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By Len Hjalmarson
We live in an exciting time. Renewal and revival whirl around us like a
hurricane. All around us believers are filled with energy and hope.
Healing and signs and wonders are on the increase, and the Lord appears to
be renewing apostolic ministry. The sky is the limit. But in this season
of blessing have we neglected the foundations of church and kingdom?
It was a Sunday evening. My wife and I had returned to a church meeting
to hear and discuss vision. As we worshiped, I had an impression of a huge
cornerstone. But the stone was out of true; it was no longer sitting
squarely along proper lines in accord with the rest of the building. It
seemed that the foundation itself had shifted in relation to the Corner.
On top of this foundation was a wall of smaller stones. But the wall
was disorderly, with many stones sticking out, and some holes where others
had literally fallen out as the foundation had shifted.
Then in my mind I saw the stone shifting, being reset into alignment.
As it shifted I could see the wall also shifting, and the stones that were
disturbed were set back into place. The resetting of the foundation stones
resulted in a right ordering of the entire building.
Apostles and Foundations
And you also are being built up into a spiritual house, a holy
priesthood, to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
The renewal of apostolic ministry is about rebuilding foundations in
order to extend the kingdom. Extending the kingdom involves both works of
power and works of weakness. Paul is the best human example we have of
apostleship, and he "gladly boast[ed] in weakness." The ultimate
model for apostolic ministry is Jesus Himself, who was "crucified
because of weakness, but lives because of the power of God" (1
Most of us are familiar with the works of power as outlined in
scripture. And there has been a rebirth in recent years of signs and
wonders, healing and prophecy in contemporary movements and in mainline
denominational circles.understand works of power. Fewer among us
understand the way of weakness, because it rarely seems
"efficient" and it demands personal sacrifice. In the face of
the healing movement, what do we do with Paulís "thorn in the
flesh?" What do we do with those who are not healed? The Lord Himself
was "the man of sorrows" and the kingdom is revealed through
suffering and weakness as readily as it is revealed through power.
I use "works of weakness" to refer
to the gifts we have undervalued and the path less traveled, gifts that
relate to community and relationship building. The connection between
community and works of power occurs in one of the most foundational of
renewal texts in Acts 4, the only place in the NT where the phrases
"great power" and "great grace" are also present.
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul;
neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own,
but they had all things in common.
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection
of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
The apostles built foundations. Apart from solid foundations, the
entire building is at risk. In order to understand apostolic ministry we
need to know what the foundations are and how they are built. In todayís
society and church, we need the foundation-building function. Consider
Now therefore, we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself
being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted
together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being
built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The Lordís desire is to fill His temple, to fill His people with His
Spirit. He desires to be all things to us. One of the primary reasons for
the rebirth of apostolic ministry in our day is so that the foundations of
spiritual community can be strengthened. Only as churches become intimate
communities in the Spirit will the world again take notice and say,
"See how they love one another."
Hurricanes and Neglected Foundations
The only way to propagate a message is to live it. As Jim Wallis has
stated, "Community is the place where the healing of our own lives
becomes the foundation for the healing of the nations" (Call to
Recently I was at my daughterís baseball game and when she wasnít
at bat or on bases I was reading in Jimmy Long, Generating Hope: A
Strategy for Reaching the Post Modern Generation. He begins his book
by describing how he went to University with the idea of becoming a
Meteorologist, specializing in hurricanes.
Hurricanes are complex weather systems that are governed by two primary
types of wind: feeder bands, the conflicting and multiple currents that
generate the many funnels that form and cause all the destruction; and
currents, the wind force that actually determines the direction of the
entire storm. The current is like an invisible river channel, a foundation
that directs the storm.
When I read this I thought of renewal in the church and its context.
Renewal and revival are like the feeder bands of the hurricane. Itís
easy to focus on the powerful things that God is doing and become caught
up in that excitement. When we do this itís easy to miss the broader
context and direction, the foundation, the current that acts as a channel
for the storm.
If the whirling storm is renewal and revival in our time, an expression
of great power and rapid change, the context and direction is toward
foundation-building through apostolic ministry: "I will build my
church." Renewal and revival are always unto the church and the
kingdom, and the work of apostles is to build the foundation (1 Cor.3:10
As these things played through my mind I continued reading in Generating
Hope until I came to this statement two chapters later: "When the
sky is the limit itís easy to neglect foundations." The Lord
stopped me short with that one.
