Baby, I was born this way!

When Lady GaGa’s song, “Born This Way” came out, everyone made a big huge deal about it because the song has LGBT references within it. So, like we always do, that’s all anyone heard in the song. They didn’t hear another thing it said, not in the least, which means that we all missed an opportunity to hear something that might help us in our own place, where we are right now, and developing into what we are supposed to become. More than anything else, the song is about being different and there are many different forms of differences mentioned within the song. When I hear the song, it talks to me about being different, and that sometimes the differences we have don’t just go away because we want them to or because they might make us uncomfortable. If anything, sometimes the differences we have make us exactly who we are.

The refrain of the song celebrates this:

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way

Ooh, there ain’t no other way, baby, I was born this way
Baby, I was born this way
Ooh, there ain’t no other way, baby, I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way

When someone – or something – who is different comes along, how do we respond to it? Do we immediately reject it or brand it as not being of God, or do we invite the idea that maybe that person with a difference has a message for us?

We like conformity in church. We like it when people are just like us, sound like us, look like us, and are like us. In fact, conformity is such a natural expectation, we don’t know what to make of people who aren’t all exactly the same. For example, when a person has been going to church for a certain period of time, it is expected that they dress like everyone else dresses and they pick up typical speech patterns and habits. The Bible translation used by most of the members is the translation one is expected to use, and so on and so forth.

This doesn’t end when we get into ministry. Amidst cries of “We’re not church as usual!” or “We welcome differences!” or “We don’t want the same message,” we find realities that bespeak the opposite. As a minister myself who is “different” in that I don’t preach the types of messages that are typical or minister in quite the same way as most of my contemporaries, I’m not met with a response that celebrates my differences and upholds them as God-given. If anything, I am met with something much darker: ministers who try to blackball me and the work we do, refusals to support or give money, prejudice against the nature of the work and the messages preached, criticism because something isn’t typical, arguments, control, and those who think they could get little ol’ wayward me to conform if I would just become a part of them. I’m not preaching something evil, everything I teach and preach has Scriptural foundations, I’m not running off as heretic of the year. I’ve got great Scriptural education and teaching, and my foundations are solid. The problem isn’t what I teach is false, it’s that it’s true and in a world that conforms us to the false, we don’t know how to take someone who isn’t the way we are used to being.

The ultimate hope is I will feel so ashamed and out of place that I’ll hide myself away and do things the way that everyone else does them. I’ll think who I am is a mistake and that God will un-call me, or call me to do something that everyone else is already doing. The problem is that this isn’t going to happen. Let’s even say that is something I tried to entertain, even on a certain level, which at one point in time, I did do. I’m still going to be me and still going to be what God has called me to be, because like it or not, God’s deposit on my life has been here forever. Yep…I was born this way.

Galatians 1:15: But when God, Who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace… (NASB)

Ephesians 1:3-4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (NASB)

Yes, God requires all of us to be socialized, well-rounded individuals who don’t use being different as an excuse to be disobedient or as an excuse to be sinful or defy the ways of God. That’s not what I am saying here, and not the point. The point is, however, that there are those of us who were called, long before we were born and now who are here, to do a job to point out that the conformity and comforts we often see in church are actually the disobediences we claim to be against. It’s easy to gather in a room and think everyone who is in there is right if no one ever questions or challenges that notion. It’s easy to stay disobedient, to stay comfortable, and to stay in error when nobody who is different is ever let in.

God doesn’t make mistakes and no matter what someone is doing or where someone is at, they are still created in His image. That means those who are different are beautiful in their way, because God put differences within us, on purpose, to get our attention and do different things. Instead of constantly putting down different ministers and ministries, encouraging them to hide themselves, maybe it’s time to look at the track they are on and realize there are things right about that track that conformity doesn’t afford us.

Try to change me if you must; we just won’t remain friends. I pray that any minister with a truly different message will grab ahold of the revelation that God made you different on purpose. No reason to hide, no reason to sit back, but you should embrace – and love – what God is doing in you. Don’t just keep doing it for God, although that is definitely reason enough. Keep going for yourself, too. No matter what our title or how we do it, we are born for one thing, and that is to serve the Lord. Serve the Lord as you have been called, even if it’s different.

© 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

A Female Apostle?

Note: This blog has appeared on my website as a “starter blog” since 2009.  Now that I have a more developed blog, it is being added to my main blog site with the rest of my blogs.

“A female apostle?”

“Women can’t be apostles!”

“I thought women couldn’t even speak in church!”

Statements like this are frequently, if not almost always, uttered when people find out that I am an apostle. Responses range from shock and horror to surprise and delight as people begin what is often a complex journey with the concept of female leadership in the Christian church. As it is no shock to state that male patriarchy has often won out within cultural Christianity (separating it from that which is true), many still read statements about women (not to mention other things) into the Bible that simply aren’t there. As a result, those of us who walk in this call often face a lot of repeated questions which pertain to the who, what, where, when, and why of our calling from God.

In order to establish the question as to whether or not a woman can be an apostle, we have to clarify a few other things first. The first thing we must do is establish whether or not the office of apostle is needed, active, or present for this modern day. As there are many who theorize the office of apostle (and the five-fold ministry by extension) was exclusively for the first century, only to establish the church, we must take a little time to examine whether or not this theory is indeed found in the New Testament. Surely if people make such a grand statement as to say the five-fold ministry is no longer in place anymore, there must be Biblical backing for it, right? There must be some verse that points to it, something that validates such a point, right?

Somewhere?

Nope. There is nothing ANYWHERE in the New Testament which states that the five-fold ministry would cease at the end of the first century. There is nothing to bespeak a belief that the five-fold ministry represents an “era” of church history and would one day be replaced by only part of the ministry offices. If we read Ephesians 4:11-16, we in fact see the opposite become true: “It was He Who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him Who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (NIV) If the expressed purpose of the five-fold ministry is to prepare God’s people for works of service, to grow up the body of Christ in faith and knowledge to maturity, to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, to no longer be tossed to and fro by deceptive teachers, and to be built up in love as each part does its work, then we can see God has established an important and expressed purpose within the five-fold ministry that must be accomplished before it can cease. As nobody can look me in the eye and tell me the church has received such maturity (it’s a joke if anyone thinks it has), or that the church has even begun to scratch the surface on the essential stated purposes of the five-fold ministry, this means all five offices must still be essential for church leadership. As the apostle is mentioned within the five-fold ministry, it is only reasonable to understand and conclude that apostles are still alive and active today, serving their purpose as the foundation, along with prophets, for the church, of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

So thus we have established that there is still an apostolic office and apostles in today’s church. This begs the question, how do we know a true apostle from a false apostle? Is there criteria, or can just anyone be an apostle? Can anyone come along and claim to be one who reveals the mysteries of God? Naturally anyone can claim it (just as with anything else) but not everyone can prove it. God has, within the Word, established the criteria for one claiming to be an apostle, even in our modern times. According to the Scriptures, the criteria is as follows:

1) The word “apostle” in and of itself means a delegate, an ambassador, a messenger with a special message, or one who is sent forth with orders (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). This means one who is an apostle has been sent by Christ with the special message of His Gospel revelation. It is different from the general call all disciples have to share the good news of the Gospel with others in that the apostle serves as God’s ambassador. Right here, in this understanding, we’ve set a high standard. An apostle is one who is directly sent by God endowed with a special message from Him. The office is received by grace and the individual has the power to represent Christ. We see in the Scriptures that He was the first apostle, sent to represent the Father (Hebrews 3:1. John 12:46-50).

2) The apostle is directly called to be an apostle by God Himself. One cannot receive an apostolic call from a church representative or from ordination. One can not be “promoted” to the apostolic office; it is a calling, not a step up on the corporate church ladder. Apostles are not just a minister, but also a witness to the grace received through Christ. To receive this experience, one must have an experience with the resurrected Christ unto their calling (1 Corinthians 1:9, Galatians 1:1, Acts 26:14-18).

3) An apostle must receive from Jesus Christ through the revelation for a certain level of instruction (Romans 1:5, Galatians 1:11) and sent by Christ for the work of the Gospel (Ephesians 3:1-7). The apostle makes known the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

4) Apostles must have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15).

5) The ministry of the apostle is proven by their ministry: through their teaching, preaching, and work of the Gospel (1 Timothy 2:7).

What about the criteria for an apostle established in Acts 1:13-26? Notably, the criteria set forth there was to replace Judas among the twelve and they set forth a criteria to establish an individual who could testify of Jesus’ resurrection. Their requirement was that an individual had followed Christ from John’s baptism to His ascension (Acts 1:22). If we are going to be fair, not even all of the original twelve met the criteria set forth to replace Judas, if we are going to use this standard for apostleship. It would also leave out the apostle Paul, who we know was an apostle called directly by Christ. This criteria was established to define an individual who would be added to the apostles of the Lamb; but Paul’s experience for apostleship introduced the criteria for apostles of the new covenant, as found above. To argue modern apostleship is impossible on the grounds of Acts 1:13-26 is to display a lack of proper understanding in New Testament ministry.

Now we will focus on the more specific issue of women in the role of the apostle, as it is clear we can establish both the validity of the apostolic role for modern times and signs which accompany a true apostle. The Bible mentions approximately twenty apostles or individuals who functioned in an apostolic role in the Bible – which right there means at least eight other individuals aside from the original twelve were apostles in the first century church. Would you believe that the Bible mentions by name a female apostle? Yes, it is true. Her name is Junia, and she is mentioned in Romans 16:7: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (KJV) Junia was an apostle of note among the apostles – in other words, she was well-known for her apostolic work – and clearly commended in this passage by the apostle Paul. In and of herself, Junia has an interesting story; for many centuries, her name was deliberately altered in translations of the Bible to lead readers into thinking she was male. It was just too much for many male Bible translators to fathom that God would call a woman to such a position in the body of Christ, and also severely proved their own system of male power and control to be unscriptural.

