The Extraordinary Significance of the Royal Priesthood of Believers

The apostle Peter makes a somewhat shocking declaration about the Christian life in the second chapter of his first epistle. Well, actually, he makes several fascinating declarations, but for now, we’ll mainly focus on one. With all its implications, contemporary Christians largely ignore this doctrine. The current religious atmosphere of flagrant biblical illiteracy probably explains why most Christians have barely noticed Peter’s inspired proclamations. Yet, the practical applications of this doctrine touch every area of daily Christian life. That little tirade aside, if you’re reading this, you aren’t the average person. Just knowing that you clicked on an article titled The Extraordinary Significance of the Royal Priesthood of Believers, which is like an anti-click-bait title, tells me that. So, thank you for reading and for caring about the things of God.

A Few Pertinent Introductions

Before plunging in, remember that the book of 1 Peter is a treatise on holiness. The apostle called Christians to “sanctify Christ as Lord” in their hearts so that believers might live and act as Jesus desires during their short time here on earth (1 Peter 3:14-18). Peter lived alongside Jesus for nearly three years, and during that time, he witnessed the perfect standard of holiness that we should aspire to achieve. But understanding the apostle’s inspired epistles takes a little studying, primarily because of his mixing and matching of metaphorical certitudes. Let’s take a closer look at that for a moment.

The Mixing of Metaphorical Certitudes

If I were to say, “You’re fast like a ninja.” That would be a simile. I don’t know any ninjas, and you’re probably not a ninja. I’m just comparing your hypothetical nimble footedness to that of an actual ninja. Technically, an accurate metaphor declares one thing to be another. It might not be literally accurate, but it is accurately literal. For example, you might describe someone as being “tender-hearted.” Their heart, hopefully, isn’t tender, but in a sense, their metaphorical heart is undoubtedly tender. You might think I’m just playing a bunch of word games, but understanding how the inspired authors used metaphors is vital for a serious student of Scripture. The Old and New Testaments are brimming with the mixing of metaphorical certitudes.

So, when the apostle declared Jesus to be the head of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), He did not mean that Jesus was like a High Priest but instead that He was the High Priest. Although Jesus was not a Levite nor an officer in the sacrificial altars at Jerusalem, He is literally our final High Priest. From Christ’s resurrection until now, there has never been another legitimate High Priest besides Jesus. Of course, many powerful revelations are attached to Jesus because He was simultaneously the sacrifice and the High Priest (1 Peter 1:18-20). How could that be? Well, He sacrificed Himself as the only unblemished human sacrifice that ever was or could be. He was the sacrificer (High Priest) and the sacrificee (unspotted lamb). The Creator became created so He could save us.

A Lot of Mixing & Matching

We’re almost ready to reveal Peter’s shocking revelation about the Christian life with all its various nuances and truths. But first, I’d like to acknowledge the significant metaphorical mixing and matching that Peter weaves throughout 1 Peter 2:4-9. He refers to Jesus as the “head cornerstone,” to us as “living stones,” and together we comprise the spiritual house of God or temple (1 Peter 2:8). If you’re counting those mixed metaphors, Jesus is High Priest, sacrifice, and the head cornerstone of the Church. You, I, and every other true Christian who was and is and is to come are living stones built upon and around Christ. That’s five mixed metaphors right there.

The revelation that Christians are living, breathing temples of the Holy Ghost is not unfamiliar in Apostolic circles. Remember, Peter emphasized holiness. Therefore, the implications of conducting ourselves as sacred temples, living vessels, or walking containers of the Shekinah glory of God are staggering. Historically, Pentecostals have instinctively understood that if we are God’s temples, we must carefully guard against defiling our bodies inwardly and outwardly. How hurtful it must be to God when we use our bodies, sanctified for His holy presence, in sinful ways. When sin overtakes a Spirit-filled believer, it is no less devastating to God than when the Babylonians desecrated the temple in Jerusalem centuries ago. However, Peter further stirred the pot by saying believers are “a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5). Later, in 1 Peter 2:9, he called believers “a royal priesthood.” Therefore, Christians are metaphorically and absolutely a holy royal priesthood of believers.

A Royal Priesthood of Believers

By the way, that was the big shocking revelation! In a metaphorically literal sense, you and I are (assuming we’re saved) priests. If that doesn’t shock you, it’s probably because you don’t understand all the responsibilities of membership in a royal priesthood of believers. Peter was conveying the great privilege of our priestly duties while also suggesting the seriousness it entails. Jesus is the head cornerstone and the High Priest; we are temples and priests. Therefore, Jesus is below us as our foundation, and He is above us as our High Priest. He supports us from below, inspires us from above, and empowers us from within.

Similarities Between Old and New Testament Priests

It should go without saying that Peter was a Jew. Jesus, too, was a Jew. Their lives were immersed in the daily importance of the priesthood. One of the tremendous mental dilemmas facing modern Christianity is our slow divorce from our faith’s Jewish roots. Rather than conforming our understanding to the Jewish context of Scripture, we try to squeeze those Jewish contexts into our cultural comfort zones. Sometimes, this tendency causes only minor problems. But it often results in full-fledged gaping black holes of false doctrine. Or it leaves entire Scripture passages to be swept aside as irrelevant. Of course, there is an opposite error where people become obsessed with reverting to pre-Christ rituals and diluting the power of the cross. For example, and these topics can be explored deeply at another time, people who insist on keeping Old Testament dietary restrictions or demanding the Lord’s Day should be observed on Saturday rather than Sunday fall into that category. I’ve seen firsthand the devastating spiritual spirals resulting from those errors. However, I still maintain that our current Christian climate is in far more danger of completely divorcing itself from vitally important Jewish roots. Most people have almost no concept of what Peter meant when he called New Testament believers a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5) and a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). We’re going to unpack exactly what that means moving forward. To do so, we will examine several astonishing characteristics shared between the Old Testament and New Testament priesthood. You’ll see that it’s virtually impossible to understand our duties as New Testament priests without an understanding of the Old Testament priesthood. Even though many of these truths might seem strange to our contemporary sensibilities, every early Jewish and Gentile saint understood these inferences instantaneously.

Must Be Born into Priestly Privilege

In the Old Testament, the priesthood had no licensing process. It wasn’t an open position that could be filled by anyone interested. God instituted the priesthood, giving Moses strict instructions that only Aaron and his ancestry could obtain the priestly office (Numbers 3:10). Because Aaron was a Levite, only the Levite lineage could participate in the privileged roles of the priesthood. God was serious about this rule. He said, “Anyone daring to assume priestly duties or privileges who is not of the house of Aaron and called of God who even comes near the holy things must be put to death” (Numbers 3:10). Old Testament priests were born into service. They were birthed into ministry and privilege. Like it or not. Fair or not. That was God’s command.

Likewise, Christians must be born into priestly privileges. There’s no shortcut around that requirement. Members of the royal priesthood of believers, which comprises the Church of God, are born into service. Otherwise, God considers you a stranger, an outsider, unworthy of handling holy things. Fortunately, your physical DNA has nothing to do with the birthing process. There isn’t a single human besides Jesus whose bloodline is pure enough to enter the New Testament priesthood. The new era of priests operates on a spiritual level unavailable to the ancient ones. The royal priesthood of believers requires a bloodline untainted by the fallen blood of Adam. Therefore, it would be humanly impossible for anyone to be accepted into the new order of priestly privilege. Unless, somehow, they could be born again.

That’s precisely what Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:1-31. Interestingly, Nicodemus didn’t specifically ask Jesus about salvation. Instead, he expressed a willingness to believe that Jesus was sent from God (John 3:2). Jesus responded to that openness with a more profound revelation for Nicodemus to consider. Jesus affirmed that He was the “son of man” or the Messiah (John 3:13), and as the Messiah, He alone held the key to inheriting eternal life. The first fifteen verses of John 3 can be viewed as a series of questions and answers. Let me paraphrase the first question: “Are you here to bring in the kingdom?” Jesus’ first answer is, “You will never see the kingdom without being born again.”

Nicodemus serves as a warning to us that religious training without spiritual insight is useless. Jesus wasted no time getting to the heart of the problem. He told the teacher he must be born again or from above (anothen), a word which appears again in John 3:7 and John 3:31.[i] Today, even thoroughly secular people are familiar with the phrase “born again.” Pop icons like Rihanna sing the term born again as a stand-in for the idea of starting over. Sadly, when secular culture adopts, or some might say, hijacks, sacred religious terms, they effectively cheapen their intended meanings. The actual words describe a garment torn from top to bottom. Discussing the kingdom is useless unless God changes our hearts from the inside out. All devout Jews connected the Messiah with the kingdom; Jesus drove to the heart of the matter immediately. But for Nicodemus, born again was an unfamiliar, paradigm-shifting term. To belong to the heavenly kingdom, one must be born into it just as one is born into this earthly kingdom.[ii]

How to Be Born Again

While the people, timing, surroundings, and circumstances of a baby’s birth might be unique, indubitably, the birth process is the same for everyone. Correspondingly (and Jesus drove this point home several times), there’s only one spiritual birth process. Anyone can claim to be born again, but that doesn’t mean they’ve genuinely undergone a supernatural rebirth. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus described a category of believers who will not be saved even though they do incredible things in His name. They claim the family name but have not been born into it. And in a gut-wrenching crescendo, Jesus declared: I will profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:23).

So, the overwhelming, all-consuming, life-altering, eternity-defining question every human should obsess over is, “How can I be born again.” Finding the answer to that question is the most impactful thing you and I, or anyone else, will ever do. That’s why my brain can’t compute why so many people invest such small amounts of thought, time, and energy into this question. I mean, you need to be sure. Really, sure. But oddly, some folks spend more time studying Pinterest boards than the Bible. Ok. Alright. I digress.

Jesus was prophetically cryptic and intentionally vague with Nicodemus about the “how” aspect of being born again. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In this statement, Jesus echoed the ancient prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isaiah 44:3-4, Ezekiel 36:25-27), reinforced the recent prophecy of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11), and pointed forward to Peter’s seminal sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Keep in mind that Nicodemus was a religious leader, well versed in Scripture, and supposedly filled with spiritual insights. The text reads as if Jesus was mildly annoyed at Nicodemus’ lack of spiritual awareness. Because of that, Jesus spoke enigmatically to the doubting Pharisee. However, that doesn’t mean He wasn’t unmistakably clear to us, who benefit from hindsight.  

In John 3:8, Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with every person who is born from the Spirit.” The Greek word pneuma means “wind” and “spirit” interchangeably. I’ve read countless weak interpretations of what Jesus meant by that. Unsatisfying explanations that ignore the context of the New Birth. Clearly, Jesus was speaking precisely of the outpouring of the Spirit, which would occur on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Not only is this evidenced by the “sound of a mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:2) but also by the fact that they were all “filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

I’ve written several times about how to be saved (here, here, and here). However, I’ve not addressed it meaningfully from the context of the New Birth. There’s a fair bit of bickering over how many “steps” are contained in the New Birth process or the plan of salvation. I usually describe the New Birth as a three-step process for illustration purposes mainly because that is in keeping with the Apostle Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:38: Repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Furthermore, it coincides spiritually with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Repentance is the death, baptism is the burial, and the infilling of the Spirit is the resurrection.

While all that is true, sometimes people are troubled that Jesus only mentioned two steps in John 3: Water and Spirit baptism. Let me tackle that briefly. First, the discourse with Nicodemus was intended to be understood after a period of time. The promise was still coming, and Jesus often used types and shadows in His teachings. Secondly, considering the New Birth in terms of steps is optional as long as the requirements are completed. For example, when Jesus spoke of water and Spirit baptism, He lumped repentance and water baptism into one category (water baptism). Technically speaking, you can’t have one of those things without the other. Just as the process of a physical birth might be categorized academically in a few different ways (labor, delivery, recovery, etc.), as long as the requirements are fulfilled and a baby is born, all is well.

