2/5 Of A Body

Jesus fulfilled five roles while He was ministering on earth for three years. Let’s list them:
He is the apostle of our faith – Hebrews 12:2
He is a prophet – He stated of Himself that a prophet is without honor in His own home town
He is an evangelist – we see this in John 3 with Nicodemus and John 4 with the woman at the well
He is a “pastor” – as He is known as and called the great shepherd of the sheep
He is a teacher – He went about teaching and healing all those who were sick
When He ascended into heaven He gave these five roles or functions within the Body of Christ to individuals – Ephesians 4:11-12 and these five roles or ministries functioning together would allow the church to experience the fullness of the ministry Jesus came to do.

For centuries now, with few exceptions, we have seen the church functioning only with an understanding of pastors and teachers. I don’t believe our understanding of “pastor” in the five-fold ministry or ascension gift list is correct. In fact, I believe it is basically wrong and non-biblical. But that is for another blog – tomorrow’s. However, we have emphasized “pastor” and teacher and neglected, in many ways, apostles, prophets and evangelists. Because of this we have not “grown up into all aspects of Christ, the Head” as Ephesians 4 goes on to say that we should.

Because we have rejected, disqualified, or marginalized three of the five gifts, we have, for the most part, grown in only two aspects of Christ: teaching and shepherding. This has produced a malformed, mutated body that is neither attractive not healthy. Perhaps the disjointed disarray of the universal Church is simply because we have neglected Ephesians 4 and have tried to function without all five gifts working together. We simply must release and empower all the gifts to do what they are intended to do.

It is time for the Church, leaders and people, to consider coming into biblical order and establishing all five ministries that the Lord fulfilled while ministering in person before birthing the Church. This way the Church will be healthy and whole, vibrant and alive. With the full five-fold ministry functioning within each local assembly we would see a healthy growth in that local church and, in time, that church would be able to also reproduce and birth an other church. This would, of course, multiply our effectiveness and allow many more people to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Something to think about.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

Be Radical – Believe the Bible

“The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there.” H. Richard Niebuhr

As I travel and minister I realize that most believers don’t believe. They will tell you that they believe the Word of God, the Bible, but when you ask them if they have a passport they say they don’t. This means they do not believe the basic command Jesus gave to His people and the only task of the Church that Jesus is building – “go into all the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19) Without a passport you cannot leave your own country let alone go into all the world.

When I teach on the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) it becomes apparent that most believers either don’t believe that these gifts are available to them because they have been born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit or they have not been taught that these gifts are for today and available to them because they are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

For those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues – if you tell them the purpose of the Baptism was to give them power they are amazed. Then if you tell them the purpose of the power is to be a witness in the world for a living, resurrected Jesus Christ they are embarrassed.

I could give many more examples. These are simply the ones that I see the most often. People say they believe but when you challenge them about some of the commands of Jesus or with some of the basics of the Christian life it is obvious that they either don’t believe or have never applied the truths that they believe. Jesus would comment at this point that they need to be doers and not just hearers and thus “heed” the Word in their hearts and not just know it in their heads.

Is it any wonder then that the church is in trouble? Is it any wonder that the percentage of Christians in any given country is shrinking as the population actually grows? Christians today need to take seriously the basic truths of the faith and begin to walk in them. We have a supernatural faith as we follow a supernatural God. He calls us to do supernatural things with supernatural power and supernatural gifts. We don’t need more – we simply need to use what we have been given. We simply need to take seriously and radically something that was always there – right in the Bible.

Rolfe Bernard stated, “One day someone is going to come along, pick up a Bible and believe it – and put the test of us to shame.” When I read that many years ago I decided that I wanted to be that “someone.” How about you?

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

The Generation Xers

The value system of Generation X (18 to 35 year olds) is much different from the value system I grew up with. I was part of the industrial age. Generation X is part of the information age, and it has its own value system. Older adults must recognize the tremendous changes that have taken place and make some adjustments accordingly if they hope to have significant involvement with the younger generation.