The very fact that a female apostle is mentioned by name in the New Testament should be in and of itself enough to prove that women are called to the apostolic office. We also see women such as Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-18; also proven to be an apostle in the New Testament apocrypha) and Priscilla (Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3) who fulfilled apostolic duties. Mary Magdalene meets the criteria to be an apostle as we find in Paul’s experience; and she has been rightly spoken of as “the apostle to the apostles” in church history. Seeing women in this role clarifies the issue that women can indeed teach, preach, and lead in Christianity (even the men!); individuals who claim otherwise are both inadequate students of Bible study and of church history. I acknowledge approaching the Scriptures in a contextual application and understanding what is said beyond a translational understanding takes time; but we must recognize that we are responsible for what we say the Bible says if we take it out of context when there is adequate information to prove the contrary of our statement. The acceptance and proof of female apostles isn’t a matter of mere opinion or disagreement; it is a part of Christian leadership establishment, a part of what God ordained and commissioned and who is anybody who thinks they can do better than God? The Bible alone can prove the “Jesus only picked men” argument totally false – not to mention the vast resources we now have of first century history which can do likewise – and the Bible therefore raises up the work of female apostles as notable to disprove the arguments of those who would like to keep us out.

It’s been said that when women gather together to pray, mighty and amazing things happen. I can only imagine what will happen when female apostles gather together and realize the importance of the apostolic deposit placed within them. We’re not playing church; we’re not here to sit idly by; we are here to stand with our great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), those female apostles who have gone before us and continue our call as history makers in this place and time.

Copyright (c) 2009 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Behold, He Does A New Thing

And *he* has given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints; with a view to [the] work of [the] ministry, with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ; until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of *that* teaching [which is] in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error; but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things, who is the head, the Christ: from whom the whole body, fitted together, and connected by every joint of supply, according to [the] working in [its] measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body to its self-building up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16, DARBY)

“Behold, I do a new thing; now it shall spring forth: shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the waste.” (Isaiah 43:19, DARBY)

On the prayer call tonight, a discussion began about leadership today and questions about leaders and the state of modern leadership.  A lot of things came out of the discussion, all of which was interesting, most notably, the contrast between the old and the new.

We talk a lot about God doing a “new” thing today, and saying that isn’t new.  I’ve been hearing people chant that God is doing a “new” thing for at least fifteen years, and too often I see the same old thing, recycled over and over again.  When it comes to leadership, it seems like the only thing that we do is try to make leadership roles and offices fit comfortably into our own concepts of ministry and to fit what we are seeking, what we like, and what we want to see done in the church.

For example: Over the past twenty years, we’ve seen the emergence of “designations” within various offices, especially the pastoral.  “Senior Pastor.” “Associate Pastor.” “Co-Pastor.”  “Chief Apostle.” “Covering Apostle.” “Evangelistic Apostle.” While I understand where the first two came from and how they emerged (I am not going to even comment on the rest of them and their ridiculousness), it is obvious that designating offices is to establish who is in charge and the reason we use them is to give certain authority, administrative descriptiveness, and identity to people who are doing work that is somehow outside of their office.  We’re doing this to make the five-fold fit the comfortable notions that we have about church, see things through the eyes of the pastor or evangelist alone…and instead of shaking up our concepts and doing something genuinely new in church, just do the same thing.

I have no disrespect to genuine pastors or evangelists.  I’m not knocking how people designate themselves because most people use systems, language, and terminology that will be familiar to others so people will understand what they are doing.  I believe in the entire five-fold and I believe the entire five-fold is to be respected and honored, but I believe the five-fold should be respected for what it is.  In our church today, we are automatically structured and purposed to exclude at least two (if not more) of the needed offices because we have based church notions on Americana, comfortable, modern western values, and are so busy trying to compete for authority and control, we want to make sure everyone knows who we are and how much we are in charge.

One woman on the line tonight reiterated a story about how an entire team of leadership all “moved up” in title: the “Senior Pastor” became the apostle, the “Co-Pastor” became the “overseer,” and nobody else became anything…and they all kept doing the exact same things.  Their titles changed, their work did not…showing forth that we don’t understand the five-fold any better than we ever have, we don’t understand how the offices work together, and we still want everything to sound like, look like, and be a pastor, even if it’s not.

I think we need to realize that, in saying God is doing something new in leadership, we need to realize that what is new in our day and age – the five-fold ministry and a right understanding of bishops, elders, and deacons (what I classify as the appointments) – is a restoration of God’s original system of leadership for the church.  For it to be modern and new, we need to understand the five-fold beyond the pastor or the evangelist and seek God about how we can make it work in our day and age, in this time, in a way that can be relevant and cutting edge for the needs we have today.  We need to stop debating the “old” that never dies: women wearing pants, women wearing make-up, women in ministry, women bishops, can people be in ministry and divorced, conspiracy theories about churches, whether or not there are apostles today, etc., and apply ourselves to understanding the five-fold and really learning what these different offices are that God has given to the church and the signs of each office and really applying ourselves to learning exactly what it is we are called to instead of trying to roll ourselves up in different variations of offices that are most comfortable or visible.  I pray for a generation of leaders that will embrace their true callings, their true purposes, God’s true vision for leadership, and will, instead of running, rise up to set the church aright, in the direction it needs to go.  We need to stop laying down and dying because of lack of knowledge and start realizing the Lord has equipped us with people in this generation who are qualified to teach us on these essential things and take us to a new place…a now place…a place of His perfect will, where we can be fitly joined together, no longer tossed to and fro.

Let us never forget the “old,” original thing, given by God 2,000 years ago, is truly what is needed to transform our age, our era, our leadership; to steer this ship to where it needs to be, and to see new things happen – not crazy things, not counterfeit signs – but the new day that we all look for, and seek.

(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Six Types Of People Every Leader Needs In Their Ministries And Lives

It’s been said that it’s lonely at the top. I can vouch to this myself. I have been in leadership for many, many years (more than I care to remember) and I can honestly say that as ministry has changed, as I have receive more authority and responsibility as pertains to ministry, and as I have changed as a person and a minister, the more exclusive the circle around you becomes. This isn’t because ministry is some sort of luxury yacht. It is simply because the more we do, the fewer people are who are qualified to give advice or assistance where they are. There is nothing wrong with where anyone is (unless they are there out of disobedience), but we need to stop acting like everyone and everything in the Kingdom is exactly the same and functioning on the same level. Nobody is better than anyone else, nobody is “God’s favorite,” but we are not all appointed to have the same function as everyone else. Some people are called to be leaders, and their job in the Kingdom is different than those who are not called to be leaders, and that’s it. Even among leaders we find different callings and purposes, and that means not all leaders are the same, either. In keeping with our spiritual call to maturity, we need to recognize that being a leader is an extraordinarily difficult task in our church today. People are frustrating, problems are rampant, and it often feels like you are drowning in a sea of crazy people. Even the leader with the best people in the world (which I do have!!!) has someone who rebels, disobeys, or causes them constant headaches. In a church where you barely make ends meet and have a hard time preparing or planning for life – let alone events or the ministry’s future – we all need to know that people are there for us.

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes the support of many people to encourage a good leader. Good leaders might be born with the gifts to lead, but their ministry abilities are developed within them as they have the right people to educate and encourage them in their work. Here we are going to look at people every leader needs in their life – and why these people are so important.

1. A Qualified Leader/Covering

“If you desire wisdom with all your heart, you will know what good leadership is.” – Wisdom of Solomon 6:20 (CEB)

One of my biggest mistakes as a minister earlier on in my walk was assuming that having a leader who barely handled her ministry well and was not pursuing it properly was a suitable covering for me because she offered to do it. At the time, she was someone who handed me papers and let me go on my merry way. I was more established than she was in ministry (I had almost eleven years to her four) and had a much larger scope in what I was doing than she did. Was I qualified to have the paperwork she issued – yes, I was. But that didn’t change the fact that I was more qualified to be her leader than she was to be mine. This became more and more relevant as time went on and she failed to conduct herself as she should, both as a minister and as my covering.

On the few occasions I needed her to be there for me, she was never able to do so. There was always a reason, a situation, a problem or just a general attitude of not caring for what I was going through. She was not able to advise me properly and, on more than one occasion, she attacked me and my integrity wrongly in defense of her own inadequacies instead of rising up and seeing what was going on. What was going on was she was not able to understand what I was going through because she herself was not called to nor operating in ministry on the same level.

What I did not realize at the time was that when I needed her to be there for me, she was not able to do so because she didn’t have the competency for it. She might have been a great leader for someone else who was not as experienced nor operating at the level of ministry I was, but she was not adequate for me.

We need to, first of all, address the fact that leaders need other leaders. We need someone in our lives and involved in our ministries that is objective and who is there to help us in our ministry process. It does not mean they need to be perfect, that they need to have our same level of education or our same exact ministry experiences, that their ministries need to be exactly like ours, or that we need to hold them to impossible standards by which to live. I do not subscribe to the belief that it is acceptable for leaders to operate ministry without being accountable themselves to another leader or organization. We learn how to be accountable as leaders first to our own leaders. I do believe every leader’s needs are different, and that a good, qualified leader recognizes and ascribes to meet the unique needs that we have in ministry. We also need a leader who can help to guide us as we do what we are called to do in ministry. It’s great to have friends, but a leader’s purpose is to be more than just our friend or more than just somebody who backs us up because they like us as a person. A leader’s job is to help discern things spiritually and provide the guidance and direction needed as we walk into all God has for us to become.

When we talk about a “qualified leader,” we are talking about someone who is both legally licensed and ordained to practice ministry and has enough ministry experience and their ministry reflects the claims they make about ministry and that they are not afraid to implement the necessary structure and discipline to make ministry work. Yes, we are all figuring things out and trying to see what works best for us at times, but a qualified minister knows that balance between purpose and has the ability and fruit to exemplify the office to which they claim to be called.

We also need to recognize that one of the most important things you can do for your covering is, as Apostle Yolanda Davis puts it – “cover” your leader. Leaders are human beings who are subject to people’s judgments, attacks, and attitudes, and leaders should be covered by your prayers, your integrity when someone tries to attack them, and the defense of their right to a personal life and privacy, without the scrutiny of others.

2. People You Cover

Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s. – 1 Corinthians 11:1 (CEB)

If you are an apostle or pastor, the people you cover should take the form of five-fold ministry leaders (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) and appointments (bishops, elders, and deacons) for apostles and laity (non-ordained members) and appointments (elders and deacons) for pastors. Prophets should be covering other prophets and training them in the work of the prophetic. Evangelists are not a covering office, as neither are teachers. If you are in the office of apostle, pastor, or prophet, you should be covering people. If your ministry is new or restructuring and you are just starting out or reorganizing, then you should be working with your covering to get the necessary structure, education, and design in place to provide for those you will cover. I do feel, however, that it needs to be said – if you have no people – and you are not starting out or restructuring – you don’t have a ministry.

