Who Should We Receive Ministry From?

Recently, I have had a number of conversations with brothers and sisters on the topic of who we receive ministry and revelation from. It is evident to me that many Christians only seem to receive and welcome ministry from one or two authors, preachers, or ‘Christian celebrities’. Practically, it’s convenient to find someone you agree with and simply follow their every word, since you trust them. However, In discussing and pondering this topic, I realized that there are some problems with this approach:

  1. We start relying only on individuals for our spiritual growth rather than the body of Christ through the Spirit. Ephesians 4:16 tells us that the body of Christ grows when each part functions. True spiritual growth occurs when we receive ministry from all the other members of the body, not just a select few. In this way, we should value everyones experience and revelation of Christ.
  2. We are shaped and molded by one (or two) persons understanding and revelation of the Bible. If we only receive revelation from one person, we start to adopt their beliefs and practices without question. We may gain some great revelation from this individual, but we may also receive things that are false. If we only receive from one person, our views become biased to their views. If we receive from multiple people in the body, there is a natural ‘heresy’ filter or correction mechanism. If one person says something ‘off’, there are many other people to offer or bring correction. In this way we can receive discernment, through the Spirit, via the every-member functioning body. (For example, if the early church only listened to James or Peter, and not Paul, they would probably have lived under the Jewish Law)
  3. We start to idolize and follow an individual person rather than Christ. If we only receive one persons teaching, we are in serious danger of elevating them to a position that takes the place of Christ. We can very easily become followers of “So-and-So” rather than Christ. This will not happen if we are open to receive from all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  4. We can become elitist and sectarian. As soon as we start following or elevating one person’s teaching or revelation, we start to see other teachers or ministers as inferior or worthless. We feel like we have a greater revelation than others. This often means that we don’t fellowship with people who don’t have our revelation or understanding. This is the root of elitism and sectarianism, and is one of the primary reasons for division in the body of Christ. Even if we do have a greater revelation than others, there is never any reason to divide from them or become sectarian. The Lord is one, and He desires us to be one (John 17).
  5. Exalting God’s workmen above others can cause them to become authoritarian. Watchmen Nee made the following statements concerning ministers: “What havoc has been wrought in the Church because so many of her ministers have sought to bring the churches under their ministry, rather than by their ministry serve the churches. As soon as the churches are brought under any ministry, they cease to be local and become sectarian.” — Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Church Life, pp. 138-139. The job of any minister is to build up the Church until we come to the unity of the faith. By following someone and setting them up as a sole authority, we often seek to follow and serve their needs, rather than them serving the needs of the Church.

Therefore, it is my conviction that we must be open to receive from every brother and sister in Christ. We should also guard ourselves from only receiving from one or two brothers or sisters. The body is designed to grow when we all function and receive from one another. I’ll end off with another quote from Watchman Nee, which summarizes the heart of the topic quite well (No, I don’t only read Watchman Nee if that’s what you are wondering! haha. He just happens to have addressed this topic quite well.)

“We dare to exercise our ministry faithfully, but having done so, we dare to leave the church open to other ministry. This should be the attitude of all God’s workmen. We should never cherish the hope that only “our” teaching will be accepted by any church. There must be no thought of dominating a church by our personality or by our ministry; the field must be left clear for all God’s servants. There is no need to build a wall of protection around “our” particular “flock” to secure them against the teachings of others. If we do so, we are working along popish (pope) lines. We can safely trust God to protect our ministry, and we must remember that for “the perfecting of the saints” the varied ministries of all God’s faithful servants are necessary.”  Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Church Life

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Nathan Odell Nathan Odell is the author of Joined to Him. You can connect with him on

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this, Nathan. I think you have placed your finger on a very important issue! And I love the balance of Nee’s statements. What relevant reminders.

    We live in a time, don’t we, where there all kinds of ‘gurus’ and camps, and I think the operative word is that of ‘control.’ Our only control, ultimately, should come from Jesus, via his Word and Spirit – and yes, revelation comes through the diversity of his body where every believer may act as a ‘priest.’
    People still often ask me, ‘Under whose covering are you?’ etc.
    I think it was Frank Viola who said at a conference in Chile that if leadership does not set people free, it is not true leadership. Lk. 4:18-19.

    Thanks for challenging me as a leader to check myself again on this issue!

    • Nathan Odell says:

      Thanks for the insightful comment Erroll. We are controlled by Christ, who is our head/covering!

  2. Brother, I wholeheartedly say AMEN to your sharing – receiving ONLY from 1-2 more “gifted ones” will cause us to become what Paul describes as piling up teachers that tickle our ears, who speak what we want to hear… The entire history of Christianity has been branded by many teachers who come, speak the Word of God according to the revelation they see in the Bible, and then they establish “their little flock”, their little denomination / religion / sect…. May this stop with us! May we be those who are OPEN to receive the ministry of life from all the members of the Body of Christ!

    This is why we love the church life – not just “the meetings”, but the church life, where the brothers and sisters come together and eat together, enjoy the Lord together, do things together, serve together, take care of the young ones together, preach the gospel together… We are all ministers of life, and as we grow in life and experience Christ more, we have an increased measure of life to minister to others…

    The Body of Christ builds itself up in love – by every member functioning in their measure as they hold the Head, Christ (Eph. 4:16). It is NOT the apostles, prophets, teachers, etc that build up the Body, but we, the many members who are being perfected to function, it is we who build up! And we build up the Body by receiving supply from others, accepting others’ ministry of life, and functioning in our measure to speak of the Christ we have experienced and enjoyed…

    PS. It is Watchman Nee, not Watchmen Nee… 🙂

    • Nathan Odell says:

      Thanks for the comment Stefan. Amen brother. Your comments are always insightful and helpful to the discussion.

      May our unity and oneness not be based on doctrines or teachers, but on Christ Himself. May we all be built together under the headship and leadership of Christ.

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