The four basic values of the next generation must be noted. What do Generation Xers look for in a church? The four top things that this generation is looking for are:

RELATIONSHIPS: Young people just want others with whom they can connect. They love to “hang out” with friends. They really value their relationships.

AUTHENTICITY: They are tired of the plastic, smiling Christianity, where things look good on the surface, but underneath it isn’t real. They are looking for people who are real who live out their Christianity authentically every day. If they blow it, they say so, receive forgiveness and move on.

FREEDOM TO BE CREATIVE: They want the freedom to express Christianity in a way that is unique to them. They say, “The kind of church I’m involved with may look different from other churches. I may be involved with one particular sector of society because that is where God has called me.”

INTERGENERATIONAL CONNECTION: I hear young people say again and again, “I don’t want to do it by myself. I want fathers and mothers in the Lord who will encourage me, help me avoid pitfalls, and release me to fulfill my destiny in God.”

We need to be planting churches that keep these values and approach in mind so that Generation Xers can find a place to worship God and express their faith. A casual and informal church experience is best because they can relate to this and this speaks to their worldview and their personal experience.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

A New Wave

I meet many believers in numerous nations who have spent the past 10 to 30 years with a sense of unrest in their spirits. In North America is has been the past 20 to 30 years because the Charismatic Movement went through in the 1970’s giving hope for something new. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia the Charismatic renewal went through in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s. In many of these nations the hope that Charismatic renewal and movement brought to the hearts of believers has not come to fruition. So, there are many who love the Lord, but are discouraged.

They experienced a new wave of the Spirit sweeping across their churches. They envisioned a radical New Testament Church experience emerging from this spiritual renewal, but cumbersome church structure and traditional church meetings and procedures frustrated they dream. Now they find themselves in a “holding pattern.” They dream of experiencing life-changing discipleship that transforms society around them, but they are not experiencing anything close to it now.

Deep in their spirits, they believe the Lord is about to make some radical changes in His Church. They have been looking for something new, yet unsure of what they are looking for. They are passionately in love with Jesus, but feel unable to find what they are looking for.

I believe that the sense of unrest is a gift from the Lord of the Church. I believe there is about to be a breakthrough that will allow those who experienced the wave of the Spirit years ago to, once again, to see what was never fulfilled in the last major spiritual move. I believe that this time there are a significant number of believers worldwide who will not allow the church (that man has built) to destroy their hope and kill the movement. I believe that God has re-established the ministry and role of the apostle (and the prophet back in the 1980’s) for just such a time and such a move. I believe the time is ripe and the people of God – those who are disciples and following the Lord – are ready to move forward and follow “The Wild Goose.” (see recent blog)

Jesus is the Head of the true Church. Jesus has given to His Church the gift of apostle. These pioneers are able to see what is of the Lord and what is simply another form of religion in His Church. They understand the heart of God the Father. They see the blueprint of what the true Church is to look like, how it is to be structured, what it will accomplish and how it will do what Jesus called His Church to do when it was first birthed on the Day of Pentecost. Their ministry is slowly being seen as valid in churches around the world – accompanied by the rise in the number of false apostles – and leaders and people are starting to see the need for this ministry if the Church is ever to move forward in power to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to the four corners of the earth.

The time is near and Jesus is preparing His leaders as well as beginning to point out, train, and raise up the second generation of apostolic leaders for this next move so that the movement will not die and not simply become another memory.

I am excited.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

The Wild Goose Chase

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “wind.” The Spirit of God is the wind that spreads the flames of the fire of God from person to person and nation to nation. In the ancient Celtic Church movement, the Holy Spirit was referred to as THE WILD GOOSE – and following the Holy Spirit can often feel like a wild goose chase, unfettered and unpredictable. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The spread of God’s movement today is the spread of His Word by the Spirit. When we read the book of Acts, it becomes clear that the Word of God itself fueled the growth and expansion of the Church. To gain a perspective of the power of the Word in spontaneous church expansion, we can start in Luke’s account of the church multiplication movement in Asia Minor. Take a brief walk through the book of Acts to track the early spread of the Church. You will see how the Word of God ignites passion and spreads new life in Christ like a wildfire until ultimately an entire empire is overcome.

