- Is call a must for fulltime Christian Ministry?
- Is Seminary training a must?
- Can I preach others' sermons?thers' sermons?
- Are there Apostles today?
- How can I have a deliverance ministry?
- What about Healing Crusades?
- How about Prayer Walks?
- Are para-church organisations Biblical?
- How about independent ministries?
- Why defections?
- Can we follow a leader?
- Why do Christian leaders backslide?
- Why do God's servants die before time?
- What about those who die unevangelised?
1. Is call a must for fulltime Christian Ministry?
Most of the Christians believe that unless a person is definitely "called," he should
not enter fulltime Christian service. Others are of the opinion that it's a matter of
"choice." Confusion over this matter is one of the foremost reasons for insufficient number of
workers for the harvest. What has the Bible to say on
The text which is frequently quoted to stress the need for a definite call is Hebrews
5:4, "No man takes this honour to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was."
must not fail to notice two things here. First of all, the reference here is not to
general priestly service but to the special position of a "high priest" (v 1). Secondly, the priesthood
is changed under the New Covenant. Christ our elder Brother is not after the order of
Aaron but that of Melchizedek (Heb 7:11-13). He arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses
spoke nothing concerning priesthood (v 14). Therefore the use of Hebrews 5:4 to answer our
question is inappropriate.
You will be disappointed if you keep waiting for a dramatic call as in the case of Moses
or Paul. Men like them were called to fulfil unique roles in the founding of the Jewish
nation and the Christian Church. This is the "eleventh hour" in Church history. Those who
excuse themselves saying, "No one hired us," will be fired by the Lord of the harvest, "Why have
you been standing here idle all day?" (Mt 20:1-7). They were not supposed to be waiting for a
call at the "marketplace." Rather, they should have gone to the "vineyard" to find out if they
were needed. While searching for secular employment we knock every door and accept as
God's will for us that which opens. Why not apply the same logic to get into God's
work? So many Christians are unemployed or underemployed, but they never bother about the
Kingdom work that is understaffed (Mt 9:37).
Don't pray, "Lord, call me," rather, "Lord, send me!" (Mt 9:38). God did
NOT ask Isaiah, "Shall I send YOU? And will
YOU go for Us?" Instead He said, "WHOM shall I
send? And WHO will go for us?" (Isa 6:8). To a general call, Isaiah gave a personal response: "Here am
I! Send me." Then God said, "Go!" (v9). It is when we volunteer to "go," God will "send" us.
"Many are called, but few chosen." Jesus made this statement twice in the Gospels,
once in the parable of the vineyard and next in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt 20:16;
22:14). Both these parables teach human responsibility to respond to God's call properly. In
other words, those who obey the call are the
God also honours the desire of parents when they commit their children for His
service. Hannah, of her own self, promised God that if He would bless her with a son, she would
give him away for His service. God granted her heart's desire and she kept her promise. It
was after several years that God personally called Samuel (1 Sam 1:11,27,28; 3:8,9). When
parents these days motivate children from very early years that they should become doctors
or engineers and spare no pains to make them so, why not do so for God's
My mother had dedicated me, her firstborn, for God's work several years before I
decided to enter fulltime ministry. I had a growing desire to invest all my time, talents and
treasure in God's cause, even though I was doing quite well in my engineering profession. I
realised that it was God who was planting such "desire" in my heart (Phil 2:13). I neither heard
an audible voice nor saw a vision. It was a simple guidance. My wife was more than happy
when I shared my decision with her. My mother embraced me with tears. My parents-in-law
simply said, "Let the will of the Lord be done." Under normal circums-tances, the wife may go
with her husband as he steps out into fulltime ministry. Abraham's call is good enough for
Sarah also (Gen 12:5).
I have not come across instances where God has asked candidates, "Why did you
come when I called you not?" Rather there are just too many
Christians whom God will question, "Why didn't you come when I called
you?" The disobedient outnumber the obedient.
Beware of overconsultation! Even seniors and prophets at times may misguide you
(Gal 1:16; Acts 21:8-14). I encourage you to read my articles, "How to make Decisions" (Chapter 9,
ENLIGHTENING ESSAYS) and "How we miss God's will" (Chapter 5, FIRE IN MY BONES).
Don't mistake me. I don't say that God expects all His children to leave their jobs
and enter Christian ministry. What I say is this: Need is great. Time is short. Choice is
yours. Take the first step. Proceed. If you turn to the left or to the right, God will correct you
2. Is Seminary training a must?
Jesus as a boy learnt from teachers by listening to them and asking them questions
(Lk 2:46). Paul as a young man studied the Old Testament at the feet of Gamaliel, a
highly respected teacher of his time (Acts 22:3; 5:34). God has placed "teachers" in the Church
for the equipping, educating and edifying of the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph
4:11-13). Teaching is therefore ordained by God. Systematic learning is a must for every
believer and especially for those who enter fulltime ministry. The pulpit is polluted by preachers
not trained in "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). Someone said, The Bible
today suffers more in the hands of its exponents than its opponents!
The other side of the coin is equally distressing. Liberals and modernists have
somehow entered the faculty of many of our theological colleges. Imagine we have professors who
are not even born again! Lot of head knowledge without a jot of heart experience. But the
teachers in Bible times were quite different. Samuel was a teacher bathed in the spirit of prayer
(1 Sam 12:23). Ezra had "prepared his heart" in order to teach the people (Ezr 7:10).
Paul, Barnabas and the three others who were teachers in Antioch were men given to fasting
and prayer (Acts 13:1,2). The apostles taught under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and not
with human wisdom (1 Cor 2:13). Jesus demanded that the teachers should first be doers
(Mt 5:19). Paul challenged those who divorced their life from their teaching (Rom 2:21).
