This article is part of my ongoing series on the kingdom of God (you can read the previous articles at frankviola.org/kingdom. They all work together.)
Right or wrong, I believe the greatest obstacle to the advance of the kingdom in the earth today is the unwillingness of so many of God’s servants to work together.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case with all of them. But I’d say it’s true for most Christian leaders in America.
I’ve explained the profound benefits of co-working elsewhere. Today, I want to discuss two reasons why countless ministers won’t work with others.
The two reasons – which are virtually never talked about today — are:
- Fear of diversity
Let me unpack both.
Reason 1: Jealousy
According to music experts, the four greatest music artists of all time are Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin (those are in no particular order).
Suppose that you are a music artist living during the prime of any of those four artists. You have a nice following, but nothing like the afore mentioned musicians.
Unless your ego is thoroughly crucified, you wouldn’t want to open for Jackson, Brooks, The Beatles, or Zep.
Because you’d be thoroughly upstaged. They would wipe the floor, so you’d happily decline.
Don’t think for a second this doesn’t happen in Christian conferences today. This is actually the reason why many of the most gifted and powerful speakers aren’t invited to certain conferences.
It’s jealousy. The unwillingness to be upstaged.
Of course, jealousy is rarely admitted. Other reasons are given as excuses to cover the envy. But insecurity, rivalry, and competitiveness are often at the root.
Consequently, it’s much safer to work alone or exclusively with those who are less gifted.
Now imagine with me for a moment. What would have happened if Barnabas refused to invite Paul to work in Antioch with him because of jealousy? Or what would have happened if all twelve apostles refused to work with each other because of jealousy?
The kingdom of God wouldn’t have moved very far.
Reason 2: Fear of Diversity
One of Watchman Nee’s most brilliant books is called What Shall This Man Do? The book is an incisive study of the distinctive ministries of Peter, Paul, and John.
In the book, Nee argues that the distinctive ministry of each apostle was foreshadowed by what they were doing when Jesus called them.
When Jesus called Peter, Peter was casting a net into the sea. He was fishing.
Interestingly, Peter’s distinctive ministry was evangelism. Peter opened the door of the kingdom to both Jews and Gentiles.
When Jesus called Paul, Paul was a tentmaker. He was a builder, if you will.
Accordingly, Paul’s distinctive ministry was the building of the house God. To stay with the metaphor, Peter brought in the fish, but Paul built them together into a house.
When Jesus called John, John was repairing his net. He was a restorer.
Consequently, John’s distinctive ministry was restoring the house of God when it started to move toward ruin. To stay with the metaphor, John repaired the tent that Paul had built.
Each man was an apostle, so Peter, Paul, and John all engaged in evangelism and community-building. But each had a unique and distinctive ministry.
Peter cast the net, Paul built the house, and John repaired the net.
Now here’s my application.
Some movements today are exclusively made up of Peters. Their entire emphasis is on reaching the lost. Consequently, each person in the movement is a Peter (even though they may mistakenly call some in the movement Pauls or Johns).
The tragedy is that they never invite the Pauls or the Johns into their movements due to the fear of diversity.
To their minds, John is just too radical. And Paul is too intensely centered on community-building.
In addition, Peters are often jealous of Pauls because of their powerful speaking ministries. (Pauls tend to blow people’s minds wherever they preach.)
The real Pauls have actual experience in raising up the house of God and equipping the saints to function under the headship of Jesus Christ. So their value is immense.
The real Johns are prophetic voices that are able to identify the root problems in the church and offer solutions. So they too are needed. But they are boat-rockers and sod-turners.
For a Peter, Pauls and Johns are threatening.
(On occasion, God will raise up a person who is a combination of the Pauline and Johannine ministries. These rare vessels cause no small ruckus.)
Sometimes the problem works this way.
Not a few Christian movements are incredibly heady and intellectual. So the people who are invited to join arms with them are equally mindy, abstract, and intellectual.
The firebrands who minister at a deeper level are left out. And so are the emoters.
Why? Fear of diversity.
In order for the kingdom of God to advance in the earth today, the Peters, Pauls, and Johns must be willing to work together. But this demands something costly. It demands that the cross of Jesus Christ deal a hefty blow to the ego, demolishing its insecurities and putting to death the jealousy and fear that springs from it.
I could say much more, but I’ll leave it there. My hope is that the Holy Spirit will use this article to create change in this area. Even in the hearts of a few leaders.
I’ll write more about the kingdom of God next week. Stay tuned.