Embracing the Apostolic and the Prophetic With Discernment | Influence Podcast


In Ephesians 4:11–12, the apostle Paul writes, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Pentecostals believe this fivefold ministry continues today. Any spiritual gift can be abused, however. And when it comes to the apostolic and the prophetic specifically, unfortunately, abuses are all too common. How, then, should Pentecostals develop the proper use of apostolic and prophetic gifts, even as they discern their misuse and abuse?

That’s the question I ask Dr. Joseph Girdler and Dr. Carolyn Tennant in this episode of the Influence Podcast. Girdler is superintendent of the Kentucky Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God, and Tennant is professor emerita at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They are coauthors of Keys to the Apostolic and Prophetic: Embracing the Authentic — Avoiding the Bizarre, just out from Meadow Stream Publishing.

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Review of ‘Multipliers’ by Liz Wiseman


One of the reasons why leading a church is hard work is the problem of what David Allen calls “new demands, insufficient resources.” For example, youth ministry is vital to the health and future of the church, but we all know how hard it is to get volunteers to work with junior high students. Even Jesus faced this problem: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

The first solution to the problem of new demands and insufficient resources is specific prayer. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). God sees the new demands, but unlike us, He doesn’t lack sufficient resources: “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Complementing prayer is a second solution: the right people. Jesus taught us to pray for more “workers.” Paul described the Church as a “body” with variously gifted “parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12–31). The unfortunate fact is that too many pastors and other ministry leaders try to respond to new demands on their own — with only the gifts, talents and resources God has given them personally.  They fail to see the gifts, talents and resources God has given them corporately, in their congregations. The consequence of this failure is burned-out pastors and leaders on the one hand and bored, frustrated and underutilized followers on the other.

Liz Wiseman wrote Multipliers, now out in a revised and updated edition, to figure out how leaders can grow both the intelligence and capability of their organizations. Although she wrote it for a business audience, I couldn’t help but see its relevance to the problem of new demands and insufficient resources in churches too.

Let me try to explain:

Multipliers vs. Diminishers
Wiseman begins the book with this observation: “There is more intelligence inside our organizations than we are using” (emphasis in original). Multiplication taps into this intelligence. Its logic can be understood through three statements:

  1. Most people in organizations are underutilized.
  2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership.
  3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.

As a former staff and senior pastor and a current church member, I agree with the first statement wholeheartedly. Too many people in any given congregation sit in the pew on Sunday morning … but nothing else. They are spiritual consumers, not spiritual producers.

Regarding the third statement, I certainly hope my church can do more without investing in additional staff and buildings. I’d like to see a more productive and efficient use of what we already have before we lay out more money for sparkly new stuff.

The second statement, then, is key: We need “the right kind of leadership.” Wiseman calls these leaders Multipliers and contrasts them with Diminishers. Multipliers tap into the intelligence of their organizations, grow it and increase the capability of their team members and of their organization. Diminishers “shut down the smarts of those around them.” Multipliers begin with the assumption, “People are smart and will figure this out.” Diminishers begin with the assumption, “They will never figure this out without me.”

According to Wiseman, no leader is entirely a Multiplier or entirely a Diminisher. Instead, all leaders perform on a spectrum, with both Multiplier and Diminisher tendencies. This means leaders can move either way on the spectrum.

Two important questions now arise: How do Multipliers lead? And how do I become a Multiplier?

Multiplier Practices

Wiseman’s research indicates that Multipliers lead by engaging in five specific roles:

  1. The Talent Magnet: “[T]hey attract and deploy talent to its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource, and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful.”
  2. The Liberator: “Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment where everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work.”
  3. The Challenger: “They seed opportunities, lay down challenges that stretch the organization, and in doing so, generate belief that it can be done and enthusiasm about the process.”
  4. The Debate Maker: “Multipliers engage people in debating the issues up front, which leads to decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.”
  5. The Investor: “Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by inculcating high expectations across the organization.”

Now, before you dismiss this as so much business-book gobbledygook, try thinking of Jesus’ leadership in terms of Wiseman’s five roles:

The Talent Magnet: Jesus’s disciples, despite not being religious, political, economic or academic elites, established a religion that is still thriving 2,000 years later.

The Liberator: Jesus empowered His followers to preach the same message as He did, with signs and wonders following (Matthew 10:1–42; Mark 6:6–13; Luke 10:1–24).

The Challenger: Read those three Synoptic Gospel passages cited above, then reminder that Jesus commissioned His followers to do these things in His absence. Not only that, He left the task to “make disciples of all nations” both to His first-century followers and to us (Matthew 18:18). The Great Commission is a perpetual challenge that Christ has called and empowered us to fulfill.

The Debate Maker: We rightly think of Jesus as a master teacher, but we fail to appreciate how often He taught by means of debate. In his book, All the Questions Jesus Asks, Stan Guthrie notes that Jesus asked 295 questions. That number doesn’t even include all the questions Jesus was asked by others.

The Investor: Could any expectation be higher than what Jesus told His disciples in John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”?