Several young people in India lose their early vision, faith and zeal after entering a
theological college. I have personally known some of them. Of those who are mightily used of God
as Revivalists and Evangelists in India, very few are theologians. Even in the
international scene, this is so. Billy Graham is not a theological graduate!
In some seminaries the teachers are mere academicians. They cannot teach their
students how to hear God, fast and pray, operate spiritual gifts, cast out demons and so on. I
recently came across the following lines concerning one of our well-known seminaries: "At present
we have two teachers having Ph.D. in missiology. Both of them do not have firsthand
missionary experience." Alarming and appalling?
In the light of these facts, one should very prayerfully decide for himself what sort
of training he should have for the type of ministry he is called to. For example, a course on
the principles of Church growth and a short-term missionary training are ideal for a
missionary career. Besides theology, some seminaries offer courses on Christian arts,
communication, music, counselling, management, youth ministry and so on. These are quite helpful.
A systematic training disciplines the mind for right thinking. We thank God for the
colleges which have produced some of the finest preachers, teachers and pastors.
If only one has discipline and capacity for self-study, there's an ocean of study
materials to profit from. Even after entering the ministry, systematic study should continue for life.
3. Can I preach others' sermons?thers' sermons?
Nothing we have is of our own. Whatever we have is what we have received from God
(1 Cor 4:7). No one is original. Nothing is original. God alone is original and we are created
in His "image."
Paul received most of his revelations directly from God. But he told Timothy to
teach others whatever the latter had learnt from the former. And he wanted the chain to
continue (2 Tim 2:2). This is God's general method of communication.
Therefore in the strict sense there is nothing wrong in using someone else's outline
for preaching. But preparing one's own outline gives greater authority and confidence
while delivering the sermon. We must be a voice rather than an echo!
There are several dangers in using others' sermons. There sets in a tendency to
become lazy and the discipline that goes with the hard work of preparing an outline is left
undeveloped. Flexibility in the pulpit under the guidance of the Spirit is very important, but with
borrowed sermon outlines it is not easy. When proper acknowledgement is not given to the source
we steal the credit due to another.
Books of sermon outlines by preachers of old like Charles Spurgeon abound. When
one begins his public pulpit ministry, it is advisable to study some of these outlines to get
an idea on how to construct sermons. To start with, some of these readymade outlines can
be used with suitable modifications. But sooner one learns to walk without these crutches
Quoting others while preaching will spice the sermon. Someone said, "He who does
not quote will not be quoted!" When God calls a man to preach He equips him. He can freely
use others' labours in sermon preparation but he must be watchful lest he misses the
peculiarity God has designed for him.
4. Are there Apostles today?
The answer to this question is both "yes" and "no."
There are two categories of apostles we find in the Bible. The first is the twelve
disciples Jesus personally chose during His earthly ministry and named as apostles (Lk 6:13).
This group was frequently referred to as "The Twelve" (Mt
26:20; Jn 20:24; 1 Cor 15:5). They had known Jesus intimately and were eyewitnesses of the special events during the three
year period. The Lord also appeared to them personally after His resurrection. This
uniquely privileged group received its special authority from
Christ who is "the" Apostle (Heb 3:1).
He promised the twelve that they would "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes
of Israel" in the recreated world (Mt 19:28). As foundational ministers of the New
Testament Church, the names of the twelve apostles would be written on the twelve foundations of
New Jerusalem (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14). When Judas died suicidally, his position of
apostleship was taken up by Matthias who also had been an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus from
the beginning (Acts 1:16-26). Thus these twelve formed an unique circle and there's no
successor to any of them. The Bible does not suggest any addition to this category of apostles.
God however chose Paul in a special way, especially as an apostle to the gentiles,
and granted him the fullfledged apostolic authority. He also received unparallelled
revelations concerning the Church. Not to pride of his calling but to establish his ministry, Paul
and over again declared himself to be an apostle by Jesus' call (1 Cor 9:1; Gal
The New Testament speaks also of other apostles who were never counted as part of
"The Twelve." They were Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James (Gal
1:18,19; Acts 15), Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7), and several others unnamed (1 Cor 15:7).
Apostleship is the first of the five ministries the ascended Christ has given to the
Church. They are meant to continue functioning in the Church "till we all come to the measure of
the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph
4:10-13; 1 Cor 12:28). If we say that the apostles
have ceased to be, then on what authority can we say we still have evangelists, pastors
and teachers, who are listed in the same passage? We dare not be partial in interpreting
any portion of the Scriptures.
The word "apostle" comes from the Greek word "apostolos," meaning "one who is
sent forth." In the NT times, "apostle" meant an envoy, one sent on a mission as the
personal representative of the one sending him. The Latin equivalent of the word "apostle" gives
us the word "missionary." They are essentially translocal and mobile ministers, visioned
for pioneer work to lay the foundations for the Church where Christ is not named (Rom
15:20, 21; Acts 13:1-4). Those with an apostolic ministry can be generally identified by their
readiness to suffer and sacrifice (1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor
4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:23-33; Gal 6:17; etc.),
spiritual authority for leadership, training and discipline (1 Cor
4:21-5:5; 2 Cor 7:8,9; 2 Tim 2:1-3), and the presence of signs, wonders and mighty deeds in their ministry (2 Cor 12:12). At
the same time if we keep measuring everybody by the standard of Paul, we may fail to
recognize several apostles developing from among us.
Functioning is more important than labelling. Thank God we do have apostles
today. They give direction and impart vision to the Church to fulfil her call. We need more of
them in these closing days.
5. How can I have a deliverance ministry?
If you are a soulwinning Christian you are already doing deliverance ministry,
because salvation from sin is the greatest deliverance Jesus came to bring for mankind (Mt 1:21).
