Foundational Gifts: Organic vs. Organizational Authority
Tuesday Morning, January 12, 1999
A follow-up discussion to “Do We Need Church Planters?”
At times, the expression “foundational gifts” has been used in various writings, without much explanation included. I thought I’d say a bit more about that, for whoever may be interested.
When speaking of “foundational gifts,” we are referring to the thought of Eph. 2:19-22. This phrase certainly has large-scope implications for the whole Body of Christ for all time, as well as implications practically for our time and space, when exposed to the same gifts. You can also consider these passages when trying to ascertain the “value” of what we’ve called “foundational gifts” to the Body of Christ Jesus…(1Cor. 3:10; Eph. 3:9, 4:11-16; Rom. 12:8, as well as others you can think of easily).
A Lever and a Place to Stand
Some of the previous thoughts referring to one of the primary foundational gifts, and its role amongst the Believers:
“The best masons, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers in the galaxy cannot build a house without the additional gifts relating to seeing the DESIGN of the house in that locale. Paul called it the gift of ‘architect.’ This gift can ‘see’ how it all fits together. This gift helps give the other Believers the freedom to develop and use their gifts. The ‘apostolic’ gift helps the other gifts to not step all over each other ‘laying dry wall before the plumbing is installed.’
“And the troublesome situations so often experienced certainly WOULD be much helped and eventually resolved (one way or another) by involvement of the gifts that lay foundations (Eph. 2; 1Cor. 3)—‘the apostles and prophets.’ This, of course, is NOT about the charismatic movements’ versions of gifts: bending spoons, memorizing birthdays, and stained-glass voices prophesying flattery or doom. ‘Church planting’ is NOT really the issue, either. But the GIFTS mentioned, ‘first apostles, second prophets, then teachers,’ are necessary for the nine or so amazing and wonderful things God has listed. ‘Two or three gathered’ can have a measure of good stuff going on. However, you will also find heartache, confusion, leaven, domineering flesh and a bunch of other stuff that can RARELY ever really be resolved without these Gifts being involved. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is. Both scripturally, and experientially.
Let me give you an example from the world. A guy named Archimedes discovered, around 250 B.C., what is referred to as ‘the lever.’ This device allowed a man to move objects weighing many times a man’s weight from one place to another. He is quoted as saying, ‘Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I can move the entire world!’ THIS is the awesome Gift of God in the ‘foundation of the apostles and prophets.’ When a foundation is laid in a relationship with foundational, architectural gifts, there is Spiritual ‘leverage’ to move the ugly, complicated, unSpiritual problems that inevitably come up. There is A PLACE TO STAND to resolve the issues and the challenges of daily life in the church.”
This is what the “foundational gifts” are “for”—the Gifts that Jesus “ascended on High” to give to His Church.
In simplest terms, as we try to understand “GIFTS,” know that Jesus gave ALL of Himself to His Body, in the Gifts of the Spirit, granted “as He wills.” All together, they represent the whole giftedness of Jesus of Nazareth (Col. 1:18, 24, 2:9-10; Eph. 1:22-23; 1Cor. 12, and others). Now, within that array of multiplied thousands of Gifts that Jesus possessed and spread out amongst His Spiritual Body here on earth, there are particular gifts that we MIGHT dare to call “leadership” as in Rom. 12:8, and Eph. 4:11. These gifts are often counterfeited by those who love to be seen of men, love to be called by titles in the marketplace, and love to be first. But, that’s not what I’m speaking of here. The true Gifts of leadership are involved in laying foundations of local assemblies and allowing “the administration (the practical daily working out) of the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3). These gifts are the “poured out” particular Gifts that Jesus possessed, and has granted as a gift to His Church (Eph. 4), that allow the other gifts the freedom to express themselves. This gift brings out the best in others, and pulls them forward to know Him and serve Him with understanding and love. They are not positions of “authority” in churches, per se, but gifts with His “anointing” evident for a particular area of service to the saints and to the world. They facilitate, rather than dominate.
Brother Amongst Brothers
Now, foundational types of gifts may be more visible than most other gifts (such as mercy, helps, generosity, or even shepherds) in certain circumstances. Notice Peter’s place with Ananias and Sapphira, and with Dorcas, personally assigned to visit Cornelius, etc. Nevertheless, even foundational gifts or more visible gifts are not daily “bosses” of the church. No gift or position, biblically, is in that role. “It must not be so with you,” saith the Lord.
And certainly, there is no gift set out by God that is permitted to “run the meetings.” There is NO biblical record of such an animal as “the official or expected runner of meetings.” Not a “pastor”—not a “priest”—not a “reverend”—not an “elder”—not a “minister”—not ANYTHING. No “official runner of meetings” existed in the New Testament Church, with its foundation laid by those who walked with Jesus daily. That job description (“runner of meetings”) is a new addition, added by fearful men. They may be afraid things won’t go smoothly, or won’t be upbeat enough for visitors, or have too many quiet moments, or they are afraid the big bad wolves will get them.
Sometimes this unBiblical role of “man up front” is claimed by ambitious men. “God ‘called’ me to dominate all of you and persuade you to revere me, call me by a title, and think that I’m holier and more spiritual and better ‘connected’ than all of you. I wasn’t bright enough to be a candlestick maker or Indian chief, and I didn’t want to get my hands dirty as a grease monkey, so mom thought this would be a great career path.”
Or sometimes this clergy thing happens at the hands of lazy or fearful saints (“Give us a king like the other denomi-nations!”). Oh, PLEASE, let’s not underestimate the mystery withheld for ages and generations, the CHRIST OF GOD WITHIN those who truly trust and live in Him!
Visible leadership at times? Perhaps. James facilitated when he spoke up in Acts 15 and said, “I perceive that _____.” He didn’t dominate, but he provided “sternsmanship” (leadership—Rom. 12:8). He facilitated order by taking the pieces that were there, provided by the Great Shepherd of the Sheep to individuals one-by-one in that gathering, and helping to put them together in an orderly way. He didn’t decide for everyone. (And that’s good, since he was one of the last ones to get a grip on this Jew/Christian puzzle being discussed in Acts 15. Remember “the party of James” which misrepresented the Gospel to the gentiles in Antioch? Remember that Paul did battle with Peter over James’ buddies’ misunderstandings “in front of them all”? I don’t know that James was as messed up as his close friends were about the Gospel, but James didn’t help them much either, obviously.) Still, James was visible and very respected in that setting in Jerusalem in Acts 15, but not “the boss.” And he might have stayed invisible for hours on end, or days on end in any given setting. He wasn’t the big cheese or official holy man. He was a brother who functioned as a brother amongst brothers, but was not ashamed of his gifts. (1Cor. 15:7-10 is so important to feel in your heart—a deep need to show gratitude to Jesus for what He has done for you!)
Organic, Not Organizational
Is it possible that God does not intend to have a generic “no gift,” “no foundational gift,” church? Consider this “teaser”… An angel at the empty Tomb said, “Go tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘Jesus is going ahead of you into Galilee.’” Here’s the million Euro question: Why did he single out Peter? “Go tell His disciples, and Peter.” After all, “We all have the Holy Spirit!” so Peter shouldn’t be singled out. Right? And yet, a spokesman for God, an Angel, highlighted Peter and mentioned the other brothers generally.
Another “teaser”? Peter, after being freed from prison by an angel, knew that he could find some brothers and sisters together even at that late hour. He arrived at a surprised room of folks praying at John Mark’s mother’s home. And what did Peter say? “Tell James and the brothers about this!” Why single out James? Why does James get special notice? He wasn’t even one of the Twelve! Why single him, or anyone out? Just maybe that’s okay, if seen organically rather than organizationally.
Why did the “household of Chloe” travel hundreds of miles to find Paul and present him with a rather long list of sins and problems in the church they were a part of? Shouldn’t they have been able to handle it on their own? Don’t they all have Jesus? Couldn’t they just take a vote at a “men’s breakfast” or something, and not have to ask some mere man, from the outside no less, to help? Perhaps they understood “gifts” better than most in our age do. And perhaps THAT is because so many people today are wounded from the abuses of self-proclaimed authority figures. We’ve become fearful of God’s Way because so many “leaders” are living in the spirit of “king” Saul—rather than Melchizedek, Samuel, or Jesus, or Paul.