Must Be Ordained into the Priesthood

Another fascinating shared characteristic between the Old Testament and our new priesthood is the role of ordination. God set apart the ancient priests and consecrated them for sacred service (Exodus 19:6, Exodus 28:1). In John 15:16, Jesus said, “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go forth and bring forth fruit.” I suspect most folks are a little hazy when defining what it means to be ordained. We know that preachers can be “ordained.” But even at that, most aren’t sure exactly what that means. Most modern Bibles translate the word ordained as “appointed.” Which is almost just as confusing. What does it mean that God ordains us?

To gain understanding, we have to dig into the origins and framework of the word ordained. The word translated “ordained” in John 15:16 is the Greek word tithēmi. Depending on the context, it has a wide range of possible meanings and applications. In its broadest application, tithēmi means literally and figuratively to place in a passive or horizontal posture, and thus different from others.[iii] That’s how we get various uses of tithēmi: Set apart, consecrated, appointed, established, fixed, ordained, or placed. Therefore, these gradients of the word ordained begin connecting the Old Testament idea of priestly appointment with our new believer-priesthood paradigm. Ordination is God setting us apart to be a holy people and sanctifying us so that we can be used in His service. God is making us holy and calling us to walk in that holiness. That was the hallmark of the Old Testament priesthood. It is ours today as well (Exodus 19:6, Exodus 28:38, Exodus 30:28-30, Leviticus 11:45, Leviticus 20:7, Leviticus 20:26, Romans 12:1, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 9:13, Ephesians 5:27, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 Peter 2:5-9, 2 Peter 3:11). There’s a significant symbolism in the idea that by being laid prostrate before God we gain God’s approval. But it’s deeper than the physical act of lying prostrate before God. Although that is good and right, our complete inward submission to God’s will and authority over us pleases the Lord.

There is one more layer to the idea of being ordained by God. An ordained individual is someone sent forth as an authorized representative accountable to the sender. Therefore, New Testament believers are appointed and sent forth by Christ on a specified mission and with His authority.[iv] Similarly, the ancient priesthood was an authorized representative of God and was held strictly accountable to God. It should be intensely humbling to realize we represent the work of God to the surrounding world. Apostolic believers are authorized representatives of Jesus in this present world. With that extraordinary privilege comes the breathtaking reality that we are accountable to God and are specifically ordained to bring forth lasting fruit (John 15:16).

Must Be Anointed for the Priesthood

Old Testament priests were externally anointed for service with blood and oil (Leviticus 8:12-30). New Testament priest-believers are internally anointed with the blood of Jesus and the oil of the Holy Ghost (1 John 2:27). While the anointing was upon ancient priests, it dwells within the new priesthood. While ordination provides authorization, anointing provides empowerment that accompanies that God-given authority. To use an imperfect analogy, ordination is the badge, and anointing is the gun. To give authority without the power to use it would be silly and cruel. That’s why God has enabled and equipped His priests with Apostolic authority to operate in the realm of the Spirit. The oil of anointing covers our frailties, strengthens our weaknesses, enhances our abilities, and breaks yokes (Luke 4:18). Operating without anointing is like going to war without weapons, flying without wings, or singing without sound. It’s dangerous and ridiculous.

Must Be Cleansed for the Priesthood

There’s a reason the priestly anointing ceremony required oil and blood. As mentioned, the oil represented God’s empowering presence, but the blood represented the ceremonial cleansing of the priest’s sins. A bullock was sacrificed, its blood placed upon the altar’s horns and poured into the bottom of the altar for reconciliation between the priests and God (Leviticus 8:14-15). This should serve as a reminder that the closer a person gets to the presence of God, the more they are required to be cleansed of offending impurities. God did the cleansing. However, the priest was then required to walk worthy of that cleansing.

Contrary to most pop theology today, the New Testament requires the same cleansing and commitment from believer-priests. The blood of Jesus doesn’t give anyone a license to sin. You might say, “Well, grace covers my sin.” But consider what the Scripture says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). So, in that sense, we are saved by grace because it was the grace of God that made salvation possible in the first place. But the passage doesn’t end there. It describes the role of grace in a believer’s life: Grace teaches us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). Now it becomes apparent that the role of grace is that of a teacher or an instructor. It leads and guides us into righteousness and proper conduct before our savior. Titus 2:13 continues, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ.” We should maintain a posture of anticipation as we wait for Jesus to return for His Church. Finally, Titus 2:14 brings all these thoughts together: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Do you see? God does the initial cleansing, the preliminary purification, pulling us out of this world and making us a peculiar priesthood, and we then must walk in that glorious privilege.

Must be Appropriately Clothed for the Priesthood

God’s ancient priests were given a very distinctive dress code (Exodus 28:1-43). They were carefully clothed for service. God commanded Moses to make “holy garments” for the priests (Exodus 28:2). Their unique clothing set them apart, made them easily distinguishable from non-priests, and had practical applications. It also kept them appropriately modest, contained typological spiritual meanings, and served as a physical reminder to the priesthood of the sacredness of their duties. God called those garments “glorious” and “beautiful” (Exodus 28:2). Unquestionably, the symbolic aspects of the priestly garments are no longer necessary now that Christ has fulfilled prophesy. However, a timeless moral part of their attire remains in effect today: Modesty.

Modesty matters to God, and therefore, it should matter to us. We see God’s emphasis on modesty due to sin way back in Edan (Genesis 3:21). Modesty permeates the Old Testament, deeply embedded itself into Israelite culture, and was inculcated into the priesthood. Contrary to popular opinion, the moral principles of modesty didn’t die out in the New Testament. Peter understood that perfectly when he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, referred to believers as a “priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5-9). The nuances and implications of priestly modesty weren’t lost on the apostle. Consider this command to the priesthood in Exodus 28:42: And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach. For the priest, however, it was essential that his “nakedness” not be exposed, particularly when ministering before the people. Carelessness about how priests presented themselves to God would be tantamount to blasphemy.[v] For this reason, God insisted that priestly garments include “breeches” made of linen and covering the thighs for reasons of modesty.[vi]

God Defines Nakedness

To understand this better, let’s consider the biblical meaning of the word “nakedness.” In modern contexts, naked means to be completely undressed, totally exposed, and without any covering. Unlike contemporary English usage, nakedness in the Bible can refer to a range of undress from total nudity to being inadequately clothed (Job 22:6, Ezekiel 18:7, Matthew 25:36, 2 Corinthians 11:27). Even the more literal uses of the Hebrew and Greek terms for nakedness are loaded with figurative and symbolic meanings and allusions.[vii] The biblical images evoked by the word naked are many and varied. They include, among other things, original innocence, defenselessness and vulnerability, exposure and helplessness, humiliation and shame, guilt and judgment, and sexual impropriety and exploitation. Each of these nuances needs to be carefully identified in each scriptural context, although there may be some degrees of overlap.[viii]

So, for thousands of years, the Jews and most civilized Christian cultures, until recent decades, defined nudity as anything above the knee. Why? Mainly because that’s precisely how God explained it in Exodus 28:42. This modesty commandment was so vital that God threatened death as punishment if it were to be ignored (Exodus 28:43). Three more words from Exodus 28:42 need expounding on to understand God’s definition of modesty. First is the word “breeches,” from which the English word “britches” is derived. They were garments extending from the waist to or just below the knee or ankle, covering each leg separately. In many ways, they resembled modern trousers or pants.[ix] The word breeches itself contains a root word that means to “hide” or “cover-up.” [x] Second is the word “loins,” which would have already been covered by the priestly robe and tunic. It’s the Hebrew word moṯnayim, meaning waist or lower back.[xi] It refers to the area where you would comfortably wear a belt. And finally, the word “thighs” is crucial in this context. This is the specific area God commands to be covered or hidden from public view. It’s the Hebrew word yarekh, which refers to the portion of the leg from the knee to the hip.[xii]

The text makes the Hebraic assumption that the reader already realizes the necessity of keeping the hips covered for the sake of modesty. Therefore, the relevant lesson for the priesthood and us is that God considers showing anything above the knee to be nakedness and unholy. Furthermore, it should be noted that this standard of modesty was already understood and practiced in Israelite culture. God was dealing with exigent circumstances where nakedness might unintentionally or accidentally be displayed while performing a task, which adds even more gravitas to this standard of modesty because if God cares that much about accidental immodesty, imagine how He must feel about intentional immodesty. Of course, Exodus 28:42 isn’t the only place God defines the exposed thigh as shameful nakedness. God compared Babylon’s downfall to a woman’s shame in having her nakedness exposed when she bares her leg and uncovers her thigh (Isaiah 47:1–3).[xiii] The bottom line is that God gets to define what nakedness (or nudity) is and what it is not. Culture, especially sinful culture, has no authority to determine what is or isn’t modest for called-out believers.

The Morality and Righteousness of Modesty

Tucked away among the Songs of Ascent is Psalm 132:9: Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. The priests who served in the presence of the Lord were His instruments for dispensing righteousness. Righteousness here signifies more than a relationship with God or some abstract figurative illusion of inward purity. It’s synonymous with salvation (2 Chronicles 6:41). The blessedness of God’s presence was represented by the priests “clothed” in their priestly garments, which resulted in great joy for the saints.[xiv] The outward garments of the priests were a visual representation of God’s moral character, royalty, and righteousness.[xv] To summarize, Old Testament priests were clothed for service in modesty and righteousness, with dignity and distinction, purpose and precision, and they were never to approach their sacred lifestyles casually. We, too, have a responsibility to represent righteousness in our clothing. Modesty is a moral imperative for the believer-priests.

Carnal Garments

Let’s approach this subject from another angle. Look at Jude 1:23: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. First, notice that we are to “hate even the garment spotted (or stained) by the flesh.” That’s interesting, and we certainly need to know what that means. Jude 1 deals with false teachers and doctrines that “crept in unawares” (Jude 1:4). These ungodly men turned the grace of God into “lasciviousness” (Jude 1:4). Somehow, they made the grace of God sensual or lustful.[xvi] Jude 1:7 mentions the hedonistic sexual sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the next verse, Jude called these false teachers filthy dreamers who defile their bodies with debauchery and wicked imaginations (Jude 1:8). Two more times, Jude mentioned their ungodly lusts and sensuality (Jude 1:18-19). He gave various ways to deal with these backslidden evil teachers (Jude 1:20-23). While closing, he gave the admonition to “hate even the garment (of these teachers) spotted by the flesh (or carnality).” Loath as I am to quote John Calvin, he defines “garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23) as “anything that in any way savors of sin or temptation.” [xvii] The flesh-stained garments in Jude 1:23 are both literal and figurative. Carnal, immodest, flesh-displaying garments are defiling, and Christians should hate those garments.

Fascinatingly, much of the language in Jude 1:23 is direct quotations from Zechariah 3:2-4.[xviii] In that instance, a High Priest was snatched from the fire, and an angel of the Lord exchanged his filthy clothes for a change of clean clothes.[xix] Once again, the imagery evoked in both passages is figurative and literal. When people are saved, they will change how they dress, not because of legalism but because motives, agendas, and behaviors change when the heart and mind are purified. When God changes us, it is a comprehensive inward and outward transformation. It’s worth noting, although I’ve yet to find a commentary that makes the correlation, the imagery of outer clothing being changed by God in Jude 1:23 and Zechariah 3:2-4 also connects hermeneutically back to Genesis 3:21, where God clothed Adam and Eve.

Defiled Garments

In the middle of admonishing the church in Sardis, Jesus mentioned a remnant of believers that had not “defiled their garments” (Revelation 3:4). He said, “And they shall walk with me in white for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). The city of Sardis was famous for its textile industry yet most of the church had defiled garments.[xx] This is significant in John’s vision. In the Roman world, persons were identified by their clothing. Only the emperor and the patrician class could wear togas with purple. The equestrian class could wear red, and so on. A person’s clothing manifested the person’s nature to the world, and in many ways, it still does. John seems to play upon this feature of his world. A Christian’s “garment” was the outward witness of their faithful discipleship.[xxi] In the pagan religions, it was forbidden to approach the gods in garments that were soiled or stained. Soiling seems to be a symbol for mingling with pagan life.[xxii] The few people in Sardis who had not soiled their clothes were those who had resisted the temptation to accommodate their lives to the heathen customs of their neighbors, which most certainly included the way they dressed.[xxiii] Of course, inwardly, that remnant of believers in Sardis remained undefiled, but the obvious reference to clothing isn’t purely symbolic. Godly people wear clothing that differentiates them from surrounding worldly, carnal, defiled, pagan cultures.

Keep Your Clothes On

It’s overly simplistic, but I like how the Easy-to-Read-Version (ERV) renders Revelation 16:15:

Listen! Like a thief, I will come at a time you don’t expect. Great blessings belong to those who stay awake and keep their clothes with them. They will not have to go without clothes and be ashamed for people to see them.

The King James says, “Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Revelation 16:15). Obviously, the primary notion here is that we are to always be ready for the Lord’s return. However, the subtext is that godly people must make modesty a priority.

Fundamentally, there are at least four essential elements of proper clothing for today’s priesthood of believers. One is modesty, as discussed above (1 Timothy 2:9). However, the remaining three are previously unmentioned concepts that deserve far more attention. Still, for now, they will receive only brief honorable mentions. The second essential element of godly clothing is the clear distinction of genders (Deuteronomy 22:5, Genesis 1:27). Men should dress like men and women like women. Thirdly, believers should avoid displays of vanity or pride in their adornment (1 Peter 3:3-5, 2 Kings 9:30). And fourthly, holiness demands a humility that rejects the wearing of gold and silver ornamentation, jewelry, piercings, and tattoos (1 Peter 33-5, Proverbs 7:10, Proverbs 33, 1 Timothy 2:9, Leviticus 19:28). These moral principles carry over from the Old Testament, find affirmation in the New Testament, and solidify the standard of holy attire for the new priesthood.

Priesthood is Held to Strict Standards of Obedience

Ancient priests were held to rigorous standards of obedience to God and the man of God (Moses, Joshua, etc.). They lived under the threat of death if they disobeyed the law intentionally or unintentionally (Leviticus 10:7). Of course, this was also true for people outside the priesthood. As the prophet Samuel rhetorically asked King Saul, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: Your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice” (1 Samuel 15:22)? Without waiting for an answer, Samuel said, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). New Testament priests are called to that same strict standard of obedience. Jesus affirmed this by saying, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31). All the spiritual sacrifices in the world will never be an acceptable substitute for simple obedience to God’s Word.

Messengers Calling the Lost to Repentance

Yet another shared characteristic of Old Testament and New Testament believer-priests is their mandate to be righteous messengers calling the lost to repentance. Malachi 2:5-7, New Living Translation, describes the ancient priesthood’s mandate:

The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin. The words of a priest’s lips should preserve the knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

When you read that alongside the Great Commission, the similarities become striking: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:19-20). I think many Christians have a default tendency to assume the Great Commission is mainly for pastors, missionaries, or evangelists. While it is undoubtedly for them, it is for all believers. Every member of the new priesthood of believers is mandated to be a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re called to minister to faltering believers while keeping ourselves free from sin (Galatians 6:1). Teaching, sharing, and studying the Word of God with believers and unbelievers should be an intricate part of our identity and daily lives. Helping new disciples learn, understand, and obey the commands of Jesus is our great privilege and responsibility. Absconding from this obligation is a betrayal of God’s sacred trust.

Access to God Through the Offering of Sacrifices

The ancient Israelite priests are best remembered for their sacrificial duties. Every day, they sacrificed animals that could not take away sins (Hebrews 11:1). It was a repetitive, exhausting, bloody job. Thankfully, Jesus was the final sacrificial offering for sin (Hebrews 10:10). Therefore, we no longer must bring animal sacrifices to God. However, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t require spiritual sacrifices from His new royal priesthood of believers. This brings us back full circle to our original text, where Peter referred to us as a “holy priesthood” that should “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Spiritual sacrifices are acts of worship necessary for those who live in the Spirit—these spiritual sacrifices, as opposed to ritualistic sacrifices of old, transpose worship to a higher key. Whereas the Jewish sacrificial system required the worshiper to offer an animal or produce at the temple, life in the Spirit requires the worshiper to offer themselves. For those who bring something to an altar, the act of worship ends when the offering is consumed; for those who present themselves, the sacrificial act is just the beginning. The Christian is a “living sacrifice,” meaning worship is transferred out of the temple and into the streets. In short, the degree of personal responsibility is heightened for the one who walks in the Spirit instead of according to the law.[xxiv] Therefore, contrary to hyper-grace teachings, New Testament believers, in a certain sense, have more significant holiness requirements than the ancient priesthood.

The Body as a Spiritual Sacrifice

Romans 12:1 makes this distinctive command, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” The words “present” and “sacrifice” the Apostle Paul used here are purposefully reminiscent of Old Testament language. Before a priest in Israel could minister on behalf of others, he was obliged to present himself in a consecrated condition, and the sacrifices he offered were to be without blemish (Malachi 1:8-13).[xxv] The sacrificial language of Romans 12:1 also reinforces an earlier contrast made in Romans 6:13 between those who serve God and those who serve sin. The appeal to “offer your bodies” reminds the reader of the earlier injunction in Romans 6:13: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin… but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.” The heightened responsibility of the Christian not only involves a life of worship that extends beyond particular times and places of sacrifice but also entails a personal commitment to determine how such a life is to be lived. In contrast to Judaism, where the law prescribes righteous conduct, Christianity requires a greater degree of personal discernment.[xxvi]

God doesn’t compel and coerce a believer into presenting his body. He doesn’t corral him and bridle him like a horse and force him to obey. He implores him. He wants an unbridled sacrifice.[xxvii] Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice represents a complete lifestyle change, involving both a negative and a positive aspect. Paul commanded, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Living according to the lifestyle of “the present evil Age” (Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 1:21) must now be put aside. Then Paul commanded, “But be transformed (literally, keep on being transformed) by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The Greek verb translated “transformed” (μεταμορφοῦσθε) is seen in the English word “metamorphosis,” a total change from inside out (2 Corinthians 3:18). The key to this change is the “mind” (νοός), the control center of one’s attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions (Ephesians 4:22-23). As one’s mind keeps being made new by the spiritual input of God’s Word, prayer, preaching, and Christian fellowship, one’s lifestyle keeps transforming.[xxviii]

Alexander Maclaren astutely observed that Romans 12:1-2 provides “an all-inclusive directory for the outward life.” [xxix] The ancient sacrifices gave a sweet-smelling odor, which, by a strong metaphor, was declared fragrant in God’s nostrils. In like manner, the Christian sacrifice is “acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). The keyword for the life of a Christian is sacrifice. That includes two things—self-surrender and surrender to God. Just like a priest needed to be consecrated before he could offer sacrifices, we, too, must be inwardly consecrated before offering outward sacrifices to God. The Apostle Paul didn’t make the mistake of substituting external for internal surrender, but he presupposes that the latter has preceded. He described the sequence more understandably in Romans 6:13: Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. So, first of all, we must be priests by our inward consecration, and then, since a priest must have something to offer, we must bring the outward life and lay it upon His altar.[xxx]

Christian obedience means imitating God in holiness (1 Peter 1:15).[xxxi] Our holiness is made possible through Christ, who made us holy through His blood (Hebrews 13:12). The Holy Spirit sanctified us by separating us from evil and dedicating us to God when He gave us new life and placed us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). But that is only one aspect of our sanctification. Paul prayed that God would sanctify us “through and through” or “completely” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). There’s also a continuing aspect of sanctification in which we must cooperate. We must, as we’ve been discussing, present ourselves to God (Romans 12:1-2), and by the Spirit, pursue that holiness (dedication, consecration in right relationships to God and man) because, without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). This is a holiness like the Lord’s, which the Holy Spirit helps us to achieve (1 Peter 1:15, 16).[xxxii] By the Spirit, we must keep putting to death the old life’s impulses and winning victories as we live for Jesus (Romans 8:1-14, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:12-13).

Recently, I read a quote from my friend, Reverend Coley Reese, “Learn to be a living sacrifice rather than an occasional offering.” [xxxiii] Doing that takes more than good intentions. It requires a complete lifestyle makeover. It’s often been quipped, “The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.” [xxxiv] That’s why holiness is a daily endeavor, a constant struggle, and incredibly vital. In his influential work What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit, Stanley M. Horton makes this remarkable statement:

The whole work of sanctification is the work of the Spirit, which receives by far the greatest attention in the New Testament. It takes precedence over witnessing, evangelism, giving, and every other form of Christian service. God wants us to be something, not just to do something. For only as we become like Jesus can what we do be effective and bring glory to Him.[xxxv]

As I’ve read and pondered dozens of books and commentaries on the command to “present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God,” I’ve been struck by a collective inclination to gloss over the obvious meanings in the text (Romans 12:1). For example, it goes without saying that presenting one’s body to God includes the whole person, inward and outward. The body consists of the thoughts, intellect, soul, desires, etc. However, while presenting the body includes those somewhat intangible things, it does not exclude the outer elements of the body itself. The commentary by John Phillips, which I often find helpful, is typical of the omission I’m referring to. He mentions how when believers present their bodies as living sacrifices, they are changed morally, mentally, and motivationally.[xxxvi] Yet not once does Phillips mention a practical way the outward man is presented as holy to God. Sadly, Phillips is not unique in his handling of external sanctification.

Considering everything we’ve already examined concerning the priesthood of believers, hopefully, it’s becoming more evident that internal sanctification will produce outward fruits. We aren’t to be conformed to this world like playdough in the hands of a demonic creature (Romans 12:2). We are forbidden to allow ourselves to be fashioned (or patterned) by the fads, opinions, fashions, philosophies, and spiritual darkness of this world. A Spirit-filled believer’s life will not be molded from without but from within. That inward pressure from the Holy Spirit will change our outward fashions, expressions, conversations, operations, actions, inactions, and more. There will be a comprehensive external transformation in the life of a believer-priest. In other words, a consecrated holy lifestyle involves how a believer dresses, what they do and don’t ingest into the body, how they speak, what they watch and listen to, and where they do and don’t go. To suggest otherwise is a gross misrepresentation or misinterpretation of Scripture.

The Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15 tells us to “continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God.” The writer goes on to identify the sacrifice of praise as the verbal praise of God’s name.[xxxvii] Hebrews 13:16 continues this theme of sacrifice, reminding us not to neglect giving, doing good, and sharing with others, for with “such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Included in this topic of sacrifice is the command to “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). The reference here is to religious teachers and not civil rulers.[xxxviii] So, Hebrews 13:15-17 lists three generalized areas of spiritual sacrifice for believer-priests: The uttered exaltation of Jesus’ name, the good work of giving, and obedience to spiritual authority. And while the three areas of spiritual sacrifice mentioned in this passage aren’t intended to be comprehensive, they are expounded on throughout the totality of Scripture.

The Selfless Sacrifice of Love

Ephesians 5:1 encourages us to work to be like Christ. Then we are told one of the ways to imitate Christ in Ephesians 5:2: Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. We should imitate His sacrifice of love in our lives. The Apostle Paul pivoted from the self-sacrifice of Christ to the very opposite, the self-indulgence of the sinner (Ephesians 5:3–4), from agape love to its perversion, lust; he mentioned three manifestations of self-indulgence and love’s perversion. “Sexual immorality” and “impurity” comprehensively cover every kind of heterosexual (premarital and extramarital) and homosexual sin possible, all of which defile the conscience and destroy love. “Greed” describes the heart’s inner desire for one that is not rightfully theirs. It can also refer to sin in the sexual realm, such as coveting another man’s wife or someone else’s body for selfish gratification (Exodus 20:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:6). These three sins are not even to be mentioned or talked about among “God’s holy people,” so completely are they to be banished from the Christian community.[xxxix] The Bible is clear: Sexual immorality is contradictory to the selfless love of Christ-like people. Therefore, love encompasses more than what we do but also what we don’t do.

