Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 27 July & 3 August 2014
For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
The Testimony of John Alley and the Peace Christian Community
v In 1988, John Alley became the pastor of the Peace Baptist Church in Rockhampton.
Ø Their prayer: “You can do whatever you wish with us.” “Get us on the cutting edge of whatever you are doing in the world.” => Later, they sent teams to 30-40 nations.
Ø The church and John had a rapid journey from being an evangelical church into charismatic experiences (baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy)
Ø “We discovered a lot of power in prayer and we saw astounding healings and miracles and after a few years we also stepped into this other area of prophecy and dreams and all of this was good and, of course, the worship took off (with banners which we had not seen anywhere else but then discovered that they were beginning to be used all over the world) … The Lord was really getting into the things that he was doing in the world.”
v In 1989, God began to speak to John and said that he was restoring apostles to the church.
Ø “This was a big surprise to me because we never believed in them and we began to search the Scriptures and began to realize that the church always meant to have apostles and they in fact had never died out. He had always been appointing them but the church did not recognize them. E.g.: Martin Luther, John Wesley, etc. Church history always had people that God raised up that brought significant words to the church, helped to position it, helped to get it on the right direction … We began to learn about all of that.”
Ø 1 Corinthians 12:27-28: ... first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers ... => apostles must always be present ... by divine order they must have first place or the body has not been structured properly ...
Ø Ephesians 4:7-13: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it … When he ascended on high, he … gave gifts to his people … Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” => the ascended Christ appoints apostles in an ongoing way ...
Ø John Alley: The Apostolic Revelation, Rockhampton: Peace Publishing 2002: P42 (48): The apostle has authority to set things in order, protect and govern the church, and pull down principalities and demonic strongholds. In addition, the apostle has grace to impart authority to other ministries and believers. / P46 (52): ... this passion, this jealousy, that the church would be what she is called to be ... This passion, and the understanding of Christ’s desire for the church (spotless bride), is upon the apostle because of the apostolic anointing. / P47 (53): The apostle will usually appear first as a father, rather than a miracle worker, to those pastors and churches who are praying for God to provide them with an apostle. / P47 (53): ... expert builder ... / P48 (54): The apostle carries an anointing to set the house of God in order, to speak into the spiritual fabric of that house, as well as into the lives of the believers. The apostle also has authority to address the spiritual realm over the cities and communities where these believers live. / P49 (55): Apostles bring together the body in unity, because their role is to bring the body of Christ into proper relationship with Christ, the head of the body.
v From 1988-1992, John and the Peace Baptist Church moved quickly into charismatic experiences, then the prophetic and the discovery of apostolic authority and apostolic life.
v From 1996-1998, there was a period of trouble.
Ø “1998 the peak of it all where finally some things got settled but we lost some people and in that process we lost quite a number of them but the bulk stuck and it was this remaining group, the majority, that are with me to this day and the Lord took that remaining group on another journey entirely because up to that point we had great worship – on Sunday mornings, the Holy Spirit would sweep through, people being glued to the floor under the power of God, people get ‘drunk’ and healed and delivered – we had all of that. The offerings were powerful. The worship was wonderful. The prayer life of the church (I think that we had fifteen prayer meetings a week) … We had our own school … You could look at all this stuff externally and think that this is a good church and it was a good church. Like, we were good people – even the people who got wrong-footed and ended up bitter and leaving, they had been good people too.
Ø But the thing was that even though we had all this good in place. We were getting plenty of converts and all that kind of thing. Even though we had all this in place, the Lord had something else entirely that he had to teach us, change us completely on the inside because he had a message that he wanted us to take to the world. And that’s what it turned out. With this diminished group, 2/3 of what was there originally.”
v From 1998-2000, there was a period of quietness, insignificance and powerlessness.
Ø “After the trouble was over in 1998, I thought: ‘Great. Everything is going to be better now.’ I heard lots of stories about churches that had been through trouble but, after people left, it was better. Offerings would go up. Souls would get saved. I was looking forward to that but it didn’t happen. Instead, in the time that followed – the rest of 1998 and 1999 and 2000 – it was so quiet. And we had each other and we enjoyed each other and we enjoyed worship but it’s like nothing much seemed to be happening. We wanted it to happen but it wouldn’t. And it’s only after you go through these experiences that you discover the value of them.
Ø The first period of trouble was opposition and vilification. That’s when other people question your identity (‘you’re no good’) … but in this second period where things go quiet and where you seem to have no power (powerlessness and insignificance) … because you can’t seem to achieve much – lying low in a sense – you begin to challenge your own identity. Now it’s far more painful but it turned out to be God putting us through something that we had to experience. That took several years. In fact, I got a letter in the year 2000 from a major Pentecostal leader in Sydney. He’s saying that all the Pentecostal denominational leaders were going to meet. They wanted leaders of other significant ministries in the country to meet with them and would I come? I felt a bit chuffed but I learned a lesson. I had my fingers burned a couple of times and I knew better to seek the Lord and … my wife said to me: “I hear the Lord saying that you shouldn’t go because you should be choosing insignificance for yourself.” A couple of days later, Hazel rang up and said it again. So I didn’t go …”
v In 2001, there was a “huge breakthrough” in the spiritual realm.
v In 2002, three major events occurred in which God came and visited the Peace Christian Church: 1) March; 2) June; and 3) October.
Ø The first of those experiences (March): “God dealt with the understanding of our people of his fathering – his fatherhood – the fatherhood of God. Being able to receive the Father’s love and believe that you are a son (and daughter) of the house. And it’s like our whole church was born again again.”
Ø The second experience (June): “The Spirit of sonship in which our hearts would transform with respect to seeing our leaders as belonging to us and us belonging to them and it brought a tremendous peace and security in relationships one on one – especially with our leaders. My own heart was transformed with respect to my own leader – my apostolic covering – my spiritual father.” [The first and second events seem to be interrelated. Sonship had already come up before the camp (i.e. making relationship with apostle public and formal). The way we see natural and/or spiritual fathers affects the way we see God the Father and vice versa.]
Ø The third experience later in the year (October): “A grace – an anointing – for the building of community came on the church and it came without any fanfare. It was a simple prayer. I prayed a simple prayer over the church and it changed everything. It changed the hearts of all the people corporately. And from that time … We loved each other before but afterwards we loved each other differently. We enjoyed fellowship before but afterwards we somehow saw each other differently. There was a far more real sense that we belong that we are family … It can’t be described. The terms that you use to describe it, every church says that’s just like we are but we were also like that. And it changed everything.”
v Out of the journey came the books: “The Apostolic Revelation” (2002); “The Spirit of Sonship” (2008) and “Holy Communion” (2010).
v Strange: The three major events in 2002 were not so much about apostles but the apostolic nature of the church.
Ø “I want to tell you about sonship. I gave the big picture … biblically, theologically, historically … why the church must be a relational people and in that context why the Holy Spirit is so specifically leading us into really meaningful relationships. I said to you that our church was being transformed and we had these three major events in 2002 that totally changed the heart and the thinking of our people but everyone one of those three had to do with relationships. In fact, I heard the Holy Spirit say one day: ‘Christianity is relationships, relationships, relationships.’ The first of those experiences we had was all about how to relate to God. The second was all about how we relate to our leaders and the third was about how we relate to each other.
Ø And this came as the culmination of thirteen years of crying out to God for the revelation of his apostolic purpose in the world … Around the year 1996, that I had made the discovery … 1989-1996, I had been seeking the Lord to understand apostles and their place in the world and in the church. Are you restoring them today? What are they supposed to do? And out of that I wrote my first book. But after five to six years of exploring that and preaching what I had learned all over the world (to many groups of pastors and so on), one day I made this surprising discovery (don’t remember how) that God was not just about the business of restoring apostles to the church. He was about the business of doing something much much bigger. He was restoring the apostolic nature of Christianity itself and that all of God’s people are meant to be an apostolic people.
Ø But this gave me a problem. Because why I could understand easily enough what was an apostle, I found it very difficult to understand what was an apostolic people. And you can search the Bible and I didn’t seem to get an answer to this. Months of searching and asking the Lord the question … but I did keep hearing little things along the way but I did not think that these were the main answer … I was looking for the big answer: How to turn the switch that would make all the people powerful – signs and wonders, miracles, saving souls … I was looking for the wrong thing. The Lord showed me something different because what defines whether you are or are not an apostolic people – apostolic nature – is not what you do. It’s not whether you plant the churches, send missionaries or raise the dead or the like … You can do those things but it does not mean that you are apostolic in nature. In fact, there are many people who do those things or similar and they are not even Christians … The Jehovah’s witnesses, the Bahais, … It turns out that the external things – what we do – does not define us one way or the other. It’s what the inside.
Ø When I asked God what is an apostolic people, the first thing that I heard was the Lord say, ‘Submission’. I wrote it down and he said, on another day, ‘teachableness’ and, on another day, ‘honouring one another’ and, another day, ‘accountability’. And so the words began to grow on my list: transparency, openness, vulnerability … until I had quite a list and I realized after a while that this was the main answer to the question but not only so but all the things on that list have to do with how we walk together – how we relate to one another – how we relate to God – how we relate to our leaders, and so on.
Ø By 2002 forwards, everywhere I went into the world, I would say very early in the piece that if we are going to define what it means to be an apostolic people it has to be defined in the way that we relate to God and how we relate to each other. Relationships! Back to what the Lord said: ‘Christianity is relationships.’
Ø If you don’t have a heart for relational Christianity or if it’s not established in the culture of a community, you have the Christian faith but you don’t fully formed the apostolic nature of the faith. That might seem to be a contradiction but really we are not splitting hairs but what we are really saying is that the institutionalized form of Christianity is missing a vital ingredient. Now the early church didn’t have properties and bank accounts … They didn’t have institutions. They all came later. What the early church had was each other and this is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12: ‘You are members of one another.’