3. Friends

There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family. – Proverbs 18:24 (CEB)

I am the first one who can say that I have covered friends in my life and even do right now and we have an awesome time, without conflict or issue. Even if you are covering people who are your friends, you still need people who you don’t cover – who are not in any way under or a part of your ministry – to be your friends. The reason for this is simple: sometimes we just need people we can be ourselves with, to encourage and be encouraged by, and to share with.

Leaders have the notorious role of “being there” for everyone they cover. They fill many roles in people’s lives: the spiritual director, the mentor, the confidant, the counselor, the teacher, the disciplinarian, the comforter, the exhorter, the encourager…and this is often just to start. We are not considering the many roles leaders still play in their private lives, be they husband or wife, daughter or son, relative, or parent, each with their own unique set of responsibilities and demands. Even under the best of circumstances, leaders get tired of filling all these roles without receiving much in return. It’s great to say, “Jesus did it,” but leaders are not Jesus. We are not divine, we are people, and as people, we too need to know that we can trust others and can just have fun at times without having to worry about meeting the needs of many people.

We, as leaders, also tend to see the worst of humanity in our jobs. We not only hear and see the effects of betrayal on others as part of our work, we also experience it ourselves. People get angry, venomous, jealous, and lash out at leaders who did nothing but see to their needs and care for them. It is easy to assume the world is a dark, evil place, and nobody is to be trusted. If we adopt this mentality, ministry quickly becomes a personal and emotional burden. For this reason, we need to have people in our lives who are trustworthy and empowering to help balance out the negatives we often encounter in our ministries.

Friendship is something that takes many forms. Just like there is not just one way to be a leader, there is also not just one way to be someone’s friend. The most important part of this equation is that the relationship is based on trust and is equal in giving (i.e., when you need someone to be there for you, they are there, just as when they need you to be there for them, you are). Friends should be able to share and speak openly without judgment or criticism. Friends should also be available to have fun, a source of encouragement and people who can balance out that need when you just need a break from the rigors of ministry life.

I am not of the belief that every minister has to be married (neither male nor female) or that every minister should pursue such romantic avenues if they do not feel called to do so. I do believe, however, that every minister should have a “personal life” – one that is not all about ministry, all the time – and friends can provide that essential balance, even when one is single. In the balance of being human beings, we still need to enjoy things – go out to dinner every now and then, go shopping, watch a movie, enjoy a good meal at home, go to the movies – or even just hang out and talk with someone or a group that is encouraging and trustworthy.

4. Mentors/Advisory Counsel

How beautiful is wisdom in the aged and thought and counsel in those who are respectable! – Sirach 25:5 (CEB)

The role of the mentor or adviser is different than that of the covering. A mentor or adviser is someone who is of the same profession, calling, or work as you who is older and/or more experienced in the same work you are doing. The basic role of the mentor or adviser is to advise or encourage on specific issues that arise as you work to build up what you are doing based on the experiences of the mentors and advisers, present through their advice.

Mentors and advisers are very useful when it comes to creating corporate boards for ministers (required for every 501(c)(3) organization and every state incorporated body), for creating separate spheres of advice and mentoring from your board (as is the case within my ministry) and are also useful when changes and other issues come up as pertains to the field or aspect of ministry you are specifying within. A mentor or advisory council does not have a disciplinary role within a ministry body (such as a covering does), nor do they have the right to license or ordain behind a covering’s back, or to undermine the work of the covering in your ministry. Mentors and advisers are often not as involved as a covering is with our work, they do provide the important role of encouragement and information on necessary work and subject matter as it comes up.

5. Ministry Elders

The next day Moses sat as a judge for the people, while the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people are standing around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When a conflict arises between them, they come to me and I judge between the two of them. I also teach them God’s regulations and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. You will end up totally wearing yourself out, both you and these people who are with you. The work is too difficult for you. You can’t do it alone. Now listen to me and let me give you some advice. And may God be with you! Your role should be to represent the people before God. You should bring their disputes before God yourself. Explain the regulations and instructions to them. Let them know the way they are supposed to go and the things they are supposed to do. But you should also look among all the people for capable persons who respect God. They should be trustworthy and not corrupt. Set these persons over the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times. They should bring every major dispute to you, but they should decide all of the minor cases themselves. This will be much easier for you, and they will share your load. If you do this and God directs you, then you will be able to endure. And all these people will be able to go back to their homes much happier.” Moses listened to his father-in-law’s suggestions and did everything that he had said. Moses chose capable persons from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people, as officers over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They acted as judges for the people at all times. They would refer the hard cases to Moses, but all of the minor cases they decided themselves. Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, and Jethro went back to his own country. (Exodus 18:13-27, CEB)

I am using the term “elders” here to refer to those individuals who have been with your ministry a long time and have proven they are competent and purposed to work alongside you in positions of authority within your ministry. When operating a ministry, especially an apostolic ministry (where the ministers you cover are frequently out of state or otherwise far away), every leader needs people to assist with state, regional, or national work on a regular basis. For example: someone in my ministry who lives in Texas can be in Louisiana a lot faster than I can be in the case of an emergency. If someone comes to the ministry and I am not sure as to whether or not they should join with our organization, it is the elders who are able to come together, pray, and discuss and advise on the matter. When disciplinary matters arise, the elders help stand as witnesses and also assist in disciplinary measures. Whether you call it a prelate system, an elder system, they are your board members, or just have people in your ministry that you trust administrative matters with that you do not give to everyone, your group of ministry elders help in the leadership jurisdiction of your work.

6. Financially Responsible and Reliable Contributors

Feasts are made for laughter, wine cheers the living, and money answers everything. – Ecclesiastes 10:19 (CEB)

We tend to over-spiritualize things in church today because we don’t want to address the fact that people are not only not doing right by the ministers of God, they are downright shameful in their attempts to get out of giving. Being a shepherd in the Old and New Testaments was a job, not a volunteer project. Shepherds didn’t hang out with the sheep because they believed in animal rights; they did it because they were compensated and made a living from it. I don’t know why we expect modern “shepherds” (leaders) to do ministry now as a volunteer project, and then blow off the difficulties of such in the process. It’s simple to say “God will provide,” but if person after person keeps saying that without giving, it’s obvious they do not understand that God provides through their giving. Hearing “God will make it happen” when your light bill needs to get paid, your phone is about to get shut off, you are facing eviction, or you can’t go to the store doesn’t just sound hallow and shallow, it is. It’s very hard being in ministry and trying to do ministry with no money. Ask me how I know. Ask the endless number of other ministries in existence how they know. People today think it’s glamorous to be an apostle, but you know what – it is probably one of the most difficult offices to serve in from a financial perspective. When you exclusively cover other leaders, you face the reality that they too are operating in similar if not the same type of work and are also encountering the financial blows that you are experiencing. Simply put…there is often just not enough money to go around. For this reason, every minister needs to know there are people they can count on financially. Whether it takes the form of business owners or professional people, other ministers or ministries, family members, corporate sponsorship, regular grant organizations, a congregation or group of people who are regularly tithing and offering, or somewhere else, ministers need to know they will be able to cover the financial needs of the ministry, their own lives, and the varied expenses that often come out-of-pocket for ministers in the process of doing ministry work. It’s also important to recognize creative ways to receive giving, if people do not want to just outright send a check: have them take care of your mortgage payment or a bill you have, your car note or various expenses or purchasing needed for the ministry, gift cards for places of your choosing, or other ways that people can see to it to tend to ministry needs beyond the typical concept of “offering.”

(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Race Ipsum Loquitor: Reaching Common Ground In The Martin/Zimmerman Case

546575_3674462585379_988285994_nAs an apostle, I wrote “Turning The World Upside Down: The Social Call Of The Apostolic” for a five-volume apostolic anthology recently released by Kingdom House Publishing. In that work, I make the following statement: “The call to reconciliation has many different facets, as reconciliation relates to people. Reconciliation is a part of healing ministry, although it is different from traditional concepts of healing. While many apostles may walk in a gift that enables them to heal others physically by the power of God and faith, reconciliation heals people in ways that are not always so visible. It does relate to unity within the church. We should not, however, assume it stops there. It also relates to the issues that divide humanity, which are found in the world at large. Reconciliation bridges the gaps created by sin, and the result of those gaps, as they form through evils, abuses, wrongs, and injustices. The apostle is called to stand as an agent of justice, a representative of God’s order in social matters. They are called to be advocates of truth in every arena. As part of the apostle’s social call, they are called to bring people together, and bring healing to the rivalries and rifts that damage relationship. Apostles do not have the right, nor option, to be racial bigots. The apostle is called to go wherever God sends them, to any and all people, and for any and all purposes. Ethnic hostilities must cease in the presence of a true apostle’s work. Knowing God calls all nations and people to be in relationship with Him (Psalm 67:3-4, Psalm 68:32, Psalm 96:3), the apostle fosters relationship with as many diverse people as possible. When someone or something is being unjustly persecuted, the apostle is called to stand for God’s truth in that situation.” (Aligning With The Apostolic: An Anthology of Apostleship, Vol. 2: Apostles And The Apostolic Movement In The Seven Mountains Of Culture, “Turning The World Upside Down: The Social Call of The Apostolic by Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, pp. 293-294) I had no idea when I wrote those words in October of 2012 how relevant they would be when the anthology was released a few weeks ago. The various tensions which have erupted as result of the Trayvon Martin murder trial make the words relevant to all of us who are in the Body of Christ, but most especially, to those who are leaders. We are called to make a stand and to stand for what is true in this situation. In that effort, I want to write about the case both as an apostle and as one who worked as a legal secretary and one who continues to do all my own legal representation, to this very day. It is a part of my call to make a statement, to bring clarity and understanding, because that is what I am here to do.

