not long afterward his daughter and son-in-law almost died from a fever they got while in Africa. Then he got cancer, but recovered with treatment. Then a few years later he got it again and died after lingering on and on, suffering greatly with the disease.
The Assembly of God church I mentioned above that was working against the move of the Holy Spirit, also worked behind my back to try and find anything against me so they could point a finger at me. The church even made threats against me saying, “It will be hard for you to minister.” In other words, “we will slander you and work against you to such an extent that there will be few churches, if any, that will allow you to minister in them.” (And I believe they have been carrying out their threat, but they will not win, because I am called of God to minister; so to work against me is like working against God because he is the one telling me to teach what I am teaching.) The person who made the threat is a well-known revival preacher with numerous books and tapes.
Why, you may ask, were they against me? The only thing that I can figure out is that they listened to slander about me before I ever even left on the trip to Florida in April of 1999. Before I left, I just happened to run across a fellow at the laundry mat whose son was attending the church. As it turned out, his son knew a fellow who had a room for rent. So I was able to rent the room that was only about 5 blocks from the church. I suspected right from the start, and I was right, that the whole thing was a setup. The other two individuals who lived in the house also attended the church and their job was to spy on me and report back to the church.
While I was there I very much agreed with everything I saw and heard with a few exceptions, so they really had no cause to attack me and work against me in the manner in which they did. You would have thought I was somebody like Hank Hanegraph who writes books against the revival, or somebody like the Unabomber. You just would not believe everything they did against me.
The only substantive reason for them to be against me is that I am a lone-wolf who is not under the thumb of the Assembly of God, and I do not agree with their doctrine that Christians cannot have demons. They really rise up in anger when anyone disagrees with that doctrine. One of the housemates often quizzed me about doctrine and the issue of authority and submission, arguing that the Assembly of God has authority because they exist and we are commanded to obey the authorities that exist because no authority exists which God has not established. I countered with the point that I have never been a member of the Assembly of God, therefore I was not rebelling against their authority.
It is certainly no surprise that many pastors have a control spirit, because the denominations they are under have control spirits. Rick Joyner said,
Those with the “control spirit” will be the greatest opposers of every move of God until the end. (The Harvest, page 37)
Many educated, clear-thinking people do not believe in the any-moment rapture theory or that the rapture is pre-tribulational, including Pat Robertson and D. James Kennedy. Yet, many denominations require their ministers to sign doctrinal statements that declare that they believe in the pre-trib rapture. But what if the pre-trib rapture is not true, (and it is not) that means that all these ministers are preaching doctrines of demons.
If denominations did not promote the pre-trib theory, there would be far fewer people that believe it. That is just one example of false doctrine promoted by denominations (demonizations), the list could go on and on. God wants his people to worship him in Spirit and in Truth, not just in Spirit. Talking in tongues and the gifts of the Spirit are all well and good, but they are not enough, we need truth, we must have truth in order to be fully matured and prepared for the return of Christ.
So how did the church operate in the first century? The apostles went around preaching to those that had never heard the gospel, then when a church was formed, it met in someone’s home. The apostle would stay long enough to establish the people in the faith of Christianity then he would appoint an elder from among them. Then the apostle would move on to start another church.
In time, there were evangelists that were called of God to travel from church to church to encourage the saints or deliver messages from the apostle. For example, when Paul commanded Timothy to travel to the various churches and teach and preach and appoint elders where Paul had not done so. Perhaps Paul had been driven out of town before he could appoint an overseer. Prophets also traveled from church to church and give words from God.
Imagine the apostle Paul submitting himself to one of the elders that he appointed over a local church; how ridiculous! In the first century, the Christians normally met once a week, even so, the scriptures indicate that they had more than one elder, because it distinguishes between elders that administer the church and those whose function was to preach and teach.
Who are Called?
As we have seen, the elders or pastors were appointed because the apostle felt the person had the ability to teach and preach and be a good example for the people. Elders with the gift of administration should be put in charge of actually running the church, because some people with the ability to preach and teach are not good administrators. Overseeing a flock should be a team effort, using the abilities of as many people as possible. Being talented at speaking does not automatically qualify them to require everyone else in the church to submit to them.
Many people within the church today will only listen to someone with a Ph.D., others will listen to anyone who’s a talented speaker, even if they are shallow and teach things that are in great error. If you want to find a great man you should not look at outward qualifications. People will follow anyone who is a good speaker which is why they followed Hitler. Bill Clinton was a good speaker, but he had low character. Dan Quale was a poor speaker, so he was seen as stupid and was mocked and ridiculed, though he had high moral character and was actually very smart.
Those that have Ph.D.s and are eloquent speakers are not likely to lead a revival or perform miracles. God does not choose people based on outward qualifications:
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
John the Baptist was not an educated philosopher, he was not wealthy or noble, he wore camel’s hair and ate locust and wild honey. Such was the forerunner for the Son of God. Even Jesus started out with a bad reputation, his mother was suspected of getting pregnant before marriage.
When a church looks for a pastor they usually require them to have a seminary degree and be an eloquent speaker. But that is judging people the way the world judges. A person may be totally unqualified to be a minister by the world’s standards, but God calls people based on what is on the inside. Even more than that, God often uses men who have failed, and the reason he does this is because men tend to become lifted up in pride. But after a man has failed he is much more humble; humble men make the best leaders. Just take a look at Peter and Paul; Peter denied the Lord three times then became the first leader of the church at Jerusalem. Paul was a persecutor of the church who imprisoned Christians; some were executed under the authority of religious law, which means Paul had a hand in murders. This is why he called himself the chiefest of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).
