And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.Eph 4:11-13
Don’t be afraid. This time, this text is only one illustration of what I am about to tell. Today, I am going to talk about teaming up on different levels.
Some teachers have a pet topic that follows them around all their life. For me, this is partnering. Teaming up.
It started towards the end of the last millenium (what a thing to say) when I discovered the verses above. I then was a member of a church that, in their international denominations name, used the word apostolic. But they strongly believed that apostles and prophets were not alive today.
They believed in the gifts of the Spirit, but not the offices.
I was reminded of the Pentecostal revival, when it became apparent that God still wanted to bless us with the gifts of the Spirit, despite of the theology that had been created around their ceasing.
And here, it seemed to be the same.
How could anybody with basic text understanding say that the fivefold ministry had ceased, while all the goals why Jesus gave them in the first place had not been reached: unity, maturity, and knowledge of the Son of God, everybody in his or her ministry, just to name a few.
It took some years until God connected me with a company of believers that showed me that, yes, all those offices or ministries were still alive and essential for our time.
Since then, we have been working together to grow into the implementation of a fivefold ministry. We found it time consuming to unlearn our hierarchical thinking and come to grips with different people working together.
All of the five are profoundly different. While an evangelist is all about a lost world, hopefully a pastor takes over once the evangelist loses interest in a person. That usually happens when the person has spoken his or her salvation prayer.
But there are more differences. While a pastor certainly is a peoples’ person, extraverted, agreeable, but tends to be less open for the new – new teaching and understanding that is – a teacher might be a somewhat awkward introvert that is very open to research, bringing forth from his treasure chest both the old and the new.
It has been very difficult to accept those differences, as we still believe that all five have to be, well, like me. At least in part. The important part that is. And I know exactly what that is. It is … and then comes the defining character traits of whatever office the talking person has.
We outgrew this childish state and agreed upon this: all offices had to be pastoral at heart. At the same time, we coined phrases like: the pastor heals the wounded the apostles leaves behind as the apostles just wants to go forward.
As you can see, that is quite contradictory.
Working together and profiting as we complement each other – what a blessing and chance that is.
Partnering, teaming up using our differences to serve more complete.
Let me look at this from a different angle.
The Build of Man
There is a verse in the bible about spirit, soul, and body. To be exact, there is exactly one verse in the bible about those three components of our build.
And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.1The 5:23
This verse is used to explain that we consist of spirit, soul, and body. It usually is even expressed slightly different: we are spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.
It is interesting, that this verse is directed at a Greek church. It portrays perfectly Greek thinking and philosophy. Paul wanted to express to the believers that God will take care of them as a whole and not, as for example the gnostics would say, only be interested in the spirit part of us.
In the letter of Hebrews you cannot find any of those thoughts, even though some have, in the light of this verse, come up with such interpretations. Hebrew thinking is more holistic.
Some have equated the three parts with God’s trinity, liking the spirit to the Spirit, the body to Jesus, and the soul to God the father. It makes perfect sense. And God is one.
Thus, the goal is to look at man as one with three functions working together perfectly.
There is no hierarchy in God, but mutual respect and perfect love. God the father asked Jesus whether he would die for creation, knowing full well that he would never say no, but still respecting him as a person. The son had to make his own decision out of free will, but guided by perfect submission out of love as in “submit to each other”.
Since the spirit is the part seated with Christ in heavenly places, while the body is still here on earth, and the sould is the gateway between the two, it makes sense that both soul and body submit to the spirit. He just knows more about the new creation as the rest.
At least in the beginning.
The goal is perfect unity, mutual submission, and maturity of all three parts.
A baby does not take its hand from the stove when it’s burning. It has to learn. Soon, the brain knows and tells the hand to withdraw. But then, the hand starts to withdraw in similar situations without the envolvement of the brain, as the marrow in the spine learns to interpret the signals from the hand correctly. A reflex is born.
My soul, that is my will, thoughts, and emotions, have been trained by the world for too long. But my goal is to re-train them and build reflexes so they can act and react using heavenly patterns without the spirit’s envolvement. The same for the body. In all their differences.
Both examples show me one thing: the goal is working together as equals, as partners in all our differences.
God himself created us to partner with us. He already had servants – angels. He wanted a counterpart, a vis-à-vis. Thus, he made us.
I want by no means take away of the grandess of God. He holds the universe in the span of his hand. He is so much more than we are, yet we are made in his image.
Jesus himself said that he does not call us servants any longer, but friends.
There is one body, he the head and we the body.
Working together, everybody using his or her giftings and talents, complementing each other, supporting others.
For that, we have to know who we are. It is all about identity. For that, we also have to submit to each other and value the other higher than ourselves. It is all about serving. For that, we have to temporarily admit that others are more advanced and more mature and that we can learn from them, and so we submit to them as fathers and mothers. For that, we also have to grow and mature and become friends with those that fathered us, yet fathers to new ones.
A family, working together based on maturity, giftings, humility, and identity.
Is there any better?