Still, if we can get over our ow-ees long enough to consider the beauty and life of God’s Plan regarding ORGANIC leadership, it’s time to move ahead. There certainly is an undeniable implication in the Scriptures that everyone would know who THEIR leaders are, those who have lived the Life and have spoken His Words (Heb. 13:7). And they would be glad to “submit” to those who “watch for their souls” as those who “will give an account.” That “leadership” is clearly recognizable, but not as the Gentiles!
WOW! This is so unheard of. God, give us grace and have mercy on us. No one “running the meetings” (except the Risen Jesus, rising up in His priesthood! 1Cor. 14:26-30). No one whatsoever with a title, or even viewed as the “head librarian and greek researcher,” or “official speaker.” In God’s true Church, there are NO King Sauls running God’s People. And yet there is every possibility that God can raise up many Samuels at His pleasure, with their obedience. Yes! And these will be men and women OF God, who can hear Him, and hear His children, and help them find each other on a daily basis. NOT speeches, books and meetings…but “hand to hand, eye to eye, and mouth to mouth” as Jesus did. “The LIFE becomes the light of men”—NOT the other way around.
Here is another way to look at it. Stay with me here. “ALL authority” belongs to Jesus, now and forever more! Right? So why the contradictions with “authority figures”? There IS no authority, right? Just me and my conscience, RIGHT? Whatever’s right in my eyes—flies, because, “We all have the Holy Spirit.” But then, why do we find ourselves needing to disobey dozens of Scriptures about obeying and submitting, and about leaders, in order to hold on to this viewpoint the way it is sometimes interpreted? Here’s the key. YES, Jesus does have all authority, which means it is His ANOINTING on His Gifts, case-by-case, day by day, that we respond to! NOT titles and positions, like the gentiles. We respond to His Presence and His Voice wherever He chooses to express it!! We watch for ANOINTING! His anointing is a part of His Life that He has deposited in that situation. (And I surely don’t mean human charisma or personality or talent! Yuck.)
Practically, in a situation with children, or relating to music, or physical needs, or illness, or discouragement, or unBelievers…someone in particular may have an anointing, a Life, a gift that is clearly from Heaven. The voice of God rings clearly through the hushed Children that are listening for the Shepherd’s Voice. And the fruit of His Anointing is beyond human organizational skills, motivational gimmicks, gadgets, borrowed ideas, man-made psychology, intensely researched or carefully crafted words, or self-proclaimed authority (“Touch not God’s anointed!”) or flexed muscles. It is God’s Fruit. Jesus has passed this way. We all feel the Wind of Heaven and humbly bow down.
In this way, as a Priesthood, any saint, anyone with JESUS living inside can be chosen and anointed for a task or a purpose, or at a crucial moment. We speak of daily, intertwined Life, but meetings are okay, too. He gives His authority to the parts of Himself that are distributed in the Gifts in the Body of Christ. He does NOT invest it in a title and position, but in Gifts. Overseers are facilitators, not bosses. There is such a thing as Leadership in God’s economy, and God forbid that we would destroy God’s Plan of how to build His Body.
We must not pooh-pooh ORGANIC, ANOINTED leadership and thereby rob His People of embracing those five gifts in Ephesians 5, and the thirty thousand others that Jesus has, and poured out. And yet, it is a rare thing in this confused religious landscape to see GIFTS rather than POSITIONS. Anointing rather than tradition, hierarchy, and habit. GOD is after Samuels—people who know His friendship intimately—in every area of giftedness! They demand nothing, but give all. We no longer need Sauls, who steal our children, steal our vision, and steal our money (and all of the other things mentioned in 1Sam. 8). It is truly to “reject God” when we handle leadership as the gentiles do. It is equally damaging to do the “Korah” thing and cry out, “We ALL have the Holy Spirit” and despise or ignore anointing and giftedness.
Probably it’s better to ask God to show us HIS way, as unheard of as that may be! Wouldn’t you all agree?? : ) xXxoOxoxOo