I wrestled with writing this because I do not want to behave in any manner that would assume me to be out of place. I intend no disrespect in this work whatsoever. I will outright say that I have no idea what it is like to be a black woman, with black sons and daughters, experiencing the sting of racism against that specific race in the United States. I do, however, know what it is like to experience prejudice, and I do know what it is like to be profiled. I’m not just an apostle; I am also a woman. Any woman who is called to any office in the five-fold ministry has experienced both profiling and prejudice. In fact, I’d venture that most Christian women have experienced profiling at some point in time, as we are told what our place is and harassed or rebuked when we dare to do something that is not in our place. I’ve had plenty of men, both in the secular and church world, tell me where I could go, what I could do, or what or what was appropriate or inappropriate for me simply because I am a woman. That’s a lousy feeling, if you’ve experienced it: it is the message that being a woman makes me inferior. Being a woman is not something I can control, it is something that just is, and sexism is prejudice. When I was a kid, I watched my mother, already a battered woman, experience prejudice at the hands of the judicial system by judges who were known to hate women, and who expressed bias because my father was the town justice for a little hole in the wall. Somehow his position made it impossible for her to even find an attorney who would speak to her within an hour and a half of where she lived – and made it so any equitable justice in her divorce was impossible.

I am also a woman of Italian-American ancestry, whose immigrant relatives dealt with and encountered prejudice and injustice as a way of life. (People assume I am white but honestly, thanks to my genetics, we’re not sure what I am – LOL.) Under the rule of FDR, Italians were banned from the United States for ten years, and also received the lowest pay grade in the United States – lower than the Irish, the Chinese, and yes, even the blacks (Richard Gambino, “Blood Of My Blood: The Dilemma Of The Italian Americans,” 1991). Even though people often cannot tell my ancestry due to a very rare genetic condition that causes me to be as white in coloring as I am, when I was younger and still had more pigmentation, I was referred to by racial epithets geared at Italians. It’s not a good feeling to feel profiled; to be called out by something that is beyond anyone’s control or doing, and made to feel inferior based on that singular characteristic.

I’ve also witnessed racism just by being alive: Oneonta, New York (where I lived for 25 years) had an active Klan until the 1970s, burning crosses on integrated church lawns. In 1992, Oneonta, New York made the national news due to a SUNY Oneonta college student’s attack on a 77-year old woman. The woman described the assailant as black and carrying a knife, to which the police responded by creating a list of black college males at the school and interrogating, harassing, and accusing them. It turned out, in the end, that the assailant was a white fraternity boy – not a black male, as had been stated. (http://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/27/nyregion/college-town-in-uproar-over-black-list-search.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm)My older sister was denied access to a swimming pool as a child because she was so dark. Owensboro, Kentucky, where I lived from 2007-2009, remains segregated, to this very day. When I discovered one of the outlying country funeral parlors refused to service blacks because they’d have to buy make-up in order to do so, I was the one that blew the whistle to the local chapter of the ACLU. When I’ve been in certain cities in the “deep south” with people of different ethnic backgrounds, people will stare or make comments. Even here, in North Carolina (where I have lived since 2009), Raleigh of which is rather integrated for a southern city, outlying cities will still pull blacks over for no good reason except to hustle and harass them. I know of numerous stories in which black churches were protested or blocked from going into neighborhoods, and situations where churches have been raided and harassed during services by cops who enter, guns drawn, to hand out citations during Sunday morning worship.

I’m in these churches, too. The majority of churches I’ve preached in over the past year are inner-city churches, complete with bars on the windows. God’s promise to me is to give me property in every city in which I go to – not every suburb or outlying area. My ministries will be located in these areas where needs exist and the Gospel must be preached. When the cops decide to raid the building, the odds are good I will be there, too. If the cops decide to pull someone over due to race, the odds are good I may be in that car. When we move into the neighborhood, it may very well be my integrated church that they decide to pick on and harass. I could do the funeral of any woman’s child who dies as the result of prejudice or injustice. This case, the reasons behind this case, are as much a part of my reality as they are a part of anyone’s reality. For that reason, I care, as all of us doing Kingdom work should.

Biases exist. I’ve heard many people argue that bringing race into the case is starting trouble. That is an unfair statement, simply because race is an underlying issue that exists in many situations, and is especially prominent in certain regions of the United States. Even though the individual who makes the statement may not be a racist, pretending racial issues do not exist is not practical, nor is it pragmatic. I believe in praying for peace, as I am sure many of you can witness. I do not believe, however, that praying for peace is going to magically make all of our racial issues in the United States vanish or make race irrelevant to this case. To understand the basics of this case, we must start with the fact that, yes, race was relevant in the case. It was a part of the underlying agenda, underlying motives as voiced by Zimmerman himself on the 911 call. I can’t ignore this fact; therefore, it is relevant not just to me, but to all of us examining this situation. Beyond this, we need to examine the cold, hard facts of the case in order to understand the truth of the matter and come to a place of common ground – where instead of ignoring the racism present and the racism present in the United States, we can understand why we need to come together as one (beginning with the church) and stand against the wrongs that are inevitably coming.

The legal system has a term: Race ipsum loquitor. It means “the facts speak for themselves.” This means that there are legal cases in which the facts of the situation are self-evident and, therefore, their own evidence. I believe the essence of the legalities of this case lie in race ipsum loquitor.

Fact #1: An unarmed teenager was killed by a man over legal age.

Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman. That fact is not in dispute. Trayvon Martin is now dead, and George Zimmerman faced trial with charges spanning from Murder in the Second Degree, to Manslaughter, to Acquittal. Acquittal means the individual did not, in actuality, kill someone. All other charges, including Manslaughter, indicate that the other party was killed, albeit by accident. For Zimmerman to have received Acquittal, that indicates the jury – and the law – do not recognize Zimmerman as having killed Martin.

This is, in and of itself, a travesty of justice because every one of us knows from the facts of this case that Zimmerman killed Martin. Trayvon Martin was an underage male without a gun – who was unarmed. That means Zimmerman had no reason to fear for his life because Zimmerman was, himself, in fact armed. And, given he was the one with the gun, Zimmerman is the one who killed Martin. Thus, given this fact – Zimmerman should have received a sentence that was not Acquittal, because he did shoot Martin – and admittedly so.

The verdict, therefore, was totally unjust.

Fact #2: Racial epithet invoked by Zimmerman was recorded on the 911 call.

The Bible tells us: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37, NIV). Zimmerman himself used a certain derogatory term when he called 911. Magically, now, this fact that was formerly quite clear has suddenly become muddled due to enhanced audio manipulation. It is my own belief that what it first sounded like is, indeed what was said; the fact that it was altered makes me highly suspicious. The altered version does not fit the conversation, nor the surrounding discussion of the call. Using an epithet is not acceptable – and means that race was indeed a relevant factor in the case.

Fact #3: Zimmerman was explicitly told by police to stop following Martin, and chose to ignore that.

Zimmerman played vigilante with a gun. There’s no other way to put it. He also defied order and authority, which wasn’t a stupid thing to do, it was a rebellious thing to do. Right there, that bespeaks that Zimmerman moved forward with his own intentions and motives. Whether the motive was racial, to be macho, or any combination of the two – Zimmerman did not do what he was told. According to law, that makes him legally liable for any results of his own actions (i.e., killing Martin because he was specifically told by law enforcement to refrain from pursuit). It is also relevant that Martin was a minor at the time of the incident, thereby making Zimmerman the responsible party to execute and obey the obligations of the law. If a fight or scuffle ensued, it ensued because Zimmerman did not follow the instructions of officers; thus he was the instigator, following Martin against advice, and the aggressor of any events that transpired thereafter.

Fact #4: Zimmerman’s father is a retired judge.

My memories of my mother’s divorce are highly reminiscent to me these days because the “good ol’ boy network” is alive and well, especially in smaller communities. The fact that his father is a retired judge automatically creates bias in the legal system within that area. That is part of the reason why Zimmerman was not arrested, nor tried, immediately. It also makes other factors in this case highly suspicious, such as the jury’s verdict (which I will discuss in a moment), the passing glances between Zimmerman and his attorneys, and the passing of items between those involved in his defense (possibly bribery). Since when in history has there ever been an all-female jury? Or a verdict that comes down and read at 10 PM on a Saturday night, especially after the jury was extremely divided on the sentencing? The “good ol’ boy network” is a facet of the justice system which keeps things tilted in the favor of those who want to have favor, and denies true justice to those who often need it the most. In other circumstances, the trial would have been moved to another state whereby the father’s influence would not have been had.

Case en Pointe: the Florida woman who used “Stand Your Ground” as a defense because she shot a gunshot into the air to scare off her abusive husband, who is now sentenced to twenty years. She was told this law “doesn’t apply” to her because she didn’t shoot him! Now let’s imagine if she had shot him – My guess would be, as is typical of battered women in the system, this abused woman would have still been told “Stand Your Ground” didn’t apply to her. We won’t even mention the fact that, given racial tensions and issues in Florida, this woman is also black – and, big surprise, the Florida legislature has found a way to treat her unfairly.

Fact #5: Stand Your Ground Law was inappropriately applied to this case.

According to Wikipedia, the Stand Your Ground law is as follows: “states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first…under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justify the accused’s conduct.” later in this same piece, the following is said of the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida: “In Florida, self-defense claims tripled in the years following enactment. The law’s critics argue that Florida’s law makes it very difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot others and then claim self-defense. The shooter can argue that he felt threatened, and in most cases, the only witness who could have argued otherwise is the deceased. This problem is inherent to all self-defense laws, not just stand your ground laws. Before passage of the law, Miami police chief John F. Timoney called the law unnecessary and dangerous in that “[w]hether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law) The basics of Stand Your Ground in Florida is the formation of a defense, rather than preventing prosecution or arrest. Even though it was legally invoked in a situation by which there was a shooting, it was inappropriately applied to the case because it cannot be a self-defense case if Zimmerman was told not to pursue Martin. If Trayvon Martin had come up to George Zimmerman without warrant and started punching or attacking him for no apparent reason and Zimmerman fired, that would be self-defense. It was not self-defense if Zimmerman was pursuing Martin after he was instructed to wait. Zimmerman had no evidence Martin was doing anything wrong and, as one on community watch, he should have been aware that Martin lived in that neighborhood – not profiled him as causing trouble. Self-defense has no bearing if Zimmerman failed to follow orders and, therefore, Stand Your Ground does not apply.

Fact #6: The jury did not reach their verdict based on the facts of the case.

When people are selected to sit on a jury, they are instructed to decide their verdict strictly on the evidence presented to them in the case. They are often prohibited from watching television or having any contact with the outside world during their jury duty experience. Keeping that in mind, and also keeping in mind the information we have already examined, I want us to carefully examine some of Juror B37’s remarks (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/15/justice/zimmerman-juror-book):

She said she believes Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” the night he shot Martin, but that he didn’t use “good judgment” in confronting the Florida teen.