It is erroneously thought that only those who are involved in the ministry of praying for
the sick and casting out demons are in the deliverance ministry. This is only a
part of the wholistic deliverance the Bible speaks about. A
Biblical ministry of deliverance includes atleast seven aspects
a) Deliverance from the bondage of the Law
Even though Christ has delivered us from the bondage of the Old Testament Law,
numerous Christians do not enjoy the liberty in
Christ Jesus (Rom 8:2,3; Gal 5:18). They live under
the yoke of legalism which says, "Touch not, Taste not, Handle not!" (Col 2:20-22; Gal 5:1).
This is due to a lack of understanding of the difference between Law and Grace (Jn 1:17).
They never bubble with the joy of salvation. A spirit of gloominess and heaviness will
surround them. They can be delivered from this state only through a practical exposition of
Apostle Paul's Epistles like Romans, Galatians and Colossians.
b) Deliverance from the power of sin
Deliverance from the penalty of sin is instant at rebirth, but deliverance from the power
sin is a moment-by-moment exercise. This is otherwise called walking in the Spirit to
overcome the works of the flesh (Gal 5:16-25). By "standing" we are already perfect and complete
in Christ (Col 2:10); but by "state" we are growing into perfection (Col 1:28). Our sinful
nature is not "eradicated" from us in this earthly life, but we can be "emancipated" from its power
by the indwelling Christ and His Spirit. Without the knowledge of this liberating truth,
Christians live miserably under guilt and condemnation (Rom8:1,33,34).
c) Deliverance from the curse of sickness
Though all sickness is not the direct result of sin in an individual's life, there was
no sickness or death before our first parents sinned. Jesus commanded His disciples to
heal the sick when He sent them to preach the gospel (Mt 10:7,8; Lk 9:2). Even though all
may not be bestowed with the "gifts of healings," any
Christian believer can "lay hands on the sick" and offer the "prayer of faith" (1 Cor 12:30; Mk
16:18; Js 5:15,16). Medical work done in the spirit and compassion of Christ is not inferior to miracle healing. God is the Healer
in any case.
d) Deliverance from the oppressions of the devil
The devil plays havoc in the lives of people who know not God. Christ came to "destroy
the works of the devil" (1 Jn 3:8b). Some Christians are exceptionally used by God in
exorcism, but every Christian has the "authority" over the
"power" of the enemy (Lk 10:19). Demons obeyed the seventy disciples of Christ even when they had least expected it (v17). He who
is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). Stay full of the Holy
Spirit and deliver people from demonic oppression and demon possession (Acts 10:38). Learn from
mature Christians and be a part of a team as you set out to deliver people.
e) Deliverance from social bondage
The prophets of old invariably called God's people to fight for justice on behalf of the
poor, the fatherless and the widows and deliver them from the oppressors (Isa 1:17; Am
5:15,24). Patriarch Job testified, "I broke the fangs of the wicked and plucked the victim from
his teeth" (Job 29:17,12-16). Missionary William Carey (1761-1834) alongwith Rajaram
Mohan Roy crusaded against the "sati" system and persuaded the Government of India to ban
it. Missionary Amy Carmichael (1861-1951) fought against temple prostitution. It is for
such daring acts that the Lord has "anointed" us (Isa 61:1). Do whatever you can to enlighten
the minds of people to be delivered from superstitious fears (Isa 42:6,7). There are more
and bigger thieves outside the prison than inside. Ministry to
prisoners is Christly (Lk 4:18; Heb 13:3).
f) Deliverance from bad habits
Even after a genuine experience of rebirth lots of individuals are unable to come out
of certain addictive habits like smoking and drinking. The cry of these people is, "Don't tell
me why; show me how!" If you desire to help them, you need lot of patience and
compassion. Never condemn them and add guilt to their burden. Meditation and
memorisation of the Scriptures, fullness of the Holy Spirit, close fellowship with believers, kind
shepherding, good reading and busy occupations are the rehabilitation helps to be offered. All
deliverance may not be instant. Give a helping hand to voluntary organisations which are committed
to help such victims. There's nothing unspiritual about such partnership.
g) Deliverance from doctrinal deceptions
Doctrinal deception is a killing captivity. Paul says that one can escape this "snare of
the devil" only if he comes back to his senses (2 Tim 2:24-26). Too many
Christians are unaware
that they hear only "doctrines of demons" from several pulpiteers who speak under
the anointing of "deceiving spirits" (1 Tim 4:1). Bold Bible teachers are wanted to confront
these agents of Lucifer and deliver people from their craftiness so they may not be "destroyed
for lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6). There is too much of preaching and too little teaching
these days. Though not from a pulpit to large gatherings, give yourself to share sound
doctrinal truths with individuals and small groups. This is the deliverance ministry desperately
needed in the Church today.
6. What about Healing Crusades?
Wherever Jesus went He preached the Gospel and healed the sick (Mt 9:35).
Miracles were quite normal in His ministry. People came to Him "to hear Him and be healed of
their diseases" (Lk 6:17). Miracles of healing were the attesting signs of His Messianic
ministry (Mt 11:2-5).
When Jesus chose and commissioned the twelve to preach the gospel, He
clearly commanded them to "heal the sick" (Mt 10:7,8). Also in the Great
Commission to the Church, the ministry of healing is included (Mk 16:15-18). The "gifts of healings" bestowed by
the Holy Spirit are to continue Christ's healing ministry on earth today.
But, the modern practices followed in the healing crusades make several
fair-minded Christians and leaders to dismiss the ministry of healing with contempt. This is not
justifiable. The remedy for abuse or misuse is not non-use but proper use!
