Shepherds Astray


My
people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they
have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill,
they have forgotten their resting place (Jeremiah 50:6
KJ
V).

This warning from Jeremiah is
just as valid today. One of the ways that God’s people are being led astray
today is by being led from mountain to
hill,”
or from one high place to another, but are not being led to their
true resting place—union with the Lord Himself. This is not true of all
shepherds, as we have been blessed with some of the very finest in these times.
Even so, to a large degree there have been major drifts from the basic mandate
of the church to the point where large sections of the body of Christ are being
led astray.

It is often easier to
mobilize people around projects than it is to serve the Lord in the way that He
has prescribed. Modern advertising has conditioned people to respond to hype and
self-promotion more than to the Holy Spirit or to the truth. Many ministries
have learned to use these techniques to draw people to their projects. They
work, and the people come. However, with each such distraction the people are
left even emptier than before. One of the basic reasons for the lukewarmness in
which so many Christians are now trapped, is because they are worn out going
from one project, or high place, to the next.

Modern High Places

The high places” in the
Old Testament were the seed bed of apostasy in ancient Israel. However, they
were not just places where sacrifices were made to other gods, but also to
Jehovah, the God of Israel. In fact, they almost always began as places where
the people offered special, personal sacrifices to the Lord. Why was this an
offense to the Lord? Because it was a form of worship that He had not
prescribed, and one that He knew would lead to the people devising their own
religion, which would ultimately lead to them worshiping other gods. This is, of
course, what happened.

When people start doing their
own thing in worship, it will lead to them making their own god. Of course, it
will be a god who fits their own desires, and is more convenient to worship.
They may start off worshiping the Lord, but soon they will be worshiping a god
of their own devising, even though they may still use the Lord’s name.

Today there is a similar
casualness about how we serve the Lord. There is a tendency to think that we can
do just about anything that we think is a good idea and He will bless it.
Because of this, shepherds are leading people from mountain to hill,” one high place after another, but not to
the Lord Himself. In fact,
many people
have now been conditioned to seek a spiritual high” in every meeting, and
if they do not have such an experience, they quickly become bored and seek a new
place to experience God.” At the same time, the church is experiencing a
virtual meltdown of morality and integrity, as well as devotion to sound
biblical truth.

 With the rising addiction to convenience, and the casualness
of relationships, it is likely that we will soon see churches advertising both
Drive Thru Marriages” and Drive Thru Divorces.” Yet, it is hard to go
to a pastor’s meeting today without hearing complaints about the lack of
long-term commitment from the people.” Therefore, does not a major part of
the blame for this rest with the lack of commitment on the part of shepherds?
Pastors will quickly and easily leave their flock for a better position at a
bigger, or more prestigious church. This can be as devastating to a congregation
as having the father of a family come home one day and announce that he’s
going to leave them to become the father of a bigger, better family.  

The greatest responsibility
on earth is to lead, direct, and care for God’s own people. The pastoral
ministry is deserving of far more respect, honor, and support, than we could
ever give it with just a Pastor Appreciation Month, though this should certainly
be done. Being a pastor may be the most difficult, thankless job on earth. Even
so, the modern form that this ministry has taken is so flawed that it is not
only leading many of the Lord’s sheep astray, it is destroying the shepherds
as well. However, change is coming.

A New Bridge

A
prophetic friend, Bob Jones, was recently visited by an angel that was one of
the largest he had ever seen. This angel said that his name was the Winds of
Change,” and that great changes were coming to the church. He said that until
now we have known mostly the winds of adversity, but the winds of change that
were coming would fill our sails” as the church is about to move forward
again.

Bob was also given a vision
of a bridge collapsing in North Carolina. A few days later it happened. As
people were walking over a bridge to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, it collapsed,
injuring over one hundred people. When the Lord reveals something like this
prophetically it is because there is a message in it.

In
dreams and visions cars often represent ministries because they are
vehicles” for carrying people. NASCAR is now called the number one
spectator sport in America; but there is one bigger—the church in America
where millions go each week to watch a few people minister.” Like a NASCAR
race, these ministries are consuming a lot of energy going nowhere fast. They do
not really have a destination, but are just going in circles, competing with
each other trying to stay in front, banging into each other and running into
walls. As the saying goes, the only way you can win a rat race is to be a
rat,” and that is what the modern form of ministry does to people. 