Ø And so I learnt – back in the days when we were a Baptist church – it’s not right to say: ‘I am a Baptist. I am a Presbyterian,’ because instead of being a member of a Baptist church, I was actually a member of Tony, a member of Judy … We were members of each other and so that’s the thing that came more and more alive with us but in a wholesome way. With us, we don’t make promises to each other. There is no pledges, no covenant … In fact, that’s evil. When Christians make covenants with each other, they ended up in evil … I am not saying that you can’t make a pledge to give – a faith promise – that’s fine … We are not talking about that … When people form a covenant – like a simple covenant ‘I pray for you every day’ – you just put yourself under the bondage of the law and you will fail … Jesus said: ‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more comes from the evil one.’ … We learned …
v Core Insight (also not about apostles per se): We have to learn sonship and daughtership before relationships in the church can flourish and we come into everything that God has for us.
Ø “The root of that – before the church could get to that (which occurred in October 2002) – we had to learn sonship. Before our hearts as a group were made one with each other, our hearts were made right toward our leaders and I am not just talking right attitudes again. I am talking about a transformation of the heart in which there was a sense of being with one of your leader. He or she belongs to me. I belong to them. Again, I cannot explain that but there was an occasion – a weekend – where good Bible teaching was going on about relationships and there was one night in particular – certainly the weekend as a whole – that something just shifted in the heart of the people …”
Ø “I was on the plane to India after that conference, this would have been in July 2002, and I knew that once I came back from this trip to India, I would have to write my first book but, on the plane to India, I knew that my first commitment in India was a meeting with four hundred Pentecostal pastors and I am on the plane thinking, ‘What have I got to tell them.’ And so I had my notebook and I write my notebook five things and the fifth one on my list was father-son relationships in the ministry. And when I had written those words, the Lord spoke and he said: ‘That is the new wineskin of the church.’”
Ø “I want to take one minute to define new wineskin … term is used in two different ways … a) next move of the Holy Spirit (Presbyterian church, charismatic movement) … b) Judaism was the old wineskin, body of Christ new wineskin … What the church was all about from the beginning … It’s not just a new move …”
Ø “Bible context: Father-son relationship in the ministry … elders, deacons … a higher order of love that changes the way we see people. If you come with a camera, you won’t see it. If you come with a critical spirit, you won’t see it. If you come with expectations … you get nothing. The only way you get it is by coming with no other desire than being friendly … Meet the people … talk … You get touched with something that is invisible … It can only be picked up on …”
Ø “Is father-son relationship a Bible idea … a practical outworking of the love that we are talking about … The Bible has several major portions: Law, Prophets, Gospel, … Every portion has an example story of father-son relationships … Moses-Joshua, Elija-Elisha, Paul-Timothy … A picture is worth 10,000 words. What kind of relationship we should have in the ministry. As it turns in the New Testament, every believer is a minister (priest); therefore every one of us is to enjoy heart-to-heart relationships of the grace-kind, not law-kind (covenants), which immediately rules out control … We help each other … All the relationship are mutually giving …”
v John Alley Testimony.
But then the Lord intervened. I met apostle Chuck Clayton in Brisbane in 1994, where he was speaking at a conference called the School of the Prophets. He was a unique kind of man, full of authority, a highly experienced spiritual leader, a no-nonsense kind of person whom I would find it hard at first to get to know. I was asked to take him to lunch.
Afterwards, I felt I wanted the benefit of Chuck’s ministry in the church at home, so I invited him to come. Thus began a series of visits, including my regular visits to his house. The Lord told me to visit him, and spend time with him. He said Chuck had learned important lessons through making mistakes, mistakes that He did not want me to make. I was to learn from him.
I found it difficult at first to relate to Chuck – it was easier to feel at home with any of the other people I met around him in America. But he was the one with whom I was meant to pursue relationship. I had many dreams directing me to receive his ministry, yet I still did not understand the deeply personal nature of the relationship the Lord was calling for. I was just glad that our church was receiving the occasional ministry of an apostle, and we had the blessing of his prayers and his input. We gladly received his visits, and I greatly enjoyed visiting him, but I was not giving much of myself away. It was all very cautious, but we had established the first stage: receiving the ministry and the blessing of an apostle.
In 1999 it became evident to me that my relationship with apostle Chuck had to go much further. Apostolic covering did not derive from a casual relationship in which we received blessing and input from time to time. There had to be a real commitment, and it needed to be public and official. I had asked the Lord why we had seemed to lack certain protections and graces, and His immediate response was “You have to make the apostolic covering official”. This meant my personal commitment to relationship with Chuck had to be firmly established. We needed to openly acknowledge in our church his authority to speak into our lives, to represent Christ to me, and to bring a new level of leadership and accountability through personal relationship with an apostle.
I telephoned and made that heart commitment. He would be an apostle to me, and I would be accountable to him, and honour him, for the Lord’s sake, and for the sake of our people. The following Sunday I stood and prayed for our church. I asked the Lord if He would place upon us the apostolic covering of Christ. In this prayer I acknowledged to the Lord that I received from Him the ministry of Chuck Clayton as the one who would be an apostle to us in Christ. As I offered that prayer, an evident change in the spiritual atmosphere over our church occurred; in that moment people in the congregation received physical healings. Something very important, a crucial protection and an apostolic grace, had come into place.
Things began to move very quickly after that, and the best was yet to come. We were not aware there was a master plan; we were simply seeking the face of God day by day, walking in the grace we had, and doing the things that were before us in the ministry. But early the following year the Lord led us to leave the denomination to explore the fullness of apostolic community, and to build the apostolic ministry to which we were called …
Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” Do you agree with this picture? Does this make sense to you? Then, can I submit to you another stunning observation. If the vision of John is correct, your prayers will not be effective unless you are submitted to the leaders that God has put in place over you. We pray and our prayers are heard by God but – according to the vision of John – at least in some instances (maybe when our prayers reach beyond ourselves and touch citywide and national agendas) – our prayers are not having immediate access to God but are passed on to him by the elders – the spiritual leaders around us – and if we are disconnected from these leaders, our prayers are not reaching God – (at least not with the same strength). Power seems to flow best in the church when there is unity around the leadership which God has put in place. [See also Matthew 18:19-20: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”]
This is radical. In an environment of church hopping, doing our own thing, carrying offenses, grassroots independence and believing in our own giftedness we struggle with genuine submission to leadership. Yet, the Bible makes leadership a dominant theme and (consistently) confirms that the prayers and aspirations of God’s people often depend on the support of the right leadership.
The national leader Moses provides the best illustration of this teaching:
Exodus 17:8-16: The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
1 Corinthians 10:1-2: I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses.
As long as Moses was praying and supporting the aspirations of God’s people, they enjoyed victory and blessings. God had somehow appointed Moses to be a covering – an authorized representative – for his people. We can observe the same in other Bible leaders:
Samuel – 1 Samuel 7:13-17: So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighbouring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
Abraham – Genesis 12:1-3: The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Galatians 3:6-9: So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Adam & Christ – Romans 5:12-21: ... For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! ... [Take the opportunity to preach Christ.]
Elijah & Elisha – 2 Kings 2:12-13: Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more ... He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah ...
2 Kings 6:17: And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
John Alley: The Apostolic Revelation, Rockhampton: Peace Publishing 2002, p136: Spiritually, in terms of the dynamic of covering, Elijah himself was the horses and chariots of Israel. That was the anointing. By this grace, great spiritual power flowed through the life of this man so that God could do, through the anointing, what he needed to at that time in the life of Israel ... The assumption we usually make is that the horses and chariots of fire surrounded the city, because the account refers to the hills being full of them. However, the text is specific that the hills were full of “horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). THIS WAS THE ANOINTING! Elisha had received Elijah’s anointing in double portion, and the manifestation or sign of this anointing was the horses and chariots of fire – a sign common to both prophets!
Joseph – Kris Vallotton: Heavy Rain, Ventura: Gospel Light 2010, p51-52: “THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive (Acts 7:18-19).
It is important to note that Stephen did not say there arose a king who knew not God and destroyed their race. Rather, he said, “There arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph.” Joseph’s personal victories brought him to a position of favour and authority that released a corporate covering over his family ...
Peter – Matthew 16:18-19: And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ...
Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Paul – Romans 11:13: I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.
Ephesians 3:1-3: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
[Cf. Acts 20:29: I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.]
The apostles – Acts 8:14-17: When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
John – Kris Vallotton: Heavy Rain, Ventura: Gospel Light 2010, p47: Notice that Jesus commissioned John to write seven letters that became the apostolic mandates for seven different churches throughout Asia [book of Revelation]. But did you catch the fact that John was not told to write letters to the natural leaders of those churches? Instead, he was instructed to write the letters to the seven angels of the seven churches! Wow! What we learn from this passage is astonishing; we see that true apostolic ministries have angels assigned to them. These angels are commissioned to carry out the mission directed by a particular apostle’s mandate and metron. The word metron means the realm or boundaries of a leader’s spiritual influence (see Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 10:13). In this case, John had authority over seven specific geographic regions, and so he had seven angels assigned to him. [Cf. Luke 19:17-19.]
In John’s vision, the twenty-four elders in heaven present the prayers of the church – our prayers – in golden bowls to God. With their leadership in place, our petitions reach God and become powerful. There seems to be a grace on leadership in the church which releases our prayers to God at the right time and provides a spiritual covering for us by their calling and actions.
One pastor writes – John Alley: The Apostolic Revelation, Rockhampton: Peace Publishing 2002, p127-128:
The word ‘covering’ is not new around the church. We have all heard references to spiritual covering, like: - “Who is your spiritual covering?”, “What is your spiritual covering?”, or “You should be under covering,” etc.
Generally this expressed the need for everyone to be a member of a church. The pastor of that church (or the church itself) was seen as your spiritual covering. To say you were ‘under covering’ meant that you ‘belonged’ somewhere in the body of Christ, and by belonging to a specific church this provided you with your bona fides as a Christian. This meant you were not independent, you were submitted and accountable, you had a shepherd (someone who watched over your soul, someone who could presumably correct you if you were deceived or went wrong) and because of that you would be seen as a genuine Christian. Thus you were under ‘covering’.
Covering is in fact a great deal more than that, and largely occupies another dimension entirely. Spiritual covering is actually a power dimension. It is not only accountability; there is actually an objective spiritual protection in good spiritual covering. This is not just the protection of having a pastor who will correct you if you are wrong – although that is a protection. Neither is it just the protection of having relationships in the local church – although that too is a protection. Under true covering, spiritual power is flowing and at work, because something appointed by Christ is in place.