“I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done,” she said. “But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.”

“I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said. Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before shooting Martin, and it was his voice that was heard screaming for help in 911 calls, the juror said she believes.

“He had a right to defend himself,” she said. “If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

The statements above do not reveal a verdict based on the evidence involved in the case, but loudly bespeak emotional judgments. This juror (and apparently the jury as a whole) came to the conclusion that George Zimmerman was basically just a guy gone wrong, but that he had good motives. Whether George Zimmerman was an altar boy as a child, the lead drummer in the Friends of the Friendless, or the lead director for Make-A-Wish is not relevant in the evidence of this case. If the jurors acknowledged – as this one did – that Zimmerman acted out of step with the law and went “above and beyond what he really should have done,” that makes him guilty – not acquitted.

It is obvious, however, that the jurors were swayed with emotionalism – the concept of Zimmerman being afraid, of him being in too deep – and they sympathized with him, instead of looking objectively at the facts of the case. It can’t be self-defense if Zimmerman was the pursuer. It is also obvious that racial issues were present with the juror herself, as she described Trayvon Martin as “He was a boy of color.” (http://gawker.com/george-zimmerman-juror-b37-hates-media-called-trayvon-787873533)

Given the facts of this case, I believe all of us need to step back first and look at ourselves. We need to stop somehow equating this trial to the OJ Simpson case back in the 1990s (the two have nothing in common), stop saying “But Zimmerman was Hispanic how can this be about race?” (that doesn’t mean he didn’t have racial tendencies toward other groups), and stop making it about Trayvon Martin’s character (the kid is dead, he can’t defend himself, and there is nothing that was found to be about him that labeled him as anything other than an average, normal kid). We need to look at where we are as a church and as a nation. The first thing we need to do is look at our own personal biases and issues. Where are we falling short? Do we refuse to go to a certain church or be with a certain group of people because we are biased against them? Do we refuse to do something because of our own prejudices? Are we not helping or as involved as we should be because of something we don’t like in someone? We need to stop pretending race doesn’t exist in the church. I am the first one to admit there should be no black church, Hispanic church, white church, etc., but the reality is that they do exist, and those lines have been drawn because of the sins of our ancestors. The divisions in the churches exist because someone, somewhere in time was prejudiced and didn’t want to embrace a person of a different race in their church. The result has been radical differences among racially divided church lines. But who says we have to still abide by them? There is nothing stopping any one of us from visiting or reaching out to people of different races who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we want peace, we need to be advocates of it ourselves.

We also need to stop making race an issue among ourselves in the way that we do. It has been spoken of my ministry that sociologists should do a study on us because none of us seem to care that I am the only one of us in the room who does not appear to be of minority descent. Do we care? No, because I’m not trying to be anyone I’m not. At the same time, every one of us is very aware of what I am. When I get up to preach, nobody yells out to me, “Preach, Black Woman!” because to do what would be absurd. This doesn’t make any one of us ignorant, bigoted, racist, or prejudiced; it’s just acknowledging what is. Yes, there are people of every imaginable race who I either work with or who are somehow a part of our ministry and it’s a non-issue to us because we are all one in Christ. Instead of staring at it, maybe it’s time to ask us why we are the way we are and how we’ve all managed to put these issues aside and support one another in love. We’re happy to share where God has brought ALL of us from. That means we need to get active with others and stop just ‘sticking to what we know.’ Get out there and make a stand as pertains to the racism present in the US. Join a peaceful protest (I will not advocate vigilantism in any form), sign a petition, join a boycott, march, write, teach on reconciliation in the church – get out there and do something. Stop staring and start doing.

I think my most pressing issue with the church is asking where are all the prophets and intercessors? People forever tell me how keen they are in the Spirit and how prophetic they are, but they couldn’t watch the body language of Zimmerman and his attorneys on the news and see the smirks, glances, and evil smiles that said “we got away with it?” They are so busy telling people who they are going to marry and telling fortunes for money, they aren’t even praying for our young people or for the racial issues present today! This issue needs to be someone’s spiritual burden, especially as the issue itself continues to spark and get further and further out of control. Why aren’t you praying? Why are you so busy trying to get noticed and get in someone’s conference that you’ve stopped praying for the issues that affect this country? Instead of just randomly praying for peace, why don’t you get before the throne and start seriously seeking God about ways to bring about peace in your own community?

And how about us caring about the issues in our own backyard? I am not opposed, in the least, to mission work…but what about addressing issues at home? What about the fact that we have immigrants from other nations coming in, driving Mercedes and living in huge houses, while the black inner-city communities live in poverty? I’ve got a problem with that! What about making opportunities for those who are right here to go to school, to advance, to get educated, and to bring reform? How about us working for reform?

I believe we need more than just revival in the US; I believe we need reformation. That reformation begins with us, right here, leaders who are able to reach out to others and stand as models of truth and unity in our communities and the nation at large. I’m not going to let anyone or anything turn me away from the Gospel of reconciliation, which holds the promise and truth for us and our healing. That Word is what unites us all across racial lines. I believe in that Word, and the Spirit that unites.

So, no matter how white I may look, where I may be from, or what you may think of me, I want justice for Trayvon. Not just for Trayvon, but for everyone who has experienced injustice in their lives and prejudice based on skin color, or any other reason they may experience injustice. And, with you, I will stand, because the facts on this case, and on racism, speak for themselves.

(c) 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

There Is No “But”

“As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water they were terrified and said, ‘It’s a ghost!’ and cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them: ‘Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, order me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when He saw the strong wind He became afraid. And starting to sink, He cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:25-32, NET)

I was recently in an event where I was in the room with two other apostles and a pastor. Discussion of the Apostle Peter’s experience walking on water came up, to which one of the other leaders stated the following: “If someone came and said they walked on water, you know what we would all say – That’s of the devil.”

I sat and thought about it for a minute, and then quietly responded: “I wouldn’t say that. I would want to know more about their experience.”

I was willing to be the odd man out of the group for this one. That may be how the majority of the church may think, but that was not how I think. The Apostle Peter’s experience is fascinating to me for many reasons. Despite the good level of talk we do in the church today – we say we believe God for this, that, and something else, I know that an awful lot of people would say that such an experience today is either wrong, of the devil, or imaginary. So I ask you: what would you say to such an experience? Do you believe it is possible? Would you discount any and all possibility of such? For the sake of argument, let’s leave off the “What ifs”: What if the person is lying, what if the person is crazy, what if it was a magic trick and someone walked across on plexi-glass, what if it’s all made-up, etc. We are going to go on the premise that someone, of sound mind and spiritual being, comes and shares such an experience with you. What would you do?

As sure as I sit here, I have faith that such an experience can happen again. The Apostle Peter had the same Holy Ghost I have (as Apostle Yolanda Davis-Greggs would put it) and that means the same results can come forth. Let’s also clarify why the argument that such an experience was “just for Peter” or “just for that time” is no good. If it was the Apostle Peter’s faith which propelled him to walk toward Jesus, recognizing Who He was in that very moment, then walking on water was an act proportioned to a great measure of faith. If it was a measure of faith, it is still possible, even today. The argument that it was just for another time is the same argument people use against other measures of faith in our modern times, be they tongues, healing, the five-fold ministry, and miracles – but notice we seem to have defenses in place to dispel all those arguments. So why is it that we would never think or fathom that Jesus couldn’t call someone out of a boat today – and that person, having such a measure of faith – walks out on the water to Him?

I think what disturbs me most about what I am speaking of is the clear lack of faith. Today people in the church have the appearance of belief, but if we really press it, they do not, in actuality, have faith. People really believe a miracle is getting their electric bill paid or getting a car loan, when anyone who has or does not have faith can, in actuality, do those things. We’ve reduced God and the miraculous to things that, are in actuality, not a miracle. The result is a faith that sounds like this: “I believe, but.” People today say they believe in God, but then find a million other things they do not believe God can do or is doing today. In faith, there is no “I believe, but.” (Thank you Apostle Yolanda for that line!) We either believe in it, or we don’t, and if we believe all things are possible with God, that means ALL things are possible. We don’t have to have seen it to know it’s real, for “…Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, NET) In order to see the great miracles of God, we must have faith first. Someone needs to stand and have the faith to agree with God for the incredible. All we have to do is have faith…and yet…somehow that seems hard for this modern generation. We go running to the doctor before we go to the Throne. We go running to the phone instead of taking our issues in prayer. We call ourselves things we are not, simply because we don’t have the faith to be who and what God has called us to be. When it comes right down to it, we don’t receive the Spirit in a transforming way in our lives because we simply do not have the faith.

I think I don’t doubt the possibility of the experience because of all I see in the recount of the Apostle Peter’s experience. We can clearly see Jesus’ divinity in the passage, but that is not all God was trying to teach us there. The Apostle Peter had an experience that changed his entire perception of faith and belief, and stood as an ensign to the others who were there. I also know that in the course of my own ministry, I deeply identify with the Apostle Peter’s literal ups and downs. I’ve been on the water, under the water, and pulled out of it in so many ways in the spiritual realm, I see no reason why it can’t happen in the natural realm. Being in ministry was never something I asked for. God called me, and I answered. Being in ministry for the past sixteen years has not been easy. When I started out, I was plagued with emotional, mental, and physical problems. I had been diagnosed with clinical depression. I was sick, and nobody knew what was wrong with me. I had been hurt by tradition and the legalism of religion. I suffered from seizures. Being in ministry did not make these problems go away; in fact, in some ways, the stinging difference of my call made some of these problems more prevalent. It took faith in God and faith in His purpose for me to bring me to a place where I could be healed in Jesus’ Name. Many times throughout this walk, I have been in a place of faith, only to start drowning when I stopped walking in faith. In keeping with the Apostle Peter’s experience, God pulled me right back up, set me right back where I needed to be, and I realized Who He was, all over again. I had my own experience with God, a re-baptism of sorts: brought to a prefigure of death and risen once again to new life.