“The Word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priest were becoming obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

“Those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4

“The Word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.” Acts 12:24

“The Word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region [of Pisidian Antioch].” Acts 13:49

“[Paul] settled there [in Corinth] a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them.” Acts 18:11

“This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10

“The Word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing [in Asia Minor].” Acts 19:20

Now, when we read or hear the term “Word of God,” we automatically think of the Bible, and often rightly so. The Scriptures are the written Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). But there are other times when “the Word of God” does not refer to the 66 books of the Bible. The early Church was not as blessed as we are to have multiple volumes of Scripture in a variety of translations. Members didn’t have their own personal copies of the Scriptures. But they did have the Word of God.

I think we are missing something when we only think of “God’s Word” as the Bible. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify of Me.” (John 5:39) The Scriptures are the Word of God, but “God’s Word” is more than that.

“The Word of God” can also be translated as God’s message, God;s speaking, or God’s voice. This is an important distinction when we are discussing a movement of God. In the book of Acts, the Gideons weren’t placing Bibles on motel nightstands, but God’s people were hearing His voice and spreading His message. I believe that is what Luke means when he says, “The Word of God kept on spreading.” (Acts 6:7)

The Greek word ‘graphe’ is used in the New Testament to describe the written Word of God. ‘Graphe’ is typically translated “Scriptures.” Luke does not say that the Scriptures were spreading, but that the word (logos) of God was.

The letter to the Hebrews starts off by saying, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus, describing His followers, said, “My sheep hear My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27).

I believe that we, as believers and disciples, in our personal walk with God and in our spreading of the Gospel of the Kingdom into our neighbourhoods and the nations – we need to simplify things a bit. We need to, “Listen to Jesus and do what He says.” If we do this one thing, everything else will fall into place. That is what happens in Acts. That’s what it means to follow the Wild Goose.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

Revelation – Part Three

We have been looking at the specific kinds of “revelation” we can flow in and receive. This is true in general but we have been looking at this topic using the Five-fold Ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher as an example. So far we have briefly looked at: Special revelation, Progressive revelation, and General revelation (see previous two blogs).

Special revelation involves the Scriptures – both the Old and the New Testament. And, the use of the words that were selected, what those words meant in the day that the passage was written, and how the culture of that time influenced the writing (semantic and contextual issues).

Progressive revelation involves sifting through the history of the Church and seeing the ongoing and increasing understanding of truth that comes from a mounting history of learning.

General revelation involves lessons from life and nature. Here we can look at the life of various people who impacted the Kingdom and who, admix the realities of life, have stepped into the role of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

Personal Revelation is the last form of revelation to be considered. This involves firsthand experience. Listening to God in the context of living in His Word and by His Spirit, with wise counsel and accountability, has enriched our understanding, as well.

As we, leaders and believers, walk together with God, we are discovering our identity and our callings, and are learning much about these five roles within the Church today – these five gifts to the Church, given by the Head of the Church, Jesus. Of course, there is always the danger that we are projecting our own biases and personalities onto the gifts (our gifts), but there is also no substitute for personal experience in the context of all we have learned from other sources.

We have the Gift Giver within us (Jesus gave these five gifts to His Church). He is both the Author of the Book and the best Teacher in the world. It would not be right to ignore the lessons He has taught us along the way, but we do recognize that our experience is supplemental to the truth we have gleaned from other, more authoritative sources.

Of course, this whole realm of revelation is not an exact science. It is a faith journey. This makes it exciting. We are still in the process of discovery, and we are learning more every day.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

Revelation – Part Two

We are looking at revelation – and using the ministry of apostles and prophets as an example of how it all works. Yesterday we looked at “special revelation.” Today let’s look at two more…

Progressive Revelation – the momentum of historical learning. Please, don’t be dismayed by the use of the word ‘revelation’ to describe something other than Scripture. “Progressive Revelation” simply means the ongoing and increasing understanding of truth that comes with a mounting history of learning. Studying the historical tacking on this subject of apostles and prophets (and there is some but not really an abundance) is significant. We stand on the shoulders of wise and able scholars, in a manner of speaking, building our insights on the work of previous generations. We can also learn much from the historical examples of men and women who have actually fulfilled these roles.

