The Control Spirit and Apostolic Fathering - Part 1
We could write many articles and books on the nature of the emerging apostolic office in the church. And many have been written. That is not our goal for this teaching. Over the next two weeks, we will be looking primarily at true apostolic authority as it contrasts the spirit of control. We will be defining the spirit of control, and looking at a few key aspects that differentiate apostolic ministry from this negative influence.
Many are wary of transitioning into the apostolic movement, simply because the word “apostle” is associated with infallible, absolute authority. And many have been so burned by controlling leaders in the church that the last thing they need is someone claiming divine dominion over them! It is important to understand that apostles, along with the prophets, are the “foundation” of the church (Eph. 2:20). Without them, we will not plumb the depths of foundational teaching and kingdom authority that are necessary to recover the height and depth of holy intimacy that God longs to share with us. Apostles are not controlling caps that keep us from ascending spiritual heights. In fact, true apostolic authority gets underneath others to support them as a strong floor for reaching the unfathomed heights of supernatural experience with God.
Foundations Versus Ceilings
We have all encountered church leadership models that hinder spiritual growth, rather than facilitate it. Just as someone begins to take hold of vision and soar, they are swatted back down by a controlling person or board who sit “at the top” of the decision making process. This is almost always rooted in fear or pride. Perhaps the most classic example of this dynamic is illustrated in the lives of King Saul and David.
After David kills the giant Goliath as a young man and finds great military success under Saul’s command, Saul hears the people dancing and singing, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" (1 Sam. 18:7). At this, he begins to grow envious and intimidated by David. He begins to view David as a threat to his own personal success, and Saul starts to protect his own position of authority as ruler of the kingdom. From the onset, Saul thought, “What more can he (David) get but the kingdom?” (1 Sam. 18:8). Before long, Saul tries to kill David outright, pursuing him in a drawn-out manhunt for years.
Saul was intimidated by David’s success. However, he should have facilitated David’s “ministry” for the mutual benefit of the nation. Saul was insecure from the beginning, whereas David demonstrated courage from his youth. When he was first called out as leader of the nation, no one could find Saul because he was hiding among the baggage (1 Sam. 10:22).
This same type of insecurity is the basic building block for the spirit of control. Rather than perceiving David as a gifted son – the blessing for Israel that he truly was – Saul saw him as a competitor and a risk to his own authority. Meanwhile, David always loved Saul and sought to restore their relationship. Even when he had the opportunity to kill Saul, David refused. Very often, gifted people are faced with rejection because they unknowingly intimidate the old guard. God will use this rejection as a breaking process – even as He did with David to strengthen him in the wilderness. But ultimately, we must get healed of rejection and move on, as David also did.
If Saul had supported and gotten himself underneath what David was doing, instead of limiting David, his entire life would have taken a different course. Our desire for our spiritual sons and daughters should be for them to excel further and higher than we could ever go. It is my prayer that my own sons and daughters go far beyond anywhere I could possibly imagine. Saul held positional authority, but he lacked a father’s heart. Even Saul’s natural son, Jonathan, was more predisposed to help David than his own father.
True apostles will be like a foundation holding up the house, instead of a ceiling at the top that prevents people from going any higher. Often, we get intimidated by others who have more skill, begin to have more “spiritual experiences” than we do, or whose lives seem to garner more favor than our own. For pastors, elders or other church leaders, this can be especially intimidating. If someone in the pews is more equipped than the guy in the pulpit, how does this challenge their authority? Many resort to control tactics and begin to overly assert their position and influence.
We should understand that control is a demonic influence. Even the Lord is not a controller. Why else would he have put Adam and Eve in a garden with the Tree of Knowledge, aware that they always had the option to buck His authority? God respects our free will and human decision making. The Lord never exercised control during his earthly ministry. Though he had complete access to all the angelic hosts of heaven, still he humbly submitted to death on a cross. He could have snapped his fingers and evaporated His accusers. Yet He valued something more than his own ability to control situations: He valued submission to the perfect will of the Father. He did only what He saw the Father doing (Jn. 5:19). Jesus got low and He served. People with control spirits have a very difficult time serving. Nevertheless, St. Paul defines apostles as “scum of the earth” who are “servants” (1 Cor. 4:1). There is no good leader who has not learned to be a servant first.
The four gospels, like the four living creatures, reflect four primary aspects of God’s nature: He is like an eagle (spiritual) and a man (natural). He is like a lion (authoritative king) and like an ox (lowly servant). It is my belief that the face of the eagle must perfectly balance the face of the man. Jesus is completely spiritual – completely God – but He is also a completely natural man. In the same way, the face of the lion is perfectly balanced by the face of the ox. Jesus is the King of Kings, but He is also the Servant of All. True apostles are servants. He who is least is greatest in the Kingdom, and the servants are the greatest of all.
Control is Witchcraft
Apostolic fathers will under gird, serve and facilitate the vision of others. They will not use manipulation or become competitive, thus preventing the release of their sons and daughters. The control spirit is fueled by strife and human effort to hold things together. But the fruit is not unity. It has the opposite effect, as control eventually sinks the ship. It breeds rebellion and exasperates those who are under its influence. Many began in ministry with an earnest heart to serve, but over time, the weight of upholding religious structures and the pressure of people’s opinions pushed them to use their own human strength and control tactics to get the job done.
