Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Hatfield & McCoy Syndrome

In West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry along the Tug Fork River, lived two families (that turned into warring clans) in the late 1800’s. The first recorded instance of violence in the famous feuding, as legends go, occurred after a dispute about the ownership of a hog. It became, after much feuding over this and that, that the mere mention of “Hatfield” to a McCoy brought instant angst as likewise did the mere mention of “McCoy” did to a Hatfield.

No matter how “right” a statement might have been if the statement in any way spoke other than evil of the opposing clan it was rejected and belittled. The glasses that the McCoys wore were always Hatfield-colored and the spectacles of the Hatfields were always McCoy-colored. This warped perspective blinded the wearer to any good within the other clan—even the children.

I tremble to think that sometimes I may have slipped on a pair of some colored glasses that rather than aids my sight actually blinds me. I read the words in Revelation imploring the Ladocieans to buy eye-salve that they might see and realize how easy it is to think that we see when, in fact, we are blind.

Perspective is everything—someone has said. Indeed, the perspective we need is one far above the walls of flesh and prejudices of men; far above my friends and my enemies as well—the God-eye-view is what we need to pray fervently for! Are there certain “KEY WORDS” that trigger blindness in us? Do we allow an enemy to blind us of the good about him? Do we let our puny human emotions of pride prevent us from clear sight? Does “our clan” prevent us from seeing rightly “their clan?”

“How do you see?” Asked Jesus to the man that just received his sight. “I see men as trees walking.” He replied. And Jesus touched him again—and he saw all men clearly. I, for one, need God to touch my eyes—again—so that I can see all men clearly.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Real Paradox

Proverbs 26:4-5 -- A real paradox.

The first clause: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.”
The second clause: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit”

These two proverbial statements, which appear to be at odds, are found side-by-side. Do they contradict one another? No, they do not. Their placement denotes design, not disorder. These verses call for caution in responding to the “fool.” The term "fool" here denotes one who is spiritually senseless--an individual who is willfully spiritually blinded.

"Answer"—which means that the fool has made a statement that was intended to elicit some response. Note that not all circumstances are equal in nature. Therefore, there are times to answer an opponent, and there are times when he ought to be ignored. And the wise preacher must know when to do one or the other.

Recall the question --“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Rather than answering their questions directly—because they were not honest inquiries—the Lord asked: “Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men?” To which they replied: “We don’t know,” for they carefully calculated the problem of the question--if they denied the validity of John’s baptism, they would be in trouble with the people—who believed in John’s ministry. And if they admitted the truth of John’s baptism, they would be asked: “Why did you not believe him?” So Jesus told them He would NOT answer according to their folly.
Also notice that when Herod interrogated Jesus with “many words.” Jesus “answered him nothing."

God's preachers will time and again have to make decisions about with whom, and how much time, is to be expended in responding to those who oppose the truth. Separating the “dogs” and “hogs” from the others is no easy chore sometimes. A prayer for wisdom in making the appropriate response, or non-response, to those with whom the preacher must deal with daily is greatly needed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Pastor James Groce
Calvary Apostolic Tabernacle - Molino, FL