 I
always thought that it would be exciting to drive a race car, but did not see
the point in sitting in the hot sun for several hours watching someone else do
it. When I went to a NASCAR race, I was surprised by how exciting it was to just
watch. I was pumped for several hours after it was over, and I did not even know
who won! I am also amazed by how entertaining some ministries are. You can
become mesmerized watching them, but what are they really saying? Where are they
leading us? What is being accomplished?

If
we build our churches or ministries on entertainment, it is on the shakiest of
foundations. If we build this way, it will only take a few less than mountain
top” meetings and you will not have many people left. The greatest enemy of
these churches is not sin, or the devil, but boredom. It has now been proven
that boredom is one thing that few people can endure for very long. For many,
the ministry has become nothing but a mad attempt to find the next thing that
will keep the people hyped and moving. 

Is
this what New Testament church life was intended to be? Absolutely not! The
winds of change are coming. If you are a pastor or leader trapped in this mad
cycle of ministry that must go ever faster, but all of the time is just going in
circles, you are going to need more than a pit stop for more fuel. There is a
point when your engine will not take it any more. Insurance companies are even
starting to rate pastors as high risk, claiming that a thirty-year old pastor
can have a sixty-year old heart. You must get off of this racetrack and get on
to the highway (the higher-way). You must stop pursuing ministry and start
pursuing the Lord. It may sound too simple, but it is the only way out. As the
apostle wrote:

For I am jealous for you with a
godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might
present you as a pure virgin.

But I am afraid, lest as the
serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the
simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (II Corinthians 11:2-3).

Crafty”
was the first thing that was said about the serpent in the garden, and it is
still a profound revelation of the nature of the devil. Craftiness is the
attempt to get an edge by bending the rules and getting away with it. A lot of
modern ministries have been built more on craftiness than the anointing of the
Holy Spirit. Like the curse upon the serpent, it may seem to be successful for a
little while, but it ultimately leads to eating dust. It is time to return to
the Tree of Life, the Lord Jesus Himself.

False Shepherds

There
are more warnings in Scripture about false shepherds than about false prophets
and false teachers combined. I am not bringing this up to attack pastors, but to
save them. What has arisen in our time to masquerade as the pastor ministry is
false. The modern model of the pastoral ministry is neither biblical, nor
effective. If we try to fit into that mold we too will be made false. 


Change
is not an option. The very structure of this ministry in its present form is
taking many who devote themselves to ministry with pure motives and perverting
them. Ezekiel 34 reads as if it were written especially for today. However, just
as that chapter also promises, the Lord is raising up shepherds after His own
heart, who will like King David, lead the people with courage, wisdom and honor.

The
reason why the bridge going to the Charlotte Motor Speedway collapsed was
because a stress beam” could not take the pressure of all of the people
walking on it. The main reason why ministries are burning out so fast today is
the tendency to take the people’s yoke instead of the Lord’s yoke. We will
never be able to measure up to human expectations. We can never carry the
burdens or expectations of the people, because we have not been given the grace
or authority to do it. That is not our job, and we must stop trying. Our goal is
simply to connect the people to the One who is their Source.

Preparing For The Anti-Christ

When we lead people from one
project to the next instead of leading them to the Lord, we are leading them to
that which is a substitute for Him. Are people being led to Jesus” but
somehow all they ever get is us? When we try to become the source of meeting the
people’s needs, we are in a way, actually putting ourselves in the place of
the anti-Christ, who does not just come as one who attacks Christ, but one who
sets himself up as substitute for Christ. This could also be interpreted as a
substitute for the anointing, as Christ means anointed.” It may sound
dramatic, but by doing this we are actually preparing people for the
anti-Christ.

As the apostle John
explained, there are many anti-Christs. We are not called to try to be the Holy
Spirit to people. We must determine that we are not going to try to be the
people’s source, or let them put us in that position. Neither can we allow
anything else to take the place of Him in church life.

When
the people came to make Jesus king, He fled to the mountains. If the people had
made Jesus king, it would have been the people who ruled. This was a most
presumptuous act for the people to think that they could make God king. He was
born King! If it is the people who put us in our place, they are going to be the
ones in control. We must learn to do the same thing when people try to wrongly
exalt us—we must flee! We must flee from anything that does not acknowledge
Jesus in the place that He already holds and bow the knee to Him alone.

Organized Crime In The Church

One
of the primary ways that we start substituting for the anointing is trying to
use organization in the place of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is certainly not
against organization, but He is when we use it in place of trusting Him, and
letting Him do the work. When we immediately respond to a call from God to do
something by putting together plans and committees, we are often departing from
the course.

