Building up believers and the New Testament church


Ministry Functioning Together

Ministry pulls together

Ministry should always be pulling together, working together, like a team of horses yoked together. All of the ministers should be seeing the overall plan and moving toward the goal in harmony. In fact, every brother should be pulling together. In order to function together, we must be underneath the authority of the Head. We must be able to recognize Christ's authority, submit to it, and function under it. We function in union with the Spirit, who is in control of every time of gathering.

No matter how many voices it comes through, there should be one message coming to the assembly. It must be the voice of God! It cannot be one brother getting up "with a shotgun" and shooting this way, and another brother getting up and blowing that way--everyone just getting up and ministering as he sees fit. No, the unifying voice of God must be heard through individuals as well as the whole ministry. The church should sense that there is a unity and a message that dominates our life together.

Members are to be brought up to be able to see everything the minister sees. The minister's responsibility is to lose his ministry. It's like the eyes in the body, which, if they are single, make the body full of light. If the ministry is moving with singleness of revelation and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the body will be full of that revelation. The ministers are not a special little group over the body. They are members among other members who have an ability to function and get others to see what God's full purpose is. It is done in varying degrees of grace, by the different gifts God has laid out. God has chosen the gifts to accomplish certain things and each one has its own function. All do not have the same responsibility.

As we have fellowship, as we are seeing the same things, we minister in the capacity or ability that God has given, but we do not try to be something we are not. We cannot minister more than God has given us. Sometimes we try. One might try to meet needs without the capability, and someone else might have that capability. That's why the ministry needs fellowship. We need to have freedom to minister in the burden God has given to us individually, yet have the confidence that the whole ministry moving together is doing what God wants it to do.

This moving together is not an easy thing. It's not enough to "see the revelation." That's part of it. If you don't see anything, you can't minister anything. If you don't let what you see affect you, you still can't minister anything. If your life is not in accord with the qualifications, you're still quiet. But when we get to the point where we can speak and fulfill the responsibility God has given us, we'll still need to work at this, and we can only work at it "in God." It's not something you can go to school and learn in your head. It's fellowshipping and moving together so that we can move as one.

I've moved in a measure of this, and I know it can be done. One brother doesn't affect the other brother to change what God has given him, but this fellowship does give you a oneness, a brotherhood in the understanding of what God is saying. The other man has his ministry, and you have yours. You can't be what he is, or bring what he's bringing. God has given it to him, and he is moving by the measure of grace and faith that God has given him. But you are trying to move together.

If a minister is seeing anything, I believe his desire will be to impart that to others, not keep it for himself. This should be the aim of every minister, to impart every bit of spiritual knowledge he has, not only to the gathering, but also to other ministers. It will take some work when we start to get into fellowship. We'll need to let down the little "gates" we may have put up--our differences. We will start to encourage each other, question one another, read and study, and start to see alike in God's purposes. This does not take away from the main revelation: Christ speaking to our hearts individually.

For those that minister together, there may be differences in doctrinal belief that are laid aside for the sake of unity in more important things. This does not mean we compromise in areas that will later be detrimental, but there are certain things you can lay aside in order to labor together--things that don't have much meaning. If a brother has a living experience of Christ today, I don't divide from him just because he believes in eternal security and I don't. If he's got a living experience, but I discount him, how can we have fellowship? How can we affect each other? We need to move in the life of God. We should know what we can overlook for the time being, if we each have a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can read about men throughout the ages who had differences. Many tried to hold together and allow God to work out those differences. Some could not allow themselves, so they broke off and went another way. Sometimes errors in their understanding and doctrinal beliefs were detrimental, and they had to be severed. There are some things that we cannot overlook. They immediately bring a division and a break in the Spirit. In our desire to labor together, we cannot overlook sin, or errors that would be detrimental to God's ultimate aim, such as "The resurrection is past," or "Jesus is not coming again," or "He has already come." Things like this would be detrimental to our one revelation and what God is doing in our hearts: the blessed hope that is within us. These things we cannot overlook; they must be affected. If a brother's basis of ministry were so faulty, his ministry would have to be curtailed--he would have no ministry. He would have to wait; he would have to let God speak to him. God has given government, those in the midst who watch over these things, desirous for the assembly to grow, watching the ministry that comes in, and being very careful that it would not hinder or fail what God wants it to do.