What about ministerial accountability, just what does this phrase entail and what are the biblical precepts to which we may make applications?
First, one of the major lines that must be drawn in the sand, regarding ministerial accountability, is the difference between the “positional office” of the pastor in regards to authority and the “positional influence” of other ministers in regards to that pastor. (Note: For this initial discussion we are focusing on a seasoned pastor that has a proven ministry among his peers – we will look later at other ministries).
The word "ministry," in one sense, has the connotation of the collective body of men called of God - and from this standpoint an individual pastor certainly cannot be influenced by each and every one of this group, no, he (the pastor) finds himself in a smaller "slice" of the larger and complete pie of the ministry. And it is within this “slice” that his true influence, for the most part, must come from (just as a saint's true influence comes from within a local congregation rather than the entire body of Christ - but each member connected to the whole body via the Spirit). However, to carry the likeness of a saint under a pastor to a pastor under a "pastor(s)" is an incorrect, in my opinion, likeness because of certain “transformational” events that occur with the call of God. The pastor, it seems, is placed by God in a position of authority over a flock and also with certain authoritative "influences" within his particular "slice" of the ministerial body as well. Therefore, much like electrons, each minister within their particular spheres exerts certain influences on one another. One electron is not greater than another nor of more weight than another yet each electron undoubtedly exerts a certain amount of influence on his neighbor that is felt and accepted and acted upon by that neighbor voluntarily. The system of attraction and repulsion is an ongoing process within the body of the ministry which, again, much like electrons, maintains correct distance and movement within the system - as each is connected through the Spirit of God.
In the oddities of physics there is the possible event of an electron being able to escape from its surroundings. This “escape” of the electron results in the loss of the influence of the electrons of its prior relationship. When this event transpires it is because the escaping electron has been influenced from beyond its neighboring electrons and exits its neighbors – thus removing their influence from its existence.
This “escaping electron” scenario is much akin to the loss of influence that a collective body of ministry has on a preacher that has become “influenced” by an external force(s) outside of his once equalizing environment. We have witnessed such “escapes” in the TV issue when preachers who were once conservative in nature somehow became influenced beyond their neighboring brethren and “escaped” into a liberal influenced mindset. In other words, influence within a group can only be beneficial as long as that influence is regarded as vital and accepted by each influenced member. Once that the collective influence is no longer accepted by any one member there is NO power within the system to force compliance.

I think the Bible bears out the fact that the pastor is the highest authority within the local assembly that he pastors. The chain of command is; God (the Shepherd), pastor (the overseer designated by the Shepherd) and then the church congregation (the flock of God). Any insertion between any one of these steps will corrupt the flow of divine authority. More than one local assembly has been either destroyed or critically maimed by the insertion of a deacon board between the pastor and the local assembly and the insertion of organizational elected officials or any other persons between God and the pastor has, in many cases, usurped the authority that was not theirs to wield.
The pastor is the highest authority within the local assembly that he pastors – but what is his position among other pastors? Consider, if you will, Sheriff Jones; Sheriff Jones is the recognized law in his hometown, however, when Sheriff Jones journeys to a National Sheriff’s Conference in some distant place then he, now among his peers, is only a sheriff among sheriffs. Also consider Sheriff Jones’ friend (he could even be his father)—Sheriff Smith; if Sheriff Smith visited Sheriff Jones’ town he, even though a sheriff also, would have no real authority in Sheriff Jones’ town. Sheriff Jones may acknowledge Sheriff Smith as his mentor and as a consequence act upon the advice and counsel of Sheriff Smith—not because he must—but because he deems the advice and counsel of his mentor, Sheriff Smith, as vital and essential in his life and occupation. Does Sheriff Smith have the power to force Sheriff Jones to compliance of his advice or counsel? No, he does not—neither does he have the authority to “step-into” Sheriff Jones’ town and become the law—at least not in any true legal sense. This “sheriff-scenario” is akin to the pastor and his position among other pastors. Pastor Smith has no authority within Pastor Jones’ assembly—except the authority of the ministry as a visiting preacher. Pastor Jones may consider Pastor Smith his mentor and voluntarily solicit advice and counsel from his mentor and act and obey them because he deems Pastor Smith’s words as vital and necessary to his life and his calling. Pastor Jones may even have a group of pastors that he confides in and considers their decisions and advice as essential requirements to his life—however, he does this not out of force but voluntarily out of need and respect.
What, one might ask, happens if Pastor Jones goes astray in morals or doctrine—who can correct him? That, my friend, can only be answered by Pastor Jones. If he submits to those that he has counted on in the past then they can direct him, however, if he abandons their correction—they have no power to force compliance. Legal papers and matters may ensue from the world of legal handlings and courts and lawyers if some choose to pursue such a course—but ultimately Pastor Jones either deems his counselors vital and acts on their words or he “escapes,” like the electron, to be free from their influence. He may not be free from legal proceedings of the world but he by his actions has severed himself from the spiritual influence of those that once were his counselors.
So, “Who’s in charge here?” A pastor must make himself accountable to other pastors if he truly desires the aid of God in his life and in his ministry. In other words, a pastor must take charge to give charge in his life. A pastor must instigate the accountability of himself to others—he cannot be forced into accountability. A pastor that does not seek accountability among other accountable men will soon breach the barrier of ministerial ethics.