For example, while flying to where I am ministering currently I was reading out the team work of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield. John Wesley is somewhat of a personal hero of mine. As I am reading about their ministry both in England and the United States (the 13 colonies at that time) I realized that John was an apostle, Charles was a prophet, and George was an evangelist. Three of the five five-fold ministries. Because of this they established a movement that altered the history of the Church and maybe even the world. They are not often referred to as apostle and prophet but their ministry indicates that this was the call of God on their lives.

The third kind of revelation is “General Revelation.” here we learn lessons from life and nature. Studying examples of these roles in contemporary life is important to contextualize our understanding and test the veracity of our insights. Jesus is the very image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the greatest example of the five roles. As humans, we are made in His image, and thus we can assume that some of the qualities of these important roles can be found even in the world of human culture.

There are many lessons to be learned from people who, amid the realities of life, have stepped into the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Their fruitfulness and faithfulness, exhibited over time, reveal much about these gifts. This is especially helpful when we find those rare examples of fully functioning teams that comprise all five gifts working together.

More tomorrow …

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

Revelation Today Regarding the Five-Fold Ministry

God is a God of revelation. He sent His Son to Earth to reveal Himself. As we look at Jesus we see the Father, Jesus said. God continues to reveal things to us today. Thus the supernatural gifts of prophecy,word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits. To build His Church with Him we need regular revelations from Jesus as to what to do next. So, for the next several days I want to look at this whole idea of “revelation” for today.

There are four “levels” of revelation today. Special revelation, progressive revelation, General revelation, and personal revelation. let’s look first at “special revelation”.

Special revelation refers to the Scriptures. First and foremost, all authority for truth comes from what is found plainly in God’s inspired Word. Of course, when it comes to such a study of Scriptures, we must explain our presuppositions and how we define authority to various interpretations of key passages.

To understand a topic found in Scripture – let’s say, the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11-12 – we start by studying the biblical passages that speak specifically of the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor (shepherd), and teacher. Some of the gifts (apostles and prophets, in particular) have much more to do with biblical revelation than others (such as pastor). We ask the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Words, to bring fresh insight and shine His light on the subject.

Of course, we will look at other passages because the Bible interprets the Bible. So, “special revelation” comes as we search the Scriptures on the specific topic. But, we must also allow the cultural and time context of the passage to shed light (revelation) on the subject being considered. How were these terms used in the New Testament (non-biblical) context. For example, the word apostle was widely used in the Roman Empire and had a very specific meaning in that time and place. So, the meaning of the word chosen often determines the meaning of the passage we are looking at. Of course, we also always examine the passage in the context it is found. Example: Ephesian 4:11-12 is considered and understood in the context of the whole of chapter four and then in the context of the letter itself – the whole letter to the Ephesian church and what they were join through at the time it was written.

Finally, we would consider examples of people in the New Testament (and occasionally the Old Testament) who were called to fulfill the roles mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. We assume that these “living examples” reveal some attributes that characterize each role, especially when they match with the meanings of the word used to label the roles. This, of course, involves subjective judgment, but we believe these observations are helpful. Sometimes, what people do – and don’t do – can be helpful in understanding their gifts.