For what God is doing, we must have a love and a desire to move together, because if we don't have this desire, we'll only come as individuals who feel we have a specific gift from God, and we will not minister together. We will not see a singleness of purpose, or the aim of God. I believe that as we read the epistles, we can sense the relationships between Paul and Peter, James and John. There should be a pulling together, a singleness. We should be aware of other brothers in the midst that have a ministry, and we should all want to have the same aim.

If there are differences, I believe that if we humble ourselves, God will give us the ability to overlook. There will always be differences, I believe, even as there were between spiritual giants of the past. We don't compromise, or try to minister what others are ministering, and sometimes we may not see exactly as others see, but we continue striving to see alike--because if we can't see clearly, we won't move. We don't move just because someone said to move; we move only in response to God. But as a brother speaks to you, the life of God comes out from him to show you certain things, and you see more clearly. So we can always encourage each other!

If the body is not functioning, if we have members who only come to "warm a pew," then the ministry is failing. There can be many reasons for its failure. We may blame it on individuals or we may take some of the blame on each of us. We can take the blame for not pulling together, or there may be a few pulling together but they are not seeing alike. But if we really see the basis of ministry, we will lay aside some of the differences and allow God to work out the rest. We can get discouraged too easily. It takes perseverance to exhort one another and continue to encourage. It takes humility to work with one another, to open up our hearts, to be pliable and workable, able to speak freely to one another and fellowship in the revelation. It takes a great working of God's grace. God must deal with us, and He is faithful to do it.

Honoring grace in others

The spirit of our whole gathering and fellowship together should be to honor grace in others. We're looking to agree, not disagree! If someone is wrong, I believe God will move to correct it, if our hearts are right. If we're approaching one another with humility before the throne of grace, I believe God will use others to correct us and bring us back on course. But we should appreciate one another in the Lord. This truth is very prevalent in the word of God and has much meaning, if we're going to progress with God and grow in grace and the fellowship of the Lord.

This moving together is what the Spirit of God wants. This means that every one who has a gift is actively engaged in the message that's coming forth. As we stay in the love of God, we will stay properly committed to the message. We don't care who the message is coming forth from, because we recognize that other brothers have grace moving to affect the body. When a brother stands to minister, we've had enough fellowship to know God has put a burden in his heart, what measure he is moving in, and what area he is addressing. We know what God is speaking to his heart, and we are there pulling with him, actively engaged with him in the ministry. We may not open our mouths that day, but we're engaged with him, pulling, praying, sharing. He may have some unclear areas, and we may see things to share with him, but we still see that the Spirit of God wants to use him. We're pulling with him; the ministry is pulling together. I don't think the Holy Spirit ever does anything in which He does not bring us together. That's why I say that to be able to function in the Spirit, we must function together.

"Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves..." This is so important! Brothers, our lives need to be knit together. Our hearts need to be knit together. That doesn't mean familiarity. Every brother has a gift. We need to recognize and respect every brother that God has called and what He is doing in his life, in order to receive from Christ. The brother is a vessel, and we must recognize and respect that. We are not honoring people in the wrong way; we're honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is bringing a "fervent charity" among us, "...for charity covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). We can overlook certain faults. The love of God that cleanses us from all sin also covers a multitude of sins.

We're not dependent upon persons, yet we must honor and respect them in order to receive through the vessel. There are things we can do to affect this, and it needs to be worked out continually, in order to have this proper honor. It's not a one-time work. When we gather together, every heart in the whole assembly must be moving in this direction with expectancy, so that there is nothing to keep us from hearing what God is saying.

Philippians 3:17-19: "Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now I tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetites, whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." These verses speak about a "pattern." Where do we get the pattern? Some might say, from the word of God, and from God. That is true, but Timothy and other brethren received it from those God had sent, because they recognized the grace of God coming through man. They didn't worship man, and neither do we. But we honor and respect the grace of God that is flowing. If God cannot establish this in our hearts, then as an assembly we will not be able to make disciples, because there will always be a "division." We need to come to a common understanding in the Lord. God must reveal it to our hearts, for us to go on. We must be followers and learners, constantly listening at the feet of Jesus as we hear the word of God imparted to us.

Agreement in the word

In I Corinthians 14:20 (referring to the manifestations of the Spirit), Paul exhorts: "Brethren, be not children in understanding, howbeit in malice, be ye children, but in understanding, be men." In understanding, be men--be mature. In I Corinthians 14:37 he says: "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." This pertains to oneness of ministry and agreement in the word. The only place we can agree is in the word of God--not in your interpretation or my interpretation, but in what the Lord has revealed to us. That is all we can agree in.

