7 Minute Read
Over the past weeks, there have been many articles announcing the death of pastors who have died from the coronavirus. One denomination has been hit very hard with several of their bishops dying. From the articles I have read, this has impacted several denominational streams. Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Nondenominational, Charismatic, have suffered losses of ministry leaders. No group can claim its doctrinal stance protected them more than some other group.
Is there something we need to understand? Is God saying something that we refuse to hear? My own thoughts on this run the gambit. I have learned however, that my opinions mean nothing outside of the Word of God. Therefore, I want to approach this delicate matter from what I can glean from scripture.
A pastor’s death is newsworthy. It makes good headlines in a secular society when a prominent pastor dies. But let us put this in perspective.
There have been over 56,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus as of this writing. Pastors, ministers and Bishops are only one segment of the total. I would suggest they represent much less than one percent of the total deaths. There have also been doctors, nurses, policemen, schoolteachers, postal workers, military personnel, and other such categories that have suffered their share of COVID-19 related deaths. Singling out ‘clergy’ simply makes for good headlines.
At the same time, as believers, the death of a ministry leader hits home. It strikes at the soul of religious hierarchy. Suddenly our iconic view of them becomes distorted in an unspoken way. . Something in our hierarchal pecking order makes this feel out of place.
I am reminded of Isaiah who saw the Lord after Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1). Please, please, please don’t think that I am suggesting that ministers who have died were willfully drawing people after themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of these ‘clergy’ leaders would point their congregation to Jesus Christ.
My point is that the church system as we know it has elevated the role of ‘clergy’ to the point that people subconsciously see their pastor as invincible. Thus, when a pastor dies, people suffer a dual loss. First, there is the loss of the leader. Second, there is the loss of emotional contact. Not only is the leader gone, but also the ability to lean on them for ‘spiritual’ support.
Is COVID-19 killing ‘clergy’?
The reality is that this has taken the lives of some ministry leaders. I am saddened like everyone else about this. Yet, the question to be answered is whether COVID-19 is killing ‘clergy’ – not Bishops, pastors or ministry leaders. Confused? Let me explain.
In Chapter three of my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I outlined five necessary transitions that will impact ‘church as we know it’. This chapter I titled Necessary Transitions, dealt with the coming changes to the infrastructure of the ‘church’ system. In chapter five, I presented six characteristics of a major transition. I wrote that this was written so that you don’t have to be blindsided by the coming changes.
What is changing, and what are we transitioning to? I believe we are entering the early stages of ‘the day of the saints’. There is a coming shift when God will raise up ordinary believers to impact the earth from the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:10; 16:18-19). Remember, the ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 were given to equip the saints for the work of ministry. When you read all of Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19), it declares a people called ‘trees of righteousness’. More importantly, they are empowered to build, raise up and repair (Isaiah 61:3-4).
This transition has a direct impact on what we have called ‘clergy’. The church as we know it today has two classes of people, the clergy and the laity. Greg Ogden wrote in his book, Unfinished Business:
Like ekklesia was mistranslated as church, by the 12th century, the ‘clergy’ became a word erroneously used to denote a class of people who were more spiritually astute than the so-called laity. Today we refer to Bishops, pastors and ministry leaders as clergy.
However, a study of the Greek word that clergy was supposedly translated from, reveals a different story. Kleros in Greek never implied a distinction between an upper and lower class in the kingdom. Kleros conveys the full inclusion of the Gentiles as equal partners in the benefits of the gospel. Kleros refers to the inheritance in all the saints (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:12; 1Peter 5:1-3).
COVID-19 has shaken the ‘church system’. More and more believers are waking up to the reality that God has design and purpose for them. The concept of ‘clergy’ has begun to slip. The hierarchal system that sustains the contemporary clergy concept has suffered a powerful blow. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises, leadership will become aligned with divine patterns. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises in the earth, clergy will shift from being a spiritual upper class to kleros, which is a body of believers who have inherited the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. Are you ready for this transition?
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Transitioning from one thing to another can at times be challenging. When you see something beyond your current place, there becomes and inward drive to reach it. Between you an that destination you may encounter both giants and roadblocks. There is a difference between these two obstacles you must understand.
Roadblocks are inanimate deterrents to your destination. Imagine yourself traveling from one city to another and halfway there you encounter a sign that says the road you are on is closed. This is a roadblock. The sign did not tell you to discontinue your journey. Its presence only indicated that that road you were travelling was no longer available to you. A roadblock is clear indication that you must take another route.
Roadblocks are the loss of a job, an ally leaving you, an unexpected death, or some other trauma. As difficult as they may be, they do not mean the end of your journey. These events alert you to the need to pursue other paths to reach your destination. Simply put, roadblocks don’t stop you, they redirect you.