Foundations and Family
"When the sky is the limit itís easy to neglect
Recently Graham Cooke spoke at our church in a series of meetings. He
referred to "wise master builders" as those who build, and donít
merely bless. Too many leaders prefer to merely "bless" the work
of ministry around them rather than invest their lives in building solid
foundations. We settle for "power" and donít pursue
"presence." We want results quickly and donít want to spend
the time investing our lives in a solid foundation.
I have a friend whose father was a partner in founding one of the most
vital mercy and missionary organizations of our century. Yet the legacy he
left his family is one of neglect and pain; he failed in his most vital
calling. Because he was an important and powerful man in the kingdom, he
lost the simplicity of Christ. Instead of serving others, he looked for
people who could serve his vision. In the end, he was really building his
own kingdom, and he failed to walk in love.
Visionary leaders can easily neglect relationships, and often their own
families, in favor of the "important" things of ministry. Itís
easy to bask in the approval that comes when we exercise our gifts.
Moreover, the sky is the limit in the kingdom and itís an exciting time.
Investing in my family is often more like work, less exciting, and the
rewards are rarely immediate. Sounds like real ministry, doesnít it? My
family, like the church, needs my presence and not merely my blessing.
The metaphor of church as family is so primary that itís like the
very fabric of Paulís letters. The NT scholar Robert Banks points out
that Paul uses family terminology and family images constantly. He himself
is "like a father," and he "implores [them] with
gentleness" (I Thess.2.) He even "stores up for them"
rather than ask that they store up for him. Paul is not in ministry for
what it does for him, but for what he can do for Christ. Like the greatest
leader, Jesus, his desire is to serve.
Apostolic Community and Ministry
The renewal of the apostolic function means the rebuilding of the
foundations of community among us. Some of the most vital gifts in our
faith communities are the most commonly neglected. Most of us are
attracted to the bright lights, to flash and glitter. We notice the whirl
of the storm, but not the current that directs it.
The "current" of the Spirit in the church is connection and
community. Yet because community-building gifts reside more commonly in
women than men, and because these gifts are rarely "power"
gifts, we tend to undervalue them. How sad when relationship is meant to
be the foundation of all ministry! As Paul said, we "have not many
fathers in Christ." We desperately need fathers and mothers and
Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest who went from a Harvard lecturer to
caretaker and friend to handicapped people in the LíArche community in
Toronto, once wrote that, "Ministry is the creation of space for
community to develop."
Nouwenís insight is profound since foundations are the most easily
neglected during times of increased spiritual activity. It becomes too
easy to focus on externals: feelings and healing and manifestations. The
inward works - increased intimacy, hunger for righteousness, brokenness,
and repentance - are less visible and more difficult to measure.
Nouwen talks about "creating space," because no one can truly
create community, one can only prepare the soil so that the conditions are
right for community to flourish. Community rises out of intimacy, intimacy
requires honesty, commitment and vulnerability (or weakness), and
vulnerability requires safety. There is no ministry apart from community,
because without relationships of trust we donít invite others into our
lives. Like the old song said, "No one can fill those of your needs
that you wonít let show" (Lean on Me).
Without community (koinonia), there is no significant ministry. Without
significant ministry, where is the body? Marcus Barth translates Eph.4:16
to emphasize that it is only as each part of the body is close enough to
the other parts to contribute significant life will the body ever attain
maturity. Ministry occurs in the in-between, at the point of connection.
Community describes the way in which we are joined to others in the body
"Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often
hidden event of Godís active presence in their lives. Hence, the
question that must guide all organizing activity in a church is not
how to keep them busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that
they no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence."
Nouwen, Way of the Heart.
What is at stake here? The very life of the church and its right place
in the kingdom. Jim Wallis wrote that: "The only way to propagate a
message is to live it. Community makes conversion historically visible.
That is why there is no conversion without community." (Call to
Apostles, Fathers and Authority
Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statues and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of children to the fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. Mal.4: 4-6
Some biblical teachers recognize that this prophetic promise is for our
day. The breakdown of the family is endemic; never have so many children
been so alienated from their parents.
This passage is first about authority. It begins with God calling to
the remembrance of His people the Law with its statutes and ordinances.
The Law reveals the character of God and is "a lamp to our
feet." To be rooted in it (Ps 1) is to be fruitful. All the prophets,
Old Testament and New, had a deep passion for God and His word. Respect
for Godís word is respect for Godís authority. His word (written and
spoken) is life. And apart from recognition of the word as authoritative,
there is only rebellion.