A spiritual covering is a spiritual force field, which helps bring in good things (blessings), and helps keep out bad things (protection). Every believer and all the church is meant to be under the blessing of this ‘force field’, which is the power of the life of Christ.
This life and power is provided by those anointing of Christ that flow through apostles, directly or indirectly.
Do these leaders still exist today? Are there people who have been given authority over us and maybe the city or nation? Do we need to be aligned with them so that blessings flow through them to us and our prayers – under their leadership – reach their uppermost potential?
This is what Heidi Baker (an American missionary with Iris Ministries) experienced:
[From a talk at Morphett Vale Baptist church] ... One time I was in my university many years ago ... I was in this service and I thought that the preacher has lost it ... He said that God was giving him a city ... I said: “God doesn’t give cities.” And suddenly as I was thinking that – I thought that he was a rather arrogant man – what kind of arrogant man says that God is giving him a city – theologically incorrect – the Lord showed up standing behind him with two huge angels – one to the right of the preacher, the other to the left. And the Lord spoke to me and said: “Listen to this man. He is telling the truth.” I was undone ...
Almost twenty years later, I was in the middle of a room with about six or seven thousand people ... I was listening to the preacher and through him I heard this cry – the Lord saying: “That he would give a nation to those who were crying out.” He was looking for people that he could give nations to. I remember just sitting there in the back. And I was unable to stay where I was. I didn’t care about disrupting anything. I literally ran forward – there was no altar call – he had not even got through half his message – and I remember running forward and started screaming in church and I am actually quite shy. I would not normally do something like that. And I pressed in. I lifted up my hand and the man said: “Do you want a nation? Do you want Mozambique? The deaf will hear. The blind will see ... Do you want a nation?” I am screaming without thinking: “Yeeeeees!” Later that man (Randy Clark) said: “I did not believe that I was saying what I was saying. I did not believe what I was doing.” God knew. [It just happened under the guidance of the Spirit.] We only had two churches at that time and now we have seen God’s power from the south to the north and we have seen hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people run to Jesus ...
[From a service at Toronto Airport church] ... Randy Clark suddenly said: “I have to change my message here and speak about the apostolic anointing” ... Well, that word kind of bothered me because I had seen a lot of arrogance surrounding the word ... my little theological brain was ticking – aha ... and suddenly Randy said “apostolic anointing” and God flipped me up on top of my head ... sweet Jesus, thank you that I am wearing trousers ... I am on my head ... What are you doing, God ... I remember this song: Take me and use me, bruise me if need be ... I was on my head and then fell down ... I was literally bruised from head to toe ... God said: Apostolic is upside down. It is the lowest place ... And then Ian Ross comes and says: “Is it okay. Can I pour water down your feet?” He gets a big bottle and pours it down my feet as my legs are in the air and says: “More Lord, more ... ” And God just hits me and I didn’t understand what the water was about ... Ezekiel 47 ... totally immersed in the river of God ... and the coming floods in Mozambique ...
Maybe this is still a little alien to us this morning. Why should there be leaders in place and be given such importance when anyone can pray in Jesus’ name and do their own thing reading the Bible? There is a spiritual principle at work in leadership which is probably spelled out best in the fourth commandment:
Deuteronomy 5:16: Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. [Cf. Exodus 20:12.]
Ephesians 6:2-3: “Honour your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
The basic and most foundational leadership which God has put in place for anyone is their parents. As we respect this leadership – our fathers and mothers – as we honour them, we are positioned right to have our prayers heard and receive spiritual and material blessings: “ ... that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
The key to a long life and blessings is honour. This goes for our natural parents but also applies to our spiritual parents – our fathers and mothers in the faith. According to the Bible, the church – all of us – are a family – born again into new relationships: brothers and sisters in Christ with spiritual fathers and mothers representing God the Father to us. Therefore, it makes sense to apply the fourth commandment to the family structure of the church – our relationship with leaders:
Deuteronomy 5:16: Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. [Cf. Exodus 20:12.]
John 1:12-13: Yet to all who did receive Jesus, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Galatians 3:26: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. / Galatians 4:6: Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” [Cf. Romans 8:15.] / Luke 11:2: He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, ... ”
Matthew 12:50: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
John 14:8-14: Jesus answered: “ ... Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son ... / John 14:23: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Romans 4:16: ... also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. / 1 Corinthians 4:15: Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. / Philippians 2:22: But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. / 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12: For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. / 1 Timothy 5:1-2: Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
All right – what is now the practical outcome of having elders – spiritual fathers and mothers over us? Know who they are and honour them. If you want them to present your prayers to God (wherever that applies) – if you want their covering (representing you with authority) – if you want to live long – and if you want that it goes well with you in the land – do not take offense, wander away and do your own thing – believing that God and you is all that you need – (this also applies to some independent house churches). You may not always agree with the leadership but you can honour them. In times of turmoil, all of us – we – can make an effort to apologize and forgive each other. [If we stop honouring the leadership, then we fail to receive from them because our minds are geared up – the filters are in place – to prove – find evidence – for our negative attitude. Even Jesus was not received in his hometown because of people’s preconceptions.]
May I also say that church hopping is a limited solution for evading leadership. Beyond the local congregation, there is spiritual leadership in place for the city and city hopping is not as easy as going from one local church to another. By the way, whom has God appointed as leader or leaders for our city – Toowoomba? [There is also the question whether the spiritual leadership over Toowoomba is collegial – (a circle of elders that are equal to each other) – or whether the collegial fellowship is (on a higher level) among leaders who have charge over different cities. What does Revelation 5 suggest?] And who is the spiritual leadership of our nation? If John’s vision of heaven is right – all of creation belongs to one united leadership structure which culminates in the twenty-four elders around the throne of God. Who are our spiritual leaders for Australia – South East Asia – the world? [These considerations have also something to say about the modern debate about church size – mega-church or house church, big church or simple church – and they have something to say about the insistence on relational proximity to authority figures. The one big leadership structure for all of creation includes small churches but also gatherings that express our unity on a wider community level (e.g.: neighbourhood, suburb, city, nation). There are personal relationships with local leaders but also submission to national fathers (and mothers) of the faith.]
The family structure of the church – with the underlying principles of the fourth commandment – gives us more insights in how our relationship may work on a practical level: Fathers (and mothers) do not compete with sons (and daughters) but rejoice in their success. Fathers remain fathers even when sons show great potential around them. They are not threatened by sons or daughters who may exercise greater spiritual gifts (e.g.: prophecy) than they have. Character and maturity (e.g.: wisdom, steadfast love, humility) are more important for family relationships than doing well in spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
Kris Vallotton: Heavy Rain, Ventura: Gospel Light 2010: In 1998, my wife, Kathy, and I moved to Redding, California, to launch the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. That same year, I was lying on the floor praying one morning when the Lord spoke to me so clearly that it stunned me. He said, “There is a new epoch season emerging in this hour. Much like the Protestant Reformation, there is another reformation coming that will unearth the very foundation of Christianity. This move of the Spirit will absolutely redefine our ideologies and philosophies concerning what the Church is and how she should function.”
I asked him, “What will this transition look like?” He said, “My Church is moving from denominationalism to apostleships.”
I actually had no idea what He was talking about, so I asked Him what the difference was between denominationalism and apostleships. He explained to me that in denominationalism, believers gather around doctrine and divide when they disagree. In apostleships, believers rally around fathers, mothers and families. He said, “I am about to open up the vaults of heaven and reveal depths of My glory that have never before been seen or understood by any living creature.” He explained that this glory was going to be revealed to and through His Church in this new epoch season. Then He stated, “If I pour out new revelation into the wineskin of denominationalism, it will rip the wineskin and the wine will be lost” (see Luke 5:37-39).
The Lord used the term “denominationalism” and not “denominations”. “Ism” denotes an ideology, as in communism, socialism or humanism. These ideologies are built upon distortions of the truth. They are lies sponsored by a diabolical agenda, creating oppression wherever these ideas gain influence. I am personally convinced the “ism” of denominationalism is an evil spirit! And it is every bit as alive in nondenominational churches and some apostolic networks as it is in denominational churches.
It’s easy to see that denominations have grown up through division, being rooted in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. We were named Protestants because we were born in a doctrinal protest (the word originally meant “pro-testament” but soon took on the meaning protester), which continues to this day.
Both the Protestant Reformation and the movements that have sprung up from it all emphasize doctrinal agreements above relationship. This priority has created a culture that constantly threatens to divide people at the very core of their bonding point. While many believers admit that damaged relationships and church splits are costly, the denominational mindset leads them to conclude that the way to avoid this is simply to find ways to enforce doctrinal conformity so disagreements can’t arise. Thus, denominationalism also creates a culture that is critical of anyone who thinks outside the box of tradition, and it desperately fears inspiration.
Leaders under this spirit have more faith in the devil’s power to deceive believers than the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead them into all truth. Shepherds in denominationalism resist revelatory thinking because they understand that new ideas spawn disagreements and disagreement attacks the central nervous system of their churches.
I often refer to denominationalism as “divided nations,” in reference to the way this spirit has infected and limited our ability to disciple the nations. We are called to disciple nations, not to divide people (p22-24) ...
For example, we can see this in the denominational approach to terms like “loyalty” and “unity.” In denominationalism, loyalty is often redefined as “agreeing with the leader.” Disagreement is called “disloyalty,” and often “disrespect”. But the truth is that loyalty is actually only tested when we don’t agree (p26) ...
The unity of the Spirit is another great example of a powerful truth that has been reduced to mean that “We should all agree so the world will believe there really is a God.” Viewing the Bible through the lens of denominationalism redefines the unity of the Spirit to mean the unity of the Word (agreement about truth) (p27) ...
In apostleships, the priority of relationships is kept above doctrinal agreements, promoting highly relational core connections. Apostles create covenantal, family relationships, because believers are attached to and through fathers and family, not doctrine. This promotes freedom for people to think creatively, to dream, to envision with God and to experience new depths of the Holy Spirit. This relational security creates an environment that attracts revelation (p30) ...
Denominationalism is a highly developed hen house where leaders receive authority by their performance. They go to seminary, get a degree and become a pastor. The trouble with achievement-based authority is that it creates a performance-driven leadership culture where the most accomplished person is commissioned to lead ... Because this type of leadership is derived through works, anybody who outperforms his or her leader is a threat to the organization ...