Sometimes God chooses to use foolish people. At other times, He chooses someone who is weak, base or even despised. To be foolish is to be absurd, dull and stupid, and weak means to be totally void of strength. . . . This is God’s method for retaining for Himself the glory for what He accomplishes through them. (Robin McMillan, The Pharisee’s Heart part II, The MorningStar Journal, Vol. 9, No.1, page 61)
I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom . . . not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power . . . (1 Corinthians 2:1,4)
5 But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6 I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. . . . (2 Corinthians 11:5-6)
Apparently Paul convinced people by casting out demons, healing the sick, and the operation of the Spiritual gifts. But today, people look to those that can pray a good sounding prayer or stir up a crowd, but it’s often just hype, the content of the message is frequently shallow, lacking any real substance. Or it is way off base from what the scripture actually says.
Too many preachers read into the passages what they want the passages to say. They see what they want to see. Many of these preachers like the power and control that they exert over people. They like to have 1,000 people listening intently, hanging on their every word but they lack understanding, even if they have a Ph.D.!
And just because a minister has a gift of healing does not mean that we should listen to his teachings. I am thinking of one minister who is so lacking in understanding of the Scriptures that God should remove him for incompetence. He does more than read between the lines, he writes whole books between the lines and greatly misapplies and misinterprets Scripture. Yet he is one of the biggest selling authors in America!!
Rick Joyner said in “The Harvest:”
Those who continue in this error of judging by credentials will be deceived and will become deceivers. Those who do not repent of this will reject those the Lord sends and approve of those He has not sent. (page 132)
These are the only truly reliable credentials– the presence of the Lord in a person’s life. . . . The Lord’s determination to send those who are unacceptable according to the world’s standards is a judgment against the world’s pride and rebellion. (page 133)
Why would churches reject those the Lord sends, because those the Lord sends will not be part of the good-ol-boys preacher club. They will not be part of a denomination and they will not be big-name preachers but will be speaking out against them. They will also not be willing to submit to the doctrines of the denominations, because they will be following God.
Great Lone Wolves
The Bible has numerous examples of great lone-wolves. Noah was a lone-wolf, Abraham was a lone-wolf, Moses was a lone-wolf, Elijah was a lone-wolf, David was forced out of the establishment and gathered to himself others like him that had been shunned. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther, they all acted by the authority of God, not by the authority of any church establishment.
Noah heard from God and obeyed even though the whole world was against him, laughed at him, and called him crazy. He saved the human race.
Abraham followed God’s command to go to a place he knew not of and was even willing to sacrifice his son because God said to do it. He believed he would have offspring greater in number than the stars in the sky. For all this, today he would be called insane.
Moses was a lone wolf. He lived on the backside of the desert for 40 years and did not want to go back to Egypt. “Send someone else” was his reply. He was not a good speaker, probably a stutterer. His brother Aaron had to speak for him to Pharaoh. Today he would be laughed at by the Christians and called a false “lone wolf” prophet. “Who are you submitted to?” “Where are your references?”
The formation of the Roman Catholic Church came out of a desire to control and dictate doctrine. When Martin Luther protested, he did not originally intend to form another church, but people took his teaching and ran with it, because they wanted freedom from the overbearing control that the Roman church exerted over all of society.
So there has never been one Protestant church, even at the beginning of the Reformation, there were many churches. But the leaders of all of them felt that they had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and called the other Protestant churches false. They did not have much understanding of this subject. They did not realize that they, themselves, were probably not 100% and there were no churches that were 100% accurate, and there are no churches today that are 100% accurate in all their doctrines. Some are 50%, some 60%, some may be even 70 or 80%, but none are 100%. Don’t you want your doctrine to be 100% accurate?
In the same manner, denominations today exert their authority and control over people, thereby limiting what God can do among them. When you categorize and departmentalize everything in the Bible, it becomes only head knowledge which can be an enemy of faith, and so the truth they have loses its life, it becomes dead. That is why so many past revivals ended up as dead religion. Many movements started in revivals but denominations were formed, and as time went by faith became head knowledge and the movement ended up spiritually dried up and dead.
I can understand why denominations form, there is a fear of false prophets leading people astray, but that is no excuse for establishing denominations that are against what God commands. How can Jesus lead his church if men in positions of power and authority are leading the church? And having denominations does not prevent false prophets and false ministers from arising and leading people into error. It has happened throughout history and is happening now, what denominations do is settle for a safe lukewarm mush. Not in gross error but in some error, while limiting the move of God, the voice of God, and the hand of God to lead and guide his people as he sees fit.
Every year that goes by Christianity in America is growing more and more apostate, with even Baptist churches accepting homosexuals and lesbians. If you continue to listen to what church leaders and theologians teach, you will be led astray. It is not the Lone-Wolf prophet that we must be concerned about, it is established Christianity.
Rick Joyner said, “The only Biblical protection against deluding influences is to have a love for the truth” (page 134). Notice that he did not say that the only protection against being led astray is a book of doctrines. Doctrine is important, but once a doctrine becomes established in the church then any new understanding of that subject will be rejected.
It is important to worship God in Spirit AND in truth. One of the functions and purposes of the Holy Spirit is to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). It is growing increasingly necessary for us to be led by the Spirit of God; let us not be tied down by the chains of denominational dogma and inaction. How can we be led by the Holy Spirit if we have it all carved in stone already?
Let us worship God in Spirit and he will guide us into all Truth. Let us throw off the constraints of demonic control and lifeless manmade authority, and follow the one and only head of the church, Jesus Christ.