The second chapter of Galatians is an interesting study in the dynamics of ministerial accountability. Notice: Paul consulting the “pillars.” Gal 2:9-10, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
Then notice: Paul confronting a “pillar.” Gal 2:11-14, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
In the first instance, Paul and Barnabas have made a voluntary trek to meet with James, Cephas (Peter), and John who were recognized as “pillars” as those having been eye-witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This conclave appears to have been one initiated by Paul as a voluntary act to seek the counsel and blessing of these “pillars.”
In the second instance, which follows in the very next verse, Paul confronts Peter, the pillar, concerning Peter’s hypocrisy, his “dissimulation.” And it can be hypostasized that Paul also confronted Barnabas about his actions also in the affair. It can also be understood that Peter and Barnabas both accepted and acted upon Paul’s words.
So what we witness in these brief verses of Galatians chapter 2 is a “ping ponging” of ministerial accountability on a lateral basis. It is understood that these men were apostles and therein resides a uniqueness of position, however, it is also apparent that ministerial accountability was meant to function “across-the-board” within the ministry. Brethren should voluntarily seek accountability from their peers and they should also be willing to confront and admonish one another in the fear of God. Accountability, you see, must be a two way street.

One could muse over the “Help Wanted” ads that seek individuals having certain skills and state that experience is a requirement for employment—how, if this has always been the requirement, did anyone ever gain employment in the first place? It stands to reason that somewhere and at sometime there must have been individuals that obtained OJT (on the job training) somehow—lest there be forever positions available to which none could obtain. (We begin here to deal with ministries other than just the seasoned pastor).
While it is easy to mix metaphors and to transpose worldly values and appraisals into spiritual characteristics we must be careful that we do not allow natural logic to outweigh spiritual logistics. While in the natural sense of things, men become skilled in their occupations through experience; their trade is the result of making a choice among many options. Men, for example, become mechanics by mechanic-ing. However we must realize that men become pastors not due to experience but rather by a calling and that calling is and must be of God. Does this mean that experience is of no consequence in the life of a pastor? Of course not, but it is not the experience that makes a pastor it is the call of God that makes a man a pastor (or evangelist, etc.). A person becomes a member of the body of Christ by the grace of God when obeying Acts 2:38—that new convert has little or no experience to qualify themselves as a saint-of-God—but they are one nevertheless. In like manner a man “becomes” a part of the five-fold ministry by the grace of God’s calling. “And who He calls He also equips”—as the saying goes.
Experience is a valuable commodity, in the life of a man of God, when its teachings are God ordained and are received by an humble heart and an obedient spirit. Experience stimulates the ministerial calling of a man of God—it becomes the sunlight that energizes the already planted seed—it is the rainfall that helps facilitate the growth of the roots of the fledging plant. Experience aids in the adorning of a preacher’s life and ministry that otherwise might exhibit a degree of plainness. Experience is both the coarse file and also the polishing cloth which with sure strokes either abrasively cuts away imperfections or shines the dull spots into a glimmer of glory in the ministry of a man called of God to preach the gospel. First comes the call—then comes the experience.
The spiritual ministerial flow, in this dispensation anyway, is that all pastors spring forth from pastors. In other words, God calls men while under the authority of a pastor (much like how God makes chicks from eggs under a hen—no egg leaves the nest under its own power—a transformation is required). This transforming time under a pastor for a man called of God is “deaconship.” A man called of God to the ministry is not first called as a part of the five-fold ministry but rather he serves as a deacon under the authority and guidance of a pastor. It is this deaconship interval where certain qualifications and requirements are to be met, according to 1Tim 3:10-13; “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” It would seem only natural that since men are birthed under the authority and guidance of a pastor that that pastor would remain a vital influence in the life of “his son(s)” in the gospel.
We cannot help but notice that the qualifications of a deacon closely parallel that of a bishop with the exception of “how shall he rule the house of God.” This noted exception says so very much concerning the position of the deacon—mainly that he is not yet in a position of authority over a church because he himself is still under the authority of his pastor. Notice also that these men are to “first be proved.” “Proved” here according to Barnes; “the meaning is, that they should have had an opportunity of making their character known, and should have gained such respect for their piety, and their other qualifications, that there would be reason to believe that they would perform the functions of the office well.” “Proved” contains the ideal of the testing of metal (See 1 Th. 2:4).
These men, as is also pointed out in 1Tim 3, which are under the authority of their pastors must have “used the office of a deacon well.” The word “used” signifies a time element—a temporary position—a time where the deacon is receiving training under the guidance of his pastor. When God calls men into His ministry it will be from this deacon pool, it will be from these men which have “a good report” from those within (the church) and from those without (the secular world)—it will be from these men who have made themselves accountable.

