Return to Index of Current Trends to be Scrutinized
In Scripture we find the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.
Ephesians 4:11 And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
13 And this until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
14 so that we no longer may be infants, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the dishonesty of men, in cunning craftiness, to the wiles of deceit. (MKJV)
The job description for these five offices is quite simple. They are to perfect God’s people for the work of the ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Down through the history of the Church, however, these five offices have fallen short of perfecting the saints. God’s people in each generation have generally not grown up to maturity to the fullness of Christ. Instead, the spiritual growth of each generation of believers is usually retarded. Many believers going to church for years are still infants (or at best adolescents), vulnerable to being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24 about many false prophets appearing and deceiving many people as signs of His coming and the end of the age is being fulfilled.
Whose fault is it?
The fault can only be laid at the feet of our apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Take, as an example, the office of the evangelist. Perhaps in the past there were evangelists who actually fulfilled their job description and faithfully carried out what God had called them to do. But today many evangelists from the west and those trained by them—especially those with “big” names and ministries—have failed to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry and to raise them to maturity to the fullness of Christ.
As an illustration of this, let us consider the spiritual condition of Christian leaders in the country of Nepal, a mission field in the midst of the towering Himalayas. Let’s focus on the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. We have been considering a mission trip to Nepal to work with a reputable leader there whom we shall call Paul. In the course of our correspondence with him about where we should conduct the Basic Training, Paul made the following suggestion:
“I suggest that we do not conduct the Training in the city of Kathmandu, but in a village area. The churches in Kathmandu will not take the Training very seriously because many groups have already conducted training and healing programs there. Many foreign evangelists used to target Kathmandu. In 2009, a Swedish evangelist came to Kathmandu with funds and conducted a large Crusade for 600 pastors and 25,000 Hindus.
But no one wants to go to the villages or to remote areas. People have become very lazy and don’t want to trek into remote villages on foot. And so I would like very humbly to request you to bless our people in village and remote areas.
Here are some reasons why we should not conduct the Training in Kathmandu:
1. In Kathmandu the people expect to be provided with various amenities which will be costly.
2. The leaders in Kathmandu are getting many kinds of training that they will not apply there. That means our hard work is in vain.
3. The believers in Kathmandu do not have the time to apply what they have learned. They are living busy lives, and don’t even have time for fellowship with their families. In contrast, village people are very thirsty and hungry to learn something and to apply it in their ministry.
4. It is very costly and requires a big budget to hold an event in Kathmandu. It is not wise spending lots of money in Kathmandu to train people, but afterwards the people do not apply what they have been taught.
5. The leaders in Kathmandu can say that, yes, they need this kind of training. But in my ten years of experience in the ministry here I have discovered that they want this training for some other reason.
My main focus is that people need to apply in their lives what they have learned. In my research up until now, I have found that village people are honest and sincere in this regard.”
Why has this happened in Nepal?
We submit to you that it has happened in part because of “the evangelist” from the west. In the form of Christianity which has developed in the culture of the west, bigger is better and more is better. Mega-churches, despite the lack of support for such churches from Scripture, are envied. Many pastors would be delighted to lead one. In western culture, size and number are indicative of success. The bigger the crowd at an evangelistic event, the more “successful” it is—even if 95% of the attendees are Christians.
When “the evangelist” from the west goes to a Third world country bringing funds to conduct a large Crusade, the impoverished local leaders and pastors are swept off their feet by the fame of the evangelist, his financial resources and lifestyle, the crowds at the Crusade, and the spectacular miracles which take place because of his gifting. Gradually but inexorably, many of the local leaders will want to emulate “the evangelist” in some way. After all, who doesn’t want to become famous, to live a good life, to preach before tens of thousands of adoring people, to witness multiplied miraculous healings—all for the glory of God?
It is not difficult to go from this scenario to the current situation in Kathmandu as described by our Nepalese brother Paul. It is crucial to bear in mind that what evangelists from the west ultimately bring to the mission field is not simply the gospel, but “cultural christianity” as well.