Please don’t misunderstand me. Multipliers is a business book, not a ministry book. It’s written from a secular perspective, not a biblical one. It addresses a specific question in leadership — how to leverage capability through leadership. It is neither the first nor last word on leadership, let alone the first or last word on the pastoral leadership of Christian congregations.

Still, it has incredible diagnostic value because it helps identify the kinds of practices that do (and don’t) make the best use of resources in an organization, including, in my opinion, the local church.

Becoming Multipliers
So, how can pastors and other ministry leaders become Multipliers?

To answer that, we need to depart from Wiseman for a moment and remember the words of Jesus himself, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). Ministry is not about making widgets but about making disciples, and the only person who can make a disciple is one who is himself being discipled. Ministry is spiritual work and requires spiritual growth, which comes first and foremost through a prayerful relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Ministry is also relational, however. And the ministry of leadership requires that we work in relationship with the spiritually gifted people God has placed in our pews. Wiseman offers five pieces of advice to business leaders as they resolve to move from the Diminisher to the Multiplier side of the leadership spectrum, and I’d like to tweak these for ministry settings:

First, start with the assumptions: Do I assume that my congregation is spiritually gifted to do the ministry (Multiplier) or do I assume that I must do it myself or micromanage them in the process (Diminisher)?

Second, work the extremes (neutralize a weakness; top off a strength): Am I surrounding myself with others whose ministry strengths complement my ministry weaknesses? Am I working hard to develop the ministry gifts that I am best at personally?

Third, run an experiment: Am I actively trying to develop new Multiplier habits by identifying my Diminisher tendencies and replacing them with Multiplier assumptions and practices?

Fourth, brace yourself for setbacks: Change always involves a measure of failure. The apostle Peter, for example, was the first (and only) apostle to walk on water, but also the first (and only) apostle to sink after walking on water. If Jesus picked Peter up and got him back on the boat, He can do the same for you.

Fifth, ask a colleague: If “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21), then Christian leaders cannot isolate themselves from either their ministry peers or the people they lead. The title of Reuben Welch’s classic book on Christian community gets it exactly right: We Really Do Need Each Other.

So, back to the problem of “new demands, insufficient resources” that I mentioned at the outset of this review. Yes, it is a real problem that pastors and other ministry leaders feel deeply. But prayer to our infinitely resourceful God and wise leadership practices can help us more fully utilize the capabilities of our spiritually gifted congregations. There are, after all, more spiritual gifts in our congregations than we are currently using.

Are you the kind of leader who can multiply them?

Book Reviewed:
Liz Wiseman, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, rev. ed. (New York: Harper Business, 2017).

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.S.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

Review of ‘Spiritual Persons, Gifts, and Churches’ by George M. Flattery


Spiritual-Persons-Gifts-ChurchesGeorge M. Flattery, Spiritual Persons, Gifts, and Churches: A Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12–14 (Springfield, MO: Network211, 2015).

First Corinthians 12–14 presents the apostle Paul’s most detailed description of and instructions about pneumatikōn, typically translated “spiritual gifts.” The contemporary Pentecostal movement has turned to this passage repeatedly both to defend the use of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation in its worship services against cessationist critics, as well as to order that use in those worship services against charismatic excesses. George M. Flattery’s commentary offers a clear survey of the relevant interpretive issues and is thus a welcome contribution to Pentecostal literature on Paul’s letter.

Three features stood out to me.

First, though Paul mentions Christ’s lordship explicitly only in 1 Corinthians 12:3, 5, Flattery reminds us of the Christ-centeredness of Paul’s practice and theology. “All matters spiritual, for the believing saints, center in Christ,” he writes. He goes on to point out the joint work of the Lord and the Spirit in the life of the believer: “By God’s design, Jesus is central to the story of salvation. Moreover, the presence and work of the Spirit in salvation is essential to our faith. We cannot be saved except by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lifts up and exalts Jesus as our Savior. The Holy Spirit indwells people who believe in Christ, and they are, in a basic sense, spiritual people.”

Pentecostals often refer to themselves as “Spirit-filled Christians,” and we are often caricatured by cessationist critics as being more interested in the Spirit than in Jesus. Flattery’s statements are a useful reminder that to be Spirit-filled is to be Jesus-centered, and to be Jesus-centered is to seek the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives in ever greater measure. Indeed, for Christians, the spiritual life is the work of the entire Trinity (1 Corinthians 12:4–6).

Second, Flatter repeatedly draws out the logical progression of Paul’s argument over the course of these three chapters. Chapter 13, one of the Bible’s most famous passages, is often read at weddings as guidance for the bride and groom about how they should conduct their marriage—with love. What Paul wrote about love is, of course, universally applicable, but he himself wrote chapter 13 to explain how love supplies the motivation for the expression of the spiritual gifts. The diverse gifts (chapter 12), should be motivated by love (chapter 13), so that they are expressed in an orderly fashion in worship services for the edification of others (chapter 14).

