Today there are many people in the independent evangelical and Pentecostal movements who start churches merely because they feel led to do so.
If there were a way to statistically track the outcomes of these self-ordained pastors, my educated guess, based on years of experience, is that most of these churches and/or ministries fail to last more than a few years.
In our American culture we glorify independence and self-determination. These values are great when it comes to our entrepreneurial spirit, which is why our nation will probably always take the lead in creativity and wealth creation and our economy will continue to rebound in spite of what the federal government does to us. But when it comes to functioning properly in the body of Christ these values can be harmful.
Unfortunately, the way many of our brothers and sisters have “called themselves” to start churches or launch ministries mimics Hollywood movies more than biblical protocol! I am thinking of movies that depict independent fundamentalist evangelicals like The Apostle (staring Robert Duvall) and Elmer Gantry (staring Burt Lancaster). The former highlights a man who baptizes himself and calls himself an apostle, while the latter features a man who conducts tent crusades without any ministerial training or affiliation to a church, association or denomination.
A telling scene in Elmer Gantry involves a group of pastors and a newspaper reporter asking evangelist Elmer Gantry and a lady evangelist a simple question: Who trained and ordained you? Their response: “God” did.
These movies demonstrate that even secularists understand there is something wrong with this way of doing ministry. It is as ridiculous as sending yourself to Afghanistan to fight Islamic terrorists without the covering, protection, training or the strategy of the U.S. military. I have had experiences in my own church in which a person left the church without proper training, communication or protocol with plans to start a church in their home. My primary question to people such as these is “Who sent you?”
I tell our church members that when they meet a minister or pastor for the first time, the number one question they should ask is “Who sent you?” or “Who do you submit to?” If the minister or pastor says “God” then run from them as fast as you can! Many have started local churches for the same reason some entrepreneurs start their own small businesses instead of working for a larger company: they simply don’t want to submit to anyone else or have someone over them telling them what to do!
One of the greatest chapters in the Bible is the priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 in which Jesus is praying to the Father before His crucifixion. In this prayer Jesus constantly refers to the fact that He was “sent” or “given” things to Him by His Father to do the work He gave Him to do. This shows He never called Himself to minister; Jesus needed to be sent or given ministry by someone higher than Himself for His ministry to be legitimate, even though He is God the Son (John 17:2-4, 6-9, 11-12, 18, 21, 23-25).
If the Son of God didn’t call Himself into ministry then others who feel called ought to pattern themselves after His protocol for confirming the timing of a genuine call into ministry. Furthermore, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 5:1, 3-6 that Jesus didn’t call Himself into the priesthood; he waited until the Father called Him. This was patterned after the Old Covenant in which a person could only serve as a priest if his physical father was a priest of the tribe of Levi from the priestly line of Aaron (Exodus 28:1). Thus, if we don’t have a father who ordained us into the ministry (in the New Covenant this includes spiritual fathers) then we have a “bastard” ministry and have no biblical legitimacy to fulfill our calling.
The early church also functioned with this concept of sending as a methodological background. For example, even though Saul and Barnabas had already felt called by God into ministry they didn’t dare send themselves until the leaders of the church in Antioch also received a confirming word from the Lord to send them. (Read Acts 13:1-2, in which the tense of the original Greek wording shows that God had already called Saul into the ministry before the leaders of the church received the confirming word.)
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SOURCE: Charisma News
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time church ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. He is also serving as the United States Ambassador for the International Coalition of Apostles, and as one of the founding presiding bishops of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches.