Barb and I have iPhones which include the computerized software assistant with the female voice known as Siri. For those who aren’t familiar with Siri, if you press and hold the round button on the phone a female voice, Siri, will ask “What can I help you with? You can ask Siri everything from the latest sports score to directions to the closest gas station to the weather forecast and most anything else.
Barb and I were deep in conversation when she started digging around her purse looking for something, and accidentally pressed her iPhone’s round button. Immediately Siri asked, “What can I help you with?’ and Barb, who was in the middle of a sentence said to Siri without thinking, “Oh be quiet, I wasn’t talking to you”, to which Siri immediately responded from the depths of the purse, “That isn’t very nice!” We burst out laughing at the idea a phone spoke to and responded to Barb in such a way.
I feel a little like that when talking about the visitation with the Lord where He shared about His people chasing spiritual butterflies. In my digging around the ‘purse’ of Christendom to find definition and solution I don’t want to accidentally touch a hot button and someone think ‘That isn’t very nice’.
I’ve chased a few spiritual butterflies
When Barb and I were teenagers there was a time in our teen prayer meetings it seemed nearly everyone had a demon or a demon was to blame for all life’s ills. Talk of having a ‘deliverance ministry’ went around.
Some in our teen group certainly did have demons that manifest and were cast out. There were also those who didn’t have demons but wanted the attention they received if they said they had a demon, so they put up a great show of writhing and moaning worthy of an Academy Award nomination.
The Lord used those experiences to help us find balance, to experience the real and fake and work through it. It was for a season, and we came away thankful for having experience with the demonic and the fake, and focused once again on Jesus and the Father instead of ‘the dark side’.
In 1979 in our first year of marriage, we got into the ’100 fold return’ spiritual butterfly with my pay of $110 per week – giving $11 and expecting $1100 to somehow be directed into our account. Barb brought us back to balance when she said, “This doesn’t feel right and I know what changed. We used to give because we love God and His work, but now we give to get, and that’s wrong and that’s why this grieves our spirit when we give.” A moment of repentance later and prayer to tell the Father we really don’t care if we ever see that money again, we give because we love Him and His people, and we were back on balance.
Our church versus Peter and Paul’s church
But the fact is, Christianity in the New Testament looked remarkably different than practiced today in the auditorium church. There were no spiritual butterflies to chase because their focus and time was all about what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 about caring for the physical needs of the brethren.
“…if you have given (water/food/clothes/visit) even if to the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
This isn’t works salvation because Jesus is talking to believers about caring for believers, so these works of ministry flow from us as a result of our salvation, not to attain it.
Care for those in the faith first, then outward to the unsaved
He said ‘my brethren’. That means the focus of our giving is to the ‘brethren’, not the unsaved. Brethren is an old term used when addressing both men and women.
This focus on taking care of the body of Christ first rather than using the meeting of physical needs of the lost as an evangelistic tool may be a surprise, but the New Testament consistently shows they gave to other believers, not to the unsaved, remaining consistent with Jesus’ command to care for His brethren.
This explains why throughout Acts the believers gave among themselves to be sure there were no needs in their midst – they didn’t try to take care of the whole city. That is why when the famine in Judea was prophesied by Agabus in Acts 11, the church sent an offering to fellow believers in Judea, not the unsaved victims of the famine. And Paul’s offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem in Romans 15 and I Corinthians 16 and II Corinthians 8 & 9 was received by the churches for the church in Jerusalem – not for the poor sinners in Jerusalem. Money and resources in the body of Christ stayed in the body of Christ.
That isn’t to say we completely ignore the unsaved, but they are to get the overflow, not the focus of our attention in giving. Paul said in Galatians 6:10 to do good to all men, but especially to the household of faith. The brethren are our first priority.
It also explains why so many people were added to the Lord in the first couple of years after Pentecost – the unsaved saw a group of people on fire for God, and loving one another to the extent there wasn’t a single need in their midst. If you were on the outside looking in, and you lacked food or clothing, and you saw this group of happy people who had all needs met, wouldn’t you want to see what it was all about? Some were afraid, some joined, some stood back and watched – but the net effect was people added to the Lord.
What has this to do with butterflies?
By contrast the auditorium church has programs for ministry work, meaning (statistically) 80% of the congregation has no expectations placed upon them other than attending church and giving when asked. So there are now a lot of Christians focused on self and what self needs from God, they feel they can chase every wind of doctrine and every ‘hot’ thing out there, making God in effect, their servant instead of them, His.
The programs and their need for infrastructure and money explain why the auditorium church is so willing to help the unsaved while church members who need help with a mortgage or car payment are turned away. Their priorities are exactly 180 degrees from what Jesus stated He is looking for at His return. If we gave to those brethren in our midst and were in relationship with each other, there wouldn’t be time nor interest to chase the latest spiritual butterfly that crosses our line of sight.
James said “True religion and undefiled before God is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep yourself unspotted from the world.” The context is CHRISTIAN fatherless and widows because he was writing to Christians, as also demonstrated in Acts 2-6 as they cared for the brethren. That is true religion. Look at your average church – do they look unspotted (untainted) from the world? Is their priority as a church to feed/water/clothe/visit those BELIEVERS in need in their pews? Can they say ‘There are no needs among us because no one says anything he has is his own’?
What is the ministry the “5-fold” is to equip His people for? Ephesians 4:11-16
To be consistent with what Jesus said about the work of ministry He is looking for at His return, to be consistent with the rest of the New Testament’s description of the work of the ministry FIRST being to care for the physical needs of the brethren, we must conclude the core ‘work of the ministry’ the 5-fold is to equip people for, is to water/feed/clothe/ and visit the sick and in prison. The core mission of the 5-fold is therefore first to empower individuals to make sure there are no physical needs lacking among the brethren.
This is why when the first staff was added to the church in Jerusalem it was 7 men to help manage the care and feeding of widows. Not a clothing program to the unsaved in the city. Not a food program for unsaved in the ghettos. Their focus was caring for the needs in their midst. Food, water, clothing, housing. (Acts 6)
Ephesians 4:15 continues by saying if we do the work of the ministry (water/feed/clothe/visit the brethren) we won’t be like children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes along, but will in fact grow up in Him in all things as the sinews of the body connect all of us together. Read Ephesians 4:11-16 with the understanding that the core work of the ministry is founded and flows from Jesus’ priority to make sure all His brethren’s needs are met, and you will see amazing things that are 100% consistent Matthew through The Revelation.
To start thinking like Jesus taught and Acts and the apostles demonstrated, will rock your brain and turn all you thought you knew about priorities and relationships in church upside down, and you will be able to spot wasn’t isn’t scriptural – and you’ll never be the same. And THAT is where the body of Christ is headed.
Remember this visitation about spiritual butterflies was a prophetic word about what the Spirit is saying to the church – I’ll pick it up next week with how this rearrangement of priorities is going to come about, until then, blessings!