I still go through various trials, even though all of the physical and mental ailments mentioned in the last paragraph have long been healed and are no longer a part of my life. Now I deal with people who try to pull me under the water with them because they do not have the faith to walk on the water. I’ve had a few very vocal critics (who are mad because I wouldn’t let them be in control, are jealous, didn’t get their way, or something like that) as the ministry gets bigger, who only by the grace of God are silenced. The ways God silences them are serious, because judgment begins with those who claim to believe: most either are downsized in scope or wind up out of ministry all together. Now I have people under the ministry and who are friends who know better when people try to stir up those waters to drown, but that wasn’t always the case. I had many times where I would go under the water with them, only to rise up again by the very hand of God Himself, bringing me to a place where I could know and experience the divine in a realm that is only of Him. I know God is real and He works miracles even today – miracles beyond bills paid and money received – because I have experienced it within my own life. We know God is no respecter of persons, which means you can receive, too – if you will but trust and believe.

We can’t say we believe in the resurrection and discount the possibility of defying the natural elements by faith to walk on water. Why, you ask? Because it is a miracle that is also a type of the resurrection. The resurrection defies all natural order, including death and decay. In the Apostle Peter’s walk, descent under the water, and then being pulled back up out of it, we find the prefigure of the resurrection. In that single action, we learn that faith is the secret to overcome death and walk in eternal life. That is why it was the Apostle Peter who stood up on Pentecost to speak of the power of baptism: “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38, NET). The Apostle Peter understood about baptism and Jesus’ resurrection in a way that nobody else there could, because he, himself, had lived through a type of it based on his faith. He’d been brought to the brink and raised up again. He knew death, burial, and resurrection through his own baptismal experience, out there on the lake. He also knew the power of faith and how it could overcome anything: the elements, the storm, the trial, and even death.

Jesus poses an interesting question to us in Luke 18:8: “…Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (NET) Faith is about a lot more than what you “confess,” how much stuff you have or how big your bank account is, or, quite honestly, how well you can turn your relationship with God around toward yourself, manipulating the Word and turning it into something far from its purpose. When Jesus comes back, will He find faith on the earth? Will He find a true and lasting faith that stands upon the promise that all things are possible? If God called me to walk toward Him on the water tomorrow, you better believe I’d be up and out there, trusting Him with complete faith and assurance that if I walked, I’d walk, and if I sunk, He’d catch me. What about you? Would you believe in such an experience? Would such change your life, or would you still be talking about God in terms of light bills and money? Would you discount someone else who had such an experience? Lord, I want to see the church in a better place, a truer place – where Your signs and wonders follow because we do believe. Oh, how I long for that day – because I am sick of the church of “I believe, but.”

In faith, there is no room for “I believe, but.” In this era where people are tried and sinking, it’s time to be tried – and succeed in faith. The Word says judgment begins in the house of God, and we all know that means the church is called to accountability. If we do not really believe as we should and stand on faith as we are so called to do, we walk a dangerous line of playing with God. God isn’t playing! If we mock the things of God and distort the truth, we will sink under that water to death instead of living again. So I call to you today, come on out into the water with me, whatever happens – and let’s represent a true faith to the end, answering as He has called us. All He asks is that we will believe and obey, unto the end of faith.

© 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Heirs Of Promise

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29, NIV)

For those who follow me on Facebook, you will note it has been an interesting day for me. To be honest, I’ve spent most of it hysterical, because I can’t believe people. The day got off to a start with quite a bang: I encountered a prophalying false prophet who tried to con money out of me, and when I called him on it, he accused me of insulting him, not having faith, and then blocked me. If that wasn’t enough, I had someone else start bothering me (yes, he was irritating me) yesterday afternoon into this morning. He claimed to be a minister and seemed to want to talk to me via the phone and Skype. I explained the phone wasn’t going to happen, as it costs me a lot of money to talk to people in many countries overseas (it depends on the country – for example, Europe isn’t that bad, but countries in Africa and Asia can cost up to $2.00 a minute depending on where they are), and Skype was the best option. So, completely ignoring what I said, he called, to which I did not answer the phone, and got to hear my voicemail message.

Ah, my voicemail message. That message has been the same since I’ve had the phone, which is about a year now. No, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I’d have to call it to even tell you what it said. Well, this individual comes back on FB to tell me how “anointed” my voice is. I was like, um, ok…whatever…already thinking this person is not only weird, but annoying now, too. As I was busy last night, I said, “If you want to talk to me on Skype, you can wait until tomorrow.” Alas, things were left at that.

Funny what a difference a few hours makes. Today I was accused of not only not being anointed, but also not being a woman! He told me I sounded like a woman-man, whatever that is. It was also stated that if he was to work with me in a ministerial capacity, I would have to “prove” I was a woman to him via camera. Now, we all know this didn’t go over with me, and we all know I was tempted to call him an assorted statement of names, but the bottom line to me was simple: he accused me of being dishonest about myself and presenting myself falsely, and I was, therefore, not working with anyone who insisted I was not who I, indeed, am. When I posted about the woman-man issue on here today, some of us started sharing about our backgrounds…and that got me to thinking about my own life and God’s course of action within me in the shaping of His apostle.

I grew up the youngest of five, all girls: the oldest is twenty-two years my senior, followed by twenty-one years my senior, eleven years my senior, and eight years my senior. For those of you who think that would be wonderful, that is way too much estrogen in one generation. Then my oldest sister had to up and have a girl, my niece, who is eighteen months younger than I am – thus, in the same generation, yet another girl, who was also the devil incarnate. It was a life of hair-pulling, biting (yes, I said biting), incessant teasing, gossip, outdoing each other, competition, and yes, secrets. I learned very young not to reveal my personal issues. When I was in Kindergarten, I had a friend who was a boy. I made the mistake of sitting with him on the bus one time and my sisters had to tell everyone about it at the dinner table. They accused me of having a “boyfriend,” as if, at six, that was even humanly possible. Even my father, who wasn’t much to speak of or ever interested in anything having to do with us, had to tease me about it. I learned early on that girls were not to be trusted – they were catty, mean, and self-centered. This was reiterated throughout my life, over and over again. I found it hard to have many female friends, and the few I did have, we always seemed to have issues. There was one I had where we had an infamous not-speaking fight for three weeks at a time at least once per year and others who I spent more time not speaking to than speaking to. The “girls club” I more or less hung with in elementary school was on and off, even at eight and nine years old. It was a wild and weird world, time and time again.

As far back as I can remember, I played with the boys. The games were simple, the rules were clear, you didn’t have to worry your business would be spread all over the school, and offenses were easily forgotten. I’d spent so many years hanging out with my first boyfriend, I was, in many ways, one of the guys. Even when he wasn’t around, I still hung out with his friends, who, in turn, were my friends. We shared books, visited each other’s houses, and his boy scout troop even wanted me to join the troop and become a boy scout! Everyone knew it, as much as my Catholic school instructors hated it, they put up with it, and despite their best efforts to turn me into the girl they thought I should be, it never happened. First chance I got, the ugly sweater vest came off, my blouse got untucked, and the tights came off. Even back then, people saw fit to challenge my perspectives. I was accused of being unfeminine, un-nurturing, and not enough of “a girl.” The most girly thing about me was my long hair, and funny, even that wasn’t right – they all wanted me to cut it or put it up in a bun. It seemed like I just wasn’t ever going to become what their definition of a “woman” was.

This was all years before I had any idea I was an apostle, or even knew what an apostle was. I was not just different as a person, I was also different as a female. This was marked in so many ways, and even confirmed in my name: I am named after two men. I am named after Dr. Lee, who was the attending OBGYN at my birth, and Brendan of Klonfert (Brendan being my Confirmation name), an Irish saint who I later learned was an apostle. Even my last name, “Marino,” is the masculine form of “Marina.” Nothing about me was like the other girls: I was around all boys, and wanted the same opportunities they had. It wasn’t right that they could be a priest if they so chose to and I was automatically disqualified because I was a girl. It wasn’t right that they were encouraged to be ambitious and aim for things in life and I was to settle for being a mother and sitting in the church pew. I wanted more, I sought more, I was destined for more. If what I wanted was only for men, God made me the wrong gender (and we wonder how all these things get started – the nonsense and confusion of the traditions of men). Yet God never told me I was the wrong gender, nor did He tell me what I wanted was only for men. In fact, God never told me there was anything wrong with me, or anything that made me unfeminine or unqualified to be a woman. Time after time, God simply affirmed that I was different.

Down the line, the relationships obliviously changed. The games with the boys changed (I don’t think I have to elaborate as to how, we can all figure it out) and male-female interaction became more complicated. This didn’t change female-female interaction; that got more complicated, too. Everything was about who you were dating, who you were seen with, and this never-ending competition over guys, jobs, and status. I did find, however, that it was still easier for me to interact with men than women. Even with a man who was a total flirt or had the hots for me was easy for me to handle; it was all the jealousy and competition I didn’t know how to sport. I didn’t tolerate it then, and don’t tolerate it now. I have always been one to speak my mind, and that doesn’t always go over easily in church settings. I had numerous men tell me I was unqualified to do this or that, and even had a man tell me I had a demon, because no woman could want to preach without having a demon. In hindsight, it’s funny to think about some of the things we went through in the doctrinal war of sexism. We’d run around, making sure no one saw us in a pair of pants or wearing make-up, not to mention the numerous times I lied about dying my hair or having gotten it cut because “some people had a problem with that.”

If I look back over the years, I realize that much of my formation and approach to ministry comes from the formation I had over the years, largely influenced by men and the males in my life. Even though my parents separated when I was seven and I did not have my father in my life from that point and I was largely raised by women, I was deeply influenced by the male leaders I knew. Our pastor in the Catholic Church definitely had his downfalls. He was a grouchy, nasty alcoholic with a bar in his bedroom. I didn’t like him. Now, all these years later, I still remember his words in sermons and hear his words in my head when it comes to authority issues. Talk about a change…never saw that one coming. My early pastors as a Christian were all men, and I had far more respect for them as leaders than the women I saw in the church during that time. The first person to ever back my ministry, promote me, publish me was a man. From them, I learned to teach, I desired to know more about the Word, how to be professional in ministry, and how to handle myself. I also, with many of them, learned not what to do, how not to act, and how not to treat people. I learned the importance of teaching on doctrine, not on emotions and feelings, which is what women are stereotyped to teach about. I was, and am, the kind of female leader that men who support women in ministry easily get behind and easily raise the flag for…and, especially in the beginning, the type many women love to hate.