Let me highlight a few areas where several of the healing ministries bring more
dishonour than glory to God's Name. The evangelist becomes the centre of attraction and
heroworship is common. The emphasis unconsciously shifts from the salvation of soul to the healing
of the body. The evangelists make certain statements which are highly questionable in the
light of the Scriptures. For example, "Today God is going to heal people with ailments below
the hip and tomorrow above the hip!" During the healing sessions photographic tricks are
freely played. Exaggerated reports in magazines and periodicals are normal. Funds appeal
is professionally interwoven. Special prayers are promised for special offerings.
Financial accountability is usually absent. Showmanship is at its highest. These and such things
are contrary to the teachings of the Carpenter-healer from Nazareth!
The ministry of healing for Christians should primarily function in the context of the
local Church (Js 5:14). And evangelists with gifts of healing should not be freelancers but
be closely linked to the other leaders of the Church for safety and accountability (Acts
8:12-17). Then the result of all such ministries will be Church planting and Church growth and
not building of individual empires!
7. How about Prayer Walks?
With the renewal of interest in the subject of intercession and
spiritual warfare has come the practice of organized walks across the streets of cities and towns called Prayer
Walks. Though this appeals to many believers, several others are quite bothered because to
them this practice does not sound very scriptural. As prayer walks are becoming
increasingly popular, a Biblical analysis of this exercise has become necessary.
First and foremost, it must be pointed out that, according to Jesus, prayer must
essentially offered in secret. He condemned the intentional habit of
certain religionists of His day who loved to pray "on the corners of the streets." He taught, "When you pray, go
into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret
place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Mt 6:5,6). According to
Jesus, the secret of prayer was praying in secret. Rarely do we read of Him praying in public.
Rather He withdrew to places of solitute for this holy exercise. Even for the sick He never prayed
in public. He simply healed them.
When Jesus commissioned the seventy disciples to be sent out to evangelize towns
and villages, He told them, "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the
light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops" (Mt 10:27). In other words, praying should be in
private and that must be followed by preaching in public. This was the Lord's prescription even
for hostile and non-receptive places (v28).
We do not come across any passage in the Acts of the Apostles which suggests
prayer walks across cities. The spirit of Paul was deeply provoked within him when he saw the
city of Athens full of idols. He did not immediately organize a prayer march against the
spirit of idolatry. Instead he reasoned with people daily in the marketplaces (Acts 17:16,17).
When Peter was imprisoned, the believers did not march around the prison walls shouting
praise and prayer. Rather they were praying in houses behind closed doors, and the Lord
miraculously delivered him (Acts 12:5,12,17).
The seven day march of Israelites around the walls of Jericho is the oft-quoted
Biblical example to support and promote prayer walks
(Joshua 6). But this incident is not meant to directly teach us about
spiritual warfare prayer in the New Testament era. Apostle
Paul's teaching on this subject in his Epistle to the Ephesians is explicit and conclusive.
According to him, the active sphere of evil powers is "in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). Christ
is seated "in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and
dominion" (1:20,21). We as believers in Him are seated with Him at this level "in the heavenly
places" (1:3). As such the warfare is not at the horizontal plane. We fight the enemy from above
him. This principle is best illustrated in the battle scene of God's people against Amalek.
Moses, Aaron and Hur on the hilltop represent intercessors. Joshua and the people who
confront Amalekites in the plains represent Gospel communicators (Ex 17).
The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem also does not suggest prayer
marches. "Hosannah" simply means "Save us, O
Lord!" It was just a cry of anguish by the Jews to
be delivered from the rule of Romans.
It is my conviction that we have not preached the Gospel enough. There is no
substitute for sowing the seed. As important and as powerful prayer may be, it can never be a
substitute for systematic and tireless preaching of the Gospel. The harvest is poor because we
sow sparingly and not bountifully (2 Cor 9:6). Prayer walks may be exciting but it won't get
the job done. Like the early adherents of Salvation Army, believers must boldly go for
open-air evangelism. The need is for gospel processions rather than prayer marches. Jesus
has commanded us to go into all the world and PREACH! (Mk 16:15). He said, "Whatever city
you enter... PREACH!" (Mt 10:7; Lk 10:8,9). The seventy disciples were sent out to PREACH.
As they were preaching, Jesus saw Satan falling down! (Lk 10:18).
Individually and as groups, let us infiltrate into communities to share the Gospel.
Let's "fill" cities with the doctrine of
Christ (Acts 5:28). Let there be non-stop proclamation of
the Gospel for months and years so that "all" who dwell in countries and continents may hear
it (Acts 19:10). Let's go house to house on visitation evangelism (Acts 20:20). It's such
saturation evangelism which will earn us the nickname,
"THOSE WHO TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE
DOWN!" (Acts 17:6). Though tough, this is the only way. Anything else may be thrilling,
but will not be fulfilling the job.
The promise that one will inherit whichever place he treads was a national promise
given to the Old Testament Israel. It was geographical (Dt 11:24; Gen 13:14,15). In the
Gospel dispensation it is not places but people. Even among people, not everyone we talk to
will accept our message. There's no such promise. Very few will choose the narrow gate
against the broad way. We are not called to christianize the world but just evangelize it. "India for Christ" is an empty shout, but "Christ for India" is a meaningful slogan.
In conclusion I would say that prayer marches are not wrong but they are unnecessary.
It makes no difference whether prayer is offered in site or from inside the closet. "Am I a
God near at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off?" (Jer 23:23). What matters is how
close our hearts are to God's and how much of His burden we really share (Rom 9:1-3). If the
time and energy spent to organize prayer marches are invested in aggressive gospel
preaching, the Great Commission will be fulfilled much sooner.
8. Are para-church organisations Biblical?
God in His sovereign grace and wisdom is using para-church organisations, so called,
all over the world to further His cause. But they are an eyesore to many a pastor and
Church leader. The scriptural validity of these organisations is repeatedly questioned.