Giants are the voices that come to discourage and intimidate you. These are often people that accentuate your weaknesses and shortcomings. “You don’t have enough money!” “You don’t have a good education!” “That has never been done before!” “What makes you think you can do this?” “This is more than you can handle!” I am sure you can add your list of such discouragements you may have heard.
Giants cannot stop you. If you allow them, they will discourage or intimidate you to the point that you choose to quit. Giants must be destroyed. Goliath taunted David and tried Him, but David killed him. You too must kill the giants that try to stop you. It may mean separating from some friends. You may have to stop discussing your plans with naysayers. It means you will have to be selective from whom you get advice. You must destroy the voice of the giant.
I believe the church as we know it is in a time of transition. More and more people are awakening to the reality of ekklesia. Undoubtedly both roadblocks and giants will appear as we journey to the place God intended for us. The response to these obstacles will be your choice. I believe you will move forward in the power of the Lord! Follow these three steps:
1. Keep Your Sight In The Word of God It is easy to get distracted and potentially confused. The Word of God is your compass that will keep you moving in the right direction. Yes, you may zig when you intended to zag, but the Word of God will keep you on the right path (Psalms 17:5).
2. Listen To, But Don’t Embrace Your Critics Those who criticize you have no loyalty to your feelings. In their criticisms, they may reveal deficiencies you may need to address. Rather than allowing their negative words to stop you, correct the issues and move forward as a stronger, better you (Psalms 5:8; 27:11).
3. Pray On Your Feet I strongly believe in prayer. Scripture commands us to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Thessalonians 5:17). To be in constant state of prayer suggests that many times we pray in motion. Even the idea of waiting on the Lord is not to suggest you are dormant. It means we increase our worship as we anticipate His direction (Isaiah 40:31). As you seek to transition, remember the words of the Apostle Paul “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV). Pressing means you are pushing forward.
Leaving church to become ekklesia can be achieve only as we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ. I believe you are among those who will demonstrate what Jesus meant when He declared “…upon this rock I will build by ekklesia...”. The Ekklesia Center is working diligently to provide you with additional tools to help you navigate this journey.
Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites with 300 soldiers is a familiar story of faith, obedience and the strategic power of the Lord. When the Lord called him, Israel was already outnumbered.
Then the Lord began to whittle down his troops. It is interesting that the first thing God identified that would hamper Gideon was pride. If Israel had defeated the Midianites with the 32,000, God knew they would take the credit for the victory. They would claim that it was by their hand that they had won. So how did God sort these prideful people out?
Gideon was instructed to ask those who were afraid to leave. Twenty-two thousand admitted to their fear and left. Isn’t that interesting? God said that their issue was pride, but fear is what identified it. This reveals to us a truth we need to consider today. It answers why some continually resist ekklesia out of fear of repercussions. It explains why many attach themselves to religious traditions, while feeling that there must be more. It explains why some will deny the truth, even though they have the facts in front of them.
Pride attempts to mask their limited understanding of ekklesia, while fear reveals their unwillingness to venture beyond the status quo. Pride maintains an outward persona of confidence, while fear exposes their anxiety of potentially losing position and status. Pride portrays a ‘we are better than others’ in the church world, while fear grips their hearts with emotional instability.
Israel hated how they were treated by the Midianites. As soon as their crops were harvested, the Midianites came and took their goods. They were deeply impoverished (Judges 6:1-6). Today, many sense they are impoverished in the church system. They are being robbed week after week by sectarian doctrines and religious traditions. They want out, but don’t know where to go. Then along comes ekklesia. It is refreshing. It appears to offer a way to real spiritual growth. But it comes with a price. You must address your fears that have been masked in pride.
As important as ekklesia is to the Body of Christ, imagine the concern of the Father. Potentially too many people are pursuing it. Specifically, many are pursuing it with the wrong motives. They are found in three categories.
God is looking for the 300 who will win the battle. He is calling out those who are not afraid of losing friends. He will use those who aren’t shaken when some label them as a cult. God wants a people who are more interested in divine purpose than they are in positions and titles. The 300 do not fear losing any perceived status for the cause of Christ. The future of ekklesia will be contingent upon a pure cadre of believers who are fully committed to its advance.
Are you among the victorious 300?
Ekklesia is rising. The Ekklesia Center’s three-point plan to establish, develop and release believers can equip and prepare you for what the Lord is doing in the earth today. You can walk in faith. You can walk without fear. You can walk in confidence knowing that what Jesus is building, He is building with believers like you. Blessings.
Learn more about being established, developed and released. CLICK HERE
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!
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.