So, to understand an aspect of Scripture, in this case the ministry of the apostle and prophet and the full five-fold ministry team, we need a thorough understanding of God’s “special revelation” as found in the Bible and the ‘Bible times.’ We are not second guessing what God is doing today as He is adding back the ministries of the apostle and prophet, the forming of teams consisting of apostles and prophets, and the formation of an apostolic and prophetic people called the Church of Jesus Christ. We start with special revelation and then move on to “Progressive Revelation”…

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

The Next Generation – Part Two

We were looking at the hope we have in Jesus as His Church raises up another generation to serve Him and win the lost of the world … We saw that the youth of today are ready to buy in to what the Kingdom and the King (Jesus) are all about. In particular, yesterday we saw:
1> The youth today have a passion for God
2> They are willing to work together – in fact, this is their starting point as they work in teams
3> They don’t care who gets the credit
4> They understand that generosity and sharing are the new currencies in the culture

Let’s continue to list…

5> They grasp holistic influence – they tend to connect all of life together and do not compartmentalize as many in the older generation are accustomed to do. They connect life into one big whole: faith, compassion, charity, work, career, church, family, friends. They simply don’t compartmentalize life. This will be a great benefit to a healthy Christianity where the Gospel of the Kingdom can then influence every aspect of the person’s life and influence and impact the society and culture in which they live.

6> They know authenticity wins. They understand that they need to be real and that trust is indispensable to having influence and impact as disciples of Jesus. They understand that leaders won’t have followers without establishing trust first and then maintaining that trust by being authentic and real not plastic and phoney.

7> They are not willing to wait. Young people, especially the leaders in the group, are ambitious and passionate about making a difference now. You can see this in the explosion of church planting that is currently going on as well as the fact that much of the social innovation and social entrepreneurs are young people.

8> They see social justice as the norm, and key to following Jesus. Young people today see that caring for the poor and sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom must go hand-in-hand. They see the combination of action and words as crucial to the advancement of the Church and of God’s Kingdom.

9> They seek wisdom. Overall, the young people of today – especially the leaders – are willing to be mentored and are hungry for wisdom from older leaders. Those of us Gen Xers tend to think we have it all figured out. Millennial and Gen Yers have the tools and technology at their fingertips to find answers, but from what I have experienced, they still seek wisdom from those more experienced.

So, because of these things I believe the future is bright and I am hopeful. I work with young people in every nation where the Lord has called me … and I can speak from personal experience. We have a tremendous future as these young people begin to walk more closely with he Lord and some step out to lead. The best wine has been saved for the last.

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page

The Next Generation – Part One

I work with young people in a number of nations and I believe deeply in the next generation. I see that those who are in the 20’s and 30’s are hungry for all that God is doing and are willing to pay the price, no matter how high, to see His Kingdom expand to the four corners of the earth. I am currently ministering in Armenia and as soon as I arrived I heard of a brand new “Mission School” which just graduated 12 students after a full year of full-time study. These young people worked in missions as well as studied for a ministry of “missions.” And, currently are planting a church in a foreign nation having just graduated.

I am seriously expectant that this next generation will take the reigns of leadership and move the Kingdom forward like no other generation before them. Here is what I see…

The young people, especially those with a call to leadership, have a passion for God. I read reports of 40,000 college students gathered at Passion Conferences with Lou Gigelio. 20,000 plus students gather every second year at Urbana; there are 20,000 who gathered in Kansas City for the IHOP One Thing gathering every year; and the thousands who gather at Catalyst, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Worship Central and many other venues.

The young people in the Church today love Jesus and have a serious passion for serving Him and His cause of making Him known around the world, nation after nation. They are willing to commit to this cause, pay the price, dying daily and taking up their cross. They are focused and serious about the call upon all true disciples to “go into all the world and make disciples.” They don’t want to “play church” and ‘business as usual’ just won’t do. They might not have the wisdom they need but then the older generation is here to mentor them and help them in that area. We, the current leaders, at least know what not to do and what doesn’t work.

Secondly, the young people are willing to work together. Twenty- and 30- somethings are more willing to collaborate than previous generation. They trust each other and see collaboration as the starting point, not some grandiose vision of teamwork.

Thirdly, they don’t care who gets the credit. It is way less about who, and way more about what and why. They simply want to see “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Fourth, they understand that generosity and sharing are the new currencies of our culture. In business, relationships, networks, platforms, technology, distribution, content delivery, etc., open source is the new standard. They get that, and through social media, they have the tools and resources to extend influence.

More tomorrow….

News of my current apostolic trip to Armenia can be found on Ralph Howe Ministries Facebook page