God's Priority for the Church
By Rodney W. Francis
Around the world there are multiplied thousands of churches with all kinds of names and teachings (all believing they have the right emphasis?).
What does God have to say about how church should be set up?
Does He have a certain kind of church order that we should be following?
If you turn to 1 Corinthians 12:28 you will discover a very interesting verse of Scripture:
"And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (KJV).
This verse clearly infers that God does have a set priority for His Church. At the least He has given us His eight top priorities in a definite order. Let us look at these priorities, so we can perhaps get a little more understanding on what His Church should be like. Included are four meanings from three Bible sources of interpretation, and an ordinary dictionary (Collins):
1. First APOSTLES:
What is an Apostle?
The Greek word used here is "apostolos" meaning:
* "one sent forth" (Young's);
* "a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [apostle] (with miraculous powers)" (Strong's);
* "sent forth. One sent, messenger, ambassador, envoy, apostle, to send off or send away from" (Bullinger's);
* "1. One of the 12 disciples chosen by Christ to preach His Gospel. 2. any prominent Christian missionary, especially one who first converts a nation or people" (Collins).
An Apostle is one who goes forth with the power and authority of the Kingdom of God. He is an ambassador. An ambassador is a special representative who can speak and act on behalf of the kingdom or country he represents. An Apostle represents the Kingdom of God on earth and therefore speaks and acts on behalf of God. An Apostle pioneers, breaks through and establishes a new church, people group or area through the miracle-working power of God that gives undeniable evidence to, and of, the Kingdom he represents.
The foundation of God's Church is apostolic and it is prophetic (Ephesians 2:20-22). If Apostles were so important for the founding of the New Testament Church (and they were the top priority), how much more are they necessary to be functioning in our day?
2. Secondarily PROPHETS:
What is a Prophet?
The Greek word is "prophetes" meaning:
* "a prophet, public expounder" (Young's);
* "a foreteller ("prophet"), an inspired speaker" (Strong's);
* "one who speaks forth openly before any one, a proclaimer of a divine message; among the heathen, an interpreter of the oracle. It is the translation of the earlier seer, showing that what really constituted the prophet was immediate intercourse with God . . . one on whom the Spirit of God rested; one to whom and through whom God speaks; one to whom God makes known His mysteries . . .one who shows forth God's will. Two things go together to make the prophet: an insight granted by God into the divine secrets or mysteries, and a communication of these to others, which, from the very nature of the case, are His purposes of grace, with the warnings and announcements of judgments that pertain thereto . . . in the case of the New Testament prophets, their prophesying was a preaching of those purposes of grace already accomplished, and also a foretelling of the purposes of glory which were still future" (Bullinger's);
a person who speaks by divine inspiration, especially one through whom a divinity expresses his will.
a person who predicts the future . . ." (Collins).
The Prophet gifting is urgently needed in the Christian Church today; men and women who are genuinely in touch with God and who can bring His "present truth" message to the fore. The Prophet who is hearing from God is able to "cut through" the religiosity, traditions, politics, worldliness and deadness within the Church, and bring a word that will cause resurrection life to work again within God's people. The Apostle and Prophet ministries are unique in that they contain the revelation of what is required in the setting up (and maintaining) of the Church according to God's order of priorities. When we do not have them in our midst we are robbing ourselves of"the key of knowledge" (Luke11:52). Jesus said that!
Most Christians acknowledge the place of Apostles and Prophets in the setting up of the initial New Testament Church, but not many seem to recognize the importance of them in the setting up and pioneering of a new church in our day. This is a tragedy. When whole sections of Christianity do not recognize, nurture and release Apostles and Prophets, we have automatically "short-changed" ourselves of a lot of the supernatural signs-following power of God ministry. Church is straight away reduced to a "word" message rather than a "Word confirmed with power" message. The Apostles and Prophets are part of the five-fold ministries recorded in Ephesians 4:11-16. Their purpose and function is to perfect, complete, prepare others for ministry, to build the body of Christ in such a way that every member functions effectively. The questions have got to be asked:
"Why is there such a lack of recognizing Apostles and Prophets?"
Why is the title of "Pastor" so acceptable? Especially when they are not even specifically mentioned in God's top eight priorities? Is it because it perhaps has a more "harmless" ring to it? Are our Christian leaders today afraid of the Prophet ministry? Or is it plain ignorance of their Biblical purpose? These are questions that need to be faced up to . . . and honestly answered.
3. Thirdly TEACHERS:
What is a teacher?
The Greek word is "didaskalos" meaning:
* "teacher, instructor" (Young's);
* "an instructor (generally or specifically): doctor, master, teacher" (Strong's).
* "a teacher, instructor, master" (Bullinger's);
* "a person whose occupation is teaching others" (Collins).
The Teacher is also one of the five-fold ministries. That gifting has the ability to discover, then expound "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). The teacher brings forth things both "old andnew" (Matthew 13:52). He is able to "feed" the people on a sound and solid diet of the Word of God. The Teacher brings balance and Biblical confirmation of the Apostle and Prophet ministries.