On the other hand, apostleships are heir-archies. In heir-archies, leaders are not determined by their ability to perform but by the level of favour they have received from God (Daddy) through their relationship with Him as a son or daughter. In other words, apostolic leaders receive authority not by what they know, but by whom they know. This is what the Bible refers to as “called”-based leadership ...
Finally – another word about the spiritual covering which comes from the fathers and mothers in the faith. In addition to the elders presenting the prayers of the saints to God and acting as representatives of the people with the authority to bless them, there is the inheritance that fathers and mothers can pass on to their children. This is what God promised:
Exodus 20:4-6: ... I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
In addition to this promise and maybe as a consequence of this promise – it seems that we can pass on spiritual breakthroughs to others that come behind us. Usually with the laying on of hands – we can pass on spiritual gifts to the next generation and others – Romans 1:11: “For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish you.” 2 Timothy 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” [We may also consider that we cannot pass on what we do not have and we may even pass on weaknesses such as hidden sins. However complete we are in God determines the extent of the inheritance and spiritual covering for others. We teach what we know but reproduce who we are. If there is something in the congregation which I do not like, I ask myself the question: “Is this a reflection of what is in me?”]
In closing, I want to make one more point. Pastor Bill Johnson made the observation that up to now revivals have come in church history but they have not been passed on from one generation to the next which meant that each generation had to labour hard for recovering old breakthroughs. Each generation had to begin again as orphans – without the benefit of spiritual fathers and mothers that knew about revival. Yet, it is so much easier to inherit the grace of revival – spiritual breakthroughs – an outpouring of God’s glory – (call it whatever you like) – than pioneering (once again) unchartered territory.
Here at Living Grace, it took us years of unlearning traditions and gaining fresh understanding of the Bible – it took us years of discomfort and rejection – it took us years of waiting on God in many a wilderness time – before the breakthroughs came: healings, conversions, the gift of tongues, gold dust, the manifest presence of God in worship, etc. Yet, those that come and join the congregation now, they immediately possess everything that we have gained over the years. On their very first day with us – they may sparkle with gold dust, speak in tongues, fall down under the power of God, receive healing and rejoice in God.
Why was pioneering so hard for us and stepping into an inheritance is so easy? I was thinking about this and then it dawned on me: Fathers make the difference. Pioneers have no guidance. They need the discipline of desert experiences so that they learn to handle spiritual power and blessings when they come. There is so much that can go wrong but sons (and daughters) have fathers (and mothers) who teach them how to live responsibly with the presence and power of God in their lives. Fathers can give gentle admonitions and encouragement, point out danger signals before they become a problem, and so on.
Would you not want a spiritual father or mother inherit from them rather than do it the hard way – pioneer for more of God in the unknown (by yourself)? [You can still do this extending the inheritance which you have received.] Have another look at leadership in the church. Honour them so that it may go well with you.
We always had daily prayer meetings. One morning in early 2001, David Hood, my senior associate in the Peace apostolic team, came into the meeting and said that he believed the Holy Spirit was speaking concerning ‘inheritance’. He kept hearing this word, and felt we were to pray for our inheritance. I began praying a simple prayer, “Father, give me my inheritance”. It felt right and good to pray this. A sense of blessing and the witness of the Holy Spirit was on it, so we daily continued to seek the Lord for our inheritance.
What began to unfold from that time was an increasing revelation to our hearts of sonship. Why? Because inheritance is given to sons. If we were to walk in the riches of our inheritance, we would have to live, think, and believe as sons. “If we are to walk in the riches of our inheritance, we will have to live, think, and believe as sons.”
Soon afterwards the Lord also began to talk to us about revival. We had often prayed for revival, but had always prayed for revival as if it were some future event to be hoped for, rather than something that one is expecting today, or this week, or this year. I had personally prayed for revival for over 25 years.
Late one night, the Lord strongly impressed upon me that revival was really on, that it was coming, but that it was to be believed for as something for ‘now,’ not later. Then after some weeks, He said, “The revival that is coming is not the same as previous revivals. Do not be so fixated on looking for the kind of revival that you have read about in Church history that you miss what I am about to do. I am about to do something that has never been done before.”
Early in 2002 one of our ministry leaders, Michael Appleton, who has served me faithfully as a son ever since 1992, felt led to spend a week in prayer. He felt he should devote himself to prayer for 24 hours a day for seven days. This was a big task. By the second or third day I was expecting him to look terrible, but he looked wonderful, bright, and cheerful. He prayed through that whole week, and I spent the seventh night with him in prayer.
At about 5:20 a.m. a word came from the Lord. I had been praying, and when I finished Michael said, “John, while you were praying, I felt the Lord draw my attention to the photo of apostle Chuck and Karen Clayton at the other end of the room.” We had many photos on the wall, and theirs was one of them. Michael continued, “I feel strongly that the Lord is saying that this man is meant to have a very significant impact upon us, and a much greater place in our lives than we understand!”
I could not see how it would be possible that he could have a greater impact, or be more important to us than he had been. He lived in the USA, a long way from Queensland, and we simply could not see him very often. In fact we had not had much personal contact with him over the previous 2 years, except for the occasional phone call. And honestly, I was not aware of anything more that he had that we needed or could help us.
In the meantime, we had scheduled a church family camp, to be held on the first weekend of autumn. Over previous months as the Lord had impressed the idea of a coming revival upon us, He had promised autumn and spring rains.
I felt the Lord did not want us to prepare any messages for these camp meetings. There were to be five meetings, but no preparation. I also felt we were to “under prepare” the worship. So I said to our senior worship leader that she was to prepare less worship than she thought we would need – to choose a few songs only, not many.
Then I explained to my senior associate, David Hood, “David, I will be at the family camp, and will sit in the front row every meeting. But I am preparing no messages, and no one else is to prepare any messages either. My intention is to sit there and be silent, saying nothing in any meeting, unless the Spirit of God gives me things to say. I want you to take charge of those meetings – you guide them through, you lead them in whatever way you want, but I want you to make no preparation for worship or preaching.” Of course David did not know what to do. He is an organised man, self-disciplined, and this put him squarely outside his comfort zone.
We turned up for the first meeting on Friday night, and found David had made inspired arrangements. He had all the chairs in a circle – to have sufficient chairs for about 120 people coming required three rows around in a big circle. He included in the circle a place where the musicians could sing and play if required. He decided that we would not commence the meeting in the usual way, therefore the band members sat down with everybody else. There would be no songs unless the Spirit of God called for a song.
To commence, David welcomed everyone and said, “Many of us have come to camp with expectations of the Lord. I would like to ask as many people as possible to come and take the microphone and share their expectations. What have you come to camp expecting? What do you expect of the Lord?” and he placed the microphone on the table and sat down.
Someone immediately arose and shared their excited expectations. They were thrilled, they said. They had so much anticipation of the wonderful things God was going to do in this camp. Another arose, and expressed the most amazing expectations of all the fabulous things that God was going to do amongst us that weekend. And then a third arose, also filled with strong and vibrant expectations of the Lord, and great anticipation of what blessings there would be.
As that third person laid the microphone back on the table, and began to step away, a stunning event took place. She was instantly frozen in place like a statue. Her arms and legs were positioned as if walking away from the table, but she could not move. And she remained frozen, in a trance, for the next two and a half hours.
The meeting continued around her, as one after another shared their expectations of the Lord that weekend. But as the night progressed, the nature of the sharing changed. People began to share their lives. They shared their hopes and dreams. They shared the dealings of God, and they shared their desires. It was a wonderful experience of personal intimacy, of the opening of hearts. This was a greater expression than we had ever experienced of the personal sharing of our lives.
After the first hour, David felt we should sing. The musicians helped us, and entering into the first song, heaven seemed to be present. The second song also held such passion, such sweetness. But as we began to sing the third song, the anointing lifted completely, so we stopped the song. We were not meant to sing any more. We went back to sharing, and for another hour and a quarter hearts were continually being opened toward the Lord and their brethren.
Then it came time to close the meeting, but all the while I had been looking at our sister still frozen in the trance, and pondering the meaning of it. I had seen many manifestations of the Spirit in the course of my life, and I was convinced this was not just a manifestation of the Spirit. This was something more; it was a sign! A sign is a miraculous intervention, something put in front of you by the Lord, which carries a message and points to a truth. I was convinced God had given us a sign! But what did it mean?
As David was closing the meeting, I signaled to him that I wanted to speak. I told everyone that it was possible for us to simply pray and release our sister from her immobile state, but we ought not go to supper without pondering the meaning of what God was saying through her. I said, “I believe if we will listen, the Lord will tell us what this sign means.”
Immediately somebody said, “I think I know what it means.” Then there was another, and another. Many people had a sense of what God was saying. So opened another round of sharing, and out of this came deep insight into the heart and word of God for us at that time. Finally, one of our number stated the precise truth the sign pointed to. In that moment, the Spirit of God released her, and she began to walk, and talk, and laugh as usual.
The Lord had not finished with us. We had another four amazing meetings. More signs, many more hours of sharing, and we finished that weekend a totally changed people. God had been amongst us, yet we had not done any of the things we normally do to make a meeting ‘successful’. From that time, we have always had our chairs facing each other as much as possible when we meet, and have occasionally conducted Sunday services also in this style, in which we fill up the whole meeting with sharing. It is of course risky to just put the microphone on the table, and let anyone who wants speak for as long as they like in an open-ended meeting. And in all honesty, not all the sharing was totally selfless, and not all the people were clean. They were just normal Christian people, with weaknesses and faults. But we trusted the Lord, and He faithfully moved among us and somehow worked deeply in us, bringing miracles out of those meetings.
What was the central theme that came out spontaneously in that camp weekend? It was sonship! The Lord spoke of what it meant for us to be sons to a Father in heaven. We pondered the parable of the prodigal son, and we weighed up Galatians chapters 3 and 4. [Galatians 4:4-7: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.] The story of the prodigal son illustrates a great issue. The prodigal said to himself that he would return to his father and say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:19) This is a problem many believers have. Whilst they come to God to confess their sins and get right with the Father, even though the Father welcomes them unconditionally and seeks to bring them into His house, they still often continue to hold within their own heart this belief, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” Thus many believers, whilst knowing they have been received by God and adopted into his family, in their own minds live in the servant’s quarters, not in the Father’s house as a son, believing they are not worthy.