Neh 4:14, “. . .remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren. . .”
If we, as God’s preachers, view accountability in only legal and control terms we will have missed the true essence of Biblical accountability—which is rooted and grounded in a love for the brotherhood. True ministerial accountability can only function correctly within a sphere of respect and love among the brotherhood one to another. Your brother’s spiritual welfare is vital to the collective body of ministry. One man’s blight among standing corn is an automatic concern to the owners of adjoining fields of corn—likewise the injury of one man’s ministry is an automatic concern to his brotherhood. 1Pe 2:17, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
Brethren it is important that we sense that our labor in God’s vineyard has effects far beyond the border of our small acreage—reaching even unto our neighboring brethren.
Php 2:1-4, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
Accountability deals not only with “corrective-lenses” but also with “compassionate-senses.” Accountability, as God intends, means not just a “pointing-finger” but also a “reaching hand.” Accountability, in the most basic of Christian terms, is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” While failure among the ministerial ranks may cause “tears”—victory in our brother’s life should bring “cheers.”
May God grant His ministry, in these last days, the humbleness of spirit to both account and be accountable one to another. May we each “love the brotherhood” and “fight for our brethren!”
In Jesus’ Name!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007



Pastor James Groce

Calvary Apostolic Tabernacle

Molino, FL



Eph 4:11, And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

I am persuaded that all five divisions of the ministry are still in effect as stated in Eph 4:11. It is also my opinion that sometimes we tend to overlook the "specificity" of the ministries. We often think of some of the particular offices as being all inclusive and existing everywhere and all-at-once. But consider the pastor, for instance, he fills the office of "Pastor" as a function of the five-fold ministry, however, he is a "pastor" only to a select congregation—and only there does his office have the authority, and execution of said office, in other words, he is not the "pastor" of ALL congregations.

 I think this principle of specificity applies in all the offices of the five-fold ministry. This is why Paul stated in 1Co 9:2; “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." An apostle may not be EVERYONE'S apostle - he may function, in the will of God, as an apostle to a select people, event, place or time. This, I feel, holds true for the prophet also as well as for the evangelist and the teacher. Probably, in my way of thinking, the one ministry with the widest orb of specificity as pertaining to his calling would be the evangelist -- and yet he is not EVERYONE'S evangelist just as the prophet is not everyone's prophet nor the teacher everyone's teacher. They seem to operate in specific places, times and events to a specific people as God directs.

 Paul recognized his "specificity" as to the Gentiles - even though he certainly preached to the Jews also, as we well know - but his FOCUS was to the Gentiles – “by the will of God,” as he himself declares. The other Apostles (these men were unique in that the people, time, place and events were unique) were Christ's Apostles to the Church (to the Jew first) - We do not have apostles today in the same "specificity" of the original apostles because we no longer have the SAME people, time, place and events as they were apostles to -- BUT we still have apostles TODAY for specific people, places, times and events.

 We must remember that Paul called Jesus -- THE APOSTLE -- HE is the single OVERALL Apostle to all people in all places, times and events. Heb 3:1; Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;


Stated in house terms, I see:

The Apostle, as the man who, builds the house. (the man who laid the foundation - set the walls - etc.)

[That's why Jesus Christ is Our Apostle - "upon this rock I will build my church..."]

The Pastor, as the man who, lives in the house and is responsible for it - the caretaker.

The Evangelist, as the man who, at the request of the house caretaker, comes to paint, and clean and make additions to the house.

The Teacher, as the man who, at the request of the house caretaker, comes to illustrate how certain items work, operate, function in the house (i.e. the AC).


The Prophet, as the man who, comes to inform the caretaker of termites or dry rot in the house, etc.

The Apostle is more "government and structure" minded, while the pastor is more "caretaker" minded and the evangelist is more "remodeling" minded, while the teacher is more "to give understanding" minded and the prophet is more "discovery" minded.

But they all are "house" (church) minded.

Eph 4:12, For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: