My Apostolic Apology Vol. 3 – The Curse of The Episcopacy

Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles, their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers, and what later is referred to as Apostolic Tradition.

It is important that we face episcopal leadership with a clear head and develop an understanding that this episcopal mandate is serious and needed. The episcopacy has been somewhat of a curse because of the way it is been handled by corrupt and non-spirit filled leaders throughout the centuries. So, this subject should be approached from the standpoint that we develop the history, usage, and the very nature of what the episcopal mandate details.

During what we term the Apostolic and Sub-apostolic ages, the dynamics of the Holy Spirit leading, empowering, and mandating attention was powerful and necessary for the growth and development of the Early Church. In fact, the first two centuries could very well be termed the era of miracles. Especially, as we dissect the Apostolic Age. Let us keep in mind that there were no Church structures or an organized leadership structure. The Primitive Church was marked by the eye-witness accounts of the original Apostles to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; to the amazing identification of genuine love among its’ followers; and to the struggle of maintaining and enforcing strong fellowship in the midst of tremendous persecution.  Dennis M. Golphin

In order to spread this newfound “Faith” believers had to relocate often but maintain a testimony of comfort and peace in the presence of hostile reception (Acts 8:1). This early band of believers faced two main issues that kept division in the ranks. Because this started out as a kingdom message the pressure was on to announce a continuation of the Jewish interpretation of kingdom. As a result, many of the first Christians were primarily Jewish and rejected Gentile converts to the new “Faith.” The Apostles emerged as a collegiate leadership in Acts 6; 8; 11; and 15 to settle the divisions. Later as bands of believers gathered in different locations and the core of the church turned Gentile things also shifted doctrinally, as society viewed Christianity as just another Jewish cult. In fact, it wasn’t until the late first century that Rome began to observe a distinction between Christians and Jews.

I must pause here and mention that the mandate of the Apostles was to spread the “Faith” not to govern the believers. So, we do not have a collection of churches formed by the Apostles as pastors or leaders in the NT. As a matter of fact, church history records the travels of the “twelve” as they went about spreading the “Gospel” throughout the known world.  As they pioneered their missionary work, we really do not have any scriptural evidence churches were planted by them, but many were erected in their honor as many were martyred for their testimony.

In our canon, Paul is the model church planter and “bishop” through his preaching, teaching, and administration by epistles in and out of prison. Paul, however, was not governing church structures, but communities of believers discovering fellowship, relationships, discipline, and worship. It should be noted here that Paul was not able to be a general spokesman of the church of his day. He rejected being associated with the foundational Apostles out of humility and they did not trust him anyway.

Most of Paul’s teachings were later regarded as inspired because of the fruit of his labors and much of the NT is made up of his writings. I do not have time here to explore all the various dimensions of ideas or theories, but just let me address Ephesians 4:11 in context. Paul is not advocating a hierarchy of leaders, as much as he is developing a leadership flow from Jesus Christ. The theme of this chapter is unity, not authority.

Over the next couple of centuries, it was left to gifted teachers to advocate structured leadership as a result of the rapid growth of the church during adverse persecution and martyrdom. In Carthage, North Africa, early church theologian Tertullian is quoted as saying, “that persecution strengthened the church.” For those who wanted to be bishops in this era, it is historically recorded that you would be martyred as an example to stop church growth. Bishops and deacons emerged as the accepted leaders during this difficult period of growth and unrest.

However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire in 432 A.D., the church found itself as both the civil and the ecclesiastical authority of its day. So, with the decline of miracles and the rise of Organizational authority, the church was on a course in the West to diminish the power of the Holy Spirit guiding the process.

Over the next ten centuries between schisms and power plays the episcopacy became corrupt. Pope Leo IX in the 10th century, became notable for efforts to end the practice of simony (buying of religious offices). The name is taken from Simon Magus (Acts 8:18), who endeavored to buy from the Apostles the power of conferring the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The episcopacy during the Medieval period became noted for corruption and wealth. The early Apostles criteria for church leadership in Acts 6, was that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not see evidence of many pious episcopates throughout this era. The more world power church leadership obtained the more corrupt they became. The church started deteriorating from the inside and diminished the authority of the Holy Spirit.  So, the reformers were crying for change in leadership styles and a return to Apostolic traditions and doctrine.

In our day, there is been a resurge of the episcopal and apostolic protocol in the church proper. The real issue is whether we want to lead or follow the Holy Spirit’s direction. In every generation, we are faced with a crusade to return to prior moves or operations of the church. But is there a mandate to look back or press forward? What really is the future for a church that has become more marginalized over the centuries as it has become the largest religion in the world by population? What is the Holy Spirit mandating for the future of a dead church? And are we ready for a change that may not fit our egos nor our empire aspirations?

I propose a different structural viewpoint that puts episcopal leaders in the position of servants, not royalty. As priests who are interceding for a lame church and seeking the “face” not just the “hand” of God in prayer and worship. Not replacing our High Priest as intercessor but assisting an effort to take earth to heaven as Christ succeeded in bringing heaven to earth. In a culture where everybody is attempting to be a spokesman for God, where are the priests who can appeal to the heart of God for salvation, healing, and deliverance in our day?

join the counter-cultural revolution here

 

 

 

 

 

My Apostolic Apology – Vol 1 Episcopal Rank

Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles, their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers, and what later is referred to as Apostolic Tradition.

BishopClergydmgThere is always a need to define, redefine, evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission, in light of, scripture, history, and tradition. Therefore, I have decided to form The Global Conference of Bishops as a communion of episcopates uniting around true Apostolic tradition. I submit being a bishop is much more than merely looking the part, we must be the part. That means along with titles for status we need a character for example.

The normal responsibility and authority of leadership in the NT rested with the bishops – elders – pastors – deacons; but if we are interested in pursuing biblical patterns of leadership, we must be concerned to demonstrate observable growth not only in our grasp of truth but also in our lived discipline (1 Tim. 4:14 – 16) of the Truth. If you are not familiar with Church history, then you will go off on a tandem fighting everything by scripture only and not recognize the continual growth and pattern changes of the Church over time.

We must comprehend that spiritual leadership, far from lording it over others (Matt. 20:25 – 28), is a balanced combination of oversight (1 Tim. 4:11 – 13; 6:17 – 19; Titus 3:9 – 11) and example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:6 – 11, 17 – 18; 1 Pet. 5:1 – 4) which, far from being negating are mutually reinforcing.
For instance, If you lived in the first four centuries of the church, being a bishop meant how well you were going to die for the Faith. Since most of the early bishops were martyred for the cause of Christ in this era. If you lived in the Middle Ages, bishops were defined as being both the civil and ecclesiastical authority of the known world. In fact, society functioned under both civil government and canon law during this period, which led to widespread corruption. In the Dark Ages and ultimately, the Reformation period, being a bishop was viewed as what corrupted the Church and represented the failed leadership of a glorious era of Church influence on the society of its’ day.

In our Modern-Day vernacular, being a bishop is almost like being a part of a new trend that rewards us with popularity, authority, wealth, and self-esteem. But are we fulfilling the mandate of Jesus Christ, our King, and leading a dark world to the light of His Glory by the light we shine on ourselves? I am not coming down on the episcopacy, just pointing out some abuses that affect all of us as leaders and hinder our effectiveness for evangelism and stability in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In the last 30 years, I have never seen so many people wanting to become some titled recognizable giant in the Kingdom. If they don’t ascend to the bishopric, it is by some other recognized title or self-appointed title that justifies who they are. Again, I beg, if you are not talking to God, how can you talk for God?

So, the questions are – Who really has the authority in the Church? Is it vested in titles or demonstration? Is it credentialed or simply proclaimed? Is it a product of supernatural sideshow tricks or simply the ability to proclaim through intellectual prowess? Is it based on gender or race? Does one have to believe a certain doctrine or worship in a particular fashion?

I really don’t know if we will settle the authority issues in the Church before Jesus comes or not. All I KNOW – is that we need to get a handle on leadership before the whole Church becomes too fragmented to reassemble and make herself whole.