Likewise the renewal of the apostolic function is about authority. We
associate authority with power and control. But power creates distance,
which works against intimacy and community. Biblically, authority is not
for the purpose of control, but to build and to bless and to empower.
Those who would lead must serve. The question to ask is, "When are
the hearts of children alienated from fathers, and how does renewed
authority bring healing?"
Fathers Have Authority to Build and to Bless
Around the turn of the century a British hospital was overrun with
abandoned children and infants. At that time very little was known about
the attachment process (i.e. the later John Bowlby and his followers.) But
the nurses noticed that the children who were picked up and fondled tended
to thrive, while infants who received less attention were more likely to
remain ill or get sicker. In fact, it was discovered that if an infant was
only changed and fed but otherwise not handled, it would die.
The hearts of children are alienated from fathers when they are either
abused or neglected. Too much water or too little water will both kill a
plant. Likewise, the hearts of people become alienated when pastoral
authority is not exercised or not divinely given, or is abused by efforts
at control. And once this authority is lost, like the crumbling foundation
of a building, the entire wall is unstable.
The point of the renewal of apostolic ministry is not authority per se,
but the right and secure establishment of the entire building in
relationship to the One Corner, Jesus Christ. In a sense the primary task
of the foundation is to create safety, a secure place for the walls to
rest. The foundation is there so that the walls can remain strong and
safe, in right orientation to the Cornerstone.
If the Malachi passage is primarily about authority, then "hearts
of fathers to the children" means that the ministry of Elijah is
first about the right ordering of relationships under God as King and
Father. Now the connection to apostolic ministry becomes obvious.
Apostolic ministry is a fathering ministry of restoration. God gives his
ministry of fathering to his church through divine anointing. Authority is
a covering that provides safety (remember how safety is the foundation for
intimacy), and under that covering there is freedom and release. Anyone
outside the covering is at risk.
The first implication is the right ordering of relationships. God is
intensely interested in the healing of families. But families will only be
as healed and whole as we have strong foundations in our churches. When we
get the foundations in order, the walls will have a secure base.
Just as dysfunctional families are toughest on the weak ones, so the
misalignment of the foundation in the church is most quickly felt and most
destructive to the weaker ones. Even one stone out of place in the wall
leaves an opening for the enemy. Because we are a body, the growth of one
strengthens us all; the loss of one hurts us all ("if one suffers,
all suffer.") The "weaker" gifts are most easily neglected
and the most vulnerable.
Connection is critical. Remember Paulís words to Timothy in 1 Timothy
3:5: "for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will
he take care of the church of God?"
The coming generation are fatherless like none have ever been before
them. The so-called "Generation X" donít trust authority and
often have negative experiences of family, but they long for intimacy,
they thrive on friendship, and they welcome mentors. Robert Banks in
"Paulís Idea of Community" points out that Paulís entire
ministry in caring for the church is like that of a father, with deep
compassion, strong attachment, and great love and gentleness. This
fathering ministry is greatly needed today!
Ephesians 4 is one of the great passages on gifted ministry. Recently
as I read the chapter I was struck by the community message that lay just
below the surface. The passage begins with relational unity ("one
body and one spirit," and "bearing with one another in
love,") and then moves through the listing of gifts ("he gave
some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and pastors and
teachers.") Paul then mentions the direction of these gifts
("equipping the saints"), and ends on two notes: the functioning
of the healthy community ("joined and knit together by what every
joint supplies,") and the means of growth, love! The body "upbuilds
itself through love," the primary task is relational and on that note
Paul closes one of the most often quoted passages in the New Testament.
But isnít it odd that our focus has been the governmental function,
and not the community function? We have become so task oriented that we
have missed much of the meaning in this passage. Perhaps as leaders we are
sometimes too focused on our own significance in the community.
There is no ministry to this generation apart from community, and there
is no community apart from intimacy. Furthermore, intimacy is not possible
until we create safe places, and safe places donít happen accidentally.
They must be built with great love and skill. In places of safety there is
vulnerability, and ministry happens. And when ministry happens, Christ is
The Kingdom and Weakness
"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the
wise, and the weak things of the world to bring to nothing the things
that areÖ." Paul
"The ability of people to move to a new place tomorrow depends
on the love and acceptance they feel todayÖ.