Five revealing things
Let’s take a second look at the five reasons our brother Paul set forth as to why we should not hold the Training in the city of Kathmandu:
1. “In Kathmandu the people expect to be provided with various amenities which will be costly.”
They have been spoiled by well-funded evangelists from the west and now expect the same treatment from every nameless missionary who comes to them from the west.
2. “The leaders in Kathmandu are getting many kinds of training that they will not apply there. That means our hard work is in vain.”
This sounds astonishing similar to the predicament of Christians in the west who are bombarded with Seminar after Seminar and Conference after Conference. Most of what they are taught is not applied but ends up collecting dust on their shelf of Christian books and tapes. But at least they stay busy for God.
3. “The believers in Kathmandu do not have the time to apply what they have learned. They are living busy lives, and don’t even have time for fellowship with their families.”
From where under heaven could they have possibly picked this up? This is the unforeseen consequence of “christianization” and subsequent westernization and urbanization.
“In contrast, village people are very thirsty and hungry to learn something and to apply it in their ministry.”
4. “It is very costly and requires a big budget to hold an event in Kathmandu. It is not wise spending lots of money in Kathmandu to train people, but afterwards the people do not apply what they have been taught.”
Perhaps the complacent Church in the prosperous west can see herself in her offspring in Kathmandu.
5. “The leaders in Kathmandu can say that, yes, they need this kind of training. But in my ten years of experience in the ministry here I have discovered that they want this training for some other reason.”
What could this other reason be? Could it possibly be that local leaders hope for some kind of eventual material benefit by associating with “the evangelist” from the rich west? For us who have been around the mission fields of the world, the answer is obvious. Local leaders learn quickly from us that “godliness” could actually be a means to financial gain.
Like mother, like daughter
The Church in Kathmandu, not surprisingly, bears a striking similarity to her mother, the Church in the West. Should we not find this most sobering? Has the Church in the West become the rich and lukewarm Church in Laodicea rebuked by Jesus Christ in Revelation 3?
According to Scripture, evangelists from the west should be perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry. But this is not what “the evangelist” has been doing. Regardless of his motives, he could be making it ultimately more difficult for the Great Commission on the mission field—despite the “big splash” which he has made with his huge, one-time Crusade event. He did not make a point of training local leaders to preach the gospel and heal the sick as he did. Instead, they begin to desire to be like the western superstar to some degree in fame, resources, and in lifestyle. They want to stay in the cities because that is where the money and the good life and the influence are—all for the glory of God.
And that is why our Nepalese brother Paul advised us to go to the villages. Inasmuch as villagers are “deprived” of the modern amenities and comfort which come from living in the city, they are more pure in heart. They hunger and thirst for righteousness and for God’s word. They have put little hope in this life, and indeed the world is not worthy of them.
This is why Scripture reminds us:
I Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
But what of the apostle, the prophet, the pastor, and the teacher?
But we have been discussing here only “the evangelist” from the west. What of the big apostle, the big prophet, the big pastor, and the big teacher from the west? Have they been perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry, or have they been building their own little personal kingdoms and empires even as they claim to be building the Kingdom of God? The celebrity-mad culture of the west has bred a professional class of ministers in charismatic circles whose goals, among other things, are personal fame and wealth. Their purpose is not to train believers to maturity, but to keep the sheep entertained and even dependent on them. These ministers are failing in their job of perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry.
The Church should consider this seriously. The Great Commission is at stake.
Note: In this essay, I have been referring to “the evangelist” and not to the nameless, faceless missionary with very limited resources who is sacrificing his or her life living in the impoverished Third World for the sake of the gospel. They know better. Similarly, there are likely apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers unknown to man who are quietly doing what Scripture commands them to do. They will receive their reward when they stand before the Lord on the Day of His appearing.