King
Saul was anointed by God. His downfall was that he tended to act rashly under
the pressure of circumstances. On the other hand, one of the most frequent
statements made about King David in Scripture is he inquired of the Lord.”
As Proverbs 16:18 declares, Pride goes
before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
What could be
more arrogant than assuming that we have God’s opinion on everything? What
could be more presumptuous than making decisions that affect the Lord’s own
children without even inquiring of Him about it? Studies have shown that the
average pastor in America prays less than five minutes a day!

I
have been repeatedly told by the Lord that I will not be able to stay on course
if I do not spend at least two hours a day in prayer. I am repeatedly told this
because I repeatedly drift from it. It is difficult, but one of the reasons that
we are beset with so many pressures and emergencies is because we have not been
doing this. Two hours a day, or whatever He calls us to pray, will always be the
most productive part of our day. He promises that if we seek Him we will find
Him. If we find Him, we will become yoked with Him. When we are yoked with Him,
the work becomes easy, and we accomplish far more with far less effort. The Lord
makes an offer to us that is greater than all of the treasure on earth:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy—laden, and I
will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am
gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.

For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew
11:28-30).

One word of wisdom or
knowledge from Him can accomplish much more than many days of hard labor on our
part. Only the Lord can build His house. He will let us work with Him, but when
we try to do it alone, or through our human organizations, He calls it
organized crime.”

Making The Right Turn

If
you are caught in the mad cycle of ministry where the only way that you can stay
in the race is to keep making left turns, you are going to have to learn to turn
the opposite direction in which everyone else is going. Our repentance must be
total if we are to return to the Lord. However, at the speed most ministries are
moving, to turn drastically will cause a spin out or crash. Repenting from using
the wrong method of ministry is not the same as repenting from a moral sin. For
the sake of the people that we are leading, it is seldom the answer to just make
another radical turn in the opposite direction.

First,
slow your vehicle, or ministry down. Then wait for the proper exit that the Lord
will provide. Just seeing what is wrong with our ministry is not enough. We need
to have a clear vision of where we need to go. The Lord never changes our
direction by just telling us that we’re wrong, but He also makes it clear what
the right path is.

We must return to our first
love. Only when we have truly done this will we be able to lead the people back
to their first love. If we would spend more time ministering to the Lord than we
do to people, our ministry to the people would be multiplied in its
effectiveness. If we determined that we are much more concerned about having the
Lord’s presence in our meetings than we are in getting people to come, we will
probably lose some at first, and maybe even many, but that is not as tragic as
losing the Lord’s presence. If we will return to our first love, ultimately we
will have more people than we know what to do with. If we will determine that we
will seek God’s approval more than man’s, our drudgery in ministry will
quickly return to being the joy of our life again.

The Way Of Grace

There are also some
practical, but profound, changes that need to be made in the very form of modern
ministry. The pastoral ministry was never intended to be the dominant ministry
that it has become. This ministry is only mentioned one time in the entire New
Testament, and even then there is no definition given to it, but it is listed as
one member of a team of ministries. New Testament ministry is called to be a
team ministry, and no New Testament ministry can function properly without being
properly related to the rest of the team. When any of them try to stand alone
they will depart from their proper orbit quickly, and become perverted in their
application. The nature and purpose of New Testament ministry is clearly laid
out in Ephesians 4:11-16:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and
some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to
the building up of the body of Christ;

until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature
which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here
and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery
of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all
aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,

from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by
that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each
individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in
love.

This is the most succinct
text in the New Testament on practical ministry. There are twelve factors that
it establishes, and we should look for them in every application of true
ministry. They are:

1. The apostles, prophets,
evangelists, pastors and teachers are given to the church to equip the people to
do the work of the ministry, not just do it themselves.

2. These are all given for
the building up of the body of Christ, not just gathering people. Are the
living stones” that the Lord has entrusted to our care being joined
together into a holy temple for Him, or are they just a pile of stones? 

3. This building must
continue until we all attain,”
not some. We are called to attain: 1) The unity of the faith, 2) The knowledge
of the Son of God, 3) Maturity, and 4) The measure of the stature that belongs
to the fullness of Christ. Do you know of a church anywhere in the world that
has attained to even one of these things? Then obviously this team is currently
not present, nor doing its job.