So imagine my shock when God told me to do women’s ministry. He didn’t tell me to abandon leadership training and Christian education, or stop doing what God has called me to do, but to simply expand. I needed to take my same approach to ministry and apply it to learning and all things in the Word that apply to women, women in ministry, and the woman’s call to freedom in Christ. I have been established to proclaim and establish truth and order as much as pertains to women as it does to general issues in the church. Now, all these years later, I am considered one of the foremost experts in women’s ministry and the Word on issues pertaining to women and women’s ministry in our modern times. It hasn’t been easy, and was a deep struggle for me as I overcame my own notions and stereotypes about what it meant to be a woman and a woman in leadership. I still encounter men who don’t want to receive the authority of a woman, and refuse to be covered or led by a woman for one reason or another. Down this line, I still encounter women who don’t support other women in ministry, and are catty, nasty, and hair-pulling and biting, just in different ways. Now, I am able to handle it in a way I never could, because now I see, now I understand, and now I recognize God’s plan. Throughout my entire life, God wanted me to see that the Spirit He gave to me is the same He gave to the men I knew, and the women I knew, as well. We’ve stereotyped leadership qualities as being male when they are, in fact, neither male nor female: they are Spirit-driven, gifts given to equip us in our ministries. We either believe that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female, or we don’t. I had my early influences, training, and truth so I could see for myself that God didn’t make a mistake when He created me female, nor when He called me to be an apostle. There is no contradiction in me – which means the contradiction is in, and of the world. If there are people who can’t understand or see that…it isn’t my problem…it isn’t God’s problem…and it’s not in the Word, either.

In the discussion earlier today, it was nice to learn I was not the only woman who grew up surrounded by guys, duly influenced by those days and positioned for a future purpose. There are some of us who are just honored to experience our call throughout our lives, and the differences that call reaps. Sure, some would say we aren’t feminine, or that we have the characteristics of men, but these people just don’t know who we truly are, the power of our call, or the truth about our amazing God and His equipping us for ministerial purpose. Today I may wear a skirt or dress, do my hair up all pretty, wear Versace perfume, and wear make-up, but that doesn’t change the truth of my call, the purpose of my message, or the power God has invested within me. From my own life, I have truly learned that one Spirit deposits a true message within men and women alike…and in Christ, we are neither male nor female…but only one.

So, I dedicate this word to all my fellow female apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers out there, who have been different throughout life. I dedicate this to every one of you who was told you couldn’t do something due to the traditions of men, who ever felt incompetent, put down, subordinate, or hated, even by other women. I dedicate this to all of you, who never fit in, and still don’t fit in, as we work to figure out who we are and what our ministries mean. I stand here with you all, and support you, and am excited as we walk this ministry together; as we discover our place with the Lord, and embrace His Spirit in our lives. Just like a biological heir, we, as spiritual heirs, can look back and see our positioning and preparation for the inheritance God has bestowed upon us. God doesn’t make any mistakes, and He has always known exactly where to put us, and when.

“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.
Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man, no more.” – “One Bread, One Body,” John Foley

Deep Unto Deep

I know I haven’t written much in the way of blogging lately. There are many thoughts I’ve had, but haven’t been sure of how to word them. This is probably because I have been preoccupied with other writing – I recently finished my book on Christian counseling, am working hard to finish some other works, working on publishing a few, and also with the release of our latest edition of Women of Power Magazine. My mind has been preoccupied…and yet, at the same time, held by thoughts that I think on, late at night, and contemplate when I have a moment to think the deeper thoughts of the Christian life.

Deep: now there’s a word we hear a lot. I was a philosophy major, so that was a word we students of the thoughts of mankind loved to hear. We loved to be told we were “deep.” We associated depth with thinking, intelligence, and thought. Thinking was good. Pondering was good. Discovering the complexities of human thought was good. Then I wound up in church after church after church that “dissuaded” depth. When I wanted to understand about water baptism, people told me I was being “too deep.” When I wanted to understand about communion and why it was important, I was told I was being “too deep.” When I wanted to study the Word, I was told I was being “too deep.” People were always telling me not to think about things, not to study things, and not to investigate.

In hindsight, I know that the people I attended church with and, even sometimes my leaders, did not understand my call. I didn’t even understand my call. I didn’t know why I wanted to know more, and why what was so obvious to me didn’t seem to be to others. So, for years, I bucked the odds and “went deep.” It cost, and still costs, a lot, because it goes against the grain of years’ worth of cultural indoctrination and misunderstanding of belief. And yet….somehow…it has still been misunderstood. I’ll never forget the night I went to minister for a woman at her church and she introduced me to her church as “not deep.” The year was 2010, and I’d never had anyone describe me as “not deep” before. To be honest, I was very offended by such a description, especially by someone who did not know me very well. I know what she was trying to say, and she didn’t mean it in a negative way…but she could have found a better way to put it. Then there was the opposite extreme, when a minister I once hosted tried to take a stab at me, telling me that people “over think too much” in response to my own pondering on an issue, expressed out loud, which was overheard.

I always seem to note extremes in depth in the church. The people I mentioned above are those who took matters so serious, they became obnoxious. These types aren’t really that deep, and may not even consider themselves as such, but they sound deep. They know the public causes to pick on. They know what side to pick on politics to be popular and embrace that popularity. Truth doesn’t matter. They likewise know what to pick at in people’s personal space. You know the sanctimonious, judgmental tone they take with everyone they know – they criticize divorcees as not “trying” hard enough to make things work; they fail to empathize with others; they criticize the single mother for not being married, without all the information; and yet, they are people who often have no right to behave as they do. They are closet hypocrites, harboring their own sins, that they want to share with you until they decide they don’t anymore, because you know the hypocrite they are and suddenly you aren’t of benefit to them any longer. Then you know the truth of them – you know that under that sanctimonious tone is a man or woman who really doesn’t practice what they preach – and they can’t face you, so they just cut you out of the picture.

Then we have the extreme of people who have no depth at all. They can’t handle trial or tribulation. They can’t deal with “going through” anything because they think the enemy is behind everything bad that happens to them. They don’t recognize that their choices have consequences and choose to ignore the results for their behavior. They don’t learn from their experiences, because they don’t seek God for what they go through. They just run from person to person, expecting someone else’s prayer, intercession, or advice to pull them out of their situation.

I’ve reached a point where I am often unsure how to respond to people who seek advice or even who seek out prayer when I do not know them. I’ve found that, of late, people almost demand it from me. They don’t ask me how I am, make pleasantries, or approach me with respect; the first thing out of their mouths is, “I need prayer. Pray for me.” When they elaborate, I often find I don’t want to unite with them in prayer because what they are really seeking to do is find an ally for witchcraft. They want someone else in their lives to do something and want someone to pray, in the Name of God, that it happens the way they seek – not God’s will in the situation. Or, better yet, they tell me how they want a “word.” There are people who add me as a friend on Facebook and, less than five minutes later, come and hit me up – “I need/want a right now word from God.” Well, go get yourself a right now word from God! Go pray, go seek His face, go meet with Him, go read the Word! It does not say “psychic oracle’ on my page. I am not sitting on here to give people a “word.” We are too “word dependent,” and needing a “word” or constant prayer for situation after endless situation all the time tells me you are not nearly as deep in God as you need to be. It makes you a junkie – an addict – someone who can’t get through the day because they do not have a relationship with God that is healthy and functional.

Then I find the opposite extreme: people who just want to whine. This makes the obnoxious people mentioned earlier even more obnoxious. They don’t want help, they want to complain. They don’t want to change, they want to be heard, over and over and over again. Did I mention these obnoxious types are often leaders, and those with no depth their followers? Are we noting a pattern here? While leaders clamber to be liked, popular, and keep people happy, they are losing the truth of the Word, and the intent of its purpose. In catering to what people want, they are not giving the people what they need – and the people search for any infilling, rather than the indwelling of the Spirit.

Then there are those somewhere in the middle, like myself: those who struggle for the balance of depth. Sometimes they talk about “deep folk” in terms of the obnoxious ones who, although appear deep, they know really aren’t. Such as these constantly struggle for purpose and meaning, observing what they see around themselves. In the search for balance, I know these may often feel swallowed up or ignored, as people follow one extreme, or the other, instead of heeding sound reasoning and judgment.

The Word uses the term “deep” in many different connotations. The Spirit of God hovered over the deep in creation (Genesis 1:2), the sea is spoken of as being “the deep” (Job 28:14), emotional voids are considered “deep” (Psalm 18:16), one can be moved by emotion as “deep” (Genesis 43:30), to refer to literal depth (Leviticus 13:34), or to refer to a spiritual depth (Psalm 42:7). For example, the Word tells us to “Come out into the deep, and I will give you a haul” (Luke 5:4). These varied connotations show us that depth can be an endless void, or a search of purpose that draws us closer to God.

Psalm 42:7 says: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (NIV) I think the people of God need to step back and start to see depth differently: see that true deep calls unto deep. God wants us to be deep enough to understand the Word and reach out to others, but not become so deep that we are lost within it. In our pursuit to not be this or that, the church is drowning instead of finding a way to be carried away in God’s spiritual wave of the Spirit.

I long for a time when the church can speak, one to another, in edification and purpose rather than in constant bickering and arguments. I long for teaching that is interesting. I am tired of turning on the television and hearing stories about chicken coupons, hugging the toilet while crying because someone doesn’t get their way, prosperity, and endless calls to positive thinking. I long to hear a popular message that relates to something I actually go through and can help me get to a better place rather than having to go and find the answers to those issues myself. I know that I am able to do that to help someone else…but some days I’d just like to hear that someone with a substantial audience is on the same page and offering something useful to people instead of blowing smoke up their rear ends. I have days when I don’t want to see or hear any of it – not a debate, an issue, or a problem…and yet I pull myself together, once again, to do the work of the apostle. I don’t say much, I don’t complain, and I do not bring any issues I may have to very many, because I don’t trust where they will wind up. I don’t say much or ask for prayer often because I can’t bear that sting of judgment, the strain of never-ending advice, the criticisms for struggles, and the words disguised as encouragement that are merely clichés to brush off genuine concern and support. I am finding I don’t even discuss my observations about the church or about the state of leadership with many, because they either don’t understand or don’t see it the same way. Regardless…I am here, and I listen…and support…and pray…and teach…in the continual pursuit to know Him deeper and truer, no matter what the cost. No matter what I may feel, I will continue to work and learn how to be all things to all people, and providing the level of depth and understanding that will help the church to grow to where we need to be.

