The Last Days
By GITUMA M’IKIARA
These are the last days. A short glimpse at the headlines will confirm this. As the church, this is the time we should be most sensitive, not only to the happenings, but even more seriously to our preparedness to respond to the same.
I am convinced that at this time one of the things we should be on the lookout for is that activity or conduct that will give the devil leverage in our lives. The Bible says that we are not unaware of the devil’s tactics. Yet he always seems to find a soft spot to lead us astray. Why?
I want to share one thing I feel God wants us to open our eyes wide to especially in view of the times we are living in. I believe demonic activity will increase. In fact that is the reason the times are called perilous. I am also sure that God’s people will need to be more receptive to God’s leading to be able to respond to the pressure the world and the devil is focusing on us.
One clear thing that I know will unwittingly give the devil a lot of leeway is the church structure. In fact, that is one thing any student of church history will recognize as a catalyst in the decline of the church. Control is one thing everyone craves. That’s why politicians kill, lie and break as many commandments as possible to get it. That’s why even some practicing Christians will visit witchdoctors to get the best from both worlds. That is why people will even throw away their morals for a promotion.
Desire for control is human. A church leadership in control could be very dangerous to the course of Christ. This is not to say that Christian leadership is bad, it is just to say that church growth is under the Holy Spirit, Who like wind goes where it wills (Jn.3:8). I believe the church grows most when the growth is spontaneous, where the most visible action of the church is to train, equip and release ministers, leaving the results to God – and God does things only He can do, baffling even those with great expectation and faith. Growth denotes life; structures sometimes quicken death.
A church leadership in control is very easy to infiltrate, either by compromising the leadership or tripping even one key leader. In fact that is how many churches become cultic, if not become actual cults. And I am sure this may be the key strategy of the enemy to wreck the church from within before the Antichrist is unleashed on the world. That is the easiest way for corruption to take root.
God raises champions; we desire superstars. God works with teams; we want performers. God is no respecter of persons; we want to categorize all in classes. God values humility; we crave supremacy. History is His Story; we want our prominence in it. God’s altar requires natural uncut stones; we want monuments that will show our magnificence and creativity. And that’s human nature. The problem is that these are the very things the devil will fuel to sabotage the course of Christ. Since desire to be in charge is in our makeup, we won’t think it is something we should deal with, we might not even notice it – and that is the devil’s ultimate strategy. What is the difference between coveting, greed and ambition? One can easily be used to cover up the rest.
In places where the church is most vibrant, it is very difficult for the outsider to know who the leaders are. These are normally the places experiencing persecution. It is too risky to stand out as a leader outside the church since it will endanger your life and the people you lead. The church also can’t expose its leadership to the world for the same reason. Another key strategy in those areas is that a leader is always disposable – sorry to use such a word. But due to the dangers the churches are experiencing, a leader will always be discipling and mentoring a few others since they know that their days may be numbered. Else they will be caught off-guard.
This might be a foretaste of the tribulation, only that what is happening there, though it appears tough, is like child’s play compared to the tribulation. What about the rapture? You may ask. I don’t think it really matters. Whether the rapture occurs before or after the tribulation is not the main thing. Jesus equated interpretations to straining at a gnat (mosquito) but swallowing a camel. In any case, whether I will be there or not, I am sure there will be people in the tribulation period and I think it will be very selfish not to prepare whoever might remain.
An unrecognized leadership will continue ministering long after all the church buildings are closed and all the known leaders compromised or incapacitated. This is what makes the church in China and Indonesia a threat to the powers that be. This is why the church in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was key to the collapse of communism. This was because it was different to what the church is now known for – having a form of godliness but denying its power – especially the power to transform us to be more like Christ. The church is the leaven or salt, whose power does not lie in its visibility but by its effect. Its power lies in the fact that it is a living being, yet one that can’t be grasped. It is a leadership that responds to God’s call and will sacrifice for that instead of feeding off it. No titles are necessary, only the functions matter. And I’m sure this is what the church desperately needs even now. But I don’t expect this to be a very popular message since much of the church leadership is totally in control and would rather wish away the threats to the church instead of willingly dethroning themselves and enthroning Christ. Not in words but lifestyle.
