The Church of the 21st Century is in desperate need of a “New Reformation" which will be required for God to accomplish His purposes in these "last days." It is a change that is even more radical than the terms we so freely throw around, such as "revival," or God forbid, another "movement." It will be a major internal overhaul of the very earthly "guts" of the "traditional" Church. The Post-Reformation "pastor" and "ministerial" mindset is crippling the Church and, if not repented of, and I do mean, "repented of," will result in being an even greater "stumbling block" to God's people, and their very spiritual and even physical survival in the days ahead.
That prophetic scripture, "Strike the shepherd that the sheep would be scattered" will be fulfilled in a more tragic way in reference to God's sheep than few could have envisioned. If, from the time our children are born, are goal in training is to wean them off of dependency upon Mom and Dad and prepare them to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, ultimately leaving the house and establishing their own household with adult responsibilities, then, why in Heaven's Name, don't we apply that same principle, and Biblical mandate, beyond lipservice, in training up spiritual adults? Well, there are several answers to that, and none of them are Scripturally valid.
Furthermore, I am seeing an ever-increasing deepening and broadening application of the previously quoted verse, "He takes away the first, that He might establish the second." Tying this in with the phrase," after he served the purpose of God in his generation...," the haunting question for me over many years has been, "Lord, why did You take this person while they were yet so fruitful in their ministry for You?" "Why did You take them while yet relatively young?" 'Lord, we need them and cannot replace them?" Even many years ago I would touch on these things and teach that one basic reason was if God did not take them in His own time, that inevitably, regardless of how Godly they may be, they would become idols of worship, and would replace the "Chief Cornerstone" for the peoples' dependency. I see this principle being made more evident today than ever. But, there are even deeper implications here.
I went through a laundry list of influential and fruitful men of God, from Biblical times to modern days. God took some being "full of days" while others, still relatively young, were taken by an "untimely death," according to human thinking. And then, it occurred to me, Jesus, the very Son of God, whose earthly ministry was incomparable to anyone or anything else, was taken while yet in His early thirties! His Heavenly Father saw fit to take Him, while again, in human thinking, He was just heading into His prime. He was so desperately needed. It is no wonder then, that Peter was compelled to say, "Surely, this shall not happen to You!?!" What is the spiritual dynamic at work here?
There are two key phrases which are the key to tapping into God's thought along these lines when related to "He takes away the first, that He might establish the second." First, in Paul's referring to David in Acts 13, "After serving the purpose of God in His generation, David, fell asleep..." and Jesus, when He said to His disciples in John 16, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away..." So then, when does God take away one of His beloved? Once they have "served the purpose of God in their generation." And, why? Because, according to God's purposes, beyond natural, human comprehension, it is "to our advantage that they go away." In light of this, within the Kingdom of God, there are no "untimely" deaths.
Building upon these principles, how does this apply to the Church and its leadership, or in other words, how the Church is traditionally structured and led? For years, I have referred people, especially "leaders" to passages such as Matthew 20:25-28 and Matthew 23:1-12, and have been compelled to ask, "What part of "NO" don't you understand!?! If they ignore Jesus' instructions on this matter, it is not surprising then, that they would do the same with Paul’s. There was to be no fleshly distinctions within His Body; no titles, no ecclesiastical royalty, no special class of people, for as Jesus taught, “You are all brothers.” The Church was to reflect the Divine nature of a heavenly kingdom, not a Jewish religious system nor a Gentile authority structure. Paul knew very well what was “coming down the pike" as he already was seeing these "ugly heads" being raised in the earliest days of the Church.
In the beginning of I Cor. 2, Paul warns of the dangers of being captivated and influenced by men based upon "dynamic" and "charismatic" personalities....."but that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but the power of God." Or, in the very next chapter, 3:1-9, Paul, with all he can muster, tries to drive home the point that the vessel through whom God uses to minister is relatively nothing, "But God who causes the growth." And, that "there is no foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." This was certainly one of the myriad of aspects which concerned Paul when he expressed later in his second letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 11:3 (and I can almost here a subtle groan from Paul whenever I read this), "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."
The implications are not merely philosophical, doctrinal, a personal preference on how "church" should be done, or simply trying to recapture a nostalgic past. It is a matter of the Church's very survival, much less its fulfillment of God's purposes on earth. The message will be hard, the price will be costly, the process long and difficult “to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow,” in order "to build and to plant," not by the hand of man, but by the Hand of God. He will bring this about out of a Divine passion to present a bride worthy of His Son, the same passion which moved Him to offer “His only begotten Son" that He might have a people with whom he might commune and through whom he might manifest His glory.
And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell (Is. 58:12).