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We have been covering the topic of God's character curriculum for prophets-in-the-making. Though unpopular in many circles, God's agenda of character, integrity and maturity are very much on His heart for His people. He wants to prepare us to handle His glory without being destroyed by it. He wants to insulate us from harm by building character into us. So far we have covered topics such as the "school" of brokenness; the "school" of humility; the "school" of offense; and the "school" of aloneness and rejection. As was stated previously, God is after leaders who are courageous enough to stand alone, yet humble and insightful enough to acknowledge their need for corporateness.
I can imagine that by now, some might be saying it sounds like God is out to kill us... Well... in fact, He is... that He might live in us, as was Paul's testimony in Gal 2:20 where he says "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
There are several other common "schools" God uses to bring maturity to his ministers. In this lesson we will look at the "school" of proper relationship which includes issues such as discipleship, submission to authority, loyalty and accountability. And you thought the worst was over.. <grin>.
In Ephesians 2:19-21, Paul the apostle states that we are no longer alienated, but rather fellow citizens with the saints; that we are being "fitted together" and "built together" into a dwelling of God. To be "fitted together" and "built together" simply means we are "connected" by relationship with one another.
God insists that we be rightly related to one another. The Scriptures in 1 John 2:9-11 and 3:19-21 imply that if we want to stay in right relationship with God, we must be about the work of maintaining a right relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This means the task of building and maintaining right relationships is not an optional sideline, but rather an essential ingredient of our Christian life.
Independence and isolation are sure signs of unhealthiness or immaturity. Prov. 18:1 states "He who separates himself is seeking his own desire and is quarreling against sound wisdom." Instead we are to "Grow up in all aspects into... 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" (Eph. 4:15,16).
God is so concerned that we be rightly related to one another that He has inextricably connected His dealings with us to our dealings with one another. For instance, if we don't forgive others, He will not forgive us (Mk. 11:25,26). The entire law and prophets are summarized in Matthew 22:37-40 as our being rightly related to God and to one another.
Being rightly related speaks as well to the issue of proper structure and government within the Church. Being rightly fitted and held together includes understanding how to relate to spiritual authority and how to properly exercise spiritual authority.
Actually we are broaching a subject that might even provoke some controversy, especially since the principles of authority, submission, discipleship or mentoring and accountability have been very misunderstood, and have lent themselves to abuse by unscrupulous leaders at times. Yet they remain truths from Scripture and a means of maturity in the life of would-be prophets or any leader for that matter.
Much of what we have discussed so far has to do with God's dealings with the prophet-in-training all by himself. Some of His prophets have been trained out in the "wilderness" of life with no one but God to lead them. Elijah was such a one. Others have the opportunity to learn from a mentor like Elijah as was the case with Elisha. Elisha out-shined the others of his day who were enrolled in the "school of the prophets" because he was personally mentored by Elijah.
In fact, most of the great prophetic voices were mentored during significant periods of training in life, such as Samuel (by Eli) and Moses (by Jethro). A deeper look into Scripture will also reveal that the ones who were alone are the ones who, more often than not, suffered from the lack of relationship that would have kept them in balance. Many would like to fancy themselves as an independent Elijah who could call down fire from heaven or confront the prophets of Baal. But Elijah did not understand the value of a team, and actually made the mistake of thinking at one point that he was the "only one on God's side". We see him plunging into a suicidal depression and God had to correct him and tell him there were 7,000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal. Elisha, on the other hand, learned the lessons that servanthood and submission could teach him, and Elisha did twice the miracles Elijah did.
We need to understand God wants us to be in relationship, but for the right reasons. He calls us into inter-dependence, not co-dependence; mutual respect and cooperation, not fear of man and people pleasing.
Numerous books, organizations and movements have emerged covering this topic in great detail and this teaching article is not meant to cover every dynamic, balance and warning that could be said. I do want to share, however, some principles I have experienced as one who has been enriched from various mentor relationships I have had at different times in my life; and particularly from being mentored by Prophet Bill Hamon and his "Network of Prophetic Ministries" in regard to prophetic ministry.
Although it is not always possible, one of the ways God matures his prophetic ministers is by placing them under a mentor. Mentoring or discipleship has always been a primary means of training as promoted in Scripture. (Elijah did it, Jesus did it, John the Baptist did it, Paul the apostle did it.. and encouraged Timothy to do it; and the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) tells us to do it.)
Actually, one of the New Testament mandates for 5-fold ministers is that of being equippers or trainers. "And He Himself gave some to be ... prophets, ... for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Eph 4:11-12. Scripture tells us that we can and should be equipped for ministry by existing leaders.
The Elijah/Elisha pattern:
There are several principles that we can glean from the Elijah/Elisha pattern for being mentored by another. We will look at a few. One is that Elisha served his mentor and inherited his mantle. Scripture tells us if we are faithful to make another successful we will reap our own in due time. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; ... And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" Luke 16:10a,12
As an apprentice we are called to give ourselves to making our mentor successful. We see Elisha giving himself as Elijah's personal servant for a number of years before he ever did anything else. We see Joshua serving Moses for 40 years before he took up the mantle and lead the people. In exchange, we receive training, character formation and impartation of anointing (sometimes double as in Elisha's case).
Elisha was a man under authority, and he inherited authority; as contrasted to Gehazi - Elisha's disciple who did his own thing and inherited leprosy.. <yuck> (2 Kings 5). Then there was Miriam who had a bout of leprosy as well when she spoke against the God-given authority in her brother Moses (Num 12).
Anyone who comes to understand how authority works will actually scramble to find authentic authority to submit to; for it is those who are under authority who have authority (Matt. 8:8,9). But some would say "I am under God's authority alone"... Sorry, doesn't work that way. In the same way that the apostle John stated you can not "say" you love God if you hate your neighbor; you can not say you are submitted to God and be in rebellion to His delegated authorities on earth. Romans 13:1,2 says "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God;"
There is also an amazing, inevitable pattern of sowing and reaping in respect to authority. (Don't ask me how I discovered this one.. <grin>) However you respect and submit to authority over you becomes the same way you will be treated by those you eventually have the responsibility to exercise authority over.. selah...
Right about now I can hear some squealing about 1 Pet. 5 and the fact that authority is not to be "lording" over Gods people, so lets take a look at it: "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 1 Pet 5:2-5.
Yes, kingdom authority is exercised in a much different way than worldly authority, but God still calls leaders into positions of authority, and Scripture very clearly states we all are to submit to the authorities God places over us. Heb 13:17 states; "Obey your leaders, and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
I know this is idealistic and there are numerous angles and circumstances regarding this but.. I believe every prophet would be much better off if he had a "pastor", whether he is being "pastored" by a pastor, an apostle, or an older prophet. You ask.."are there ever extenuating circumstances that would create exceptions?" Of course. But the principles of authority, humility, accountability and so on should be in evidence in a prophets life one way or another.
Every individual prophetic minister must always recognize the need to connect with the larger Body of Christ. Ps. 133 states that where the brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands a blessing. We must always recognize we are a part of the body.. not designed to exist alone. A prophetically gifted person may not ever learn to come into right relationship to the rest of the Body of Christ, and still be a prophet; but the sad fact is their usefulness in the church will be stunted and limited.
It is essential for prophets to recognize their need for apostles; and apostles, their need for prophets as these two ministries TOGETHER form the foundation for a properly built church (Eph. 2:20). One of the vital issues in the Church of the 90's is how to properly relate as team ministries within the Body of Christ as we see apostolic team ministry emerging once again in the earth. This will take prophets who have the courage to stand alone (when need be) but also the humility and insight to recognize the value of corporateness.