The logic of Paul’s argument is always helpful to remember. We sometimes feel a tension between charisma and order. For many in our society—those described as “spiritual but not religious”—those two things are antithetical. Charisma is individual, organic, and spontaneous. Order is corporate, artificial, and belabored. Following Paul, Flattery reminds us that spirituality is both charismatic and orderly.

Spiritual churches consist of spiritual people who live and act in spiritual ways. Paul is especially concerned about the services in the church. He is concerned about the impact of what happens on the outsiders who visit the church. And, for the sake of the edification of the body, he is concerned that there be an orderly approach. He insists that speech be intelligible. Any utterance in tongues should be interpreted. Paul sees no conflict between order and the powerful presence and work of the Spirit. The Spirit must be allowed to work.

Rather than pitting the individual against body, the gift against the institution, the Spirit against order, Paul brings them together through love.

Third, though Pentecostals are often known as doers rather than thinkers, Flattery reminds us that Pentecostals should be thinkers too. His commentary on 1 Corinthians 12–14 carefully sifts through the various interpretive issues that Paul’s Greek presents readers. Flattery’s treatment of opposing points of view is fair and irenic. He declares on which side of an interpretive dispute he lands, but where possible, he shows how different interpretive options nonetheless arrive at the same destination by alternate routes. His treatment of Paul and Paul’s interpreters is patient, workmanlike, and kind. In this sense, Flattery’s personal example is a model for the Pentecostal scholar, pastor, and believer.

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P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘The Volunteer Church’ and ‘Volunteering’ by Leith Anderson and Jill Fox


The-Volunteer ChurchLeith Anderson and Jill Fox, The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). Paperback | Kindle

_____, Volunteering: A Guide to Serving in the Body of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). Paperback | Kindle

“At their core churches are volunteer organizations,” write Leith Anderson and Jill Fox. The issue, then, is not whether a church has ministry volunteers but how well it mobilizes volunteers for ministry. The Volunteer Church offers guidance that will help church leaders:

  • effectively recruit and train volunteers;
  • build sustainable, long-lasting ministries led by volunteers;
  • encourage and maintain volunteers;
  • build volunteer teams;
  • and find the right ministry fit for volunteers.

Anderson and Fox were colleagues at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota—he as pastor, she as director of the Volunteer Development Ministry. In addition to being biblically sound, the advice they offer in this book is undergirded by pastoral experience.

If you are a pastor or church leader looking for help improving your volunteer ministry, this short book is a good place to start. The book’s two appendixes—“Volunteer Development Training” and “Your Plan for Volunteer Development”—are especially helpful. They provide bullet points and discussion questions leaders can use to plan an effective volunteer development program.

VolunteeringAnderson and Fox’s Volunteering is a companion to The Volunteer Church, written primarily to address the questions volunteers have about signing up for ministry in the local church. Chapter 2, “Finding Your Fit,” is especially useful. It helps potential volunteers assess their spiritual gifts and talents and skills to more closely align who they are with what they do.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Spiritual Gifts (Ephesians 4.7–16)


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SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 4.7–16

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians naturally divides in halves. In the first half (chapters 1–3), Paul’s overarching theme is “by grace you have been saved, through faith…not by works” (2.8–9). But in the second half (chapters 4–6), Paul’s overarching theme is “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4.1). If I had to summarize the entire message of Ephesians, I would do so this way: Jesus Christ saves us by grace through faith for works.

So, as we begin to study Ephesians 4–6, it is helpful to keep in mind that this half of Paul’s letter deals with works, that is, with Christian behavior. Yesterday, I wrote that a life worth of Christ’s calling includes humility before God, patience with others, and unity with fellow believers. Today, I want to show you how using your spiritual gift is an essential part of the grace-filled life.

Please read Ephesians 4.7–16. The key verse is verse 7: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” The grace Paul writes about here is not the grace of salvation. Rather, it is the grace of using your spiritual gifts. Citing Psalm 68.18, Paul argues that when Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, he poured out the Holy Spirit on believers, spiritually equipping them for ministry (verses 8–10). Using your spiritual gift, in other words, is a way of demonstrating Christ’s lordship over your life.

There are a variety of spiritual gifts. In verse 11, Paul lists those spiritual gifts usually associated with clergy: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Notice, however, that this list of spiritual gifts is not exhaustive. In verse 12, Paul writes that God gives these spiritual gifts “to prepare God’s people for works of service.” In other words, the spiritual gift of the clergy is to train the laity to use their spiritual gifts. As Pastor Rick Warren likes to say: “The people are the ministers. The pastors are the administers.” And the people’s ministries take a variety of forms. See 1 Corinthians 12.7–11, 27–31, and Romans 12.3–8 for illustrative lists of these ministries.

What is the purpose of all these spiritual gifts? Verses 12–13 state it: “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, when you use your spiritual gift as God intended, you become more Christlike, people within your sphere of influence become more Christlike, and your church as a community becomes more Christlike. A lot rides, then, on whether you put God’s grace to work by using your spiritual gift.

So, do you know what your spiritual gift is? Are you actively involved in a lifestyle of serving others and meeting their needs? If so, keep up the good work! If not, why not?