In recent months there have been some notable suicides of church leaders. On the outside they appeared strong and vibrant, but clearly something was out of place. This blog will not address the issue of mental health, which I’m sure plays a part, but rather the unnecessary pressure suffered by some ministers in their role as spiritual leaders.
The third religious spirit we will address is that of image, specifically the false images ‘church’ leaders portray in public. You would be amazed at the struggle many leaders endure trying to maintain an strong image in front of their congregants. Inside they are hurting, angry, lonely, discouraged and insecure, yet they put on a mask of confidence when they are out in public.
A false image will have a person trying to live an unrealistic life.
The church system has built a structure that often demands that a ‘pastor’ be all things to all people. This is not written a job description, but we assume a ‘loving and caring pastor’ will visit the sick, administrate the resources of their church, resolve conflicts, teach and preach weekly, perform weddings, oversee funerals, all while trying to take care of their own family, pay their own bills, miss events their children are involved in, try and meet the needs of their spouse, and find time to pray, study and relax.
In his book, Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God, Dr. Greg Ogden lists four things we expect from pastors:
Now juxtapose this with the survey by Pastoral Care, Inc. that listed 49 negative factors facing pastors today. Even with some of the slight improvements, it is clear to see there is a problem.
Is ekklesia the answer?
It would be foolish to claim that understanding ekklesia will solve all these problems. But I do believe understanding ekklesia will address three major issues.
I can hear some saying that all this can be done in the ‘church as we know it’. My response is that Jesus declared He would build an ekklesia, not a kyrikos aka church. We are workers together with Him as He builds His ekklesia – not church (1Corinthians 3:9). It is the ‘church system’ that has taken us off course. We owe it to the Lord to make a concerted attempt to try and live out what He intended for us.
Of course, I cannot close this without reminding you that we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Any other image we embrace leads to emotional and spiritual destruction. Don’t let religious pride draw you into a false image.
As a believer in the Lord’s ekklesia, you don’t have to be anything other than you He created you to be. Learning to serve in your assignment is the most liberating thing that can happen in your life.
genuinely seeking a new direction for their lives; they were weeping and praising God for their newfound faith. It would have been a perfect time to encourage these new believers. Instead, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “We got rules in this church!” He continued for several minutes outlining dress codes for women, where they could or could not go, and he threw a few barbs at some other churches for not having his perceived level of holiness.
The effects of his diatribe became evident. You could see a change in those who had come to the altar. What began as tears of joy, turned to looks of bewilderment. They had come seeking Jesus, but got a list of man-made rules. They had come to the altar and had a genuine experience with Jesus Christ; but became subjected to a plethora of guidelines that determined their worthiness for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 23:15). This is what Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for doing.
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them” (Matthew 23:13 New Revised Standard Version).
A religious spirit wants to be in control. People who are under the influence of this spirit must have the last say in all matters. They intend for their word to be final. One of the clearest characteristics of a religious spirit is control. It establishes an atmosphere where it alone dictates what does or does not take place.
The scribes and Pharisees considered themselves to be the religious elite of Jesus day. They positioned themselves to be the interpreters and enforcers of the law. You could not do anything without their approval. They held all the ‘righteous cards’. They established strict guidelines that gave them the authority to determine who was worthy, and who was not. This is eerily similar to what happens in many church systems.
Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. This is interesting. A hypocrite is someone who knows the facts but chooses a lie. Jesus called them hypocrites because they kept people out of the kingdom and did not enter in themselves. Let that sink in for a moment.
It is one thing to bar people from entering the kingdom, but it another issue for them to refuse to enter themselves. This latter point suggests they had an awareness of the kingdom. In other words, the scribes and the Pharisees refused to enter a place they apparently were familiar with.
The question must be asked, “Why would someone who is knowledgeable of the Kingdom refuse to enter it?” I believe it is because of the threat the kingdom poses to the leadership in the church system. Church leaders have a vested interest in maintaining a definition of the kingdom that benefits them. It is the same ploy that King James used when he had the word church inserted to replace ekklesia. For the king, the scribes and the Pharisees, knowledge of the truth threatened their hierarchal position. In fact, this was the stated position of the Pharisees.
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." (John 11:47-48)
Am I against boundaries? Absolutely not. They may be necessary as you disciple new believers. But those boundaries should point to a life in Christ (Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19), not conformity to a religious human system. Boundaries are only necessary to equip a believer to function on their own.