Many link the Teacher ministry with that of a Pastor, and that should be so. However, sadly, in many countries today, there are numbers of Pastors who either do not or cannot teach their people well. Likewise, because one can teach, does not make them automatically a good Pastor.
4. After that MIRACLES:
What are miracles?
The word "miracles" is from the Greek word "dunamis" meaning:
* "act of power" (Young's);
* "force (literally or figuratively); specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself): ability, abundance, meaning, mighty deed, worker of miracles, power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work" (Strong's);
* "capability, power to do any thing; then, power, might in action" (Bullinger's);
* "1. a marvellous event attributed to a supernatural cause. 2. any amazing or wonderful event . . ." (Collins).
"Dunamis" is one of the key words of New Testament ministry. The Scriptures are very clear on what "dunamis" is. It is heavenly, Holy Spirit power working in and through the life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Every Christian needs the "dunamis" of God in their life! That is the reason why Jesus left this earth and returned to the Father - so the "dunamis" of God could be sent to us in the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
"But you shall receive power ("dunamis") after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you . . ."(Acts 1:8). There is a huge deficit to presenting the Gospel when the "dunamis" is missing. The immediate effect is that the supernatural element of God's Word is lost to that of trying to convince people through articulate preaching. That is about as effective as a slow punch when in the ring with Mike Tyson! The needs worldwide are so great today that only the "dunamis" in action can make the people know there is truly a God Who loves, cares and wants to meet their needs through His disciples . . . and their churches! Every church that claims to represent JESUS CHRIST ALIVE FROM THE DEAD needs miracles to be happening to convince and confirm what is preached and taught! (See my article, “The ‘Dunamis’ Power Of God”).
5. Then GIFTS OF HEALINGS:
What does this mean?
It means exactly what it says! "Gifts" is from the Greek word "charisma" meaning:
* "grace, favour, kindness" (Young's);
* "a (divine) gratuity, i.e. deliverance (from danger or passion); specifically a (spiritual) endowment, i.e. religious qualification, or miraculous faculty: (free) gift" (Strong's);
* "a favour, kindness; that which is freely given, a gift of grace, generally the effect of God's gracious working, the positive blessing bestowed upon sinners; and also in a special sense, a gift of grace imparted to an individual" (Bullinger's);
* "1. something given; a present. 2. a special aptitude, ability, or power; talent. 3. the power or right to give or bestow . . ." (Collins).
"Healings" is from the Greek word "iama" meaning:
* "healing" (Young's);
* "a cure (the effect): healing" (Strong's);
* "healing, (the termination denoting the complete act); the result or product of the act"(Bullinger's);
* "1. to restore or be restored to health; to cure" (Collins).
The very meaning of "gifts of healings" show us the compassionate heart of Jesus toward His people. He wants us healed! So much so He has gifted us to heal the sick. What are we doing with these gifts God has given? God's Church is a place of healing, a place where all kinds of sicknesses and diseases are broken off the lives of the afflicted and bound. That is part of what Jesus died for on Calvary's Cross! (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 16:17-18). The healing ministry is one of the major keys to church growth (it is interesting that "church growth" teachers rarely mention it).
6. Then HELPS:
What is a "helps" ministry?
The word "helps" is translated from the Greek word "antilepsis" meaning:
* "a helping, supporting" (Young's);
* "relief: help" (Strong's);
* "the receiving of a fee; then a laying hold of with a view to help" (Bullinger's);
* "1. to assist or aid (someone to do something), especially by sharing the work, cost, or burden of something. 2. to alleviate the burden of (someone else) by giving assistance. 3. to assist (a person) to go in a specified direction . . ." (Collins).
Generally speaking, this ministry has been far too under-valued. Helps is what team ministry is all about. One helping another to succeed. One giving of their abilities to improve things for everyone in the church. A helps ministry helps to make everyone function better. It is looking beyond one's self to see how the church and its people can benefit from our input in all kinds of ways.
7. Then GOVERNMENTS:
What does this mean?
"Governments" is from the Greek word "kuber" or "kubernesis" meaning:
* "a steering, piloting, directing" (Young's);
* "to steer, pilotage, i.e. figuratively directorship (in the church): government" (Strong's);
* "a steering, piloting, direction, hence, a governing. The idea being that of guidance rather than rule" (Bullinger's);
* "the action of governing" (Collins). (The dictionary fuller meaning is based upon political rather than spiritual government.)
A "pilot" takes everyone on board with him to where he is going. Carefully and wisely guiding them, as it was said of David of old: "So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands" (Psalm 78:72, KJV).