There are times when we may take a scripture and interpret it according to our past teaching or past thinking, and get tied up emotionally with what we believe. As ministers, we cannot be ministering our opinions, or soon we will sow discord or division and minister doubt. We should minister with a singleness of purpose in what we see and in the ability God has given us. If we don't have the unity in our midst that is needed, then we need to work at it. We must desire to work the differences out. There should be an agreement in the word, and Paul is asking for this agreement when he says, "If any man thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge the things that I write..." If there is no agreement, a statement should be questioned and tested by the word of God.

Too often, we let things go by in ministry that we do not agree with, but we do not ask questions or get answers. Instead, we break off our fellowship in the revelation. We don't agree, but that is where it stops. We hold our own views, and then the next time we hear the ministry, no matter who is speaking, we think, "I don't agree," and shut off the flow. But we've got to keep those channels open. Our spirits must stay open if we're going to grow in the things of the Lord. This is why we're here. We're not here to play games!

In II Thessalonians 3:14, Paul was so bold as to say, "And if any man obey not our words by this epistle, note that man and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." He's asking for agreement. Every may not be able to do this, but Paul had great authority, grace, and anointing in what God had called him to do. There may still be men today somewhere in the world that have this same ability to say, "If any man obey not our words..."

If we're seeing anything, brethren, we can have discernment. As we read the book of Revelation, we see that there were unspiritual churches that could discern who were apostles and who were not. I believe it doesn't take a great spiritual giant to discern what is true and what is false. But we need to discern, and if the word of God is being brought forth, we should want to agree. We should come together to agree. When the word of God is speaking to my heart, I want to agree, and when it's flowing and it's truth, we want others to agree also.

If it's not truth, then reject it. Why let it linger on if it's not truth? If a brother brings something that is not in keeping with the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, why let him continue to labor in that area? He should be approached in the love of God and others should say, "Brother, we don't see this," and sit down to have fellowship in God's word. God doesn't call us to be "wishy-washy." If a brother believes he sees something, he needs to stand in what he sees until God shows him and convinces him differently through the word of God. We don't convince anybody through arguments--only by the word made alive.

We're not trying to change each other. We're fellowshipping in the revelation. If the way we express something is causing hindrances, we don't change to sound like another brother, but we need to change so that we will bring forth "the same sound." We know that each one of us has a personality. God's gift is what comes through the minister, but if the message is being hindered by our words, I think this is our responsibility as ministers. The words we use to convey our thoughts is very important. If we can change, if we can be constructive with each other, it should be very easy to lay words aside if need be, and find other words that are more effective.

Sometimes terminology can be misunderstood. Two people can be saying the same thing, but using different terms. You understand what you say. I understand what I mean by what I say. But are the listeners understanding us? When we come together in fellowship, I may discover I am saying something the wrong way, even if I am basing it on scripture. I know what I mean, but as we fellowship together, I may see how to say it in a different way, and it will have more meaning, so I will say it that way.

In my ministry, there have been times when we would question one another, even in the middle of a message: "Brother, restate that. Tell me what you're talking about..." I believe we need to "loosen up" our meetings to benefit more from teaching. If a brother has something to add, he shouldn't be afraid to interrupt. The interruption may be needed. If God is in control, I don't worry about interruptions. There may be a question, or another brother may have something to add at the right time. We need to learn freedom with each other and see how we can do this. A brother may raise his hand and put it down, so the minister sees him and knows he is waiting. He may go ahead and finish his thought, and then ask, "Do you have something to add?" The minister is not interested in what he is saying; he's interested in what God is saying.

We need to build this confidence in each other and break down the stiffness that can develop in our meetings. Stiffness or formality does not contribute to pulling together in what God wants. I believe we need to have more fellowship, and we need to have confidence in each other. We need to have respect. We need to press forward and get answers to anything that hinders, so that the demand can be put upon the people through ministry moving together. It shouldn't make any difference who ministers. Ministry flows because we have all come prepared. Ministers have not only prepared their own hearts, but they have come together and prepared themselves before God and before each other. I know this can be done, and it doesn't hinder any brother from bringing what God has given him. This moving together does nothing but enhance what God wants to do through ministry.