Dialogues between both sides have helped to improve mutual understanding, but tensions do exist.
Do we have any light in the Bible over this difficult
I believe that we have the seedbed for missionary societies in Acts 13. The Holy
Spirit actually called Barnabas and Paul "out
of" a local Church for a wider ministry. After
their first missionary journey, they returned to the Church, which released them, to report
the works of God (14:26,27). But thereafter we don't see Paul and his associates tied up to
any one particular local Church. Their style of functioning became that of a missionary society.
Para-church organisations are essentially translocal in their ministry. Our
understanding of the Church should not be limited to the local assembly. The universal aspect of
the Church helps to explain the place of para-church organisations in God's Kingdom.
There are not only "diversities of gifts" but also "differences of
ministries." There are not only differences of
ministries but also "diversities of activities." But it is all by the
"same" Spirit, "same" Lord, and "same" God (1 Cor 12:4-6). This knowledge is basic to
Christian ministerial maturity. No one can tell the other, "I have no need of you" (v 21). We are not
to compete with each other but complement each other.
I understand para-church organisations as the scaffolding, and the Church as the
building. The mission of missions is Church planting; and the mission of the Church is missions.
We need Bible Translators and Bible Societies so pastors and their congregations can
have Bibles to study. Relief Agencies assist the Churches in their social concerns.
Theological Colleges train men and women for various responsibilities in the Church. Missionary
Societies reach out to "hidden" peoples who are not normally covered by neighbourhood
evangelistic programmes of local Churches. We can go on giving such numerous examples.
Nurses, pharmacists, technicians and the like are called para-medical staff. What they are to
doctors is what the para-church ministries are to the local Church. They are not a substitute but
a supplement to the local Church.
No single local Church can boast of having all the gifts. Para-church organizations help
bring together gifts from various Churches for common programmes and wider
ministry. This way we can influence and impact communities, and not just affect the neighbourhood.
In the early Church period, there was only one Church in each locality. The condition
is quite different today. Each denomination wants to establish its branch in a place even
though a dozen Churches may be already functioning
there! Para-church organizations serve as common platforms and meeting points to foster unity and fellowship between
congregations. When we pool our resources, lot of duplication can be avoided. Para-church
organisations are strictly "inter-church" organisations! They are definitely in the plan of God for the
unity and maturity of the Church.
Paul rejoiced even when some preached Christ out of "envy and strife" (Phil 1:15,18).
Let's praise God for any ministry that brings gains to His Kingdom. Why stop someone
from prophesying just because he is not with us "inside the
tabernacle?" Let's not be narrowminded like Joshua but be largehearted like Moses (Num 11:26-29). Who could ever think of
a deliverance ministry other than that of Jesus and His team in His own times? John
could not accept such a possibility. He actually stopped that
preacher! But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him... For he who is not against us is on our
side!" (Mk 9:38-40).
A message to King Saul: "Don't consider David as a threat. He will actually help
in your battles!"
9. How about independent ministries?
In the old dispensation, all the religious activities were centred around the Temple.
People were not allowed to offer sacrifices wherever they desired (Dt 12:5,13). But under the
New Covenant "wherever" two or three would gather in the Name of Jesus, He would be there
in their midst (Mt 18:20). No place is more sacred than the other to offer worship from
or perform any religious duty (Jn 4:21-23). In the Old Covenant, priesthood belonged to
just one of the twelve tribes. But now all the children of God are royal priests before Him to
offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:5,9). Misunderstanding of this privilege has led to the
mushrooming of thousands of independent ministries.
Some Pastors call all ministries outside the local Churches as independent
ministries. This is not correct. Individually all Christians must associate themselves in the worship
and witness of local Churches, but there can be so many
ministerial activities which may not be governed or administered by local Churches. Bible translation
ministries, Bible societies, relief organisations, medical
ministries, and pioneer missionary movements are
some examples. Apostle Paul and his team were a missionary movement and they were not
directed by any single local Church. They fellowshipped with local Churches wherever they travelled.
Whether it is a local Church ministry or a translocal ministry, if there's no
accountability of ministers to one another, such independence is unscriptural. As far as local Churches
are concerned, there can be no singular leadership. Pastors or elders or bishops or overseers
are different names for the same office and they are always mentioned in the plural (e.g.
Acts 20:17,28). Translocal ministries also must have plurality of leadership. Jesus sent His
disciples two by two. Paul always had associates in his missionary team.
Independence in financial matters leads to corruption. Independence in message
content leads to deception. Independence in
ministerial methods leads to unscriptural
practices. Independence in administration leads to misuse of power. Several independent
ministries end up as a family business. Accountability is more when a ministry is registered with
We cannot accomplish much when we work indepen-dently (Eccl 4:9). Independence
may give us job satisfaction, but the Kingdom of God will not be benefitted much.
Independent ministries result in duplication which wastes the Kingdom resources. Interdependence is the law of the Kingdom. Team work with accountability is the New Testament pattern.
Team work is difficult but it strikes a deathblow to selfishness. Most of the independent
ministers are those who fell out of established structures because of indiscipline or
relationship problems. Love of money is another major reason.
The observations I have made here, however, do not totally rule out the possibility of
any minister of God functioning independently. There can be exceptions. Prophets may
find organizational structures suffocating. Bible teachers may find denominational
structures straitjacketing. Lions hate cages. However, it is safe for such ministers to voluntarily
become accountable to senior and seasoned ministers of similar gifts.
Some independent ministers boast that they don't receive salaries but live in faith.
Those who work in ministerial organizations also live in faith. They exercise "collective" or
"corporate" faith that God would send in offerings from His people month after month for their
needs. After all the Lord did not teach us to pray, "Give ME this day MY daily bread," rather,
"Give US this day OUR daily bread!"