When Saul was waiting on Samuel at Gilgal, his army was hard pressed and he grew impatient. Facing enormous opposition – “soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (1 Sam. 13:5) – his people began to scatter, and so Saul overstepped his authority and did what only a priest could do: he made a burnt offering, in order to win God’s favor for the battle. Just then, Samuel came on the scene, telling Saul that the Lord had stripped him of an eternal kingdom that day.
Control is fueled by human strife, not the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s own sacrifice is sufficient to get the job done. The spirit of control is essentially a form of witchcraft or manipulation. All manipulation is witchcraft. It is no coincidence that Saul ended up at the witch of Endor’s house before his life was over. The control spirit is a form of false authority. Witchcraft can be defined as operating in any authority outside of the Holy Spirit.
Controllers operate based on need. There is need everywhere. Saul needed to win his battle. This was clear. But God was not wringing His hands up in Heaven. True faith understands that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). It understands sovereignty over need. It does not use human wisdom and make rash decisions, just because the people begin to scatter. True faith is patient. It waits on the Lord.
When the Lord is our true source, we are not compelled to reach out our arm of flesh to steady His ark like Uzzah, who was struck dead. God does not need us to hold Himself up. If necessary, God’s ark can levitate.
It is not just pastors and leaders who are used by this spirit. Passive controllers can be the worst, because their tactics are more subtle and hidden. These people do not need to have direct authority, as does a pastor or leader, as long as they are able to manipulate and pull the right strings to get what they desire.
Charismatic and Institutional Authority
We want anointed leaders – those chosen by God because of divine call and “charisma,” or anointing. There are essentially two types of leadership in the church: God ordained, charismatic authority and the institutional, ecclesiastical authority that is recognized or appointed by men.
Charismatic (anointed) authority is vested in one who is called out by God and empowered for service through the Holy Spirit. Institutional authority, however, belongs simply to anyone who is recognized by the people (i.e. the guy with the pulpit, the influence and the platform to make decisions and call the shots).
Charismatic leaders may never be recognized by men. The prophets were stoned. Likewise, the worst of Pharisees can be recognized in ecclesiastical places of church leadership. Just because a person has influence over others does not indicate that they are in God’s perfect will or position.
The ideal situation is when charismatic leaders are in places of institutional authority. That is the perfect overlap. David was just such a man. He was ordained by God, and he was also recognized by an entire nation as their leader.
Saul began his course this way. He was called by God, but when he sought to take the reigns of his office in his own strength, he lost his true charismatic authority – and ultimately his institutional authority as well. God removed His Holy Spirit from Saul, and an evil spirit from God actually came to torment him (1 Sam. 16:14). In the end, Saul was more of a problem than a blessing.
Signs of True Apostolic Authority
There are a number of things that mark true apostolic authority. True apostolic leaders know how to delegate authority and even decision-making capabilities to other leaders. They do not seek to implement only their own vision. They recognize the God-given vision in the lives of others and work to get under them and facilitate them in any way possible.
Apostolic leaders facilitate individual expression and creativity. As a foundation in God’s house, they understand that this is a house fitted together with unique, living stones (Eph. 2:22). They do not produce factory-line, cookie cutter Christians in their own religious image. They facilitate the diversity of individual calls of the different parts of Christ’s body.
Apostolic leaders seek to reproduce themselves like true fathers. They do not need to be needed. An apostle’s goal is to “work himself out of a job” and build up other leaders who can take over his responsibilities. Their ego does not want their spiritual children to be “co-dependent” on them for everything. They can hand over reigns to people with less experience than themselves, even when it may result in a few mistakes being made. Many ministries succeed for a season without healthy fathering; however, they rarely are able to reproduce themselves. Perhaps there is a gifted or charismatic leader, but when that leader passes on, so does the glory. Their ministry dies with them.
Apostles know how to delegate. Apostolic leaders are not performance oriented. They are not legalistic perfectionists. They allow the growth and maturation process that any true father must have who is raising young, maturing children.
Paul tells us that apostles are “master builders” (1 Cor. 3:10). They are essentially planters. Today, there are quite a number of people with the world “apostle” on their name tag, with no works, no building and no substance behind the title to prove it.
But apostles are not just people behind a good church growth program. God must also stamp their ministry with a supernatural seal of approval. Their ministry must be marked with signs and wonders. Paul said, “The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Cor. 12:12).
In addition, the apostolic office is not simply one that is an elected, man-appointed position (Gal. 1:1). Apostles must have seen the Lord. Paul did not walk with Jesus during His earthly ministry; however, He was struck blind by an open encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. He later writes, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1). Even when the first 11 apostles cast lots to appoint Matthias to replace Judas, he was not simply a name they picked from a hat. He had also been with the Lord the whole time (Acts 1:21).
Apostles are tasked for laying strong foundational truths, but they can also access all of the other office gifts: those of the prophet, evangelist, teacher and pastor. They tend to have a strong drive – a holy ambition – which is a likely a reason that Paul and Barnabas split their ways. For this reason, it is important to understand that apostles must also be mutually submissive to the other fivefold offices – as well as to other apostles who hold them accountable, as Paul did with Peter.