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. (Galatians 4:1-2)
The rise of ekklesia is also the advent of the Day of the Saints. This is when millions of believers are being established, developed and released to impact every sphere of the world. Religious spirits know that you cannot release people and expect to survive. The very nature of the Lord’s ekklesia is to empower and release the saints with the keys of the Kingdom. But be aware of the next Religious Spririt - Image!
Many don’t see the destructive impact it has on the Body of Christ. Some actually embrace it as a normal part of Christian life. May I suggest that when begin to see the through the eyes of Jesus, it will become clearer as to why the religious spirit is a problem.
It is important to learn the nature of the religious spirit, as it can have a devastating effect on the rise of ekklesia. We are discovering how the willful mistranslation of ekklesia to church has impacted identity of the Body of Christ. So, when a religious spirit finds a place to roost, the damage can be more intense. Religious spirits have a ‘rightness image’ surrounding them. Without investigation, the rhetoric from a religious spirit can sound and feel as though it is correct.
It is important to learn the nature of the religious spirit, as it can have a devastating effect on the rise of ekklesia.
As we learn more about the Lord’s ekklesia, it is critical that we recognize religious spirits so that we aren’t blindsided by this subtle foe. This blog is the first part of a five-part series regarding the ‘religious spirit’. The Lord showed me many of these factors in 1991, however I must admit I did not grasp its true depth at that time. This subject resurfaced in the last few weeks when the Lord taught me something I’d never realized before. I had never connected the dots between a religious spirit and reprobate mind. Reprobation is an internal issue. This is where I will begin this series of posts. I believe you will see the effect reprobation can have on what we are learning about ekklesia.
Recently, I ran into a former pastor who had left his wife of over 30 years for another woman. At the same time, he resigned from his pastorate leaving a shocked and devastated congregation. Surprisingly he struck up a conversation with me, knowing I was aware of his situation. He spent the better part of a half hour trying to convince me that the Lord had given him peace over his decision to leave his wife for another woman. He claimed that he had no remorse or shame for his actions. He painted himself as a victim who had no other choice but walk away from what he deemed to be a bad marriage. He used scripture to in an attempt to validate his actions. He shared how he was enjoying serving in ministry at another fellowship. I listened as he laid out a storyline that some would say made perfect sense. But that’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to me these words, “Reprobation can sound intellectual.”
Paul wrote that there could come a time when God turns a person over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). This is a person who is void of understanding. I always felt that a reprobate person would appear mentally deranged. It never occurred to me that such a person could sound intellectually astute. Everything you read about a reprobate person shows that they had a familiarity with the truth.
People follow what they believe to be true. If truth has been corrupted by outside forces, that is one thing to contend with. But if truth is distorted because of a personal choice to ignore it, then that becomes the foundation for reprobation. A reprobate mind is the final manifestation exhibited by a former believer who has chosen to believe a lie. Reprobation is avoidable, but once it has set in, it is difficult undo it. Here are two simple things you can do to not become a reprobate.
First, don’t justify anything that violates scripture. Sin in not acceptable under ‘certain circumstances.’ Sin is sin. Sin does not become right to appease your choices. Your own form of righteousness can lead you down the path of destruction (Proverbs 14:12; Romans 10:3). Second, listen to counsel. If you are not sure if something is right or wrong, submit yourself to seasoned elders to help you navigate through confusing times. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise (Proverbs 12:15).
Church as we know it is transitioning. Reprobation is trying to raise its ugly head to confuse this matter. Because it is avoidable, I want to sound the alarm to keep as many believers from falling into its trap.
We serve a King who oversees an everlasting Kingdom. Within His Kingdom are key values that undergird everything that is done in it. Value systems permeate every facet of existence. There are cultural values, national values, family values, values within local assemblies, organizational values and of course personal values.
A friend of mine wrote a great book in 1993 entitles 'A Philosophy Of Ministry.'
In it he wrote, “Each of us thinks we are objective – but that is not the case. We see our service – or objects of that service not as it is – but as we are – or are conditioned to see it. Therefore, when other people disagree with us, we immediately think they are wrong.” He then asks the question – “How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction?”
I would suggest the answer lies in embracing a Kingdom worldview with values that flow from that realm. Values help us to understand each other and increase our ability to walk in unity. What may appear to be contradictory on the surface, can be understood in the values we collectively hold. As believers, our cultural – national – family – local assembly – organizational and personal values must be subject to the values of the Kingdom.
"Every act – action – decision and decree find some basis in a value held"
Values are generally things that 'go without being said’. Every act – action – decision and decree find some basis in a value held. The value does not necessarily have to be articulated – because they are generally understood by an indigenous group of people, whether native or organizational.