The only thing greater than our awareness of each otherís sins is
the awareness of Godís love for us and Godís desire to see us
healed and made whole. The principal lesson of community is that God
breaks in at the weak places". Jim Wallis. (Call to
We have tended to think of the apostolic in terms of signs and wonders
and authority. Typically in our culture, we import worldly models into a
biblical paradigm and think we have grappled with the truth.
Instead, the call to apostleship is a call to service and to be poured
out like wine at a table of sacrifice (1 Corinthians 4 and 11). In times
of renewal we tend to separate the Spirit and the Cross. Yet it was the
Spirit who impelled Jesus to the Cross. He chose the way of weakness. The
temptation to power that Jesus rejected is too easy to embrace in the name
of the kingdom.
I walked a mile with pleasure,
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow
And neíer a word said she;
But oh! The things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me. Henry van Dyke
During times of manifest power we can make the mistake of seeing power
and healing as the only path to Godís glory. A few years ago I was
visiting with some good friends whom I hadnít seen in three years. Dan
was always a man of exceptional insight and character, and a devoted
father. Danís daughter, Emily, was now twelve, and had a rare and
incurable disease and had not been expected to live to eight years of age.
I asked him how his faith was doing.
Dan told me that for a time he had wished God were a man so he could
wring his neck. But gradually something changed in his heart, and he began
to understand that Emilyís inner simplicity and beauty was a part of her
illness. And deeper still, he realized that Emily was a gift to him. God
had used her to answer his deepest prayer: "Lord, teach me to
love." My heart was in my throat and I was speechless as I recognized
the power of Godís work.
Toward the Harvest: a Call to Build Foundations
And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations. Isa.61:4
This passage follows on the heels of the proclamation of the Servant
that He is anointed with the Spirit "to preach glad tidings to the
poor" in Isaiah 61. The Lord is intent on rebuilding the foundations
of the church and reshaping our understanding of apostleship. The purpose
of leadership is not power but empowerment, but so that all the people of
God can be released into the world to serve Him and to offer their lives
as sacrifice to Him. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to
What is all of this "unto?" We could as easily ask, "Why
the church?" Paul says that "Godís plan is to unite all things
in himself: things in heaven, and things on earth" (Eph.1). He
desires to pour out His love on all people, to show His glory in all
creation, beginning with the church. God is purifying us, preparing us to
be a part of a great harvest before the return of Christ.
Apart from solid foundations, revival will not tarry. No matter how
beautiful the edifice we build, it will not last if it is founded on sand.
If we would move in both the "great grace" and "great
power" of the original church we cannot do less than build the same
foundation of caring community.
The apostle nearest to our own day who best embodies the ability to
build foundations for revival is John Wesley. By establishing the class
system and nourishing the life in Christ in small groups he built a
foundation for revival that thrived for over a hundred years and
completely transformed a nation. Masses of Methodist converts had places
of safety where they could be nurtured in the things of God and were
established in holiness. We need such master builders today!
|The Upside Down
"He was crucified because of weakness; He lives because of the
power of God."
We live in an upside down kingdom, but continue to think in worldly
ways. God is working hard at changing our minds, and many of us are
discovering that "when we are weak, then we are strong." We are
learning not to despise the small things and that the way of the Cross is
the path to glory. Leaders who have learned to walk in weakness can be
trusted with power. Power without compassion is destructive; but power
tempered with compassion is released in blessing.
The principal of community is that God breaks in at the weak places. If
we would walk in the apostolic we must grasp the wholeness of the truth as
we build communities not merely of power, but of Presence!
Both vision and nurture are foundational to church life. We need both
the whirling power of Godís Spirit, and the quiet places of rest and
nurture in our caring family. Apostolic restoration is about fathering and
creating places of safety so that the kingdom can be extended in
communities discovering the wholeness of life in Christ. Jim Wallis put it
Both vision and nurture are key to community. Without nurture, a
community will soon exhaust itself in pursuit of the vision. Without
vision, a community will become stuck in self-preoccupation and will
travel in circles. With only vision a community soon loses any real
quality of love. With only nurture, the community forgets what its
love is for. (Call to Conversion)
| Len Hjalmarson is a seminary graduate and
freelance journalist who participates in the Cell Group Leadership Team at
New Life Vineyard in Kelowna BC. He is married with two daughters and
edits an online magazine dedicated to combat simulations.
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