First, the tradition of the episcopacy is so confusing that one must understand the difference in disciplines as the episcopacy unfolded. Historically, the Church developed what was termed collegiate episcopacy, based on a college of bishops governing the general body of Christ in different regions. As Christianity began identifying itself separate from its’ Jewish roots, it started embracing varying leadership models from the Apostolic leadership to the episcopal rule, beginning late first century on.

Along with the developing role of the episcopacy, also came the emerging role of the archiepiscopacy. Regarding its’ historical origin, some writers wrongly point to Timothy and Titus, the disciples of Paul, as to the first archbishops in the Church. Probably they were metropolitans in the wider sense of the term, one for Asia Minor, the other for the island of Crete. But it remains impossible to assign the exact date when archbishops, as we now use the term, were first appointed. It is true that metropolitans are mentioned as a well-known institution in the Church by the Council of Nicæa (325) in its fourth, fifth and sixth canons, and by the Council of Antioch (341) whose seventh canon is a classical passage in this matter.

It reads: “The bishops of every province must be aware that the bishop presiding in the metropolis has charge of the whole province; because all who have business come together from all quarters to the metropolis. For this reason, it is decided that he should, according to the ancient and recognized canon of our fathers, do nothing beyond what concerns their respective dioceses and the districts belonging thereto”, etc. But it cannot be denied that even at, this period the term “metropolitan” was used indiscriminately for all higher ranks above the simple episcopate. It was thus applied also to patriarchs and primates.

The same must be said of the term “archbishop” which does not occur in the present meaning before the sixth century, although the office of archbishop or metropolitan in the stricter sense, indicating a hierarchical rank above the ordinary bishops but below the primate and patriarch, was already substantially the same in the fifth century as it is today. A peculiar condition obtained in Africa, where the archiepiscopal office was not attached to a certain see, the metropolis, but where it always devolved upon the senior bishop of the province, whatever see he might occupy. He was called “the first or chief bishop”, or also “the bishop of the first or chief see”.

The history of the episcopate developed into at least five major divisions over time:

1. Catholic Episcopacy – Papacy
2. Orthodox Episcopacy – Collegiate order Patriarchal
3. Protestant – AME – Methodist Prelate – Presiding
4. Anglican – Episcopal Archbishop
5. Pentecostal – Convergence Apostles Prelates Presiders

Within the development and major styles of the episcopal office in the Church, it has become universally impossible to have a single code of ethics governing all episcopates. However, accepting uniform guidelines have given some structure to the office. Most of what we see today as episcopal has to established along doctrinal and liturgical practices to make them relevant. The GCOB will establish its’ own discipline and hierarchy for the development of this communion.

 

Unity – The Clairon Call

417457_10151051139758349_543927233_nThe mandate for unity and harmony in the body of Christ intensifies more today than ever before. It should be the mandate of leaders on the front line to focus on magnifying the charge for a counter-reformation of holiness and doctrinal soundness in the church for clarity and harmony. We all claim to have the same Holy Spirit but seldom agree on doctrine, fellowship, worship, or qualified leadership. Teaching diversity is not easy when so many of us are judging the book by its cover and not by its’ contents. The problem is we can’t all agree on how to interpret the foundation because we keep looking at 1st century examples through 21st century interpretations.

Since the quest for returning to foundational Christianity has been a distant memory throughout the ages, a cry for the true church of Jesus Christ is a dream instead of a reality. The Western church especially, is bathing in its’ own self success statements to build empires and have forgotten its’ mission call to spread the Gospel into the world, not market the Gospel in its own created spheres of influence.

The question is – “Can we overcome the prejudice and bitterness and misunderstandings that divide us?” Yes, we can. With God, all things are possible, and we know that unity is God’s will for His body. The real question is not, can we? The real question is, will we? That must be answered by each of us as leaders. What is your answer?

So while the level of spiritual warfare has changed to spread demonic activity in our churches through entertainment instead of true worship; and while corruption, deception, and selfishness pollute our worship week after week; what can be done to initiate change and restore the fire back in the church of Jesus Christ today?