It is important for us to get a general understanding of the Word of God from the culture it was originally written. There were values that existed in the first century that are totally unknown to us today. As we learn them, we can begin to see the core Kingdom Values that were understood and embraced, and understand how they are applicable to us today.
Kingdom values are timeless – because they come from a realm that is eternal and not subject to time as we know it. All other values are shaped by time but I suggest we should look to see if values are in line with the values of the Kingdom.
There are five basic values in the Kingdom of Heaven. They are:
The Ekklesia Center is committed to teaching these values and showing belivers how to walk in them daily.
You can begin today by praying, "Lord give me a Kingdom Worldview. Let me see the world from the view of the Kingdom". As you begin to see things from a Kingdom perspective, you will see what is acceptable and what is out of alignment with heavens values. You will be more accurate in praying "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
Commit to taking action. What you see out of alignment with kingdom values – remember you have been given the keys of the kingdom. Ask God what you need to do to bind or loose on earth the desire of heaven (Matthew 16:19).
Until next time – be blessed!
Fresh revelation never fits into the current status quo. Fresh revelation often challenges our religious comfort zones and forces us to re-think patterns and belief systems. True revelation often produces conflicts. Those who have a vested interest in the current traditions and religious system are many times the most vocal against the new revelation.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18)
To some, fresh revelation is no more than ‘religious information’. These people often have a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. They ‘take it’ if they receive some personal benefit, but ‘leave it’ if they have to leave their comfort zones. They forget that God does not give suggestions. He expects us to obey His Word. Our comfort is not His motivation – the accomplishment of His will is.
In the last days, God promised that He would pour out His Spirit upon ALL flesh. The evidence will be dreams, visions and prophecy. Some of the prophetic utterances is the release of fresh insight into the purposes of God for this season. Pouring out His Spirit is 'God-Speaking' His purpose for the His Ekklesia. His purpose has already been revealed in scripture (Genesis 1:28; Ephesians 3:10-11), however how it will be manifested is being released as we are able to handle it. What we consider 'fresh revelation' is in fact the unveiling of God's already established will for this generation. The problem is that we often become so enamored with the last revelation that we become blinded to any new truth.
Again, fresh revelation that is new to us has always been in the mind of God. He desires “…to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9). Our carnal nature, our traditions, our fear of losing our position in the church system, and satan often blind us from seeing what God is saying. God will never stop revealing His purposes and His will. You must decide if you will hear and obey.
"...fresh revelation that is new to us has always been in the mind of God"
The church as we know it is in transition. This is a prophetic fact. The Barna Group has done research showing a growing restlessness among believers in the traditional church.
Two of their articles explore ‘church attendance’ and the growing attendance among those who gather from house to house. In the mind of many, there is something missing in the what they know as church. People are seeking a more meaningful experience.
Is there something missing? Yes, it the understanding of ekklesia. It is what Jesus actually said he would build. It is a body of believers that that Jesus declared the Gates of Hades would not be able to overcome. It is His ekklesia, that is governed by elders, developed by ministry gifts, and where the believers primarily gather in homes rather than dedicated buildings (Acts 2:46; 14:23; Ephesians 4:11-12). It is where the Kingdom Mandate is a lifestyle (Genesis 1:28). Ekklesia has always been in the mind of God, even though to us it may seem to be new.
What causes us to miss what God is pouring out?
It is our traditions and our flesh. For the natural man is not able to take in the things of the Spirit of God: for they seem foolish to him, and he is not able to have knowledge of them, because such knowledge comes only through the Spirit (1Corinthians 2:14 Bible in Basic English). Fresh revelation regarding the structure of the New Testament Church is being released by God through apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5). I am one of many with a mandate to release this revelation in the earth. You must determine how much your traditions rule you. Only you can determine how you will respond to what God is speaking.
The Apostle Paul prayed that your eyes will be open to see all that God is doing in the earth today (Ephesians 1:17-20). Are you committed to obeying God at all cost. I believe you are. Yes, the revelation being released in the earth regarding ekklesia may be new to you, but rest assured that God has your best interest in his heart. How will you respond?
The Ekklesia Center is committed to providing you with a path to explore the Lord's ekklesia. Start the journey today!
About The Author
Tim Kurtz is the Founder of The Ekklesia Center. The purpose of this blog/vlog is to explore subjects that show how the mistranslation of ekklesia to church has impacted the Body of Christ. He has served in ministry over three decades amd is the author of several books. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in SC Michigan.