All believers have to overcome the issues associated with this struggle. All of us must come to understand what it means to live and think and act like a son, rather than a servant. Of course a son also serves – he serves his father, he works in the harvest field along with the other labourers – but in his heart he serves, not because he is a slave or hired labourer, but because he is… a son.
In Galatians 4 Paul says that Abraham had two sons, one born in the natural way by the bondwoman, but the other, the son of the promise, born of the free woman. In the church there are also these two kinds of people: those still in bondage, and those who, as sons of the promise, walk in the experience of liberty through faith. The Bible is very clear: “the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” (Galatians 4:30)
At that camp, the Spirit of God brought our people to tenderness of heart. At one point late on the Saturday night David came to me and said, “John, I really think the Lord is saying that many of our people need to be born again, again.” I gave that call, and that night many people, weeping before the Lord, came to a fresh understanding of their position in Christ, and their place in the Father’s family.
We thought this alone was the big lesson, but more was to come. Within a few days apostle Chuck phoned. He mentioned that he had been preaching sonship for the last six or seven months in the US, and was receiving such an amazing response from people that he felt he had never had so much fun in all his life. I immediately appealed to him to visit us as soon as possible to preach his sonship messages, to add to what we had experienced at the camp. I wanted to take advantage of whatever grace or truth he had.
He came less than three months later to our annual Australian Apostolic Summit, in June, 2002. I was expecting he would preach more of what we heard at the camp. But this was not the aspect of sonship that Chuck had been given by the Lord. Instead he had a clear revelation concerning how the spirit of sonship is to be in each of us with respect to those who lead us in the church. One of our pastors, Tony Ponicke, who had himself had some breakthrough at the time of the camp, was given an astounding spiritual breakthrough when the Holy Spirit fell upon him under Chuck’s teaching. His story of deliverance through the message of sonship is told later in this book.
For any believer to fully experience the grace that God has given us in Christ, we need understanding not only of our relationship with God our Father in heaven, but also of the relationship He brings us into with all His people. In the faith, in the ministry, there are always God-appointed leaders; many of these become fathers in the faith, and indeed this is the goal of spiritual maturity. We must have the heart of a son toward them if we are to walk fully in the grace of God, and become ourselves mature.
There are many biblical examples of this grace of ‘sonship’ as we shall see. What we call sonship is the biblical model for healthy relationships, healthy discipleship, and satisfying and meaningful church life.
David Hood shared with me one day a personal insight. He said, “John, I believe that the spreading message of sonship and the relational blessings so many are discovering, is the revival that the Lord promised.” These words felt like profound truth.
I remembered that the Lord had told us that the coming revival was not like anything we had seen before, and warned us not to be so fixated on traditional revival that we missed what He was about to do. I also remembered that in the year 2001, after David had heard that word “inheritance”, and we began to seek the Father concerning this, that He had led us into an understanding of sonship and had given us a clear apostolic message on sonship to proclaim. Furthermore, He had said that revival was for now. We found that even the first instalment of experiencing the grace of sonship (at the ‘autumn rain’ family camp) had affected us so much that it began to totally transform our lives and the life of the church.
Wherever we have taught the ‘spirit of sonship’ message, many pastors and believers have come alive with this truth. This is not just a ‘truth’ to be believed; it is an experience of God and a relationship with people in which to walk.
At the time of our 2002 Apostolic Summit, something really changed. Something wonderful shifted into place in the relationship between apostle Chuck and me. In fact the shift took place between all of us – between his wife Karen and my wife Hazel, and between our people and apostle Chuck as well; but principally, it was in my heart toward him that God gave great light and grace.
From 1994 until 1999 I had looked on ‘apostolic covering’ as simply knowing an apostle and receiving his ministry. From 1999 until 2002 we saw the apostolic covering as a permanent, but voluntary and non-controlling relationship, in which we were committed in love to an apostle, and he was committed to us. In this relationship, we would be accountable, give financial support, and receive and honour him as one over us in the Lord. He would seek to bless, instruct, be available, and help guard our lives in Christ.
But from June 2002, I began to see Chuck as a father, and I became in my heart a son. This was where the Holy Spirit had always been taking me in Christ.
I often tell people that for me there were three stages in discovering the power of fathering and sonship. We moved from where at first relationship with an apostle was simply a convenient arrangement, to where it became a true apostolic covering through commitment, to where finally it became a deep, heartfelt, and emotive relationship between people who love each other, and who are there for each other. Emotive? Yes! I do not believe that relationships, if true and holy, should ever be without heartfelt depth of feeling, and I will show this to be true from Scripture.
From the time this change took place, where I found I had the heart of a son toward a father in the ministry, it seems as if the heavens were opened. This happened because a mature son is entitled to receive inheritance. Stepping into an experience of relational sonship in the ministry, as I did, I found I had stepped into great blessing.
Every senior leader of a ministry needs apostolic covering. Each needs to be in relationship with, and accountable to, an apostle of Christ. And each needs to find the grace whereby these relationships become meaningful as genuine ‘father and son’ relationships. Every believer in the church needs the blessing of that sense of security that follows when their leadership walks in such relationships. In turn, the whole church can and will experience the greater security, and sense of acceptance and belonging that Christ provides to His people through this expression of family life in the ministry.
v Tony Ponicke Testimony.
Testimony of Tony Ponicke: Tony Ponicke has been a pastor on my staff since 1998, having joined our church with his wife Carolyn in 1991. I tell the following story with his permission.
In 1998, I had been seeking the Lord about whether to appoint Tony to the full-time position of a pastor on our staff. He, with Carolyn, had been the youth leaders in our Church for some years, He seemed to have the calling and the gifting; he certainly had the heart for pastoral care, a love for the people, and a love for the Lord. As I was praying, knowing I would have to propose the thought to others for consideration, I heard the Lord say, “You will never raise a greater pastor than Tony Ponicke.” That statement continued to impress itself upon me for years, and it was just as well, because of what we needed to walk through together.
I remember Tony saying to me in the first week or so of his employment, that he would never be able to receive correction from me. He would be able to receive it from someone else, such as David, but not from me, for he would find it too crushing. I did not realise what that really meant, but remained mindful of it. At the time, his brother-in-law, David Hood, was already serving as my senior associate in the leadership. David’s role was to take whatever vision or purpose in ministry I had, and give leadership to it, so as to stand beside me in the effective building of the whole ministry.
This meant that effectively David was Tony’s direct supervisor anyway, and leader of the pastoral care of the church. Therefore I thought we had no problem. David would be responsible for training, and/or correcting Tony, working out what his responsibilities were, and how he should fulfil them. I would need to provide overall leadership, and love and pastoral care for them all. What we did not know at the time was that Tony had a huge orphan heart problem, but in those days we didn’t know the term, let alone understand the condition. We were to carry a struggle for some years without even knowing what the issues were.
On the surface, Tony was a happy, relaxed, laid-back, caring, and very casual person. In fact he was so casual, it could drive you nuts. It seemed for a long time that he casually avoided carrying anything like the level of responsibility he should have, treated everything off-handedly, and often left the burden of organisation and practical leadership to others. He would invariably come late for prayer meetings, and sometimes leave early as well. Sometimes Tony would simply disappear and go home. As the years went by, it seemed there was a growing resentment in him.
I noticed that Tony would never be the one to come and greet me; I always had to go to him. This was more obvious if I had been away on an overseas ministry trip, for when I came home and walked in the door on Sunday morning, others would immediately look up and smile, greet me and welcome me home, but Tony always seemed to be looking the other way. I would approach him with a warm greeting, and get a warm response, but it was always me who had to make the approach.
I noticed too, that if we were discussing anything in leadership meetings, he would often remain quiet. If he had alternative views to mine, or didn’t feel the same as the rest of us, he couldn’t seem to just discuss it like we usually did. Instead he would eventually let out his feelings in a way that was inappropriate, often cynical, and just as often spoil the atmosphere of the meeting.
There was obviously something wrong, but none of us really understood it. We probably just put it down to personality, because these relational and personality struggles have always been common in the church. But Tony seemed to hold himself more and more distant from me, and seemed to be growing more resentful, especially in his fifth year on the staff.
I wondered if Tony was going to become the person he was called to be, yet the call of God remained upon him. He was meant to rise to leadership and responsibility.
Tony and I used to discuss this. I felt he had a great call to stand back-to-back with me in the ministry, and to work to win our city for Christ. I would have to travel, but he could concentrate on things at home. He felt the call and shared that vision too, but he himself wondered if he was ever going to become what he was meant to be. He used to say that he was not sure that I could rely on him.
At the same time, I hasten to say, Tony had a very great love for people, was really gifted with pastoral care, and was tireless in his willingness to talk with people, spend time with them, and visit them. But somehow, he was struggling more and more to walk with his leaders, both David and I.
What I never realised was that Tony struggled with such low self-esteem that he considered himself worthless and useless. Tony had been raised on a farm, with a good mum and dad who loved him. His family was stable, he was loved and cared for, but there was something repeatedly on the lips of his father that affected Tony profoundly in a very detrimental way. His father was always saying, in a kind of well-intended, half-joking fashion, “You’re useless!” Tony says he must have heard this statement hundreds of times, and to this day, even though he has found healing, the words still ring in his ears, “You’re useless!”
Tony grew up believing he was worthless, useless, of no value, a failure, could do no good, and could not be accepted or respected by anyone. One way or another, Tony ended up crushed through believing a lie, and by a father who, without realising it, had continually reinforced that lie in his heart. And this was in a case where Tony loves his father, and Tony’s father loves him. Nevertheless, Tony became a man easily crushed by what others might say to him.
I was beginning to feel the burden of the growing resentment and distance Tony was keeping. Then one day, Tony came to me and said, “John, we have to talk.” I knew this meant trouble. In my office, Tony raised his complaint. I was, in his mind, too strong, unkind, crushing people. Tony spoke of several people in the church with whom we had had pastoral dealings over a number of years, some whom we had had to correct and discipline. His interpretation of these events was that I had beaten them up, so to speak. I allowed him to tell me what he was feeling, and then I gave this reply: “Tony, you are either correct in your opinion of these things, or else it is your way of seeing things that is completely at fault. I am willing to ask David and Michael to join us, let them listen to everything you have to say, and let them decide what’s right and wrong. But I have a feeling that if we do that, you are the one that is going to get hurt. The alternative,” I said, “to protect you, is just for you and me to keep talking.” Tony said, “I think you’re right. I think we had better keep talking, just you and me.”
