Yesterday, I was sent an email from someone who I do not know. The email began with these words:
As I walked into church at MorningStar in Ft. Mill this morning, I saw a poster on the church door for our upcoming Harvest conference which is this week. I saw the USUAL speakers and said to myself…. “Same old faces, same old voices, where is the new breed of prophets …?”
This email stirred up a memory.
The memory was of letter I wrote to Rick Joyner (leader of MorningStar Ministries) many years ago when I was 31 years old. So I searched for it on my hard drive, and lo and behold, I found it.
What’s striking about the letter is that this person’s concern (above) was identical to one of the points I made in my letter to Rick so long ago. (See the third point.)
Rick and I have never met. I regard him as a brother in Christ, and I have no negative word to say about him (as is the case with every person who serves the Lord today, whether I agree with them or not). I don’t follow his ministry and haven’t for many years.
Note that when I wrote this letter in 1996, I hadn’t written any books and was completely unknown to anyone outside my close friends and family.
At the time, I had been out of the organized church for eight years and was experiencing my first taste of organic body life during that time. Also: none of the references in the letter are to myself. Rather, they are to others who I knew at the time (some of whom I still know today).
In addition, I have rarely written to a ministry in this way. And that’s still the case.
I still stand by the letter and hope it will challenge every ministry that holds large conferences and has fallen into tribal cliquishness — only giving a platform to the same voices year after year. This is the reason why I’m posting it all these years later.
One final point. Rick’s ministry was enormous when I wrote this letter. Today, it’s dwindled significantly. (My cousin attends his church, and it’s not nearly as large as it once was.) Right or wrong, I ascribe this decline in numbers and impact to some of the points I made in the letter, particularly point 3.
July 13, 1996
Dear brother Rick:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus.
As I’ve worked on this letter over the past week, it has become clear to me that I must leave a great deal unsaid if I am ever going to send it at all. So, rather than keeping quiet until this is up to my quality standards, I am going to mail it to you anyway with some hesitation. I welcome requests for clarification and expansion where I have been, well, ambiguous (though that adjective is much too kind).
About a year ago, a friend subscribed me to your journal. Subsequently, I’ve taken the opportunity to read several of your books and to attend one of the conferences you host (The Heart of David, this spring).
While there are many things that I can applaud about your ministry, I have several concerns coupled with some suggestions. My chief burden can be summed up in the following points:
1. You describe your ministry thusly: “Dedicated to the promulgation of important teachings and timely prophetic messages to the church” and “attempting to promote interchange between the different streams, emphases, and denominations in the body of Christ.”
While this is a noble task, it seems to me that this has not yet become a reality. To be frank, I am afraid that your ministry is presently quite limited in its scope, and I fear that it will continue to be so.
Be as it may, I wish to inform you that the Lord has raised up quite a number of choice vessels, both in the past and the present, who have borne prophetic testimony concerning God’s thought for the present hour.
Of the past, T. Austin‑Sparks was one such brother. His writings and spoken ministry are characterized by a very clear and specific prophetic apprehension of God’s purpose for the present dispensation. I submit that any spiritual person who becomes familiar with his writings will attest that the recovery of Divine truth rose to an unscaled plateau in the ministry of this brother.
Regrettably, I do not see the depth of insight and spiritual supply that has been recovered by this brother represented in your ministry at this time. Accordingly, if we will move forward in the purpose of God, it is imperative that we receive that which the Lord has already recovered, lest we suffer loss and lose our vision. I would recommend his books Prophetic Ministry and The Work of God at the End Time.
In addition to the rich spiritual ministry deposited by Austin-Sparks, there are some who in our time are bearing the same prophetic testimony. These dear brethren are mightily gifted with prophetic insight, but are less obtrusive than the many prophets that are prominent in charismatic/third‑wave circles today.
Albeit, they, through the Spirit, are cutting deeper channels. In short, if we relegate ourselves to hearing God speak through one section of the Body of Christ, it will be to our own peril and loss.
2. You have often stressed that the apostolic ministry will be restored at the end of this age. I concur with this notion, but have several grave concerns about how you define apostolic ministry and the implications that are bound up with it.
To begin, I believe that the ministry of the apostle has been one of the most oft abused and misunderstood ministries throughout the history of the church (almost equaling that of the “pastoral” gift). Regrettably, there has been no shortage of self‑appointed apostles who have been accorded with super‑star status by the saints and have become the objects of guru‑like followings (a striking contrast to Paul’s notion of qualification to apostleship, i.e., that they are last of all).
Consequently, it has been my observation that very few believers today understand what a Biblical apostle is and would probably not recognize one if they had met one. The problem today is that true apostles hide themselves while false apostles hustle themselves, and I fear that this will continue to be the case as the age closes. Hence, it is my heart burden that those of us who discuss apostolic ministry are very clear regarding the problems that are germane to it.
Stated simply, the recognition of our need for apostolic ministry should be most open, the support for apostolic ministry should be most generous, but the declaration of apostolic calling should be most cautious. According to the New Testament, apostles are preeminently a spiritual function, not an institutional office. But that is another topic altogether, so I will leave it there.
3. In relation to the matter of apostolic restoration, I have another concern. I believe that a true recovery of apostolic ministry necessitates a true unveiling of the purpose and meaning of the local expression of the Body of Christ, i.e., the church. Put plainly, despite the truths restored during the charismatic/third‑wave movements, the prevailing paradigm regarding the way that most modern Christians “do church” is a static one that is rooted in man’s traditional ideas.
Hence, I believe that for a true apostolic recovery to take place (on a large scale) there must be a simultaneous recovery regarding God’s original thought for His church — for true apostles build the Lord’s church according to His heart and mind. The pressing question, then, is — if we are to have the new wine, then what about the new wineskin? The truth is that God has and is recovering this Biblical accent necessary for the renewal that God is after, yet many in the Body are unaware of it.
To be sure, there has emerged a vision to recover “first-century Christianity” and a thrust to duplicate “the New Testament church” within Charismatic and Latter Rain circles in this country over the last four decades. Up until the present time, however, despite the sincerity, consecrated effort, and sacrifice devoted to its implementation, the “vision” still tarries (Hab. 2:3). I believe there is good reason for this, but it has received little attention among most evangelicals today.
Accordingly, I would like to see you give more attention to the issue of God’s thought for the local church in your conferences and journals. In this connection, it seems to me that you continue to invite the same people to speak at your conferences year after year.
Consequently, I do not see a genuine fleshing out of your vision for MorningStar, i.e., that it exists for the “promulgation of important teachings and timely prophetic messages to the church” and the “promotion of interchange between the different streams, emphases, and denominations in the body of Christ.”
From my hill, the terrain looks a bit uneven. That is to say, a good number of important teachings, timely prophetic messages, and streams in the Body of Christ have not been represented by your ministry thus far while the same “stream” continues to be unduly promoted (I speak not with a critical spirit, but soberly).
I think the next conference that you are hosting in October, Wineskins For the Last Days, reflects my concern. While I was greatly encouraged to see an entire conference dedicated to the matter of “the wineskin” (I’m assuming that it will deal with New Testament church principles), I was disappointed when I learned that none of the brethren whose ministries are dedicated to this very theme would be speaking. By contrast, virtually all of the usual speakers would again be present.
In closing, I want to thank you for your time in considering these matters. Please understand that what I have said above reflects that which I believe the Lord has burdened me with for the benefit of MorningStar and yourself. The Lord forgive me if I’ve said anything amiss.
If you would like me to elaborate on any point made in this letter, feel free to contact me.
The riches of the glory of Christ in us be yours in ever‑increasing fullness.
Yours in the costly but glorious quest,