Jesus commanded that we make disciples of all nations. He showed us how to do it first. Since it took 3 ½ years for God in the flesh to prepare the 12, one who failed and another who died shortly after Pentecost, what makes us think that there are shortcuts to this? He spent most; I actually think all this time with them. He ate, slept, taught and fought with them by His side. Aren’t we deluded to think that we can make disciples in 3 months, and that’s when we have an hour weekly with them? In the recent past I have walked out of seminars and lectures that offered 7 easy lessons to discover your full potential, 35 days to become the leader God meant you to be, the Bible Study that will take you to your calling in 10 easy lessons, and several such. I have opted out of evangelism seminars that present The Strategy to win the lost in 25 short minutes with an almost nil chance of failure. Or the strategy that will let your church become ___in ___. Why do this? It is because after I go through the curriculum, I find them as mere short cuts to disciple making and Christian growth, which I am convinced have no shortcut. Evangelism also has no shortcut. I am not saying that one can’t grow in 3 weeks. But no one can mature in that time. What I mean to say is that discipleship is essentially life on life. Only one life can impact another adequately for it to be called discipleship. Lessons make students; only life interaction can make disciples. That is why the Bible says leaders must have been Christians for long and then they need to have been tested. This does not nullify the Spirit’s transformational power. In fact that is the main reason for time. David was anointed as probably at 11, yet he actually started reigning at 30. Lk. 2:52 says Jesus grew. Paul had so much fire when he met Christ, yet he needed Ananias and Barnabas to grow with him. Apollos was mighty in the scriptures, yet he needed Aquila and Priscilla to guide him more accurately.
That is the strategy I see in the Scriptures. Even in church history, leaders can be traced to their mentors. No one attended lectures to become an evangelist. He joined a Christian leader and grew as he was exposed to the ministry until God called him to be an evangelist. I am not despising classes and seminars. I still attend them. I just want to state that I am what I am more from the people who spent time to disciple and mentor me than from the lessons I have attended – and they are many. I will also say the same about the people I have discipled. I believe life begets life. Lessons produce professors. Lessons should help polish who I am, they don’t make me. By the way that’s the way it is in the spiritual order all over. Look at witches, sheikhs, priests and all the rest. That’s why there are monasteries – for focused life-impacted instruction. That was the same with the schools of prophets in the Old Testament.
I am wary of anything called The Strategy for church growth. One reason is that it is too exclusive and elitist. I think the only strategy that fits that is discipleship – because that is what Christ ordered. I desire a church that will strategize to make discipleship more relevant to our generation and as closest to Christ’s model as practically possible. Then lets release those we disciple by supporting them to go and do the same thing where God sends them. And leave the results to God!
I want to highlight the dangers of a church leadership needing control with respect to releasing the called. Looking at many, especially big churches, we find a large disparity and no desire to bridge it. That is people with resources and people who are available. So many people are sold out to God yet so little is being done because a leadership in control does not want to connect the available to the resourced. Therefore the few who have a little of both are burnt out because the need is so great and they are so few. Yet there are so many people who are trained and called and are rearing to go, but they must have resources otherwise they will soon be worn out because they don’t have the resources to minister as much as their calling demands. The other group that is also frustrated is those who have the resources but have no time to minister. Their cry is for someone available for the ministry in their heart. And I believe that is the way God means it. Otherwise why are we the body of Christ?
I think the first problem is that we fear connecting the available to the resourced will reduce all the gifts we enjoy. It’s a real fear because many leaders are spiritual brokers rather than parents. And it is the brokerage that pays my bills. Experience is the greatest obstacle to the growth of faith especially when God wants to do a new thing with us, which is always. Therefore I will always want to be the channel so that I can get my portion instead of making the actual connection that puts me out of the picture and God in.