Moving together to meet needs

To move together means to move to build up, and this is to meet the needs. That's what the Spirit of God will be doing. It is not unspiritual for God to show needs to the ministers, and then for us to move together to meet those needs, with the measure of grace that functions in different ones for various kinds of needs to be met. Now we must learn how that works. The Holy Ghost will work it out. We're going to fellowship and understand some things because of God's dealings with us, but none of us is going to work this out. If the Holy Ghost is not doing the work, we're in a "program." The only program we want is the "Holy Ghost program." We need to know the principles, but the Holy Ghost does the work.

If we just preach through a book of the Bible, it may have no meaning. We need to see the needs in the body of Christ. Ministry is not just going through and seeing what that book says. We should minister to the need, and the needs vary. It may not make any difference which book we study, because God has something for us in every one. But we need to find out how it will meet a need. The Holy Ghost will meet the needs as you go through it. Ministers should meet together, pray together, share burdens together, and find out what they are seeing in the scripture. You may even use what another brother has shared with you when you minister. But the important thing is that you have fellowshipped with God in it, and you're seeing the same thing. Then after all of this has taken place, when you're actually in the gathering of believers, you should leave it open for questions to come forth and needs to be met spontaneously. The Holy Ghost will give that anointing because you are prepared.

We can't work this in the natural. It must be worked by the Holy Spirit. But there are certain things we can do in our own individual lives, preparing our hearts and coming together on that basis. There can be an open working, discussing, praying, and talking about the burdens. Ministers can share the direction they are taking, and see whether it is meeting the need. If it seems that needs are not being met, other ministers may ask, "How can we help you?" This is not a one-man or two-man ministry.

As we continue and God gives us understanding, ministry coming through the ministers together, over a period of time, in different ways (not just one way), will create an atmosphere in which listeners can ask questions, and needs can be met in that way. But the presentation must be patterned in such a way that people can ask questions. Once they start to ask, questions may be answered in the proper way, and we will see the benefits and the demands, and as people go away stirred in their souls, we will move on! The fruits of what we are doing will encourage us to move on. We need an overall ministry meeting needs. We need a ministry that is putting demands upon people, and we must move in life. This automatically does away with the formalism that tends to come in Sunday morning meetings, when we find ourselves just coming together to have "services."

We sometimes do not see the real freedom that we have in ministry. If we don't use the freedom God has given us, we will lose it by our own doing. It seems like we want that freedom, but if we do not exercise it and move in the plan of God, making disciples, getting into oneness and agreement, and starting to have the same judgment and understanding, soon there will be no freedom. It won't be because someone has come in and usurped it. It will because we have given it away by not moving in truth. Only as we move in Christ, in the complete death of the cross to our self-life, can we ever see what God wants to do. This is the constant demand of ministry.

Witness and evaluation

We ought to want our ministry confirmed by the other brothers in the midst. We need a witness. We want the word to be received. Are we concerned with what other people think about our ministry? Are we concerned about the other brothers who minister the word? Do we know what each one's ministry is? Do we appreciate their ministry? Do we complement each others' ministry, or are we pulling apart? If we're pulling apart, brethren, the body is being pulled apart. We should want the approval (the witness) of others ministering in the word. We are pulling together, building together, not separately. We have seen something in Christ Jesus, and we're building for oneness. If our "eye is single," we're moving together in that vision.

When we come together as an assembly, we're here to see what God has for us, and to let Him use the ones He wants to use. We're not hiring one man to preach to us every Sunday or expecting one person to captivate the whole ministry. We're looking for the Spirit of God to move upon those that God is working in and speaking to, the vessels that are set aside to be instruments for the ministry of the word. We are looking for our souls to be satisfied. When this is not so, it sows discord and division, because it brings death. Anything of the flesh defiles the body--the whole assembly--so we must be concerned.

If we get out of line, we are usually the last ones to know, so we need the other brothers. Peter got out of line one day, just in his actions (not in his words), and those actions spoke loudly. Paul had to rebuke him. None of us is beyond rebuke. God might send someone along from outside the church, or use someone in the midst to set a brother right. As ministry moves together in the scriptural way we have been exploring here, this is a safety factor in the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit continues to cause His life to grow in those He has called. If we were just looking to one man, paying him to preach sermons to us, this subject wouldn't be nearly as important. But we are looking for the ministry of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, so we need this.