The Sacrifice of Evangelism

Evangelizing the lost is a spiritual sacrifice. The apostle Paul referred to his ministry to unbelieving Gentiles as a “priestly ministry” and “offering” (Romans 15:15-16). I believe that every action we take on behalf of evangelizing the lost is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Everything, no matter how seemingly small, matters, whether it be giving for the sake of evangelism, inviting a stranger to church, teaching an impromptu Bible study, giving your testimony, tarrying with sinners in an altar service, or any number of other practical ways we participate in the sacrificial work of evangelism. For believer-priests, evangelism is a lifestyle and not just a liability.

The Sacrifice of Prayer

Acts 10:1 tells the story of a Roman army officer named Cornelius, a devout God-fearing man. He gave generously to the poor and prayed to God regularly. Acts 10:3-4, New International Version, details how an angel appeared to Cornelius, saying, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” In Revelation 8:3-4 an angel of the Lord is said to be “standing at the altar, holding a golden censor, that he might add incense to the prayers of the saints.” Using language reminiscent of Old Testament ceremonial, priestly duties, the New International Version says, “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:4). That fascinating terminology likens the prayers of believers to incense or memorial offerings that waft like a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord. What beautiful timeless imagery of prayer that evokes in our minds. This helps us to remember that prayer is not only effective but also sacrificial.

The Perversion of the Priesthood & Invention of the Trinity

Time and attention spans don’t allow for a detailed dive into the historical perversion of the priesthood. However, it would be neglectful to cover the topic of believer-priests without addressing the elephant in the room – the Roman Catholic Church and its spinoffs. Arguably, one of the most tragic things that ever happened to Christianity was the supposed conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine (306 A.D. – 337 A.D.). While we can be thankful the avid physical persecution of Christians ended under Constantine, the politically motivated doctrinal perversions he ushered in still plague us today. Christianity became the Roman Empire’s official religion during Constantine’s reign and continued with Theodosius (379 A.D. – 395 A.D.). As imperial largesse transformed Christianity in Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, the view of the priesthood drew on Roman ideas of civic and pagan priesthoods and the pompous ceremonial aspects of the imperial court.[xl] Among the many foul doctrines concocted in the bowels of the ancient Roman Catholic Church, which remains firmly ensconced, is its insistence that an earthly priesthood of men is required to act as a mediator between God and humanity.

How could something so outrageous become so dominant? Simply put, the pressure of big government corrupted the official theologies of the Church through the usual suspects of compromise, power plays, intimidation, murder, and political marginalization. Once that powerful engine gained momentum, it just kept expanding until it reached a bloody culmination with the Crusades, governmental coups, serfdom, and religious persecution. Satan turned the so-called “Church” into the murderous regime it had endured in the Catacombs and Coliseums of Rome in the first two and a half centuries after Christ. A reformation was necessary and inevitable. But, the Protestant Reformation didn’t occur until the 16th century.[xli] The Protestant Reformation admirably emphasized and rallied around the biblical teachings of the “priesthood of believers.” Yet, while Lutherans would disagree, reforming all the perverted doctrines, traditions, and influences of the Catholic Church and its ilk took roughly another three centuries. It wasn’t until the emergence of Pentecostalism at the beginning of the 20th century that an authentic reformation began to take shape.

Another of many notable perversions that sprang like a poisonous tree from the soil of Roman Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. The dogma developed slowly over 200 years and continued to be refined in how it was explained for hundreds of years. Its development began with an attempt to understand the nature of God in terms of Greek philosophical concepts while rooted in Roman political soil.[xlii] As the lightening rod Presbyterian minister Robert Elliott Speer wrote at the turn of the 19th century: It is an unquestionable historical fact that the doctrine of the Trinity is a false doctrine foisted into the Church during the third and fourth centuries, which finally triumphed by the aid of persecuting emperors.[xliii] A tragic truism is that the same power brokers who conceived and mainstreamed Trinitarianism would have burned most modern Trinitarians at the stake for various perceived heresies. It’s sad to hear and read Trinitarians naively quote theologians (they reverentially refer to them as church fathers) who lived centuries after Christ as if they were just as inspired and inerrant as the Apostles and prophets. Trinitarians cannot legitimately be considered Apostolic, for the Apostles knew not of the nonsensical Trinitarian distinction of persons. Furthermore, the Apostles baptized exclusively in the name of Jesus and not with titles (Acts 2:38, Acts 4:12, Matthew 28:19).

Incredibly Amazing Priestly Privilege

People often ask what distinguishes Apostolic Pentecostals from other flavors of Christianity. And, of course, there’s no short answer to that question. However, an excellent explanation to begin with is the reality that the Apostolic Church is the result of continued Church Reformation. We genuinely believe in sola scriptura (Scripture alone). We’re unmoved by post-biblical historical doctrines or their bygone champions. Apostolics emphatically and passionately believe that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught explicitly or implicitly in the Bible. It’s been a hard fight, but the Apostolic Church miraculously reemerged from the ash heap of Church history while effectively, although often imperfectly, struggling to return to the Apostolic doctrines of the first Church founded by Jesus. Furthermore, Apostolic Pentecostals fully embrace their priestly privileges while acknowledging Christ as their final High Priest. With its Levitical priests and continual and inadequate offerings, the Mosaic Law was a shadow of Christ’s coming and once-for-all offering (Hebrews 10:1-4).[xliv]

Remember the thick temple veil that separated the most holy place (or holy of holies) from the holy place (2 Chronicles 3:14)? Only the High Priest was allowed to pass through that veil, and then only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:2). At Jesus’ death, the temple veil was ripped from top to bottom, illustrating that Jesus had obliterated the barrier separating humanity from the presence of God (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45).[xlv] A Levitical caste can no longer mediate between the sinner and his Judge. We may come boldly with loving confidence, not slavish fear, directly through Christ, the only mediating Priest. Of course, Jesus is a superior High Priest, or as Zechariah 6:13 prophesied, “a priestly King.” [xlvi] Because Jesus is superior in every way, believer-priests have incredible, unprecedented privileges. We can do something even the ancient High Priests only did once a year and even then, with great trepidation: Boldly enter into the holy of holies any time, day or night Hebrews 10:19-20). We have constant access, communion, and relationship to and with the presence of God. The blood of Jesus made these new priestly privileges possible once and for all.

In Conclusion

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about the holy priesthood of believers. The beautifully intricate ways the Old and New Testaments complement and complete one another always astonish me. It’s so elegantly simple yet intensely profound. The perfection of it irrefutably proves the infallibility of the Bible. Each book, prophecy, revelation, precept, and illumination fit together like a hand into a custom-fitted glove. Of course, I know there is a danger of seeing correlations in Scripture where there are none. Still, we must fully integrate correlations into our daily Christian lives whenever they are well-defined. And the Bible is abundantly clear that believers today enter a holy royal priesthood via the New Birth. This new priesthood of believers gives us the ultimate privilege possible: The ability to step into the presence of God and have a personal relationship with Him. However, like all privileges, that privilege comes with significant expectations and responsibilities. Believer-priests must live holy lives separated from the defilements of this fallen world. They must reach, love, preach, and teach the lost. They must do the same for the saved. It’s a lifestyle of relationship with God, separation from the world, and daily spiritual sacrifice. It’s wild and exhilarating, all-consuming, transformative, and extraordinarily significant.


[i] Gangel, Kenneth O. John. B & H Publishing Group, 2000

[ii] Gangel, Kenneth O. John. B & H Publishing Group, 2000.

[iii] Strong, James. Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.9. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1999.

[iv] NAS Topical Index. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.1. La Habra: The Lockman Foundation, 2000.

[v] Garrett, Duane A. A Commentary on Exodus. KEL. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.0. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014.

[vi] Butler, Trent C., Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.0. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

[vii] Cargal, Timothy B. Freedman, David Noel, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, eds. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 3.8. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

[viii] Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.2. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

[ix] Wolf, H. J. Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1915.

[x] Wolf, H. J. Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1915.

[xi] Kohlenberger III, John R. and William D. Mounce. Kohlenberger/Mounce Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament. Accordance electronic edition, version 3.4. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2012.

[xii] Easton, Burton Scott. Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1915.

[xiii] Bernard, David K. Practical Holiness. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1985.

[xiv] VanGemeren, Willem A. Psalms. EBC 5. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.9. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

[xv] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

[xvi] Zodhiates, Spiros, ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Revised, Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993.

[xvii] Macalister, Alex. Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1915.

[xviii] Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 2d; Accordance electronic edition, version 1.0. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

[xix] Walton, John H. and Craig S. Keener, eds., NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

[xx] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

[xxi] Mulholland Jr., M. Robert. “Revelation.” Pages 399-606 in James 1–2 Peter Jude Revelation. Vol. 18 of Cornerstone Bible Commentary. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.1. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011.

[xxii] Johnson, Alan F. Revelation. EBC 12. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.9. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

[xxiii] Beasley-Murray, George R. Revelation. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Edited by D. A Carson, R. T France, J. A. Motyer, and Gordon J. Wenham. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

[xxiv] Johnson, Van. Romans. Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary. Edited by French L. Arrington and Roger Stronstad. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

[xxv] Harrison, Everett F. Romans. EBC 10. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.9. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

[xxvi] Johnson, Van. Romans. Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary. Edited by French L. Arrington and Roger Stronstad. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

[xxvii] Phillips, John. Exploring Romans. John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.6. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1969.

[xxviii] Witmer, John A. Romans. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.7. 2 vols. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983.

[xxix] Maclaren, Alexander. Expositions of Holy Scripture. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006.

[xxx] Maclaren, Alexander. Expositions of Holy Scripture. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006.

[xxxi] Packer, J.I. Wood, D. R. W., ed. New Bible Dictionary. 3d, Accordance electronic edition, version 2.5. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

[xxxii] Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit. Revised; Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2005.

[xxxiii] Reese, Coley (2023, November 6). This is a quotation of the entire post [Facebook status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/coley.reese/posts/pfbid02SUknCVgY5KA3KU2349S1wSCXp8uFEU7QtUhUCVm4xGLByUdyRJwyQ4X3w5f9kLaTl

[xxxiv] Harris, W. Hall, ed., The NET Bible Notes. 2nd edition, version 5.8. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

[xxxv] Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit. Revised; Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2005.

[xxxvi] Phillips, John. Exploring Romans. John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.6. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1969.

[xxxvii] Dennis, Lane T. and Wayne Grudem, eds., The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.0. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

[xxxviii] Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.2. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006.

[xxxix] Adams, Wesley and Donald Stamps. Ephesians. Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary. Edited by French L. Arrington and Roger Stronstad. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

[xl] “Priesthood: Christian Priesthood.” Encyclopedia of Religion. Retrieved October 18, 2023, from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/priesthood-christian-priesthood

[xli] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia (2023, October 29). priest. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/priest-Christianity

[xlii] Berkhof, Louis. The History of Christian Doctrines. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1937

[xliii] Robert Spears, The Unitarian Handbook of Scriptural Illustrations & Expositions. London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association, 1883.

[xliv] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, ed., The Ryrie Study Bible. Expanded, Accordance electronic edition, version 2.3. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995.

[xlv] Blum, Edwin A. and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds., HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.2. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

[xlvi] Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. 1871, Accordance electronic edition, version 2.6. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1996.

Should Christians & Pastors Be Involved in Politics with Superintendent David Tipton – Article + Podcast

Mississippi District United Pentecostal Church Superintendent David Tipton is passionate about Christians being involved in politics. So much so he’s written a great book called Faith, Freedom & Politics. It was an honor having him on the Apostolic Voice podcast (I’ve linked that episode below). You’ll enjoy that conversation. The topic is important enough to merit being condensed here. So, I’ve abbreviated the highlights of my conversation with Rev. Tipton for those who prefer to read.

In Christ, At Colosse

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:2).