If we were humble enough to admit that we can only do so much, yet we have the potential in partnership to accomplish a million times more, we could easily and completely evangelize the world in a matter of months. But such partnership demands that I descend from my throne and bow to Christ and treat all others as partners on an equal footing. It means letting go of my security and finding it in other members of The Body. It means trusting God enough to give what I have to one called to do what I value.
What about those we fear will let us down? Jesus stayed with Judas for 3 ½ years yet he knew he would betray Him. He made him the accountant yet He knew he was a thief. Let’s do our part and leave the rest to God. In any case He said that the wheat and tares would remain together until He comes back. I think I would rather risk by doing the right thing than refusing to venture by fearing a wrong result. Let’s also consider most of the people God has used over time. In any case I am sure that you are like me, you have also let God down some time and He still uses you. Let us support those we know have the call of God, irrespective of whether they will agree with our interpretations.
Decision-making is another very dangerous aspect of a church leadership in control. This is because I fear that someone may shortcut my vision. Yet who actually owns the vision? This needs me to be surrounded by as many yes-people as possible to guard against the enemy (who is my brother who may be closer to God than I am) who has a different opinion from mine. I will also make meetings yes-forums due to the same fear. I will also categorize the church into those for or against me. I will require a show of allegiance before I admit anyone into my circle. This will of course limit involvement of most but those who worship me, or those who can convince me that they do so. Of course our collective impact as a church will plummet. I will also seek to show my enemies who I am. Now this is where infiltration thrives. The devil will then use me to frustrate those who are God’s precious servants because they will not be getting marching orders from me. Of course I will be thinking that those people and ministries I am killing are the enemies of Christ. Jesus said as much in Matthew 24. Do you realize that when people talk of a bad or corrupt leader, they will always blame those around him? That’s the principle of infiltration. To blind me from hearing from God, the infiltrators will fill the void I will feel when I am not walking with God satisfactorily. They will surround me with comfort and an external show that things couldn’t be any better, flattery playing the greater part. Of course they will first have shielded me from people who will not be scared to confront me. Eventually I will be just a shell of my former self spiritually, questioning anyone who can hear from God, asking like Zedekiah asked Micaiah ‘when did the Spirit of the Lord leave me to speak to you?’ by then I will have become paranoid like king Saul and will start open persecution of all such. Remember Diotrephes in 3 John? That’s the shield of the infiltrators.
I pray that leadership in the church of Christ in this generation will stand up to be counted. I believe many churches are already infiltrated or are in the process of the same. The sad fact is that none of them will even want to consider that possibility. When I look at my life, I like looking at 1 Cor. 10:12 – let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall. It is when we feel most stable that we may experience the greatest fall. I am prone to infiltration, especially when it appears that things are going on very well.
I write this as a leader and I am sure this relates to me as much as to you. I just meant to give us the wake up call I received from God praying that it will challenge you as it did me. I am nowadays seeing a lot of scripture fulfillment in the news and am sure this means that any day might be it.
Like Jesus said, we should live like children of the light. Let as remain awake an alert to all that is happening. By the way I don’t mean we release and support anyone who is zealous. We are commanded to guard the doctrine. We should also make sure their character is consistent with their profession. Jesus said that we would produce what we are, that we shall know them by their fruit. Let’s know where they come from before following their passion. Time and a lot of prayer is what should guide us to release all these people available for ministry. In fact I am convinced they are the ones who will take the Gospel not only to the unreached people groups, but also to the forbidden frontiers.
Gituma M’Ikiara is the Founder and Chairman of Restore Hope Ministries, an Empowerment Ministry targeting the disadvantaged (refugees, orphans, widows, etc.) He is also the author and publisher of ‘Perspectives, whose perspective runs your life’, a Christian book. He is in the Encouragement Ministry at Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, Kenya. He can be reached through 0722 220147 / firstname.lastname@example.org