I believe we should evaluate our own ministry. We should also get confirmation by talking to other ministers who are more experienced or older in the Lord. We should try to work with them and ask their counsel. There is a need for submitting and working together in the revelation of the Lord. This is not a natural or "blind" acceptance of what another brother says, but rather there should be a flow of spiritual life back and forth, and a common purpose and aim for each one of us, recognizing that we can be helped in such a way that it will keep us from error.

As ministers, I believe we need to know what God wants us to do, and we need to minister with an aim in view. Every time we stand to speak, I think we should have something burning in our heart. We should spend enough time before the Lord that we know what God is saying to us, and then we should take the responsibility God places upon us to formulate the thoughts and express what God is saying to us. If you go back and look at the exhortations Paul gives to different brothers, you will see that Paul knew what he was doing, in every place, and he was also conveying the vision to others, so that they also might know what they were doing.

We know that ministry first begins in seeing. You do not have a ministry unless you're seeing something. But we cannot stop there. We must realize that how we convey what we see and how we function together also have meaning to those who are hearing. It's not just the words that have meaning. As Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). If we are not conveying life through our thoughts and our words, people will be confused. We must be single-eyed in what we see and what we give forth together, and this is not natural but spiritual.

Now, as we begin to be used of the Lord, we should ask others, "Brother, how am I doing? What am I seeing? How does it witness with you? Are my words life?" It may be difficult to ask these things. When ministry is good, we can say, "Praise the Lord, I enjoyed that." But we must come past this to get into the working of life. Is your ministry bringing life? If not, why not? Try to ask advice: "How am I doing? Am I communicating what God is speaking to my heart?" There are many areas in which other brothers can help us--that is, if we're not too proud, thinking we stand alone and the anointing is enough. To be able to communicate what we see, we must have the right words and an ever-increasing understanding. Even when we think we have understanding, we must be open to correction. If we get off track, we need to be brought back.

I believe that we must lay our hearts open to one another. We need to come together after ministry is brought, to share back and forth, question each other, and see if we're really fulfilling our aim in God. It may seem a little strange at first, but as we go on, I think we'll find it's a place of real fellowship. One may think he is doing something, yet another may see he is not, and they can go on to work together so that God can use what is being said. We will find a place of functioning which is not natural functioning (someone telling you what to do and when to do it), but seeing together, moving with that freedom which we must have, moving together under the direction of the Holy Ghost. I think this begins in fellowship, gaining confidence in each other and what others see, then sharing the burden, sharing what we see, sharing the needs. These things must come about.

The value of this fellowship will be evident. If our fellow ministers do not understand what we are saying, how can we expect it to be clear to the rest of the body? If our words are not conveying the meaning we intend, we should throw them out and find better words that do have meaning. If we are doing anything that is detrimental, I have found that with a little fellowship it is very easy to lay these things aside and go on in some other way. Brothers should fellowship until they get an understanding together, not just for the sake of words, but for the sake of ministry and what we're trying to do, because we are all building together. We want to drive some nails into the building. We want to build in people's lives so that when the trials do come, they obey God--they know God for themselves. Ministry brings them up to that place of obedience.

When we are called to ministry and when we take the liberty to stand and instruct others, I believe each one of us is open for judgment. The other brothers in the midst can judge our ministry, and question whether it be the word of God. I believe our ministering must be based on a scriptural foundation. If what you minister is only your feelings, or what you think is right, rather than being based on the scripture, it is open for judgment. You may have a revelation, light which has come to your heart, but it must match up to the written word of God or it has no meaning. Also, even if you are experiencing God, you cannot minister your experience. The only basis of ministry is the word of God--not the dead letter, but the living word. Our fellowship in the revelation, both giving and receiving, must be based on the word of God.

God does deal with us individually, but our relationships, our fellowship in the mystery of God, and our working together will always have meaning. Paul spoke of Timothy as the only one who was "like-minded." They worked together; they shared the same things. Timothy knew the life of Paul, and Paul knew the life of Timothy. We should know each others' lives, because we don't judge a man on just one statement. Too many times when differences come up, we don't stop to consider the testimony of a man's life. What is his life walking out? Does he have a history with God? We cannot allow divisions on the basis of one statement. We should know one another and have patience with one another. We should be open, and each brother is responsible in some measure, even if it is only to pray for those who minister.