Tipton makes the case that, like the church at Colosse, saints are to be in Christ and involved in their region. That involvement should naturally include politics. My father used to say, “don’t complain about politics if you don’t vote.” That impacted me as a young man because our human nature does tend to complain about things we won’t work to fix. Biblically we have good precedents for involvement: Daniel was involved with the King at the highest level of political advisory, Joseph was elevated to the second most powerful political position in Egypt, and Nehemiah governed Judah while maintaining a positive influence with the king of Babylon who held them captive. Paul instructed us to “pray for those in government positions (1 Timothy 2:1-2).” And Jesus urged us to be good citizens and pay our taxes (Matthew 22:17-21). But of course, we have a higher citizenship in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), but that doesn’t excuse us from doing the right thing here on earth.

My Political Affiliation

I happily echo what Superintendent Tipton said in our interview, “my loyalties lie with Jesus Christ.” There will likely never be a politician who perfectly represents my biblical worldview. So, I strive to find the closest agreement possible. Like it or not, Christians are usually forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. Red or blue, elephant or donkey, I vote for candidates who are most likely to govern closest to my values. Therefore, my vote is not a full stamp of approval for their every action before or after they are elected. However, Tipton makes a valid point that shouldn’t be overlooked, “building a personal relationship with elected officials will help them remain more sympathetic to your values.”

All Politics Is Local

I’ve noticed that Christians will often become very animated about national politics. Yet, those same people are indifferent to their local elections and legislation. I’ll raise my hand and admit I’ve been that person. It’s easy to get swept into the electrifying current of national politics while simultaneously being lulled to sleep by local policymaking. However, Tipton reminded me that the average person is far more impacted by local policies than by federal ones. For example, COVID revealed much about how important it is for churches to have a good relationship with their mayor, sheriff, and county officials. As Tipton pointed out, “a local sheriff has tremendous power to help or harm.” It stands to reason that we should be active on the local level. If you’re like me, you might wonder, how can I cultivate relationships with local officials? Fortunately, Rev. Tipton gives some great advice on how to do just that.

Be A Friend

I’m abbreviating Rev. Tipton’s advice considerably, but this will give you a good overview of developing relationships with your local officials. First, if possible, begin relationships while officials are running for office. Tipton says, “If you only initiate contact after they are elected, you seem like an opportunist.” Look for local luncheons, speeches, prayer breakfasts, book signings, or gatherings where you can introduce yourself to candidates while they are seeking office. Be real. Be genuine. Be kind. Once a local politician has won office, make contact in person by visiting their office. Congratulate them and express your desire to help them wherever possible. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on most issues, try to find some common ground. Treat them like human beings in a frenzied media culture that dehumanizes politicians, and they will be grateful. Politicians are humans like you and me. As Tipton says, “they like to win and hate to lose. They don’t want to be embarrassed or mistreated.”

Once you’ve made that initial contact in person. Write them a letter expressing some kindness and a measure of support. Let them know you are praying for them and that you represent others who are doing the same. If you notice or hear about a situation a local official is dealing with, send them a note expressing concern. Remind them you are available if they need a safe person to talk with. In short, be a friend. It’s vital that you establish this relationship before asking for help, demanding change, or complaining about this or that. You are more likely to get results from someone who sees you as a friend than if they view you as an annoying stranger. Finally, be a person of integrity in that relationship. Please don’t use them for selfies or talk about your conversations with them to others. They need to know you are trustworthy and reliable. They need to know that they are talking only to you when they speak to you.

Issues of Great Concern

You may not care about or enjoy the American political process. And that’s ok. I get it. But you probably care deeply about the issues facing your family, church, and community. Those issues can only be resolved through the mechanism of politics. For example, the Mississippi District UPCI, under the direction of Rev. Tipton, played a crucial role in the legislation that overturned Roe vs. Wade and changed abortion laws for the better (you’ll want to listen to that testimony here). Religious liberty and freedom of speech are genuinely being threatened. Will we complain about it, or will we do something about it? I can tell you from personal experience that family law needs an overhaul, and public education needs total renovation. Mental health is tragically overlooked and underfunded in our communities. Crime and lawlessness are back on the rise in many sectors. Whether we realize it or not, business ethics and economics impact us all.

Christians care about these things. We detest racism. We’re not just against abortion. We’re for adoption (another area that needs deep reform). These issues and countless more should compel us to get involved as best we can, especially locally. Superintendent Tipton puts it this way:

If the church would be the redeeming force in the world, it must come to the realization that God’s love is for all men. A direct result of this is a deep-seated commitment to action in helping people, even if that means helping politically. It is vital for the church to move into the political process.

National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference (NACLC)

Rev. Tipton is a founding leader and staunch advocate of the National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference (NACLC). Their website is www.naclc.org. Individuals, churches, and districts can become members for $10.00 per month or $100.00 annually. Membership gives access to regular correspondence, initiatives, and materials relevant to Christian legislation and issues. Additionally, churches, districts, and ministries receive free membership in the Alliance Defending Freedom. The ADF team of nearly 100 attorneys can review documents, advise on related legal matters, and represent you if the case warrants. They focus primarily on protecting religious liberties from encroachment. The stated goal of NACLC is as follows, “to build a unified force of Apostolic Pentecostal organizations and believers that will influence local, state, and national policy.”

My Interview With Bishop T.L. Craft

Life Impact

It’s impossible to adequately articulate how Bishop T.L. Craft has impacted my life and ministry. He is best known around the world as the Bishop of First United Pentecostal Church of Jackson, MS. To thousands like my mother, who attended Jackson College of Ministry, he left an indelible imprint as JCM’s founder and president. Many think of Bishop Craft as a pastor’s pastor and a friend’s friend. He’s the definition of a scholar and a gentleman. Untold numbers of ministers, preachers, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries found their start under T.L. Craft’s kindhearted tutelage. Furthermore, hundreds of dynamic women of God, like my precious wife, credit Bishop Craft as the pastor that enabled them to launch out successfully into life and ministry. But if you ramble past the thick haze of accolades and success, you see a man who is steadfastly apostolic, warm, sincere, and imminently approachable.

90

Bishop Craft recently turned ninety, although he seems much younger. His mind is sharp, and his thirst for knowledge remains unquenchable. When I walked into his home a few days ago for a podcast recording session, he was well-dressed and just as dapper as always. The only hint of aging was the residual pain and mobility issues associated with a minor stroke. While talking with or observing Bishop Craft, I’ve always felt that he could have been wildly successful within any vocation. He has an enviable knack for making anyone feel totally at ease within seconds. It’s not a show or a put-on. It’s just who he is at the core. He genuinely likes people, and they really want to like him right back because of it. His consistent, approachable demeanor is a refreshing departure from the unfortunate arms-length attitude many high-profile preachers adopt towards people outside their inner circle. After spending just a few minutes with Bishop Craft, it’s easy to see why he’s had to build lots of new buildings over the years to accommodate church growth.

Season 2, Episode 6

The other day I had the opportunity to sit down in Bishop’s home and record a conversation for Apostolic Voice (listen to the whole conversation below or wherever you enjoy podcasts). But I wanted to give a few highlights from that conversation and links to books Bishop mentioned during the episode. As always, if you’d like to support this ministry, please leave an iTunes rating and review. And if you’d like to help financially for as little as $0.99 per month, follow this link.

The Criticism Flip

Christians, especially ministers, tend to feel above criticism. Or at least, we avoid criticism like the plague. I think that’s universal to the human condition. Even “so-called” constructive criticism hurts, particularly when it’s given without an invitation. However, Bishop Craft echoes the sentiment of the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, by inviting criticism from outsiders and insiders alike. Bishop Craft smiled and said, “You’ll never hear more honesty than when you invite a visitor to give you honest feedback about things you’re church could be doing better.” “Ignore that honest feedback to your detriment,” he said somberly. He continued, “Inviting criticism is a great way to witness and teach a Bible study.” “You wouldn’t think so,” he said wryly. He explained with a twinkle in his eyes, “By giving them the upper hand, they don’t feel defensive, and you can defend your faith without seeming pushy or overbearing.” You can invite criticism and flip it to your advantage with kindness and open dialogue in countless areas of life.

Advice to Ministers

I’m adding a few bonuses that Bishop Craft mentioned when the microphones were off. I specifically asked Bishop for some ministerial advice. I’m summarizing it in bullet points for quick reference:

  • Always be in service. Don’t miss church.
  • If you’re traveling, let people know where you’re going and what you’re doing.
  • Read voraciously.
  • Be a well-rounded reader by engaging in books on theology, Christian living, history, philosophy, leadership, business, biography, science, culture, and politics.
  • Give your phone number to everyone.
  • Don’t prioritize a secular job over the work of ministry. If you must work a secular job, don’t allow it to become your first priority and define you.
  • Take vacations.

Book & Commentary Recommendations

Apostolic Voice

Special Guest Stan Gleason & Book Review of Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker

If you’re reading this article, you probably identify as a Christian. But are you a disciple? And if you are a disciple, are you a disciple-maker? Those are the questions posed in Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker by Stan O. Gleason. On the surface, it’s hard to pin down a category for Follow to Lead. It’s a leadership book, but not really. It’s a church growth book, but not really. Follow to Lead is a lifestyle book that challenges the reader to commit to a radical biblical lifestyle mandated by Jesus. Rather than selfishly hunkering down in our salvation bunkers, Gleason admonishes the Church to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Gleason is emphatic that this co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

The co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

Interestingly, Gleason focuses on the ancient method of discipleship employed by Jesus during his relatively short earthly ministry. Unarguably, the replication of Jesus’ ministry through His disciples even after His death, burial, and resurrection was remarkable. Notably, though we often forget, the rabbi (teacher) relationship with the disciple (trainee) was not unique to Jesus’ ministry. This method was an integral part of Jewish culture, and it was highly relational. When Jesus invited fishermen to follow Him, they knew what He was asking of them. They were entering into a rabbi-disciple relationship. Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them. Gleason lovingly but convincingly cautions the Church to lay aside excuses and make disciples of our neighbors who will then make disciples of their own.  

Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them.

A thread runs throughout the chapters of Follow to Lead, reminding us repeatedly that there’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected. We’re partitioned off from one another by phone screens, computer screens, and tablet screens. Our communities are carefully fenced in, and we rarely know our next-door neighbors. However, Gleason implores us to break down these self-imposed barriers and disciple our neighbors by building trust, maintaining relationships, and being ready to teach. If we all genuinely followed this model, our churches would be overflowing within a few short years.

There’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected.

Follow to Lead is filled with practical examples for implementing a paradigm-shifting mindset in a local congregation. Transforming the culture of a local church begins from the top down. It’s hard work. But what a powerful transformation would take place in our local churches if we all simply did what Jesus commanded us to do. Gleason lays the groundwork for helping church leaders nudge a congregation away from being department-minded into being relationship-minded. This unifying concept brings everyone together in the mission of discipling the lost into a deep, Bible-based walk with God. With that in mind, our language matters. So, Gleason encourages us to lay aside terms like “soul-winner” and “evangelism” and pick up more appropriate (in it for the long haul) terminology like “disciples-makers.” As Gleason says:

After you “win,” then what? When you win, it’s over, but when you make disciples, the process is ongoing. Regardless of the implications, you can see the difference terminology makes when communicating the mission of the Church. Jesus did not tell us to win anything, but rather to go make everything.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Follow to Lead challenged my thinking and poked holes in some of my internal excuses. But it didn’t just leave me feeling shame. It inspired me to reach out to my community with fresh passion and renewed vision. Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region. Undoubtedly, practical application in your life and church will probably look slightly different from mine or even Gleason’s. Regardless, our mission and mindset will coincide because Gleason calls us to follow the most remarkable example of all… Jesus.

Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region.