Here are some suggested steps.

1. REDEDICATED LEADERS – Every great revival has been initiated by someone acting on their burden for holiness and walking against the grain, isolating       themselves for the infilling of The Holy Spirit without measure. Creating a flame of passion for God, not just a touch from God. Let’s strip the image of a preacher and embrace the character of a servant-leader. Let’s abandon the need for recognition and embrace the yoke of compassion and strength to speak a “BOLD” word from the LORD.

2. REFOCUS ON PURPOSE INSTEAD OF PERSONALITIES – Let’s face it! We all have our opinions on who is or who is not qualified to be in charge or lead some movement. But at the end of the day, none of us have a “Divine” opinion. We need to stop worrying about what leaders call themselves and focus on the message they bring. That’s the judgment call. Is the message not just controversial, but is it transformational? Jesus did not fit the persona of any known leaders of his day, but he led a counter-religious movement that turned the world upside down. We can unite on the message, even if we can’t perceive the messenger is who we would chose.

3. REDICATION OF THE LORD’S HOUSE OF WORSHIP – Simply a reorientation of our vision and mission statements to reflect who we are and what our real purpose is. People will follow what you feed them. The sanctuary is not any pastor’s personal family business; nor your personal retirement program; nor your inheritage to leave. It is The Lord’s safe haven for the people of God. Contaminated use will lessen the power and weaken the structure.

Finally, We need to drop our pride and commit to a sacrifice of “Praise and Purpose.” The pattern is that true intercession comes from strong leadership and true power from unity in purpose and not in competition. The authority of the words of Christ is resting on the credibility of genuine representatives of the Gospel today, not cheap imitators of fashion and fame.

New Ministry Perpective

970696_10152865955620247_406600575_nThis morning I was catching up on some of my emails and ran across a long apology letter from a ministry that had solicited a date for me to minister next year at a major conference. To my surprise I had received an earlier email I hadn’t opened yet from the same ministry requesting a credit report and a criminal back ground check to qualify me to be considered.

As it turned out the email was sent in error by a staffer for potential employees of the ministry’s daycare staff. But it made me think, it is obvious that the day is coming, with so many scandals in ministry today, that this might possibly be a real requirement for speakers, as well as, pastoral candidates.

Ministry is becoming big time business and those providing it are yielding huge profits if their gifting is productive. Notice I said productive, not effective. Most of what many churches want today is someone who can draw crowds and raise offerings. What many speakers expect is a substantial payday for services rendered. Evangelism is an archaic term and is replaced by marketing strategies and entertainment hype about expectations of harvest and production. I wonder sometimes how we all got here.

The emphasis started out with the message being the most important agenda, especially if it was a fresh word from the Lord. The messenger was merely the agent of communication for some important issue. In the final analysis not many remembered the messenger, but the impact of the message carried the weight. Somehow, we have mistaken ministry for entertainment and worship for fun and games. Now this dilemma is not new nor creative. Some of these church games is what led up to the 15th century Reformation in Europe and the 19th century Holy Spirit explosion in America.

However, the real issue today is that as leaders in the Church, what mandate do we have as vessels to purify our messages with holy lifestyles? Becoming both a mouthpiece and an example. What responsibility does the church have to provide sound teaching and not merely entertaining orators? Protecting the sheep, instead of robbing the pews. How can we find a happy medium between costs for presentation and expectations for financial gain? There must be a balance somewhere.

I share all of this not to poke fun but to call attention to the lack of credibility and responsibility on both sides of the fence. I receive roughly 200-300 request a year for appointments, but only take around 30 a year. Why? Because I need time for family, rest, study, prayer, and reflection. I also have a business for my personal expenses which leaves me free for real ministry.

Part of our mandate as leaders in the church should be accountably. Becoming submissive to a particular governing influence should keep one balanced and disciplined for correction and caution. Also recapturing the impact of worship is a key to moving in the right direction. Turning the focus from self-glory to giving God all the glory through Jesus Christ, our Lord.