Governing is about the day-to-day running of the local church. The setting up and releasing of spiritual, godly leaders who can keep the church functioning in the priorities of God. Too often "governors" fall into the trap of making decisions based upon the availability of finances rather than seeking to know why and what God has raised up that particular church to be and to do! Every church should be built upon a prophetic foundation of the knowledge of the main reason why that church came into existence in the first place. I find it interesting the answers I get when I ask leaders what is the prophetic foundation of their church. Most answer, "To win souls." Yet many of them haven't "won souls" for years! It has to be more specific than that. In a previous church I pastored, the church was built on God's promise that "if we did what He asked, we would never lack financial provision." The church was not one "bursting at the seams with endless dollars," but whenever a large challenge was before us, the money always came in. We paid cash for two different church building programmes and touched over ninety nations with Gospel literature.
Another church I was in was built on a prophetic foundation of missions, ministry equipping and releasing, teaching and pioneering. It was a fantastic church in its giving and had a host of ministries functioning within that prophetic foundation. A lot of credit for this was due to a previous Pastor who knew the value of the prophetic ministry. But once the church moved away from their prophetic foundation, the “wheels began to fall off” and it went into a major decline.(See my booklet, “Do You Know And Understand The Prophetic Foundation Of Your Life And Your Church?”)
8. Then DIVERSITIES OF TONGUES:
Many different kinds of tongues.
What does that mean?
"Diversities" is from the Greek word "genos" meaning:
* "genus, race, sort" (Young's); ("genus" is "1. Biology. any of the taxonomic groups into which a family is divided and which contains one or more species. For example foxes is a genus of the dog family. 2. Logic. a class of objects or individuals that can be divided into two or more groups or species. 3. a class, group, etc., with common characteristics" -(Collins).
* "born, country (-man), diversity, generation, kind (-red), nation, offspring, stock" (Strong's);
* "genus, class, sort" (Bullinger's);
* "the state or quality of being different or varied. 2. a point of difference" (Collins).
"Tongues" is from the Greek word "glossa" meaning:
* "a tongue, language" (Young's);
* "the tongue; by implication a language (specifically one naturally unacquired)" (Strong's);
* "a tongue, a language, a gift of language" (Bullinger's);
* "an utterance, partly or wholly unintelligible, produced under the influence of ecstatic religious emotion, and conceived to be a manifestation of the Holy Ghost; practised in certain Christian churches, usually called Pentecostal. Also called: glossalalia" (Collins).
It is amazing that the "tongues" issue has troubled many sincere believers in Christ. Speaking in tongues is for building up our faith to release that "dunamis" power in service to God and man. As far as God is concerned, diversities of tongues is important enough for it to be included in His top eight priorities.
Why should it be in God's "top eight"? Tongues - the speaking in other tongues by Christians - is God's idea anyway. He instituted tongues as a means of helping us get out of the arena of natural educational Bible knowledge and logical thinking to breaking through into the realm of the Holy Spirit, which is quite different. Speaking in tongues edifies us! We can communicate to God with a fuller expression of what is in our heart much more than with the languages of our understanding. Christians are first and foremost spirit beings, as our spirit has been born-again and made alive in Jesus Christ. Tongues helps us to keep our spiritual focus and stirs the "dunamis" to action within us. We neglect them to our own loss. There are many different and varying tongues languages, and it is good for us to develop new ones as we grow in God.
"In the church God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perform miracles, followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:28, GNB).
This verse has challenged me, because it gives me a clearer insight into the kind of church God wants us to be involved in. Only God knows how our churches of today could be changed to conform to His order of priorities. But unless we do seek to "build according to the pattern"(Hebrews 8:5), we will never be able to fully accomplish the purpose for which the Church came into existence. We are deceiving ourselves if we believe we can mature the people to fulfil their destinies in God and, at the same time, ignore or bypass the five-fold ministries (we must have allof them - we need all of them!), God's order of priorities and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit functioning in our midst. Teaching and preaching on their own are not able to accomplish God's purpose for His Church (which is represented by the many local churches throughout the earth). We must also have the prophetic Holy Spirit ministries to give the power to the Word!
It is my conviction that if these eight priorities of God were necessary for the setting up of the early Church, the same principles and priorities are also necessary for every Christ-representing church today. It is also interesting that if we do a breakdown of these eight priorities, four (or half)are directly involved with the healing ministry (Apostles, Prophets, miracles, gifts of healings). A further two could also be included, (i.e. Teachers and helps), and the final two - governments and diversities of tongues - when rightly ministered, should prepare the way for people to be healed as well. The heart of God is that His people be healed and made whole so they can function as a living testimony to the validity of the promises of Scripture. When our churches are built on anything other than God's desire and order of priorities, the result can only be a weak and sickly church! It is time for the leaders of church denominations to recognize God's order and all the five-fold ministries. There has to be a greater accepting, honest teaching, a better understanding, a desire to recognize who the various ministries are in their midst, then encourage, nurture and release them "for the work of the ministry" (Ephesians 4). Church is not a business - it is a reflection of the life and love of Jesus to a world desperately lost. When we build according to God's pattern we shall impact our generation as never before!
Are God's priorities your priorities?
If not, why not?