Accountability and correction

To see the full working of ministry, the balance of ministry, we need to be able to move in this area: "With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (II Timothy 2:25-26 NAS). As we have already said, there must be a brokenness, a humbleness in those that minister, and there must be fellowship amongst them in the revelation. We must be concerned about what God is saying. We don't try to change a brother or take away from what God is showing him, but as vessels that are human and fallible, we should guard against weaknesses (the flesh) that can creep in and defile the word. There are many who have had a "revelation" that was not a revelation from God, and there are times when we need to be corrected. We may stumble sometimes, for none of us has attained. We're all in this working.

I believe one of our safest places is right in the brotherhood. Here is a place where our revelation can be challenged in different ways. This is not necessarily open judgment in the assembly. Sometimes we can even correct in ministry without a direct confrontation. If we are all open, and a brother says something wrong, another brother can come right behind and correct with ministry that doesn't lower the other brother, but lifts him up. It can be done, if we are moving with knowledge. We can bring a clear sound.

I believe that in our assembly life, if questions are in our hearts when the ministry comes to an end, we should take the opportunity to ask them, either at that time or at a later time, depending on the situation. (I think that maybe in the beginning of God's church there were times for questions to be asked, so people could get understanding.) If we do not take this liberty, we may fall into this attitude: "It doesn't make any difference. I'll just take what I want and leave what I don't want." Yet this does not show a concern for one another. If something is false, or it has no basis, it needs to be challenged. There needs to be instruction, and guidelines given, and we must be open. If we are not humble and willing to take this instruction, I think the word of God gives a place for the ministry of any brother to be judged.

Again, if there are difficulties, or if we don't see alike, brethren, the love of God must cover this. There must be a sharing. Let us move on in what we do see and work at what we don't see. As brethren, we can get together and question each other. We should talk and pray about areas of differences, in order to move on together with singleness of heart. When we come into the assembly, our spirits must be right.

However, at times an individual vessel might be in error, having a wrong spirit, wrong doctrine, or building on the wrong foundation because the revelation is hazy. Someone may stand to just to "chat." Or he may line up scriptures one after another, and tell his thoughts about them. There may be true words spoken, but no ministry of the word of God that brings life. He is not coming to the site to build. This can be caused by many things: a wrong basis, no foundation in the scriptures, depending on opinions or feelings, and so on. I believe that the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Spirit flowing through a minister work hand in hand, giving the ministry of the word a good solid base in the scriptures. If this is true, then each of us says "Amen" in our spirit as the ministry comes forth. But if the ministry starts to come forth with someone just speculating or getting into an area not based in the scriptures, our spirits don't say "Amen." We start to close down. Sometimes if we don't recognize this, it keeps going, getting worse and worse as each person starts to close down. This is normal for Spirit-filled members. The Holy Spirit is in the midst to bring us to a singleness of witness. We don't deceive the Holy Spirit.

If a brother is speaking and suddenly the Spirit breaks in on him and says, "Brother, you're not doing any good," wouldn't it be better for him to say, "Brethren, I guess I got off on the wrong foot. Let me sit down." Everybody could just continue from that point, and I think we'd be much better off. Sometimes I think we feel we need to "save face" before the congregation, but if we start to labor in the "dead letter"--perhaps something we don't understand, or we're not able to convey what God has spoken to us, and it's not meaning anything--it's better to sit down and let God work on us some more. If we're not seeing, we're defiling! It takes a real work of God in our midst to bring us to this place.

In the 20th chapter of Acts we read Paul's final charge to the elders at Ephesus. The word of God reveals that the elders (or overseers) are to watch over and care for the body. If anyone rises up to try to draw the members away, the first line of defense is the elders. They are to question and to challenge every minister, so that there can be a clarity of revelation. If our hearts are right, we will desire this, so that we can move on together, having the same aim and the same love one for another, and so we can encourage our brothers in the ministry God has given them.

This doesn't mean that everyone is judged or questioned on each tiny thing. As the Spirit of God moves, and as God causes us to become more uniform and united in what He is doing, there will be a greater freedom in fellowship, and there should be very little need for open correction. But some ministry can be very detrimental, and if a brother is going on in an area that is harmful, and he doesn't know that he is ministering death, he needs to be brought down. I would want to be brought down by somebody who has that ability to say, "Brother, I think you're in the wrong spirit." Now, that doesn't come from everybody, but it could happen, and we need to understand this. Some people feel they have the right to do anything they want to do in the body of Christ. But while everybody can't call down Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), there are brothers who are responsible to call down certain things. If our words or actions are detrimental, we should want to be stopped, and not feel "hurt." Of course, love must work this, and bring us to this place.

