One of the truly notable men of faith of the 20th century was Jack Coe. He moved in a realm of miraculous healings that his otherwise impressive peers of the 50’s only wished they could. Sadly, he died at age 38 of an illness that he had seen many people healed of. Before his death a prophecy was given that he had to correct three areas of his life, or his ministry would be cut short. The first of these was that he “loved not the bretheren.” Unquestionably he loved the lost, but his esteem for other Christians, especially those who could be called peers was low.
In thinking about building a church, on of the things that comes often to my mind is that a certain depth of relationship has to be present for it to look at all like what God has in mind, and especially for it to survive any kind of success. You cannot easily put together more than one man with a definite sense of vision because at some level of granularity everyone disagrees. This is why most church plants are basically done by a single visionary and a few stragglers. He managed to get out from under the big visionary he was serving along with a few castaways and do his own thing. Eventually, the pattern will repeat itself. Doing a church plant with multiple people with a vision is difficult, but I’m convinced that it can be done if we love one another.
Level of commitment is important, but it’s not the solution. Case in point was the astounding teaching pastor who kept a special ring on his finger because he was married to the ministry movement. Needless to say, he’s no longer a part of it. The others have managed to stay together, but it seems because there is a shared personality flaw, not a shared love. If we’re going to have any success in this thing, we’re going to have to get to where we actually love one another more than the inspiring vision each of us is seeing over the hill. This doesn’t mean we are supposed to enter into a “covenant relationship” and have some kind of pastoral matrimony. What it means most specifically is that when there is tension between us or in the vision, we have to work and pray through it, and that this activity must begin by loving the other person more than ourselves. When we enter into the place where we actually love each other, and each others lives more than our own, and we are mutually conscious of that love, then we will enter into a realm of the Spirit that cannot be stopped. Such a realm is by no means easy to enter, but I’m just submitting that if we’re going to plant a church, we need to make this an explicit goal.
Tensions come either from individuality, immaturity, or sin.
- If they come from individuality, we have to learn to appreciate each others differences. One may value healing more than prophecy, while another prophecy more than healing. Particular kinds of worship, etc. What kind of building is appropriate, what kinds of materials, etc, etc. These and many others are matters of individuality. We have to delineate spheres of responsibility and allow people to express their individuality within their sphere. We must be especially careful of advocating what is clearly a personal preference in a absolutist way. When human personality and God’s will become confused it’s game over.
- Immaturity happens when we see something through a particular lens because of life experience, and we have not come to the place where we can see all sides of the picture, including as best possible, our own biased perspective. Immaturity can only be fixed with time and experience, but the process can be greatly accelerated by listening to a discerning brother.
- Sin is the hardest one to deal with. Of course obvious sins cause problems, but the ones that I’m really talking about are hidden sins that destroy ministers, like the lack of love for the brothers did Jack Coe. Such sins are not easily separated from a person because they become enmeshed in our identity and approach to life. It becomes nearly impossible to hear someone else on the matter. The Shepherds tried to solve it by a hierarchy whereby your authority could speak in and correct the sin, and I will say that there is some merit to this, but ultimately it failed because it wasn’t based on love, but on pride, which is the opposite of love. If we get to the place where we know that we are loved by the others more than we love ourselves, then we get to the place where we can hear, and also where we can speak redemptively.
Why have so few people heard of Jack Coe when compared with someone of lesser gift like Oral Roberts? Because Roberts knew how to work with others and because of this he left a legacy. Coe was able to be radical, but not able to break into deeper relationships with others. When you get like this, you’re endanger of becoming like the hard right Fundamentalists who are always excommunicating each other over not being as radical as the next guy.
Paul says that out of humility we should “consider others better than yourself.” I would suggest that this is not about irrationally considering someone who is less gifted or less seasoned than you are as if they were more so, but It is about loving them as if their life and ministry were more important than our own. It is about thinking enough of others to hear them even when we might be more gifted or more seasoned. If we consider ourselves as better in our hearts, then we become deaf, and as soon as we become deaf we’re in danger.