AVP Episode Featuring Stan Gleason

Consistency – 16 Keys To Outstanding Leadership (Article + Podcast)

When it comes to leadership of any kind, consistency is a vital component of success. Often, highly creative personalities struggle with consistency, severely limiting what would otherwise be a dynamic leadership style. But, of course, that’s a generalization, and leaders of all types struggle to be consistent. People are drawn to consistency, but it takes time to demonstrate real and effective consistency in leadership. For example, studies of churches, businesses, and corporations indicate that it takes roughly five years for the organization to hit its full growth potential when a new leader arrives. Why? Because quality consistency in leadership, by definition, cannot be modeled overnight. Below are sixteen key areas where consistency makes the difference between bad, good, and outstanding leadership.

1. Consistency of Time

  1. Understanding the value of your time and everyone else’s time matters. If you disrespect other peoples’ time, they will eventually disrespect you. Be on time, be timely, be efficient, and as often as possible, be brief. If you don’t habitually waste people’s time, they’ll forgive you when you need to take their time. All great leaders understand the value of managing time.

If you disrespect other peoples’ time, eventually they will disrespect you.

2. Consistency of Dependability

  1. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible. Inevitably, you will inadvertently let someone down. Don’t be too proud to apologize.

If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible.

3. Consistency of Emotions & Temperament

  1. Okay, so we all have mood swings. Most great leaders feel things intensely, and that’s a good thing. It channels energy and propels creativity. But drastic emotional fluctuations left unchecked hurt people. People shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to randomly lose your temper, cry without provocation, or become morose. People will excuse a temperamental leader for a while (especially if they’re mega-talented, a super-genius, or ultra charismatic), but eventually, they’ll abandon ship, searching for less drama.

4. Consistency of Study

  1. Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

5. Consistency of Routine

  1. I’m not suggesting that leaders should do the same thing, at the same time, every day. But some level of routine must be realized, or a lifestyle of consistency is not possible.

6. Consistency of Organization

  1. It can vary in style, intensity, and beauty; but you must be organized and know how to organize others.

7. Consistency of Spiritual Discipline

  1. For ministerial leadership, this goes without saying. But regardless, strong spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and devotion strengthen every area of a leader’s life.

8. Consistency of Kindness

  1. Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you). Some leaders erroneously believe that their other strengths make this unnecessary. Not so. Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse. An unkind leader will negate all other skills. And yes, you can be kind and authoritative at the same time.

Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you).

Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse.

9. Consistency of Authenticity

  1. To phrase it another way, always be genuine and real. Be transparent; that doesn’t mean that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve or air all the dirty laundry. But remember, authenticity is the opposite of fakery. Be open, be honest, be humble, be authentic.

10. Consistency of Integrity

  1. Integrity is one of those words with a broad spectrum of meaning that can be hard to pin down. By default, we usually define integrity as honesty, and that is correct but incomplete. In the tech world, they use the term “integrity checking,” meaning they are analyzing the data to ensure that it lacks corruption and maintains internal integrity. Engineers use the term “structural integrity” about structurally sound buildings. Governments use the term “territorial integrity” when describing a nation or region that is undivided and sovereign. With that in mind, a leader with integrity is continually checking the areas of his life that others can’t see for corrupted data, maintaining structural soundness, and guarding against divisions. The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

11. Consistency of Core Values

  1. Once you have identified, defined, and clearly articulated your core values, you must consistently implement those values. A core value is not a core value if it fluctuates. Your personal and corporate core values must be united and inform every action and decision from the top down. It would be best if you firmly believed in your core values, or you will change them when things get tough. Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

12. Consistency of Maturation & Growth

  1. Look at where you are compared to where you were five years ago. Go ahead. Hopefully, you have grown and matured personally. Don’t buy the lie that you’ve peaked or plateaued. You must model personal growth and maturation. Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation. If you do, they will too. Also, you cannot mature if you are not self-aware. Self-awareness is literally one of the most defining aspects of a great leader. If you think you’re great when you’re not, you’ll never work to get better. If you think your weakness is your strength, you’ll never mature. Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch. You will find the motivation to grow.

Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation.

Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch.

13. Consistency of Fairness

  1. Treat yourself and others fairly. It’s really that simple. Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

14. Consistency of Creativity

  1. Creativity is hard. Admittedly, it comes more naturally for some. However, even for those who are wired to be creative, it takes hard work. I know it sounds antithetical to this article’s central theme, but predictability is the enemy of growth when it comes to creativity. Have dreams, use imagination, and be original.

15. Consistency of Healthy Change & Adjustment

  1. Again, I know it sounds strange to write an article about consistency and tell people to be willing to make changes and adjustments. Paradox? No. You can be consistent in every area mentioned above and yet remain flexible when and where necessary. Great leaders know when to throw out bad ideas and implement better ones. Great leaders know when to make small tweaks and significant adjustments when needed. Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

16. Consistency of Humility

  1. Outstanding leaders remain great by remaining humble. Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement. Entitled leaders are not only toxically obnoxious, but their followers emulate their example. Eventually, the entire organization from the top down expects everyone else to do everything else. Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership. Many leaders begin with humility and gradually become arrogant. Carefully guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often set into motion. Furthermore, a leader doesn’t have to be wildly successful to be prideful; even sub-par leaders often struggle with arrogance.

Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement.

Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership.

Guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often sets into motion.

For the record, I did not write this article from the perspective of a great leader lecturing less great leaders. At any given time, I’m working to be more consistent in at least five of these areas. Often, I’m more consistent at being inconsistent. In keeping with key 9, you should know that I am weakest in 5, 6, 9, and 15. 

Ryan French

AVP Episode Featuring the Article, Consistency (16 Keys to Outstanding Leadership)

9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them (Article + Podcast)

Many people approach church with preconceived ideas or expectations about what makes an excellent service. Rather than allowing God and the ministry the liberty to lead us, we stand (or sit) in judgment if God doesn’t “show up” in the way we expect Him to. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many ways: burning bush, cloud by day & pillar of fire by night, whispering, thundering, and the list could go on and on. The moving of the Spirit is more than just a dance (and I’m all for dancing in the Spirit), and it’s more than only a time of blissful silence (and I’m all for those quiet and deep moves of the Spirit). Verse number two in our Bible gives a clue as to how the Spirit operates; “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” John 3:8 compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where and when it wants to blow. My point is simply that the Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

The Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it can often be emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us. The Holy Ghost can and should cause us to celebrate, speak in tongues, sing, shout, become demonstrative, and extravagant in our praise. However, we should also be receptive when the Spirit convicts, corrects, rebukes, teaches, perfects, and other various things that are sometimes painful. In other words, if we are genuinely seeking God’s will every time we gather together as the children of God, we will lay aside our manmade expectations and sincerely ask God to have His way. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of nine types of church services.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it often is emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us.

Comforting Services (John 14:26). Some church services are meant to bring comfort to our hearts. This can happen in many ways, but the Holy Ghost is indeed the great Comforter (John 15:26, John 16:7).

Evangelistic Services (Acts 2:38). Often church services are designed to evangelize the lost and answer the question, “…what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs. If you emotionally check out of evangelistic services, you need to check your Holy Ghost pulse.

When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs.

Reminder Services (John 14:26, Jude 1:5). Regardless of how long we have been following Jesus, we still become forgetful. Even worse, sometimes we slip into complacency, and so the Spirit often moves in our church services to remind us of things that we should already know.

Proclamation of Truth Services (John 16:13). When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

Prophetic Services (John 16:13). Apostolic churches must be comfortable with the reality that God has not changed, and the gift of prophecy is still authentic. I know that prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Family Reunion Services (Galatians 4:6). God is our Heavenly Father, which makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is appropriate that we gather together and honor our family heritage. I think of this as a family reunion because the Church is not just one congregation. The Church is comprised of a massive number of congregations from all over the world. There should be times when we connect, refresh, uplift, and encourage one another.

Teaching Services (Ephesians 4:11). It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul included teaching within the parameters of the Five-Fold Ministry. Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Celebration Services (Exodus 15:19-21). We should celebrate the goodness of God all the time, but when God does something especially tremendous, we should focus our celebration around it. Some services will celebrate the goodness of God.

Giving Services (1 Chronicles 29:9, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission. This is the type of service that usually meets the most resistance. Even pastors fear this kind of service. Don’t let fear or carnality keep you from reaping the blessings birthed out of sacrificial giving.

Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission.

Conclusion

Healthy churches experience a blend and balance of the nine types of services mentioned above. Furthermore, healthy Christians are comfortable with each of these service types. Unhealthy churches get stuck overemphasizing two or three types of services to the exclusion of the rest. This creates a spiritual imbalance. Every church service contains some elements of the things mentioned above, but there is an overarching theme that God is directing us towards. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

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4 Problems Preacher’s Kids Face (Article + Podcast)

If you’re a preacher, a preacher’s kid, or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this article is for you.

Today is my son’s seventh birthday, and he loves the Lord and legos very much. I think his love hierarchy is Jesus, his sister, and his legos. I trail those things by a small but pronounced margin. On a sappy parental note, I love his toothy grin, his high-pitched (and very frequent) laughter, his sensitive heart, and his never-ending questions that leave me scratching my gradually balding head.

My son has the distinction of being a second-generation preacher’s kid and a fifth-generation Apostolic Pentecostal. So he’s got a pretty stalwart legacy of faith behind his little lego littered life. Of course, he’s too young to feel the pressures of being a PK, but with every passing birthday, I know he’s getting a little closer to feeling that burden.

My nine-year-old daughter is just starting to show the telltale signs of PK pressure. I recognized them quickly because I faced them myself. Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they’re manifested dramatically. Even before having kids of my own, I’ve had a heart for PKs. I’ve been privileged to speak at several PK seminars over the years, and listening to their stories takes me right back to my childhood faster than Odyssey’s Imagination Station (if you don’t know what that means, do yourself a favor and look it up).

I would never minimize the challenges that every child faces. Indeed, these are challenging times for children in general. However, it’s also true that being born into a preacher’s home is a tremendous privilege with certain built-in advantages. Some unique difficulties and problems are specific to PKs. In the hopes of helping, or at the very least drawing some awareness to the issues, I am listing a few common PK problems below.

1. Extreme Feelings of Loneliness & Isolation

Because few peers can relate to the ministry lifestyle’s unique challenges, PKs often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them or sound harsh towards the things of God; they cherish so deeply.

PK’s often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them…

2. Bitterness Towards Saints

PK’s parents are incredibly busy. Ministry isn’t something you can turn off or punch a time clock and be done for the day. Saints often don’t realize that the ten minutes you just spent on the phone with them is only one of a series of hundreds of ten-minute phone calls that interrupted yet another family moment. Not to mention all the mandatory church events, bi-vocational ministry homes, impromptu counseling sessions, and mountains of prayerful study time that sequesters preachers away from their families. Meetings, administrative work, conferences, ministry-related travel, the business of life, in general, keep pastors and their families overwhelmingly busy, too, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Also, pastor’s wives are unpaid workers with heavy loads of responsibility. They labor alongside their husbands, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them. Every need is more urgent than their need. Every crisis trumps their crisis. So, they retreat and grow bitter (or jealous) towards the people (or the church in general) who regularly pull mommy and daddy away. If left unresolved, those feelings can morph into bitterness towards mom and dad.

It’s not uncommon for kids to feel a level of bitterness towards their parent’s job responsibilities because it keeps them busy and away from home, but when children start feeling that way about the place they are supposed to go for spiritual nourishment, real dangers are lurking.

Pastor’s wives are unpaid workers, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them.

3. They See the Ugly Underbelly

No matter how much their parents try to shield PKs from the worst aspects of a church, it is impossible to keep it all neatly hidden in a drawer. As a result, PKs see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline. Sadly, disgruntled saints will sometimes try to use a PK to get at their parents or cause a church rift. This is disgusting at best, but not unusual.

PKs, see their parents at their highest highs and their lowest lows. They see Elijah calling fire from heaven, and they see him running from Jezebel too. These are challenging scenarios for a child to process and still love their church family as they should. Others may only see the public displays of respect for ministry, but PK’s see the ugly moments when the masks come off.

PK’s see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline.