Someone may feel that what God has given him, the anointing on him, supersedes anything else, and nobody has a right to challenge it. But I have always believed, whether I'm in my local gathering or somewhere else, that the revelation God has given to my heart is open for questioning. It is open to be judged. I have nothing to hide, and I want brothers, if they have questions, to question what I'm saying. I want to share it with them. In many places I have visited, I have shared with those in authority what God was revealing to me, before I would feel free to bring it to the people I was to minister to. I want my ministry tested.

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (I Corinthians 3:13-17). I believe this refers to the temple of God in the church, not our individual temples, and the possibility of a man defiling this temple with his own works. Paul told Timothy, "Take care about your doctrine," because the right doctrine, if it's in revelation, will save your soul. If teaching is not right, if it is not grounded in the life of God, it can defile, and it can cause problems like dissatisfaction, wrong ministry, divided ministry, division, and a harshness in our spirits.

If you begin to sense a problem in the Spirit, I think you first have the responsibility to pray and to seek God. It could be the minister that is wrong, or it could be that only you (the hearer) are wrong. Both the vessel that's being used to minister and the vessel that is here to receive must be right. If the person sitting in the pew listening to the ministry has mixed emotions or wrong emotions, it cuts off their receiving. They're "dead," and they don't receive. The ministry doesn't mean anything, and in fact, it makes them harder. Even the best ministry can make someone harder if they don't want to move in it. They may have emotional hindrances toward people, or be tied up in their own thinking. If they don't have a renewed mind, if they cannot see the purpose of God and labor at that purpose, the ministry will only harden and make them more indifferent.

We must be wise about the devil's devices and the human element that can creep in--wise enough to start to labor before God in this, binding up the hurt places and building up the walls that were broken down, as the Old Testament says. We need a good expression of God's love toward one another, and a real quickening, so that there is an openness in each one of our hearts.

II Timothy 3:13 says, "Realizing, brethren, that evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." If you're seeing something wrongly, you will build on that wrong revelation. If you're seeing something wrongly, you are deceived and will be more deceived, because everything that is built will be on the wrong foundation. We could go on to verse 16, "All scripture is inspired of God, and they are profitable for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God might be adequate, equipped for every good work." A brother or a minister that will be profitable in the work of God must be convinced that the scriptures are inspired by God. Not just some of them, but all of them are inspired by God and are profitable. We do not correct out of "what we think." We correct out of the word of God. We do not teach "what we think is right." We teach out of the word of God. Correction is brought out of the word and should have agreement in the word and with a spiritual fellowship or brotherhood.

It is always possible for any of us to err. But, praise God for the brotherhood--if it is functioning properly--that can bring us back to a sound place of understanding and fellowship. In a good condition, I think each one of us wants this. It is only when we are not so "healthy" in the Spirit of God that we resent someone bringing us back into a good understanding. But we should all be convinced of the inerrancy of scripture and that the men God sets in the midst will continue to increase in the knowledge of the Spirit.

Some possible hindrances

If we are not seeing results in our midst--namely, more oneness in the ministry and in the church-- then something is wrong, either in our ministry or in our hearts. It can be in either one. Sometimes we are too prone to blame the ministry for something wrong, and sometimes we are too quick to blame the hearts, so we must find out where the trouble is. But if ministry is not producing what the word of God leads us to expect, we had better "check in" with the Lord and see if our hearts are right, whether we are open to receive, or what is hindering us from receiving. Each minister must constantly be aware of himself and examine his own heart before the Lord.

As ministers we can have defects, weaknesses, "hang-ups" in our thinking, and we can hinder the word of God, with serious effects. We can cause the body of Christ to be divided if our thinking is not proper in the Lord. If we're on a tangent, going to one side or another, we're not able to manifest the word. Our minds are impaired in some way, and if we're not thinking in God, it definitely hinders our ministry.

Emotional ties can also hinder the word of God. Emotions have their proper outworking, in ministers and in the congregation, but when we're tied together not in the Spirit but in our emotions, in a fleshly, natural fellowship, it can hinder and cause the ministry to suffer. We'll be looking at the outward, not sensing the living word coming from the Spirit of God. The word can be almost completely blocked in the midst when we have natural emotional ties.