As a trainer, preacher and Bible teacher, I am happy that I had been a part of a
missionary organization for thirtythree years (1971-2003) until my retirement. I thank God profusely
for my fellow-leaders and fellow-workers who will be rewarded richly for helping me fulfil
10. Why defections?
"I was with Such-and-such organisation; but now..." We come across scores of
Christian ministers who say such things. People are confused over this phenomenon. As a leader of
a Mission for over thirty years and being associated with several Christian organisations
inland and overseas, I have painfully observed this regular occurrence. I list here what I
have understood as common reasons when I analysed the cases of defection. Many of them can
be illustrated Biblically. I am also trying to find how defections can be atleast minimised if
not totally prevented.
Let's first of all look at some of the positive and inevitable reasons for defections.
- Ministers with special gifts and skills find the structural set-up of certain
organisations too restricting. They do not find sufficient
ministerial outlet to develop their gifts. There's suffocation. Even here it is not advisable to leave a
ministerial body unless God very definitely guides so. There are two great dangers. One is the absence of immediate and
close accountability. There are simply too many examples of spectacularly gifted preachers
running into excesses and extremes after leaving organisations. The other danger is that
their ministerial gains may not go to the Body of Christ but to their own selves and families.
Many freelancers are building their own empires rather than the Kingdom of God. There have
been cases of defection perfectly in the will of God, but they are quite few compared to those
of selfish reasons.
Leaders of organisations have a great responsibility not to treat associates of
unusual gifts and talents as everybody else, but become flexible and create avenues and
opportunities as much as possible to make them feel fulfilled in their giftings. The leaders must not
feel envious and threatened about a fast-growing charismatic worker. Philip was chosen only
oversee food distribution to the widows, but when his gift was apparently witnessed he
was happily acknowledged as "Philip the Evangelist" (Acts 6:5; 8:5,6; 21:8). But Philip did not
lift himself above others.
- Administrative flaws are another reason for defection. When leaders do not
keep developing their qualities through Biblical understanding and spiritual graces, they
become a stumbling block to their associates and especially to the youngsters. No system or
structure is perfect and therefore changes for the better must be welcome. Constitutions, rules
and regulations are there only to serve us and not vice versa (Mk 2:27). God Himself
changed what He Himself wrote! New wine needs new bottles. When leaders become
authoritative and refuse correction, the organisation may lose good workers (Mt 20:25,26).
- A few men may come together with a specific burden and found a ministry. In
course of time one of them may feel that the Lord is calling him for a different type of ministry.
He should not instantly leave the team but share his burden with the other members.
They must pray over the matter and discuss it objectively. If there's a general consensus
among the members, the candidate must be released with their blessing. It is difficult to let
go ministers like "Paul and Barnabas" who are so precious with their "prophetic and
teaching" ministry locally. But the Kingdom concerns must overtake personal interests
however justifiable the latter may be (Acts 13:1-4). Not all types of ministries can be
accomodated under one umbrella.
- There are also several instances in which ministers leave organisations due to
health reasons and family constraints. Believers should support genuine cases.
Now let's look at some of the negative causes of defections.
- Love of money has taken the largest toll in the lives of ministers. There are too
many Demases leaving Pauls for the sake of more money (2 Tim 4:10; Phil 3:17-19). In
general, independent ministers make more money than what they would receive in a corporate
set-up. They would cover up their covetousness with the cloak of "faith ministry."
Concerning material needs Jesus has actually taught us to exercise "collective faith." We are to
pray, "Give US (not me) this day OUR (not my) daily bread!"
- Personality clashes are a very unfortunate thing in Christian ministries. How
many had to leave their mother organsiations just because they could not get along with
egoistic leaders! Sometimes the problem could be with the fellow-workers. Quitting is not always
the solution. God purposely keeps us with difficult individuals. "Iron sharpens iron" (Prov
27:17). While we are anxious to grow our ministry, God is passionate after developing our
character. When the mistreated Hagar fled from Sarai, the Angel of the Lord stopped her and
said, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand." But a little later God
Himself told Abraham to send Hagar away as Sarai wished (Gen 16:5-10; 21:9-14). Blessed
are those who have learnt to stay put until the appointed time. Problems will be there
everywhere wherever there are human beings. God works with and through imperfect men and
machinery. Trying to escape from one situation will end up in the proverbial "frying-pan-to-fire"
story! The Biblical pattern is interdependent and not independent ministry.
- Some workers are sent out from organisations on disciplinary ground. Such
individuals may give a false picture to the public as to why they left the organisation. The
organisations also may not publicize the actual reasons because they desire to safeguard the interests
of the candidates, their families and their future ministry. I would advise people not to
believe all that a defector would say about the organisation. It would not benefit the Kingdom.
- Let me conclude with a mournful reason for defection. We have heard about
sheep-stealing, but what's common today is shepherd-stealing. Numerous overseas agencies
have enticed Indian workers with their dollars and deutchmarks. International conferences
have become hunting fields for white whales to devour active fishermen of the third world
countries. The European and Western agencies must make an honest commitment before God not
to start new ministries in the poorer countries but to strengthen and support the
existing structures of which we have enough and more. Otherwise God will be displeased.
God's Word commands the leaders, "Thou shalt not covet your neighbour's servant!"
Time is too short and the task too staggering. In a country like India and in times
like these, any more divisions, defections and duplications are not affordable. Let our motto
be: "I must decrease; He must increase!"
11. Can we follow a leader?
The Bible teaches us to be "followers of God as dear children" (Eph 5:1). Jesus was
exactly like His Father. He bade His disciples, "Follow Me" (Mt 4:19). Then comes the third
stage. Apostle Paul urged his converts, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor 11:1).
