Dr. Stephen Crosby

B. Childress
Nov 11 2012

Salman Rushdie describes the essence of fundamentalism (all brands) as having nothing to do with religion and
everything to do with power – not a bad insight.  The use and abuse of power could subtitle human history, in and out of
the church.  The primal temptation at its core was an appeal to power/authority:  Godlikeness.  How power is handled
differentiates Christ’s kingdom from a cult.  You do not have to play with snakes, cut off chicken’s heads, or have wild
sex orgies to be in a cult.  Effective cults are more subtle than that.  Two foundational characteristics of a cult are 1)
disempowerment of the individual, and 2) the discouragement of self-initiative and self-thought under the guise of
submission to authority.  Cults disempower individuals and empower a limited class of specialists; or in the worst
manifestation, a specialist – singular, to whom the masses must submit.  The specialists supposedly possess unique
abilities unavailable to the masses.  Therefore, the masses must rely on the specialist(s) for access to insight, spiritual
realities, or other alleged blessings as part of the cultic ritual and order.

In every cult there is a governing authority (someone who establishes and enforces order) and a mystic authority
(someone who has access into divine mysteries).  Inherent with these powers is the ability to reward and punish.  By
compliance (submission), individuals are rewarded by the governing authorities (access to leadership, access to ministry
opportunities, access to the “father’s heart,” etc.).  By acting in ways that mimic the behavior and values of the
empowered classes, people can achieve a false sense of identity and community that lets them feel empowered, though
not genuinely so.  This is why, in the church, it is imperative that our governmental structures must have as their ultimate
goal the empowerment of individuals, not their submission to authority figures.

In the emerging apostolic movement, the apostles assume governing authority, and the prophets provide mystic
authority.  Individuals must come under their covering, into “governmental alignment,” in order to access various forms of
alleged spiritual blessing – the reward of compliance.  It is painfully self-evident that this is cultic.  In a Christian context,
this false process masquerades as discipleship, accountability, and submission to authority.  Conformity is not to Christ
but to the leadership image and expectations.  It promotes dependency and powerlessness.

Leanne Payne rightly recognizes that one of the characteristics of a cult is toward ego and a drive toward personal
power in a man or woman that appeals to the masses of the unaffirmed and to the mind-set of our narcissistic age.  One
of the telltale signs of cultic behavior is the refusal to elevate believers into an adult position but rather insistence on
maintaining a childish posture of dependence on someone else to tell them how to act, think, and believe.  By abdicating
personal power and their own authority, individual wills atrophy under the sway of authoritarian and specialist ministries
who claim for themselves special status as representing God’s cutting-edge revelation.

This is not Christ’s gospel.  In His kingdom, authority figures are servants who empower, not specialists who promote
dependency.  Christ’s kingdom is one of equalization – every valley filled, every mountain brought low – not a kingdom of
empowered and disempowered classes.  There are many practices and beliefs in the church (prophetic, apostolic, and
otherwise) that are passionately held as “gospel” which, at the very least, need to be rethought and re-examined for
spiritual legitimacy and method of implementation, and perhaps altogether abandoned.

Legitimate kingdom authority always empowers and is always restrained.  It is like a train on tracks.  The rails, by nature
and design, restrain the train.  However, because the rails are “suited” for the train they actually empower it.  The train
has no hope of realization without the tracks.  The tracks are necessary to release all the potential of the train.  If a train
decides to believe it is an airplane, to get an opinion of itself not suited to reality or designed limitation, and attempts to
leave its tracks, disaster results.

In the kingdom, love and empowering service are the restraining tracks of authority.  Without them, apostolic authority is
a diesel in free fall.  To be kingdom legitimate, the emerging apostolic must be defined by the restraint of authority (both
dunamis and exousia), not its expansion.  The necessity of the hour is assuring that the tracks of love and service are
secure in the rail bed of Christ and Him crucified, not that the apostolic engine gets more horsepower.  However,
restraint is not the same as limitation.  The tracks do not limit the train; they facilitate the train.  If the train wants more
horsepower to go faster and carry more – fine- no problem!  Strengthen the rails and rail bed first!

The essence of the kingdom is endowment and divestment.  We are endowed to give away.  God the Father, the
ultimate source of life, authority, and power,
gave a Son.  The Son divested Himself of glory for the sake of others.  The
accumulation of authority and power in individuals (apostles or otherwise) and institutions is, and always will be,
unless the accumulation is structured (mindsets, value systems, and methods) to be given away.  We also
need to assure that those values that we export for public consumption are kingdom approved – not personal
preferences and cultural projections.

Power sharing is the mandate of the kingdom.  Insecure apostles will feel threatened when called upon to divest
themselves of their authority.  They will feel like they are losing a piece of personal property: “their people,” “their
churches,” “their network,” “their rank,” “their authority,” etc.  
That is how it should feel, because God is trying to
dismantle a corrupt inner value system contrary to His kingdom
.  That is the way God’s kingdom works.  We gain what
we give away (lose) and lose what we hold on to.  Authority is given to be given away.  
This is the governmental order of
God’s kingdom, not submission and alignment to covering apostles

It has been my great joy and privilege to know a few genuine apostles, who in the spirit of Christ and Him crucified and
Abraham’s walk up Moriah, have put to death (not for a “season,” not with one hand out of the grave, but put to death!)
their entire networks and their relationship to them.  The sad part is such quality individuals are the exception, not the
rule.  Expansion of real authority and Christ’s kingdom is always the inevitable result.  It is just not always measurable by
Babylonian standards of success:
more – more people, more money, more property, more assets, etc.

Christ’s kingdom government exists in the tension between leadership authority and the dignifying and elevating of the
people of God.  It is not a matter of form: committee leadership where the pastor or apostle is under the thumb of the
lowest consensus ethic of the people; or set-man leadership, where the people are under a single individual at the top of
the hierarchy where no one has real, functional, authority to tell the set man: “No, you will not do this or that.”  Both are
extremes.  The answer lies in rediscovery of a New Covenant spiritual reality, not swapping one form for the other in an
endless cycle of reactionary movements.  Spirit-led, Calvary-energized, mutuality of submission is the answer.

It is possible to be strongly congregational in governmental leanings and not be under the influence of “cultural spirits of
independence” but merely looking for simple human dignity:
But it is not easy.  It is also possible to have strong
executive, authority-type leanings and not inherently abuse people:
But it is not easy.  The answer is in Christ and Him
crucified.  His cross is where the two irreconcilable qualities of mercy and justice find reconciliation.  It will be where
congregationalism and set-man authoritarianism find their perfect meeting place.  The result will likely be unsatisfying to
either extreme.

Authority is defined by responsibility, not privilege.  Paul’s passion was to give sightedness to people.  Because of Whom
he had seen, He bore the responsibility of authority to empower others in the same faculty of sight – to see Whom he
had seen.  The responsibility and sole reason for the exercise of authority in the New Covenant is to facilitate
sightedness in the people of God.  Sightedness is the inward apprehension of Christ, conformity to that apprehension,
and individual empowerment for the world’s and the faith community’s benefit.  To be legitimate, authority must be
saturated with New Covenant theology, ethics, methods, and a spirit of empowerment and equalization.

What might this look like structurally?  Perhaps the diagrams below can graphically sum things up.  The arrows
represent the flow of authority (
exousia).  A represents an apostle (or any executive leader); B represents other
believers or ministers.  In the first diagram, authority flows like a substance.  In the second diagram, authority is an
empowering environment.  Hopefully, each graphic can pictorially capture different facets of what I have been trying to


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