PK’s see their parents at their highest high’s and their lowest low’s. They see Elijah calling fire from heaven, and they see him running from Jezebel too.

4. Unrealistic Expectations

PKs, live under a different set of expectations than most kids. And it can go from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, many people stereotype PKs as being trouble makers, spoiled rotten, or bratty. On the other hand, many people expect PKs to bypass their childhood entirely and act like miniature, perfectly mannered adults. PKs live in a glasshouse where their every move is under the watching eye of curious people. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.

Some PKs live under the overwhelming pressure to grow up and be in the ministry just like their parents. I’ll never forget, I was all of eleven years old when someone very seriously asked if I knew Greek and Hebrew like my father. To complicate things even further, if PKs feel called to the ministry, they face the all-too-familiar critical eye of a watching crowd. Will they be more anointed than their parents or less anointed than their parents? Will they be as talented as their parents or less capable than their parents? Some PKs balk at the emotional reality that some shoes just seem too big to fill.

PK’s live in a glasshouse. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.

Preacher’s Kids Are People Too

Bottom line, kids are kids. Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone. Some are called to pastoral ministry, while others are not. They are not puppets to be used in an irreverent game of tug-of-war. They have peculiar challenges and unique advantages at the same time. Saints who love the ministry will love PKs with grace, sensitivity, and understanding. And yes, your pastor and his wife will appreciate it more than words can express.

Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone.

Saints who love the ministry will love PK’s with grace, sensitivity, and understanding. And yes, your pastor and his wife will appreciate it more than words can express.

Final Note: For those that might be wondering, as far as I can tell, no one in my church has ever been anything but sweet to my children. I truly appreciate the kindness and consideration that Apostolic Tabernacle shows my children on a regular basis.

AV Podcast with Talmadge

I had so much fun creating this episode with my son, Talmadge. We had so many cool bonding moments and laugh-at-ourselves moments putting this together. We hope it blesses you and your family and that you enjoy listening to it. If you do, please leave us a like and a review on iTunes and your socials. Oh, and for those of you who prefer to read, I’ve added a transcript of Talmadge’s opening remarks. He very earnestly and thoughtfully laid out his top three PK problems. Or, at least, the ones he’s willing to share publically right now. Thanks and God bless.

Ep. 26 | Talmadge’s Cold Open: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Talmadge:
I’m the son of your host, Ryan French, and my name is Talmage, and this is Apostolic Voice, the podcast. Today, my dad is going to talk about four problems preachers’ kids face. This topic is something I can relate to as a preacher’s kid. And we know it’s a subject lots of people are interested in because, for the last four years, the blog article called 4 Problems Preacher’s Kids Face at http://www.ryanafrench.com has trended in the top 10 and has been downloaded over ten thousand times. I wanted to add what I faced as a preacher’s kid, and maybe this will help others. Number one, we often feel the embarrassment in the pressure to speak with people all the time. Number two, feeling self-conscious about our appearance and voice because we are in the spotlight more than other kids. Number three, sometimes preacher’s kids feel inadequate and unimportant compared to their preacher father. I reminded dad that PKs are all unique people with their own set of needs, and they need to be recognized for who they are as a person. So if you’re a preacher or a preacher’s kid or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this episode is for you.

Been Hurt By A Pastor? (8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It) – Article + Podcast

I’m a pastor, and pastors have hurt me.

My most painful experiences came from individuals who should have been spiritual shepherds. I’ve counseled enough people to know that I’m far from alone in that scenario. Thankfully, I’m a preacher’s kid with a father who’s the real deal. He believes what he preaches and lives it too. I’ve had that consistent role model to follow when other peers and leaders let me down in dramatic ways. For that, I’m truly grateful. I’m not talking about petty grievances of the “they didn’t shake my hand” or “they didn’t appreciate my potential” variety. I’m talking about legitimate situations where a pastor (or minister) was blatantly, perhaps even chronically hurtful, sinful, or harmful. Neither am I talking about leadership differences, stylistic clashes, or minor judgment lapses; I believe in pastoral authority and apostolic boldness. I am comfortable receiving rebuke and correction from a spiritual leader. Nor am I easily offended or hard to please. I am not fazed by the reality that pastors are fallible and very human. As a preacher, I know my shortcomings all too well, so it’s easy for me to cut the preacher some slack. Regardless, real spiritual abuse does occur; good people do bad things, bad people masquerade as good people (Jesus repeatedly warned us this would be common), and everyone makes mistakes. When these things happen, it’s only natural to want to tell anyone and everyone who will listen. I know it’s tempting, but that’s precisely what you should NOT do.

I’m not advocating sticking your head in the sand. Seek godly counsel, deal with the problem, keep a good spirit, put it in the past, and keep it there. As Paul said, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).” Have you been hurt, disenchanted, disappointed, or even harmed by a spiritual leader? If so, you’re in good company; Jesus was crucified because of the influence of religious leaders. And yet, it was Jesus who admonished us to forgive and move on (Matthew 5:44, Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-22). I want to address eight reasons why I think we should avoid reliving these experiences in our conversations.

Been hurt, disenchanted, disappointed, or even harmed by a spiritual leader? If so, you’re in good company; Jesus was crucified because of religious leaders. And yet, it was Jesus who admonished us to forgive and move on.

1. It will produce, maintain, and enhance a dangerous root of bitterness in your heart.

Bitterness will destroy you and turn you into the very thing that hurt you in the first place. Hurt people do hurt people.

Bitterness will destroy you and turn you into the very thing that hurt you in the first place. Hurt people do hurt people.

2. It plants unhealthy seeds of distrust in the hearts of the hearers.

Quick analogy, I respect police officers very much. I believe that most police officers are honorable people. However, I’ve had an extremely bad encounter with a police officer who was supposed to serve and protect. I don’t dwell on that one experience because I want my children to respect police officers. Will there be a day when I explain to them that there are a few bad apples out there? Yes. But that will never be my primary focus in conversation because, in the grand scheme of things, I want my children to honor and respect those who serve them. When it comes to spiritual leaders, I am even more careful. I do not want my family, unbelievers, or fragile saints to live under the impression that MOST truth preaching pastors are bad because of a FEW sinister truth preaching pastors.

I do not want my family, unbelievers, or fragile saints to live under the impression that MOST truth preaching pastors are bad because of a FEW sinister truth preaching pastors.

3. It’s not possible to move forward safely when you are always looking backward.

As a kid, I had a weird habit of running while looking over my shoulder. Yeah, I ran into a lot of stuff and caused myself all kinds of unnecessary pain. When you frequently talk about past church hurt, you destabilize your present and endanger your future.

When you frequently talk about past church hurt, you destabilize your present and endanger your future.

4. Often, and sometimes without realizing it, we talk about such things with a desire to cause harm to the perpetrator.

Understandable as that may be, regularly rehashing church hurts goes against everything Jesus teaches us about forgiveness and loving our enemies and those who spitefully use us. God does not give us the authority to exact our own brand of revenge; revenge is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19).

God does not give us the authority to exact our own brand of revenge; revenge is the Lord’s.

5. The constant rehashing of pastoral failings can create a lingering distrust towards good spiritual leaders in your heart.

Despite human flaws, everyone needs a pastor. If you’re not careful, you’ll become so distrustful that you will never allow a godly preacher to have apostolic authority in your life. If that happens, the Devil will have accomplished what he set out to accomplish.

The constant rehashing of pastoral failings can create a lingering distrust towards good spiritual leaders in your heart. Despite human flaws, everyone needs a pastor.

If you’re not careful, you’ll become so distrustful that you will never allow a godly preacher to have apostolic authority in your life. If that happens, the Devil will have accomplished what he set out to accomplish.

6. Often, people who consistently dwell on ministerial failings use those failings as their primary excuse to justify their own bad decisions.

They excuse their bad behavior because of the bad behavior of a finite human being. Our relationship with God should never be destroyed because of a minister’s wrongdoing or anyone else’s wrongdoing. God does not cease to be good just because a man or woman hurt us. Wrong does not become right just because someone else goes crazy. David exampled this beautifully in the Bible. King Saul was out to kill him, and when David had the chance to take Saul’s life, he refused to touch God’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:10). Notice, David didn’t let Saul kill him, he removed himself from the situation, but he did not exact revenge or sink to Saul’s level of bad behavior.

Often, people who consistently dwell on ministerial failings use those failings as their primary excuse to justify their own bad decisions.

Our relationship with God should never be destroyed because of a minister’s wrongdoing or anyone else’s wrongdoing.

David didn’t let Saul kill him, he removed himself from the situation, but he did not exact revenge or sink to Saul’s level of bad behavior.

7. It keeps the wounds fresh.

There’s no hurt like spiritual hurt. It can be devastating and earth-shattering. Talking about it over and over again keeps that pain from healing. Take it to the Lord in prayer, leave it on the altar, and let Jesus mend your broken heart.

There’s no hurt like spiritual hurt. It can be devastating and earth-shattering. Talking about it over and over again keeps that pain from healing. Take it to the Lord in prayer, leave it on the altar, and let Jesus mend your broken heart.

8. It might invite the judgment of God into your life.

I know this one will rub some folks the wrong way. And I’ve wrestled with this concept myself. On the surface, it simply doesn’t seem fair that our improper reaction to someone else’s sin could bring judgment into our own lives. One of the strangest biblical accounts is the story of Noah becoming indecent and intoxicated shortly after surviving the great flood (Genesis 9:18-27). When Ham, his son, saw the situation, he cavalierly talked about it with his brothers. The text indicates a demeanor of condescension and disrespect for a man who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a righteous man who was in a temporary state of terrible failure. When Noah’s other sons (Shem and Japheth) realized what was happening, they took a garment and walked backwards into their father’s tent to cover his nakedness. This was not denial; they weren’t avoiding the problem or living in La-La Land. But they had enough respect for their father’s godly history that they would not approach the situation lightly or contemptuously. Ham and his descendants labored under a God-given curse from that day forward. When dealing with the spiritual failings of a genuine man of God, our demeanor matters.

When dealing with the spiritual failings of a genuine man of God, our demeanor matters.

A quick caveat, this article is not referring to false prophets, false teachers, or those who knowingly peddle false doctrine. Scripture clearly admonishes us to expose and rebuke them as needed (Galatians 1:6-9, Deuteronomy 13:1-4, Jeremiah 14:14-16, Titus 3:10-11, 2 Peter 3:15-18). Neither am I minimizing the pain that can come from a spiritual leader’s failings. Many people, like David, have been wronged through no fault of their own. I also realize that many people incorrectly perceive wrongdoing because they are rebellious or unteachable. That’s another issue for another day. For the record, I do not endorse allowing a minister who is in sin to remain active in ministry.

Ryan French

You Can’t Be A Church Leader If…

I am regularly asked questions about becoming either a leader within the church or the pastor of a church. This post is designed as the starting point for answering those questions. This article is by no means an exhaustive list, and it applies to lay ministries and pastoral ministries. Here are a few prerequisites for church leadership that are a combination of common sense and basic biblical guidelines. Many people disqualify themselves from any possibility of church leadership (or they start and fizzle out) because they fail to maintain these standards.

1. You can’t be a church leader if you consistently miss services.

Aside from the spiritual implications, this is a practical guideline as well. You can’t contribute if you’re not there. You can’t encourage and inspire faithfulness in others if you’re not faithful. Try telling your job or a team membership that you want to lead without being consistently present. It doesn’t work. Not only is it a spiritual concern, but it’s also a dependability problem.

You can’t contribute if you’re not there. You can’t encourage and inspire faithfulness in others if you’re not faithful.

2. You can’t be a church leader if you’re consistently late.

This point is closely related to the above topic. For the record, everyone is late from time to time, but I’m referring to a consistent lateness pattern. Again, this is a dependability factor. If no one ever knows when you’re going to show up, you are unreliable, which applies to every facet of your life.

If no one ever knows when you’re going to show up, you are unreliable, which applies to every facet of your life.

3. You can’t be a church leader if you are rebellious towards spiritual authority.

To have authority, you must be under authority. If you want respect, you must model how to give respect. And I mean genuine respect; many give lip service to respectfulness in public and display their real rebelliousness in private conversations. Many people fake respect but demonstrate rebellion through passive-aggressive actions. They do not realize how transparent their heart really appears to godly leadership. When you undermine the authority over you, then you undermine your own authority as well. Give the kind of loyalty that you would expect from others. Remember, there is a crucial difference between obedience and submission; obedience will often do the right thing with a wrong spirit; submission is obedience with a right spirit.

To have authority, you must be under authority. If you want respect, you must model how to give respect.

When you undermine the authority over you, then you undermine your own authority as well.

There is a crucial difference between obedience and submission; obedience will often do the right thing with a wrong spirit; submission is obedience with a right spirit.

4. You can’t be in church leadership if you are in sin.

The blind cannot lead the blind. All the talent in the world is no substitute for righteousness when it comes to the Kingdom of God.

The blind cannot lead the blind. All the talent in the world is no substitute for righteousness when it comes to the Kingdom of God.

5. You can’t be in church leadership if you have a “me first” mentality.

The Church, like all organized institutions, functions on the power of unity. Church leadership requires a “team” mentality, not a “me” mentality.

The Church, like all organized institutions, functions on the power of unity. Church leadership requires a “team” mentality, not a “me” mentality.

6. You can’t be in church leadership if you are unwilling to make sacrifices.

Here’s where most people fall off the wagon. Church leadership requires sacrifice as all truly spiritual things do. It requires sacrifices of time, energy, finance, and resources. For example (and this also falls under the heading of sin), you are automatically disqualified from church leadership if you refuse to give tithes and offerings.

Church leadership requires sacrifice as all truly spiritual things do. It requires sacrifices of time, energy, finance, and resources. You are automatically disqualified from church leadership if you refuse to give tithes and offerings.

7. You can’t be in church leadership if you are easily offended, easily angered, and cling to grudges.

You might think leadership brings accolades and honor, but for every kind word received, you’ll receive at least as much criticism and cynicism. Leadership comes with as much resistance as it does assistance. You will have to rise above negativity, critique, ungratefulness, hostility, apathy, complacency, disloyalty, and sometimes outright attack. Mostly this will come from expected places, but the most hurtful will be from Christians who ought to know better.

You might think leadership brings accolades and honor, but for every kind word received, you’ll receive at least as much criticism and cynicism. Leadership comes with as much resistance as it does assistance.

8. You can’t be in church leadership if you do not love God and people.

Love God first and ask Him to help you genuinely love people. If you do not truly love people, the point made in the above post will burn you out faster than a firecracker on the Fourth of July. If you lead out of any motivation other than godly love, you lead from selfish and carnal reasons. That always ends badly.

Love God first and ask Him to help you genuinely love people.

9. You can’t be in church leadership if you lack personal spiritual discipline.

You wouldn’t want an overweight guy teaching you how to lose weight. You wouldn’t want a weak guy teaching you how to get strong. And you wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t pray to teach you how to pray. Prayer, fasting, Bible reading, Bible study, evangelism, and faithfulness are mandatory prerequisites for church leadership.

Prayer, fasting, Bible reading, Bible study, evangelism, and faithfulness are mandatory prerequisites for church leadership.

10. You can’t be in church leadership if your personal life is in shambles.

This one might sound harsh, but it is a biblical principle and a common-sense principle as well. Bottom line, if you can’t manage your own business, you shouldn’t be trying to manage other people’s business, and indeed not God’s business. This principle includes your family, your finances, your emotions, spirituality, etc.

If you can’t manage your own business, you shouldn’t be trying to manage other people’s business, and indeed not God’s business.

11. You can’t be in church leadership without integrity.

This final point is technically covered under the point about sin, but I think this deserves a more in-depth look. Integrity, honesty, and core convictions are essential to godly leadership. Without them, your leadership will ring hollow, and your influence will run shallow.

Integrity, honesty, and core convictions are essential to godly leadership. Without them, your leadership will ring hollow, and your influence will run shallow.

12. You can’t be a church leader if you do not have a burden.

The apostle Paul described his burden for his fellow Jews’ salvation as a bitter sorrow and unending grief. Jesus described a burden so strong that the parabolic shepherd left the ninety-nine to find that one lost sheep. A burden goes beyond love. A burden goes beyond concern. It is a deep driving force that propels an individual into action on behalf of the lost. A burden is manifested in a myriad of ways, which ultimately bears the fruit of saving lost sheep. It should be noted that all Christians are mandated to carry a burden on some level. A burden is not a calling, but it is necessary for a calling.

A burden goes beyond love. A burden goes beyond concern. It is a deep driving force that propels an individual into action on behalf of the lost.

13. You can’t be a pastor without a Divine calling.

This point is specific to preaching and pastoral ministries. I know many people called to teach Sunday School, drive a church bus, do community outreach, clean the church, or visit the sick. But all of those things can and should be done without a Divine calling if necessary. Preaching and pastoral ministry, however, is Divinely ordained and Divinely called. This article doesn’t have the space to lay the theological framework needed for each point. Still, the need for a calling is clearly illustrated in the ministries of Moses, Abraham, Noah, Samuel, each of the Apostles, including Paul and Timothy. Jonah is fascinating because he had a Divine calling, yet he lacked a burden. He was called first, and God went to great lengths to take him to his evangelism field.

14. You can’t be a church leader without wisdom.

Many people have the knowledge but lack wisdom. Knowledge is information; wisdom knows what to do with that information. Leadership without wisdom eventually burns the leader and the followers out. A couple of points: Good intentions do not equal wisdom, talent does not equal wisdom, age does not equal wisdom, charisma does not equal wisdom, personality does not equal wisdom, and enthusiasm does not equal wisdom. The higher you go in church leadership, the more critical wisdom becomes.

Many people have the knowledge but lack wisdom. Knowledge is information; wisdom knows what to do with that information.

15. You can’t be a church leader without vision.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish… (Proverbs 29:18).” That word vision comes from the Hebrew word “chazown,” meaning dream, revelation, oracle, or sight. This Scripture is often misrepresented, but I think the meaning is complex. Leadership requires revelation from God, which brings dreams for the future, and insight into what is necessary to move forward in God’s plan.

Leadership requires revelation from God, which brings dreams for the future, and insight into what is necessary to move forward in God’s plan.

16. You can’t be a church leader without faith.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God… (Hebrews 11:6).” I think that pretty much says it all.

17. You can’t be a church leader without anointing.

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor… (Luke 4:18).” I know this is an oversimplification, but if Jesus needed an anointing to preach, you need one too. I think this is mandatory for pastoral and preaching ministries, and it certainly should be coveted in all other areas of church ministry. In a certain sense, the differences between Divine anointing and Divine calling are almost imperceptible. When David was anointed by the prophet Samuel the oil was literally poured over his head. It was evident for all present. Spiritual anointing seems intangible in theory, but you know it when you see it. You can feel it. Anointing brings down giants. Lack of anointing cowers in hiding when adversity comes. It is palpable when God has covered a person. Anointing produces illumination, revelation, Divine inspiration, Divine operation, the gifts of the Spirit, and other tangible spiritual results. Anointing is not merely theatrics. Anointing is not good oratory or even capable leadership skills. It does not come from man, training, or education. Anointing comes only from God. God can anoint a fisherman or a theologian, a lifetime saint or a once vile sinner, or whomever He chooses. However, God does confirm anointing through godly pastoral authority. David didn’t anoint himself and proclaim himself the heir to the throne; he needed a Samuel to place God’s stamp of approval on his life first.

God confirms anointing through godly pastoral authority. David didn’t anoint himself and proclaim himself the heir to the throne; he needed a Samuel to place God’s stamp of approval on his life first.

18. You can’t be a church leader without a time of proving and learning.

Paul admonished Timothy to study to show himself approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). Notice, when you are training, you are not seeking earthly approval but God’s blessing. Ministerial training was never intended to be a political process or a popularity contest. The desire for church leadership must be birthed out of a desire to please the Lord. Abraham was 75 years old when God called him, and Samuel was only about 12 years old when God called him. Sometimes the training and proving periods are long and tedious. Whichever the case, patience and a right spirit are required, or you will miss God’s will. That’s basically what happened to Judas. I believe Judas thought he could force Jesus’ hand. Instead, he destroyed his life and his potential ministry.

19. You can’t be a church leader without the blessing of a pastor and the covering of a local church.

Paul never embarked on a missionary journey without the unification of apostolic ministry and the covering (blessing) of a local church. God does not bless the maverick mentality. God blesses and operates via coalition and through the mechanisms of authority. I’ve seen people run from church to church, looking for someone to validate their ministry. Eventually, they find someone willing to give them a pedestal of some kind or another. But this is not the apostolic way, nor does God bless it. Those kinds of dissidents beget more dissidents and undermine their ministry. It’s hard to inspire loyalty when you birth your “ministry” in disloyalty. I’ve seen this process run the spectrum from a pastor, preacher, teacher, evangelist, musician, singer, youth leader, and on and on.

God does not bless the maverick mentality. God blesses and operates via coalition and through the mechanisms of authority.

It’s hard to inspire loyalty when you birth your “ministry” in disloyalty.

20. You can’t be a church leader without the ability to lead.

This one will rub some people the wrong way, but I know many good people who desired to be in leadership who could not lead people. They eventually end up leading themselves and growing embittered. They drifted from the actual “calling” that God had placed on their lives because they desired promotion. If you have a genuine calling (as we’ve already discussed), promotion will come without self-promotion. I often fear that we push individuals into positions they are not qualified for or called into in our rush to start new churches. One caveat, I do believe that if God indeed calls, He does qualify. However, many inadvertently substitute their desires for a genuine Divine calling. They go to their pastor seeking approval with no desire for actual counsel. Using the apostle Paul’s analogy of the Church being like a body fitly joined together, it is imperative that the shoulder work in conjunction with the neck, the neck in conjunction with the head, etc. When a hand, for example, tries to be a leg, spiritual imbalance ensues. To be clear, many begin this journey with the best of intentions. However, good intentions alone are no substitute for God’s will.

If you have a genuine calling, promotion will come without self-promotion.

Good intentions are no substitute for God’s will.

21. You can’t be a church leader if you do not maintain a high standard of holiness.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:20-22

Faithful servants of God always produce the fruits of holiness in their inward and outward lives. The apostle James tells us that not many should become teachers because teachers will be judged more strictly by God (James 3:1). What a sobering thought. That’s why spiritual leadership is not to be taken lightly. Experience has taught me that followers will always follow at least a step or two behind the leader. Spiritual leaders should be so far ahead of the danger zone that when their followers lag behind, they are still safe (i.e., saved). When spiritual leaders traverse the gray areas, their followers fall into oblivion. Servants of God are to be modest, sober, diligent, upright, moral, biblically sound, and trustworthy. Some of this is becoming redundant, but it bears repeating because of its importance.

Spiritual leaders should be so far ahead of the danger zone that when their followers lag behind, they are still safe. When spiritual leaders traverse the gray areas, their followers fall into oblivion.

Servants of God are to be modest, sober, diligent, upright, moral, biblically sound, and trustworthy.

You Might Be In Ministry If…

You might be in ministry if you have…

…encouraged those who discouraged you.

…loved those who left you.

…prayed for those who preyed upon you.

…lifted those who let you down.

…laughed with those who laughed at you.

…given to those who do not give.

…rejoiced with those who rejoiced against you.

…worked for those who worked against you.

Count it all joy. That’s what it means to be like Christ. Why would we have it better than our Master?

Of course, there are tremendous blessings and rewards as well. Most of them are spiritual and otherworldly. However, I think we set up young aspiring ministers for failure when we fail to prepare them for the realities of ministry. Ninety-nine percent of ministry is not glamorous or exciting.

Make sure you have a genuine calling and unshakable burden before you enter the ministry.