The teaching of the Bible confirms that this chain should not be broken but continue
from generation to generation.
A chain smoker cried, "Don't tell me why; show me
how!" We are desperately in need of men and women who can lead by example, being role models. We have often heard
preachers say, "Don't look at me; look at
Jesus!" This is nothing but escapism and sheer
hypocrisy. Concerning such debasing examples among the religious leaders of His day Jesus
warned the people, "Whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do
according to their works" (Mt 23:3). On the other hand Paul challenged, "Join in following my
example... the things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do" (Phil
3:17; 4:9). It is the sacred responsibily of everyone in any leadership capacity to present before
his "little ones" a lifestyle that's unoffensive and praiseworthy (Lk 17:1,2).
This does not mean that we must be looking for "perfect" leaders to emulate them.
We have to observe only the overall "outcome" or fruit of their lives (Heb 13:7). Ask these
basic questions concerning a leader you desire to follow: Is he committed to the
authority of the Bible? Is he a man of prayer? Does he maintain a distance with the opposite
sex? Has he given himself to simple living? Is his own
house in order? Is he honest in financial matters? Is he dead to seeking
popularity and self-interests? Does he embrace all believers and
work for unity? Is he passionate about world
evangelism? Does he train secondline leaders? It
is normally safe to follow a leader who has these sterling qualities.
Each leader has his strengths and weaknesses. No one exemplifies in everything. This
I believe is one reason why the New Testament consistently promotes plurality of
leadership (Tit 1:5; Acts 20:17). This way we can avoid heroworshipping any one person.
Unfortunately we have produced more fans than followers, more devotees than disciples.
Following a leader does not mean copying his style of preaching or ministry.
Imitating one's performance on the pulpit is easy, but we will miss the spirit. What is essential is
to learn the leader's prayer closet and study exercises. Otherwise we will become "clouds
without water." I mourn over young people who have lost their God-given originality because
they have gone mad imitating star preachers.
God clothes the secondliners with His anointing and authority when they humbly
and faithfully watch and follow the first leaders. Secondliners must devote themselves to
this painstaking study. Joshua learnt from Moses. Elisha learnt from Elijah. Peter, James
John learnt from Jesus. Timothy and Titus learnt from Paul. And so on. Right during
his lifetime Paul certified of Timothy, "He does the work of the Lord, as I also do" (1 Cor 16:10).
What if the leader backslides? The hurt will be deep in the hearts of the followers but
they need not discard whatever the leader has preached or written. King Solomon ended up
with one thousand women in his life and went after idols (1 Ki 11:3,4). He had wisdom for
others but not for himself. But God has not removed his writings from the canon of
Scriptures. Similarly if Psalm 23 is the most favourite of all, next comes Psalm 51 which David sang
as his sin confession. As you follow a leader, pray much for him that he may not fall.
12. Why do Christian leaders backslide?
Sadly, not only the pew but also the pulpit is stained with backsliding. When
Christian leaders backslide, the devil rejoices and the world ridicules Christianity. The fall of
leaders causes agony and anguish in the Church. The following are the common causes of
backsliding of preachers and leaders.
- Thank God for successes and victories in His work, but leaning on them has been
a major cause for the fall of many giants. Several kings and leaders of God's people in the
Old Testament failed when they were at the zenith of their rule. They forgot the Blesser
and began worshipping the blessings. The enemy subtly used this to lead them astray.
Even though it was God who gave crowns to the twentyfour elders, they laid them back at His
feet (Rev 4:10).
- When leaders climb on the ladder of power and authority, they tend to think they
are infallible. They forget the warning: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall"
(1 Cor 10:12). They do not run away from persons and places of temptation (Gen
39:10-12). Rather they presume that they have outgrown the silly temptations
of the flesh. Excusing themselves on little things, they get sedated and seduced in course of time.
- Reversal of priorities is another reason. The leader deserts his prayer closet and
starts worshipping his work. The early habits of Quiet Time are forsaken because he has
become too busy. He goes on running and flying without refuelling (Isa 40:30,31). Bible
meditation now is mostly for hunting sermon outlines rather than self-overhauling. He therefore
becomes weak in his inner man. He does not spend enough time with his family either. And he
may have to travel alone for practical reasons (1 Cor 9:5). He then becomes an easy prey like
an exhausted deer to the devil when he offers alternatives for his emotional and physical
needs (1 Cor 7:5).
- Too many leaders are loners, by choice. When a leader thinks he is unique, he is
sure to fall. Peter is an example (Mt 26:33). Preachers and leaders are treading on
dangerous ground if they don't voluntarily submit themselves to accountability and subject to the
scrutiny of fellow-leaders and coworkers. No leader ever outgrows the need for fellowship.
Hesitancy on the part of associates to check and correct the leader has led to the fall of many in
top positions. "A stitch in time saves nine!"
- Pride goes before a fall (2 Chron 26:14-16). In his sin confession, David said,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (Psa 51:17). God resists or opposes the proud, but
gives grace to the humble. A leader, who is not gentle and meek while dealing with someone
taken in a fault, earns God's displeasure and becomes vulnerable to a similar temptation (Gal 6:1).
The people of God should intercede with tears for leaders who have fallen. God can
them again, even more than before (Rom 14:4; Judg 16:30). Broadcasting their sins
gives advantage only to the devil. Though Saul was a backslidden leader when he died, David
said, "How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcision triumph"
(2 Sam 1:17-20).
13. Why do God's servants die before time?
The untimely death of God's servants is one of the hardest things to explain. I
shall however attempt here to list out some possible reasons. This is for our own admonition
and not for judging the dead.