I knew I would have to get Tony to see the issues were in his own heart. I could see that Tony was misreading situations involving any exercise of authority. This is what I said to Tony: “Tony, you have a really big heart, and your heart is full of good things. You love people, and you love the Lord. But there is one piece of your heart, one small sliver, in which there are not good things. In that sliver you have some things that need to be dealt with.” I said, “In there, Tony, you have pride, independence, and cynicism. Further,” I said, “you need to change the way you see me. You need to stop seeing me as the boss, and start seeing me as your father.”
For a moment Tony struggled with what I said, but then he replied, “Yeah, you’re right. But I don’t know what to do about it.” He then asked if he could have three days off work for prayer, so that he could seek the Lord.
Tony had some wonderful advantages for a person who needed to overcome an orphan spirit. To start with, he was a very honest man, and willing to be honest about spiritual things. If he saw a fault within himself, he would admit it. Secondly, Tony was a prayerful man. He didn’t especially enjoy prayer meetings or the discipline of prayer, but he would genuinely seek the Lord, and he had often taken seasons for prayer and fasting. He was a genuine seeker after the Lord and the truth.
Then he had a third great advantage in life, which many Christians with an orphan spirit do not have. He was in a situation where his fault, or his problem, was being exposed on a regular basis by reason of the fact that he was on a pastoral ministry team and had to work closely with others in the leadership of the church. This is a huge magnifying glass. Unlike the average members of a congregation, who can turn up for the church service, and perhaps a cell meeting or a prayer meeting, and otherwise are not exposed too much in relationships, Tony was exposed to the pressure of personal and relational interaction in pressing spiritual matters every day.
Many Christians can cover up their struggle, their inadequacy, their lack, their self-hatred or low self-esteem, their resentment or pride or prejudice, by simply not being around much, or by leaving and joining another church. But to deal properly with an orphan heart, one has to remain in relationships and face the issues.
Tony took those days for prayer, and turned up the following weekend refreshed and renewed. In fact, that weekend was the autumn rain family camp we have spoken of earlier in this book, the weekend the Lord did amazing things amongst us. Tony and his family sat right near me in those meetings.
Before the opening meeting at the camp, Tony filled me in on what happened. During his three days of prayer, he had been given a wonderful revelation in a vision from the Lord. What had been revealed to him was the importance of the place and authority of apostles in the church – and that they were absolutely necessary to the purposes of Christ. Tony now held very clear and deep convictions – personal apostolic authority was essential for the work of God.
I wondered at the time why the Lord had given him that kind of revelation, when really what I thought he needed was a revelation concerning his own heart. He needed healing. But it is obvious now. Attitudes to authority and authority figures are amongst the biggest issues that anybody with an orphan heart has. The Lord was preparing the ground for a healing, by addressing Tony’s belief system. Before Tony could be healed of an orphan heart, he had to have a heart that accepted authority and leadership with respect. Tony continued to pray, and over the following months continued to seek the Lord and to cry out concerning the state of his own heart.
Apostle Chuck came to teach his sonship message at our Summit in June 2002. Chuck preached for seven sessions i.e. seven hours of passionate, heartfelt, Bible teaching. On the Saturday night of the conference, he was preaching a message about Elijah and Elisha which he calls, “Pursue!”
Somewhere in the middle of that message he preaches something like the following: “Fathers don’t follow sons, sons follow fathers. A son should pursue a father. It is not for fathers to go around following their sons. Jesus did not follow the 12. Paul did not follow Timothy. Elijah did not follow Elisha. If you want to progress, if you want to break through, you must pursue. You need to pursue a father.”
In speaking of the need for a son to give his heart to a father, he then told this story. In his earlier years, he had a large church in which he had many fine people who would do anything he asked of them. They were prepared to work hard. They would clean the buildings and do the grounds. They would participate in meetings and work at all aspects of the ministry. But Chuck could not understand why he felt he could never really trust them.
He had puzzled for years why this was so, but later came to realise why. They had never given him their hearts! It is true that without the giving of our hearts to each other, trust is not established, and intimacy cannot grow. Without the giving of the heart, there is no sonship. Without the giving of the heart, we have not laid aside our own agendas. Without the giving of the heart there is always room for an Absalom to arise, who deceives the people, or steals away the ministry.
You cannot build a work for God, you cannot build community, without the giving of the heart to each other in love, acceptance, and honour.
Tony was sitting under this preaching – “A son follows a father!” – “A son gives his heart to a father!” And as he was listening, sitting in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit moved upon Tony’s heart in power – and Tony was healed, delivered, and radically changed.
The moment the meeting ended, Tony came looking for me. He was beaming, and I have never seen a more happy man. He hugged me, I think for the first time ever – Tony had given me his heart. He has been a different man, a new man, ever since.
Tony had been on our staff for over six years at that point, and no one in our congregation had ever seen Tony as a spiritual father. But the moment Tony became a son, he became a father. There was a new grace, a new anointing over his life. Within two weeks, a couple approached Tony and asked if he would be a spiritual father to them. The following Sunday morning I was speaking to the church before going overseas, when the Holy Spirit came upon the meeting, and told me that I was to lay my hands upon Tony, and give him my authority to bless the people. Then, in my absence, anyone would be able to go to Tony and receive from him the same blessing they might receive from me. This was another wonderful indication of the change of spiritual atmosphere over Tony’s life. Authority was being added to him.
Since then Tony has made great progress. He became a man who grew in his ability to accept and walk in responsibility, and these days carries a great grace and fulfils such an important role in our lives. The change has been permanent, but Tony was always very humble about it. He would often say that work was still going on within him, and he was continuing to deal with attitudes.
A couple of years later, Tony stepped in the back door of the office, having just returned from his annual leave. I hadn’t seen Tony in weeks, and I was standing in the hallway as he entered. I greeted him and said, “Tony, good morning, good to see you, how are you?” Tony replied, “I’m still in love.” He meant, of course, in fellowship with me – he had given me his heart, and had not taken it back! We had walked together, and he was still enjoying the grace he had been given.
There is now another chapter to Tony’s story. I sent Tony to Pakistan with another brother from the church about two years ago. While in Pakistan, Tony was going to preach father-son relationship, and authority in the body of Christ.
When Tony came home from that trip, I immediately began to notice something new. Tony’s leadership of our Sunday morning meetings seemed to be at a new level. There was a greater understanding, a greater grace. In particular, I noticed a new wisdom evident in his speech, which was being spontaneously expressed in the meetings. Something was flourishing in him that had not been there before. I noticed it for two Sundays, and then a third, and still Tony had said nothing about what might have happened to him. In the end, I confronted him openly in front of others. I said, “Tony, tell me the truth. Where did you get all this wisdom? What happened to you?” Tony then told us this story.
In Pakistan, whilst preparing to preach, the Lord had gripped him with the story of the Centurion who had said to Jesus, “Just speak the word, for I myself am a man under authority.” Tony said he read that Scripture over and over, for it had just gripped him. And right there he had another huge breakthrough, just like he did at the 2002 Summit. The Lord opened his eyes and he came to a place of inner rest, where he realised that he himself was a man under authority, and as such did not have to carry the burden and fear of all the responsibility. He could trust. In that moment, Tony became a freer man, again. All along he had told me the work in him was not finished, that he still had ongoing struggles, and had to keep dealing with his heart. I can tell you, the grace God gave Tony has been a gift to us all.
There are people everywhere who, like Tony, struggle with their feelings but don’t know why. People who are suspicious, cynical, or resentful of leaders and of authority; and the trouble is that many of them think this is normal, the way it should be. So they operate out of resentment, or hurt, or pride, or cynicism, all their days; and all they do is harm the work of God, and keep themselves spiritually poor. There are too many that live in this kind of poverty, ‘orphaned,’ and often not even knowing that a restoration of their hearts is needed.
But Tony’s story gives us all great hope. Hurt from a natural father, or from any relationship involving trust, can result in difficulty approaching God or receiving God’s love. On the other hand, dealing with hurts and relationships always opens up intimacy with God, and His people. This is not because God necessarily withholds Himself from relationships, but because people, even born-again believers, if carrying unhealed hurt, do not fully trust in relationships. Therefore they do not fully yield to the Spirit of God, or really draw near to Him– it is this kind of believer who struggles to find intimacy, even with God …
There are times when someone new will come along to join a church, having moved from somewhere else. They will come in enthusiastic about the programme, or the preacher, or the love of evangelism, or in some other way claim to have come because they believe their ‘needs’ will be met in this new place. Then, a year or two later, they will walk out, unhappy, now claiming, “There is no love in this place.” The problem is not that there was no love there –the problem was that this person could not receive love, or recognise love, or give love. It is the problem of the orphan heart.
And very often, a person with an orphan heart expects the leadership to do everything for them, but will do nothing for their leaders. Tony was like this too. He expected me to do everything perfectly, but he would do little – until he was set free – and then his heart functioned differently. When a person with that kind of heart leaves, they blame the leaders, usually the senior leader, for everything. Just like that day when Tony said to me, “John, we have to talk.”
Tony teaches well on this subject now, and has depth of insight into heart struggles. He says: “There are three big lies, or ungodly beliefs.
One, a sense of rejection. I don’t belong; I’m not loved, wanted, or accepted.
Two, I am useless, and therefore worthless. I don’t count; I have nothing to offer.
Three, I will never amount to anything. I can’t cope with life; I can’t do anything well if at all. I am incompetent. I can’t do this. I have tried and failed, I am not failing again.
On the other hand, a healthy self-image will include a sense of belonging and of being loved, as well as a sense of being valuable and worthwhile, and a sense of being able to cope well with life.
People often ask me, “How can I solve my problem of an orphan heart?” How can anyone deal with orphan-type issues? What is to be done?
I have two basic pieces of advice I give to people, knowing that they themselves will have to pray consistently and see these issues through to healing.
1. Recognition of the problem is half the solution. If a believer can and will look honestly at themselves, recognise their fault and their weakness, calling it for what it is, be open about it, and discuss it honestly with their leaders – then I believe they are halfway to addressing the problem. Recognition, honesty, being prepared to address the issues – these are the things that are necessary or healing can never begin.
2. Persistence in relationships. Do not run away from issues, and do not allow offence to cause you to break relationship with anybody. Those with an orphan heart will feel the struggle of emotions, of offences, of insecurity, of low self-esteem, of anger, of being slighted, etc. There are many emotions, many feelings that a person with an orphan heart will experience during the course of their relationships with pastors, assistant pastors, youth leaders, worship leaders, or with any brother or sister in the church. A person can feel slighted, or overlooked, or offended, or vulnerable to exposure, and this could happen in a prayer meeting, the leadership meeting, or just fellowship after a Sunday service. A big lesson is to understand the need to not run, and not hide. Do not pull up stakes and shift camp. Healing only comes when we stay. Despite our feelings, keep working the issues through, and keep building relationships of trust. The people who stick it out are the ones most likely to reap the great rewards.
In the context of this advice, anyone with struggles of the heart should not blame other people but keep prayerfully seeking solutions from God, and believe and look for healing, growth in grace, progress in the faith, and the beauty of mature, trusting relationships. Healing does come.
v Third Event: There is an anointing by which community is built and another anointing by which leaders perceive community.
John Alley: Holy Community, Rockhampton: Peace Publishing 2010, p47-62: I had the dream one night late in September, 2002, and when I woke, felt compelled to seek the Lord to understand its meaning. I sat with the Lord, and He said something I was not expecting, and had no inkling of. The word He gave me was to change everything, as you will see.
By September, 2002, a greater apostolic anointing was being released over the Body of Christ, although we didn’t really see it at the time. Waiting on God for the meaning of the dream, He said: “There is an anointing by which community is built.”
“Oh,” I thought, “that means we don’t have it.” Nothing could have been more obvious to me – if we had tried persistently, as we had, to build community, but without results, and if at the same time there exists an anointing for building community, it can only mean one thing – we did not have that anointing!
Then He said: “And there is another anointing by which leaders perceive community.”
“Oh,” I thought, “we don’t have that one either.”
An Anointing is Grace, and Grace is Power. Now I felt I was on to something. There is an anointing. If there is an anointing, that means there is a grace. And a grace, when received, is power. A lot of people do not put it in these terms, but grace is not just God’s feeling about us. Many stop there because they define grace as God’s mercy. Grace is much more than mercy. Let me tell you that whenever grace is received, power is always received.
Can we prove that? What about when someone is born again by the Spirit? Is it God just feeling good about them and blotting out their sins? No, you know that the transformation of life is so real, so permanent, so definite – this person previously hated righteousness and loved wickedness, but now loves righteousness and hates wickedness. That takes power. When grace is given, power is always received.
I need to mention that by the time of this dream, I was no longer thinking about the earlier revelation I described in Chapter 2, so did not apply what He had shown me at that time to our current situation. But this new word came as a solution to an immediate need, and it held hope and wonderment for me. “There is an anointing,” He had said, “by which community is built.” These were exciting words to me, as was His second statement: “There is another anointing, by which leaders perceive community.” To perceive means to be able to apprehend, to have a heart for, and be able to look into, to longingly take hold of, to have a big heart to grasp it, and to have a vision to build it.
As I pondered this anointing by which community is built, it occurred to me that I had never noticed this in the Bible. I had seen all kinds of other anointings there, such as the power to heal the sick, and the grace given for some to be apostles or pastors. But the idea of this being an anointing I had not seen anywhere in Scripture, I thought. However, if it was true, and if I was to believe what I had heard, then it had to be found in the Bible.
When I went in search of that anointing, it didn’t take long to find Pentecost all over again – and find it with new eyes. When God poured out the Holy Spirit, he poured out many anointings – in fact, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, He came with every grace and gift that are in Christ – and these are all available. There was anointing for tongues and healing and prophecy and walking with God and guidance and all. But the central anointing, the core anointing, around which all these other things are attached, is the anointing by which all the believers became a people – which is why they became of one heart and one mind. Once we realise this, we see the bigger picture of Pentecost. Pentecost always had as its primary purpose the forming of holy community. [See also John 17:22-23: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Ephesians 4:3: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”]
And with this light, I discovered my eyes were open to see, from Acts 2 through to Acts 12 and beyond, the community anointing clearly at work among the people. Much of the way the church operated in the Acts of the Apostles could only be because of that anointing.
For example, in Chapter 12 it is recorded that the apostle James was arrested and Herod put him to death by the sword. Herod then arrested Peter and was going to kill him too. Then this telling line is written; “but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
They had not offered much prayer for James. Presumably there was an assumption that apostles would be OK, for they had been arrested before. But in fact, the church must pray: even apostles are not necessarily safe if the church does not pray for them. The church needs apostles, and apostles also need the church.
And when the church offered much prayer for Peter, there occurred a tremendous series of miracles. Peter’s chains fell off, the angel had to wake him up, and even though he was chained to soldiers, they did not notice the chains fall off him. They did not even see Peter getting up and walking to the door, which opened of its own accord. He then walked past more guards, who were all wide awake, but saw nothing.
In front of him were the big prison gates, with more guards. Again, the gates opened and the guards saw nothing. Is this a series of many miracles, or just one event? Where did the church get such power? From the account, it came from a prayer meeting in a house.
I have been in many prayer meetings where we have offered much prayer, and received answers to prayer too. We’ve all seen miracles, but not the likes of that one. There is a reason why those people saw, I believe, that kind of miracle; they were in community. They were of one heart and one mind, and when that grace is present, the church has much more power.
Now we at Peace were not without anointings. We had many anointings – for worship, for finance, for healing, for teaching, for mission, for leadership, for prayer, for pastoral care, for preaching the gospel, and so on. But we did not have what was described to me as “the anointing by which community is built.” That one was missing.
In defense against this argument that you also might not have this anointing, you might point to signs of love. You can say, “We have got people who love each other,” and of course you do. We had people who loved each other too. We had lots of them. They were people who loved the Lord, and would worship and pray. Intercession was very strong with us. We had all these things, but still there was something more that was needed.
Could I say it is probably the same with most churches: God is with them, there is a lot of blessing, but there is still a missing anointing.
And God was with us. We were still seeing people saved, and the power of the Holy Spirit would come into our meetings and move upon the people. Sometimes people would fall off their chairs drunk with the Holy Spirit, others would be glued to the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit, being dealt with by a gracious God. The Holy Spirit was at work, and yet there was something we still did not have the power to do.
But now that I had this word from the Lord, I knew what I needed to do; it was simple enough. And I have discovered that if there is any need or any lack, what we then must find is an impartation of grace into that area. For everything that we are called to do, there is an anointing.
The following Sunday morning I preached about what the Lord had said, and showed the church the things I had found in Acts 2-12. Then I prayed over the congregation, and with a simple prayer, by faith brought that anointing down from the throne of grace, and released it into the hearts of the believers. This is a straightforward work of grace in leadership authority, and I was very fortunate that over the previous ten years I had learned how to receive anointings and how to release anointings in ministry. I had also learned that in a meeting there is always a group anointing present, and it is possible to release an anointing to a whole group of people in an instant. And because I had that experience, I also had faith, which put me in a good position for what needed to be done. And thus I prayed, although there was no immediate effect to be seen – and I wasn’t necessarily expecting one. The service closed, we had coffee, and all went home. The next Sunday there was nothing different to see, nor the next week nor the next.
But after six weeks, at the weekly leaders’ fellowship at my house, one of the pastors on the staff, Tony, came in with a story. He dropped into a lounge chair, and very casually remarked that for many years he had tried his best, in every way he knew, to get our cells to work, but no matter what he did, he could not seem to make them work. So he gave up trying. “But a very strange thing has happened,” he remarked. “About six weeks ago, all those cells started working all on their own.” The mention of six weeks caused me to sit up and take notice; I knew it had been six weeks since I had released that anointing. He said the cells had started working all on their own. This meant that grace, ‘the anointing by which community is built,’ was at work in the hearts of the people.
That anointing made an astounding difference in our church. Without fanfare, and without change being obvious at the time, everything did change after I released that anointing with a simple prayer. What resulted was a quiet but completely sovereign work of the Holy Spirit which changed the hearts of our people.
Two primary things changed in our hearts. The first is that our people seemed to see each other with a different set of eyes. Of course, the truth is, they saw each other with a different heart.
One sister testified, sometime later, that there was another woman in the church that she couldn’t stand, didn’t want to sit anywhere near, and always felt rubbed up the wrong way by her. She found it very uncomfortable to be around her and used to avoid her. But she found her heart had completely changed. She no longer felt uncomfortable, but instead appreciated her very much. Since the time the grace was released, she felt great love, admiration, and acceptance of that person. It was a total change of feeling and outlook, with no human explanation.
This is what I mean by saying that our people now saw each other through different eyes.
The other wonderful change was that inter-personal striving was removed from church life, along with selfish agendas. There was no more competition, or people trying to get their own way. Talk about a peaceful life!
There were practical outcomes too. For one, people stopped leaving the church. Previously we would work hard to keep everybody together, yet even so from time to time people would leave for no good reason. We had had a series of unfortunate ‘losses’ even in the years after the nasty time of division was over and calm had returned. But from the time the community grace was received, virtually all abnormal movement out ceased.
Tony tells me (and it has now been almost eight years) that the amount of counseling or serious pastoral care required by our own people dropped to a fraction of what it was before.
As a people, we have come to the place where we simply belong to each other. The atmosphere within the church changed, and this has made a big difference to me. Up until that time I had needed to work hard as the pastor, but when that grace came in, I relaxed completely. Previously, I would set the alarm to get up extra early on Sunday morning to pray at length, before preparing carefully, dressing well, and arriving at the church early. I would make sure I said hello to everybody before the service started. I would work hard, and feel under pressure, to make sure we had a great programme, great worship, great announcements, great preaching and great ministry times, and then when finished I would go around and try to greet everybody again.