4. The church is not to
remain children that are tossed around by waves. These waves” can be waves
of the Holy Spirit, but not every church or believer is supposed to catch every
wave. If we try to do this we will constantly be running to and fro
accomplishing nothing of substance. Maturity recognizes the moves of the Holy
Spirit, but also knows not to try and catch every one of them.

5. The church that has been
properly built will not be carried about by every new wind of doctrine, or the
trickery and craftiness of men who are constantly preying upon the church to
further their own agendas.

6. We will speak the truth in
love. Before the end comes, Christians are actually going to be known by their
love.

7.
We will grow up in all aspects” into Christ. This means that every ministry
that He did when He walked the earth, He will be able to continue through us.

8.
The whole body will be fitted together. Everyone in the body will know their
place in the body, and everyone will be functioning in it.

9.
The body will be fitted and held together by the strength of the joints” in
the body. A joint is not a part, but it is where two parts come together.

10. These joints must be
fitted together and strong enough to hold the body together. Also, there is no
joint in the body that is connected to every other joint,
which
is what many pastors try to do. We must encourage the joining of the people to
one another, not just to the church. If the people are not growing in their
relationship to each other, then our church is weak.

11. These joints are formed
by the proper working of each
individual part.”
No one wants to be joined to a member that is atrophied,
or paralyzed. If we are truly one of the equipping ministries given to the
church, we will know how to equip all of the people to do their job. 


12. The body builds up itself
in love. This is our first and highest calling. All that we do is for nothing if
we do not love God above all things, and love His people. Love is the cement
that will hold the entire temple together, and without it every church will
ultimately collapse.

A Testimony and Warning

Our
church body in Charlotte has been emphasizing the above text in Ephesians for
six years now. We have hundreds who are serving in evangelistic teams, healing
teams, prophetic ministry teams, as home group leaders, intercessory ministries,
pastors, teachers, watchmen, overseers, etc. I am thankful for this, but it
still only represents a small portion of the entire church. After more than five
years of almost continuous emphasis, I think that we only accomplished about
15-20 percent of the job. Why?

This is no quick fix
situation. It took the Lord over three years of continuous day-by-day training
to equip His disciples. Who are we to think that we can do it faster? Some do
come more prepared, and can move into their calling faster because of the work
that has already been done. But to comply with the mandate of Ephesians Four
will take a veritable revolution in the church. I think that it has taken the
majority of our leadership team more than five years to really start equipping
others, even though we have had it as a doctrinal emphasis for so long. I think
that less than 5 percent of the ministries that I know even think about
equipping others as a part of their job. Their mentality of ministry is to go
and do it and have every one else watch.

Fulfilling the Ephesians Four
mandate will require one of the greatest paradigm shifts in the history of the
church. It will be a reformation that is much more profound than what is now
called the Reformation.” However, it is clear that it must, and will be
done. The body of Christ cannot accomplish its mandate until it is. I am saying
this to emphasize that this will require a long-term commitment and strategy. It
is much more than a new method; it will require radical change in the mentality of the ministry of the pastor.

We can say from Ephesians
Four that if a pastor is not equipping and releasing other pastors to do what he
or she does, they are not a true New Testament pastor. If an evangelist, or
prophet, or teacher, is not equipping and releasing others to do what they are
doing than they are not a true New Testament ministry. If we are not doing this,
than we are not the true New Testament ministry that is spoken of in this
chapter.

True Greatness

Vince
Lombardi, who coached the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, was a winning coach.
He built one great team that won an unprecedented three straight championships.
However, none of his assistants went on to be a successful head coach in the
league. On the other hand, Bill Walsh of the San Francisco Forty-Niners not only
produced championship teams himself, but his assistants went on to even greater
successes, with eight of them being head coaches in the NFL at the same time.
They produced more championship teams over the last decade than all of the other
coaches combined. True greatness is not just being successful ourselves, but
producing others who are also successful. Is that not what the Lord Jesus spent
His life on earth doing? If we are going to be like Him we must do the same.

Not being devoted to
equipping others is a main reason why so many churches and ministries fall from
grace, or fail to remain spiritually relevant after the passing of their
founders. By this it is easy to tell those who are truly producing fruit that
remains. The Lord promised that those who believed in Him would do the works
that He did, and even greater works, because He had gone to the Father. If we
are truly like Him in ministry, and if we are abiding in Him, those who we raise
up will not only do what we have done, but greater works. This is the mark of
true greatness.

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