- The days are evil. Today is worse than yesterday, and tomorrow will be worse
than today. When God desires any of His servants to escape the evil that floods the earth, He
may call him Home. "Devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous
are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find
rest as they lie in death" (Isa 57:1,2). The death of saints is precious in the sight of the Lord
(Psa 116:15). To be with Christ is "far better" (Phil 1:23).
- Life is not to be measured by its duration but its donation. Not how long one lived
but how he lived is what matters before God. If a servant of God finishes on earth whatever
God has planned for him, He may decide to take him away. "When David had served
God's purpose in His own generation, he fell asleep" (Acts 13:36). John the Baptist died in his
early thirties when his part in God's programme was over. What was the need for just the
"voice" to linger on after the actual "Word" had come? Jesus died before He could visit India
or celebrate His fortieth birthday, because He finished His work before He was thirtyfour
There can be some negative reasons also
- If a minister of the gospel deviates from his calling or sound doctrine, God will
admonish him directly, or through the fellow workers or other leaders. But if he is not ready to
correct himself and if God thinks that by living longer the preacher might undo the good he
had done and actually hinder the furtherance of the Kingdom, He may ring His calling
bell. Because, God alone knows the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10). God is quite serious
when His men in crucial positions disobey Him (1 Ki 13).
- Our God is a jealous God and a consuming fire (Dt 4:24). He has repeatedly
declared, "My glory I will not give to another" (Isa 42:8). God is angry when a preacher exalts
himself, or lets the people heroworship him. Preachers should do all that's possible to escape
garlands (Acts 14:13-15). If God struck a secular orator for not giving the glory to Him, how
strict would He be with gospel preachers? (Acts 12:21-23).
- Another important truth God wants us to learn is that no one is indispensable to
Him. Perhaps there cannot be another mighty leader like Moses, but God will have His
Joshuas ready to take over (Dt 34:9; Josh 1:2). Ministers may come and go, but "Of the increase
of His government there will be no end!" (Isa 9:7).
- Several ministers of the gospel spoil their health by overwork and
overcommitment. Irregular meals, inadequate sleep, insufficient rest, etc, have shortened their lives.
Even God rested one full day after six days of work!
As much as the people expect preachers to pray for them, they should also pray
regularly for the safety, protection, health and long life of the preachers. The labourers are
14. What about those who die unevangelised?
If Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven and there is no salvation without Him, what
is the destiny of those who die before they hear about
Him? (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12). This age-old question perplexes both Christians and
non-Christians alike. Various answers have been put forth, but none seems to be totally satisfactory. God has perhaps purposely withheld
a direct and explicit answer to this mindboggling question in His Scriptures because it is
not absolutely necessary for us humans to know it. However, an overall understanding of
the subject will be helpful especially for those involved in reaching the
non-Christians with the gospel.
God is a Saviour and because of His very nature He does not desire anyone to be lost.
He desires "all" men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3,4). He is
not willing that any should perish but that "all" should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
Foretelling His crucifixion Jesus said that He would draw "all" peoples to Himself when He would
be lifted up (Jn 12:32). He shed His blood not for a selected few but for the sins of the
"whole" world (1 Jn 2:2). It is God's grace that brings salvation and it has appeared to "all" men
(Tit 2:11). God is the Saviour of "all" men, not only those who have believed (1 Tim 4:10).
The Scripture texts quoted above assuredly tell us that God loves all men and
women equally. He plays no favoritism. If a person has not heard the Gospel, it is not his fault. It
is the failure of the Church. Even before Cornelius became a Christian, his prayers had
been heard and alms remembered in the sight of God. Apostle Peter, though he had been
biased by his exclusive Jewishness, testified, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him"
Man will be judged only according to the light he has received. God is a
righteous Judge (Gen 18:25; 2 Tim 4:8). Those who have sinned without the Law will also perish without
the Law, and those who have sinned in the Law will be judged by the Law (Rom 2:11,12).
So with the Gospel. Judgment for those who have never heard the Gospel will not be
the same as for those who have rejected it. "To whom much is given, from him much will
be required" (Lk 12:48).
Even though God has revealed Himself fully in the Person of Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-3),
He has also other means of revelation of His grace and goodness. One is nature and the other is man's conscience. Here are a few key texts: "God did not leave Himself without witness,
in that He did good, gave us rain from heavens and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with
food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). "The heavens declare the glory of God... There is no speech
nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psa 19:1-4; Rom 10:18). "Gentiles who do not
have the Law... show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also
bearing witness" (Rom 2:14,15).
Some suggest that those who die without hearing the gospel will get a chance to hear it
in the spirit world. Such an interpretation of the text of 1 Peter 3:19 quoted to support this
view is not consistent with the general teaching of the Bible that "it is appointed for men to
die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). It is not right to use an obscure passage
to establish a doctrine.
The destiny of the unevangelised is too high a subject for our finite minds distorted
by fallen nature. God's thoughts and ways are as higher than ours as the heavens are above
the earth (Isa 55:8,9). Instead of arguing over what is not clearly stated in the Bible, let
us accelerate our efforts of reaching the unreached with the Gospel. Those who die
without hearing the Gospel enormously outnumber those who die after hearing it. How shall
anyone believe in Christ of whom he has not heard? (Rom 10:14). How shall "we" the
believers escape if we neglectto proclaimso great a
salvation? (Heb 2:3). The delay in the Return of Christ is mainly to give "us" the believers more time to proclaim the Gospel (2 Pet 3:9). It
is late, but not too late.
In the parable of the lost sheep, one sheep was lost but ninetynine were safe. The
condition today is that ninetynine are outside the fold. Let's not rest until we find them and bring
them in. Let's do our best and leave the rest into the hands of God. This generation of
Christians is responsible for this generation of non-Christians.