Why was it so important to operate like that? Because we had to keep our ‘customers’ happy. If we didn’t keep them happy, they might go down the road and shop in another pastor’s shopping centre. Much of the church is like this; striving, competitive, and performance-oriented.
But the coming of the grace for community changed all that. It made us feel that we belonged to each other. Something shifted in the hearts of the people, and things felt different because they were different. Now when I turn up on Sunday, I have come home. I walk into that building and I am with family who love me. I walk in and relax like the rest of the people. I belong, not just organisationally, but in their hearts. By the way people greet me it is obvious they feel they belong to me, and I belong to them. We have all come home. There is no more sense of threat or dread in the house. When I get up to speak, God begins to speak and there is no more need to ‘perform’, and no more spirit of competition. There is rest in the hearts of the people. And I don’t even set the alarm anymore.
The church was good before, and the people were good people. But this was a remarkable miracle we received, and it took place in the heart of all the people as a whole at the same time. I am not saying that we don’t have those who, as in all churches, dwell on the fringes of the church, and haven’t fully received of this grace, but I am talking about the spirit of the whole. And I am not saying that it is a perfect work, or that the process is complete. We have yet to complete our journey together. And there will always be those who, whether newcomers, or those lukewarm who have never surrendered, are in a place where they still need to receive the word of God and let it transform them. Neither can the church be judged as deficient if occasionally some false brethren try to enter, or some independent ones attempt to come in with their own agendas – at least there will always be an opportunity to minister truth and correction to the unruly. But these do not really belong, although they have the opportunity to stay and be healed and find a home with us.
We are ordinary people, with our share of faults and weaknesses, but we are really happy in appreciating and giving grace to each other. We didn’t fully realise how this works with us, until recently a couple with such an unruly spirit came to join us. Of course, these kind of folk are usually bright and cheerful on the outside, presenting as victorious Christians, and excited about how great is the church they’ve come to join. But within a matter of a few weeks they quickly became super critical and condemning of some of the families in the church.
I will spare you the tale of their background, but in visiting some of the families in the church for meals, and being welcomed amongst us with great love, they could only see fault in people. After a few short weeks, these people would openly criticise and condemn the family life of good people.
Their views were harsh and judgmental in the extreme, and some of their claims were delusional. They spoke to us about families that they considered dysfunctional, and referred to various people as ‘no good’. I had not seen such wickedness in people for a long time.
One Sunday morning I was sitting in church as they walked in, silhouetted in the doorway. I heard the Lord say, “The spirit of community is not in them.” It was such a pity.
They had read the books, heard the CDs, loved and agreed with the teaching – but did not have the grace. We confronted them over their sin, and they left town as quickly as they had come. However, at the following Tuesday afternoon weekly leaders’ relational meeting, I suggested that we not assume we had no fault, and that it would be best to see this as an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Was God allowing this for our good, and should we correct ourselves in some way? So around the dining table in our house we went to prayer to consider before God if there was any truth in their claims they made about us or our people.
My eldest son David was present, and spoke to the question with a greatly helpful insight. He said something to this effect: “The reason the people of Peace love each other so much, and there is such grace in the house, is because they do not have expectations of each other. If there is no expectation of performance, then there will be no criticism and condemnation when people do not perform.”
To have expectations of a person is to expect some kind of outward conformity, but when expectations are not present, we are free to love the person for who they are. Without realising it, this was a big part of our secret. Human beings cannot change themselves. When a person is born again, they do not change themselves. Neither do they change themselves when they receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
I thank God for what we have received at Peace, but I know there’s more. There is a still greater measure of this grace available. I know that on the day I released the anointing by which community is built, it changed our people forever.
In particular, striving and disjointedness were removed. But I do hasten to add, I have never believed we have yet obtained all of this particular grace. I often remark at home that we received a down payment, and we are to look for a larger portion. Nevertheless, it markedly changed the hearts of our people and brought in greater oneness and the bonds of love. Since then, our whole church has been redefined, and we now send teams all over Australia and the world, something we never did before.
I perceive that this anointing by which community is built is probably the same grace that the Lord referred to in speaking with me in 1998 as the spirit of understanding, which was one of the seven primary anointings resting upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We shall yet discuss this further.
We have come to the place where we simply belong to each other. We have made some progress in the journey to find community, and it has a great deal to do with how we feel about each other; we belong. And if we have nothing else to offer the body of Christ, we do have this: that we love each other. May I, at this point, draw two conclusions?
One Mind – the Intended Normal State of the Church. In considering the Pentecost story and its outcomes, along with all the things the apostle Paul in particular had to say about hearts and minds in the churches, what seems evident to me is that this state of blessing and anointing – the one-heart one-mind state – was meant to be the normal state of the church. Not a one-off thing, nor an occasional thing, but rather, this was how the church was birthed, and how we can remain.
Whilst this was meant to be the kind of life the church shares, what we’ve too often known is a striving, competitive kind of church life – with all the usual problems such as ambition, selfishness, backbiting, and the like, taking their toll. I can in all honesty say with regard to the latter, that at home we haven’t seen this kind of thing as part of corporate church life in years. It is an entirely different culture we enjoy. The Lord really did change our people, and what I am speaking of is real. There is a grace available, and it is worth finding this anointing.
The Power we see in the Book of Acts came from Community. After the account of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Acts Chapter 2, there are recorded constant and regular indicators of things happening in the early Church that could only happen to a people in community. That is, the level of power and authority that we see evidenced there, and the amount and kind of signs and wonders, miracles, and answers to prayer they enjoyed, were outcomes of the Church being in community. This is a major difference between Christianity as we usually know it and the apostolic Church as it then was.
Externally, we look at it and see they had great power, while we don’t seem to have much power ourselves. The text of Acts 4 says that with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection, and there were many signs and wonders, and much grace was upon them. That does not sound a lot like any congregation that most of us have been a part of. We wonder where this apostolic power has gone, and long for the days of apostolic grace again.
Throughout the years I have often heard preaching about the need for apostolic power to be restored to the Church. But we were missing the fact that this level of grace and power flows from, or through, community. Generally, the kind of institutional Christianity we have known has not had this depth of relationship in it. But when the Spirit of God was given on the day of Pentecost, and the hearts of the people were knit together, it created a community through which the power of the Spirit could flow with great effect.
v Outcomes since 2002:
Ø “From the time of 2002 when we became one like we have never been before, up until then I travelled extensively all over the world in ministry but from that time our people did. It’s really a significant change so that teams from our church would go just about anywhere in the world. What we discovered was that any of them wherever they got, the same impartation of grace would take place as if I had gone. In fact, Lloyd was one of these … Africa more than anybody else … the apostolic message …”
Ø “We had a seven year period – 1995-2002 – (remember that I said these three big things happened in 2002) we were hungry for a deeper relational thing – community. We didn’t even know what it was that we were looking for. We would pray for it and preach. For seven years, I taught and taught in the hope that there would be deeper relationships, more intimacy, love, fellowship, a sense of belonging, more loyalty … but it didn’t produce anything … (It produced something but we went these seven years without seeing the result.) … But in the year 2002, when the Lord moved on us, he moved on people that had been educated. In other words, our minds had been somewhat renewed anyway and in our hearts had been put a desire for better things so that when it came, there was some foundation. That was all good … And so I started to seek the Lord: “How do we keep a revival when we get one.” And he gave me an interesting answer to that question too … We relate to each other purely on the deep deep affection of Christ that is in our hearts for one another. It is nothing but love … That’s the thing that makes the difference but it relies on the Holy Spirit pouring into the church life and an extra measure of that love and that is what we call an anointing or a grace … Romans 5 …”
Ø “At Pentecost, all the people’s heart changed at one time … Most of us have never seen a meeting where every single person sitting there got baptized in the Holy Spirit at the same minute but that’s what the Bible describes. Therefore, this is normal – normal Christian experience – that you can have a meeting where the Holy Spirit changes something in everyone’s heart in the same blink. We had that happen to us. It is pretty astounding and it was another measure of love. When this grace came upon us, it changed the way we saw each other and yet we already saw each other as brothers and sisters … No, it cannot be explained but I know that the church was in a totally different place …”
Ø “This grace had another effect. Not only did it change the way we saw each other so that there was a tremendous sense of acceptance and belonging and more than that – appreciation, admiration – … we were being glued together … The other thing that happened and we weren’t expecting this and it takes time – it’s not for a long time that you are realizing how it is working …. He took out of us our expectations of other people by which we judge them … It took out judgements; arms-length … Expectations is a killer – silent killer. Expectations … that you expect other people to live up to a standard and then you are expecting people to do things for you. If they come in through the front door and they don’t notice you, you are offended … You had an expectation … judgement … When the expectations go, then what tends to happen that you take the other person’s point of view. They come in through the door but they are troubled by something … And it’s all fine. The judgements go … What that does astoundingly is give the church an amazing acceptance of each other just as they are … families that looked dysfunctional but we had such acceptance for one another as equals …”
§ There were practical outcomes too. For one, people stopped leaving the church. Previously we would work hard to keep everybody together, yet even so from time to time people would leave for no good reason. We had had a series of unfortunate ‘losses’ even in the years after the nasty time of division was over and calm had returned. But from the time the community grace was received, virtually all abnormal movement out ceased.
§ Tony tells me (and it has now been almost eight years) that the amount of counselling or serious pastoral care required by our own people dropped to a fraction of what it was before.
§ As a people, we have come to the place where we simply belong to each other. The atmosphere within the church changed, and this has made a big difference to me. Up until that time I had needed to work hard as the pastor, but when that grace came in, I relaxed completely. Previously, I would set the alarm to get up extra early on Sunday morning to pray at length, before preparing carefully, dressing well, and arriving at the church early. I would make sure I said hello to everybody before the service started. I would work hard, and feel under pressure, to make sure we had a great programme, great worship, great announcements, great preaching and great ministry times, and then when finished I would go around and try to greet everybody again.
Why was it so important to operate like that? Because we had to keep our ‘customers’ happy. If we didn’t keep them happy, they might go down the road and shop in another pastor’s shopping centre. Much of the church is like this; striving, competitive, and performance-oriented.But the coming of the grace for community changed all that. It made us feel that we belonged to each other. Something shifted in the hearts of the people, and things felt different because they were different. Now when I turn up on Sunday, I have come home.