Also, impulses can come from emotions, and our thoughts can be interjected. If we go by our feelings, they can counterfeit the leading of the Spirit of God. We can start to see another revelation that's close to the revelation but misses it. There is no ministry of life, only a ministry of ideas. This also can bring the word flowing in our midst to almost a complete halt. Any words or any experience that comes from our soulish experience will defile the body of Christ. We must be concerned, and mindful, that all things are done unto edification. These things can defile, and they can hurt someone, or shut someone down. Even if the one speaking does not mean to do it, if he is not moving in what God is saying, he can defile.

If our minds or our emotions are unsettled, if we have questions in our hearts or turmoil in our souls, we cannot be led by the Spirit of God. We need to look at the scriptures; we need to look at our experience in the living word. At least this is what I see, and what I've experienced. When I'm in turmoil, when I have questions, when I'm emotionally tied to a situation, I cannot sense what God is doing. I must get quiet first. I must lay these things aside. I must get peace about them. Even though I may not understand, I must lay them aside to be able to get the leading of God's Spirit.

If I'm going to minister effectively, these things cannot be affecting me. I cannot minister my own ideas or my own opinions. Even if I use scripture, if I have an end in view which is not Jesus Christ, I may be just trying to prove a point, not seeing what God wants or being led by the Spirit. This is why we must be open to correction if we're going to press on and ask God to give us the full, rich ministry that we desire.

Seeing the goal and laboring for fruit

Each one of us should have a goal, knowing what we are striving for, even if we're not called to be ministers. The listeners should have a goal to be open to receive the ministry. We all must see the ultimate goal clearly, but mainly those who minister must be convinced of it. Our lives must be settled in it. Everything must be brought underneath that captivating truth God has brought to us in Jesus Christ. If not, as we go along the way, we will deviate from it. We must be convinced of the ultimate aim of the Lord and what ministry is to do. A minister must minister only in the grace that God has given him, but every minister is building to the same end.

We should always ask ourselves: "What is the goal? What am I aiming for?" just as we ask ourselves, "What am I raising my children for?" One thing, for God! I look toward the future, not just this moment. Everything is governed by what I see as the ultimate goal. Discipline, correction, training--all is done as we move toward that goal. This takes the grace of God! None of us can say we've "got it all together." But as we see more, we need to move in it.

I find myself more and more looking at that goal, at what I'm aiming for. When I act, it is with that goal in view. This is what ministry must do. We must see what God wants, and then we must move toward the goal. We can't give up, no matter what happens. We just go back to God and get "lit up" again, with the word of God that brightens the whole inner working of our hearts and thrills us. Then that thrill may touch others. If we're getting in touch with God, the light that's coming into our hearts can't help but shine out through us. Get alive in God! Our fellowship together will also do this, as we encourage and exhort one another. With love holding us together, it will all work for His purpose.

We should look for the fruits that come from a unified ministry that is really moving under a burden and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Over a period of time, if ministry is not bringing the gathering to a oneness of faith, if we are functioning properly under the anointing, then we will have to take more time before God in prayer, and even fasting. Whatever it takes, we need to see evidence. We cannot go week after week and not see the evidence of what we say we are here for, as ministers. If we see no fruit, we will become discouraged, and before long we will sit back. But God has given the ability to do the work, and if we move according to that ability, with all the knowledge God gives and with power behind it (our time of prayer with God), and still do not see fruit, we should begin to fast and pray for a breakthrough. Then we have done all that we can do. But if we haven't done that, I don't think we've gone far enough. Unification may not take place even after all this has been done--but then, judgment will come.

If we're not seeing the goals of ministry accomplished, we need to seriously consider the matter with our hearts open, to make some rational decisions based on the revelation moving in our hearts. All of us must learn to be constructive without being critical. Nobody's trying to govern, but we want God to have His will done. We should come together and use knowledge, being constructive.

Every minister can make a mistake. It is always possible to be out of the timing that God wants. But we don't let this limit us. We continue to strive, knowing that God will lead us and that we are ministering in faith. If we are not going forward, we are standing still--and if we are standing still, we are going backward! God is constantly putting on us His demand of love to move on, through exhortation, through others' lives, and through ministry of the word to bring us to oneness.

As long as we are in this world, the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us more and more about what ministry really is. There is no end to how the Lord will bring this about. What God has for us to do will continue to grow, we will see greater places of service, and we will realize more and more that it must all be the supply of the Spirit. God will be working in us, and the supply will be His life.