Philippians 3:10-11 (AMP) says: “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].” Herein lies God’s call to depth: that we may have a better, deeper, and more powerful understanding of spiritual things. I am ready to go out into the deep. I am tired of playing in the kiddies’ pool (a place of their own territory that’s comfortable to them) with ministers who just want to shove you under water and try to drown you (but, fortunately their pool is too shallow to do much damage), and with those who want to splash on the shore, yet pull you under in their attempt to float. Out in the deep, we can know God in a way we can’t hugging the shoreline. We can walk on water. We can witness God’s wonders, and His power. I’m seeking to go out deeper than ever before. I know the further I go, the farther I will get from those who aren’t serious about the things of God, and the more connected I shall become to those who are truly Kingdom, truly of the Body of Christ, and truly of His purposes. Out in the deep, we have but one purpose: to know Him, and the power of His resurrection.

I hope to see you out there in His purpose, walking on the water with me. Come, and let’s call the deep unto deep.

(c) 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

A Guide To International Covering: Covering People Overseas

A Guide To International Covering: Covering People Overseas

More often than not, when people “hang out” a ministry shingle, the first people they hear from are those who are overseas. This is especially prevalent as the internet has made international ministry a tangible facet to ministry life. Initially it seems exciting and complimentary to be contacted by foreign ministries. Over time, it becomes more commonplace, especially as more and more foreign ministries contact with very specific desires in mind. Initial communications seem reticent and receiving…then start the requests for this, that and something else: money, Bibles, equipment, etc. Maybe they want to be “your ministry representative” in their country. If the minister meets these requests…in come more…and more. If the minister denies a request, communications become scarce. Then the cycle begins again with another foreign ministry, also desiring similar, if not the same things…and so on…and so forth…in what can feel like a frustrating and unsuccessful cycle.

Covering internationally is difficult for one reason: because you can’t immediately jet off to that country and see the situation of the ministry. You may not be able to communicate via telephone on a regular basis due to high calling costs. You don’t know what is true from what is not true, and much of what goes on goes on by trust. There can be communication difficulties if that person does not speak English. People in other countries may need a different type of Christian education than those in the United States, if for no other reason than they have been exposed to ‘mixed’ systems of belief that incorporate Christian and pagan ideas.

Covering internationally takes God’s grace and extensive planning. It is different than covering others in the United States (which is where I am from, so that is the platform I am writing this from). In order to successfully cover those you can’t jump in the car and see in a few hours, here are a few keys to bringing forth solid covering AND instruction that can help people all over the world.

Before I begin, I want to say the following: I am certainly not implying that EVERY minister overseas lies about their circumstance or is somehow untrustworthy. I know many ministers who work internationally and are awesome men and women of God. They are trustworthy, capable, and powerful in the Word. Let’s not forget one thing, however: they aren’t soliciting ministers in the United States for things. We cannot ignore the fact that scams DO exist. They exist in the United States as much as they do anywhere else. The difference, however, is that because we live in the United States, it is easier to figure out when something is wrong because we are here. When dealing internationally, we have to be more careful. That having been said, let’s look at our points.

Investigate, investigate, investigate! – Just because you get an email telling you a long story about dire conditions, orphans, widows, and poverty doesn’t mean those conditions actually exist. People exaggerate – they know how to tell a great story to illicit a certain response. This is especially true when it comes to Christians. Poverty, injustice, and mistreatment all tug at our heartstrings so we start paying attention with our emotions rather than our sound judgment and God’s Spirit witnessing within. Don’t just trust everything you are told. Investigate into foreign ministries. Check them out online, do a search on the email address they send emails from, look in the ‘to’ box on the email and see just how many other ministries they hit up, investigate into websites, do searches for the ministry name, and more. Check into the region they claim they are from and the conditions that exist there. Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.

Know the countries that contact you – It’s easy to think you know about India, Nigeria, Pakistan, or Egypt based on stereotypes and concepts you’ve heard from various sources. It’s a lot harder to step back in discernment and truly discover the situations that exist in those nations. Not everyone in Nigeria is a “scammer.” Not everyone in India lives in poverty. Not everyone in Pakistan lives under intense persecution. Simple research can introduce you to economics, politics, languages, and more that can help your interaction with someone in a certain country, what they may indeed be facing, and give better discernment when it comes to things they may come and tell you which may or may not be true. If you are called to interact with a certain nation by God’s command, consider learning one of the native languages to that nation. For example, I know I am called to the European continent, the Middle East, and Latin America – so I am learning various languages that can help me communicate with people in the nations found in those areas. Doing so shows respect, and also helps clarify potential language barriers.

Ask for paperwork – In the United States, we have a non-profit process known as 501 (c)(3) tax exemption. This means that, according to the Internal Revenue Service, a ministry organization is considered “charitable” and people can give to that organization without the money being taxed. Even though they don’t call it “non-profit,” most countries worldwide have a system by which a ministry organization is considered “charitable” and, therefore, legally allowed to collect donations. Do ask for copies of their filed paperwork and legal tax exemptions/charitable status. If they don’t have this status, ask why. Odds are good that if they don’t have it, the organization has somehow been considered ‘subversive’ for reasons other than religion. Don’t accept the answer that they are being persecuted because they are Christian – because this is most likely untrue on a governmental level.

Have guidelines they must abide by – and show forth in signature – It’s essential that, when covering people, we have guidelines for them to follow. These guidelines should reflect Bible leadership and plain, old-fashioned common sense. It is especially important that those who are covered internationally have guidelines are required to follow – and that those requirements be upheld. They aren’t a forum for “Let’s Make A Deal.” If the guidelines require tithing, then they have to tithe – it doesn’t matter how poor they think they are, they are still required to give. If they want to be covered but don’t want to tithe, then they can’t be covered. If they want to be covered but don’t want to participate in the regular meetings, then they can’t be covered. If they want to be covered but don’t want to write the monthly reports, then they can’t be covered. It needs to be that simple. Giving in on guidelines they just don’t feel they can or want to meet shows that you, as their leader, can be manipulated and pushed around if they play the right buttons. This needs to be avoided – most certainly – especially given the next point.

Foreigners may have very fixed concepts about things that may need changing – I’ll never forget the day a man from Pakistan sent me a message on FB: “You come to MY country!” My response? “Oh no, I NOT come to YOUR country!” This is an example of a difference in cultural approach between nations. Other countries are not the United States – especially those in non-western nations. They have different social interactions, different concepts about men and women, different ideas about money, about ways money should be distributed, about giving, and about doctrinal concepts. The point on ‘doctrinal concepts’ is extremely important when covering. On initial examination, many of them sound Christian – they seem to know how to use the Bible and they seem to understand basics of doctrine and talk of Jesus. Upon closer examination, however, other issues may come to light that will need address. They may be mixing different Christian beliefs with ancestral worship, paganism, or occult practices, engaged with secret societies, or taking in so-called Biblical teaching from any number of sources accessible to them (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.). If you are to correct their incorrect understandings, it is essential that they understand your role in their life. They need to understand about the five-fold ministry and what you, as an apostle, prophet, etc., do in their life and ministry. They need to realize that you are an authority to them – and that they must speak with you in a certain manner, holding forth respect and courtesy, and do not have the right to undermine you or lie to you. If they do not feel that they can handle this system of respect, they should politely be informed that they would be better served elsewhere.

Don’t be bullied – Many ministries overseas that are seeking American covering are interested in what the American ministry can do for them. This means they can be demanding with time, impatient with the minister at hand, expect instant responses, and expect hours and hours of instruction, free materials, and yes, even money – all at the drop of a hat. This spirit needs to be checked with a foreign minister just as much as we would check it with an American counterpart. Foreign ministers need to realize they are not the only people covered by that person, that they are not mind-readers and don’t know when a situation is up if they are not told as such, and that respect, decency, and order are all essential in their interaction with you, as their leader.

Do not agree to sponsor anything – not schooling, education, etc. through direct or alternative sources – We have covering all wrong. It is NOT the job of a covering to financially sponsor everyone they cover. When covering, you are giving your time, your teaching, your materials, your instruction, etc. to them – and it is their job to give tithes and offerings to you. That’s God’s system, not the other way around. When it comes to foreigners, many foreigners are professional beggars – they know how to sound pathetic to get money. This pattern of begging needs to end in covering. A covering is not meant to meet every need an organization has, that’s not a covering, it’s a sponsor – and, while we are at it, a covering is under no obligation to meet personal financial needs, such as schooling or education. This is also a well-known international scam by which Americans have lost thousands upon millions of dollars. Make it explicitly clear that you are NOT covering them in their financial needs. DO NOT become a bank.

Expect them to make tithes and offerings – Everyone in the Kingdom is required to bring forth tithes and offerings into God’s house. Many foreigners believe that because they help widows or orphans, they don’t have to tithe. Some believe they don’t have to tithe or give offerings because they themselves feel they are too poor to give – and, therefore, feel somebody should be giving to them. Then there are those who still believe that tithing means giving to orphans and widows, because they have never had anyone properly explain Malachi 3 to them. Foreigners – especially those who feel they are too poor to give or believe they are “needy” need to understand about giving. NOBODY is exempt from giving to God and bringing forth tithes and offerings to leaders. Teach them about giving, tithing, offerings, and the importance of giving – not just receiving.

They have more money than they indicate – Did you ever wonder why all those emails you receive from overseas are always the same? It’s because foreign ministers pay top dollar to “professional letter writers” to write those letters for them. All of them have computer access, cell phones, and most have vehicles. Do not believe the stereotyped lies that tell us all foreigners are poor, walking around, riding donkeys and camels. Yes, there are some who are “that poor,” but they aren’t soliciting you on the internet because they have no electricity, no access to internet cafes, and can’t afford a professional letter-writer. Putting stuff together in this way helps keep us from being deceived in a big way later on.

Send no money, books, bibles, items, etc. to people directly WITHOUT proper evidence that there is a material issue to be solved – An email or written request isn’t enough evidence. Known scams exist by which people solicit Americans for free Bibles and then take those Bibles they receive for free and sell them on the black market – therefore using your free Bible to extort a seeking believer. There are many ministries overseas that lie about financial situations and take the money and profit off it for personal gain. If you truly feel led to give overseas, you don’t have to give to an individual. Many organizations, such as Heifer International, Samaritan’s Purse, and the International Bible Society work to provide Bibles, education, and goods to people in need in other nations. There is no need to provide personal transactions. If you are going on a mission trip to one of these nations, and you can personally distribute the items yourself, that’s also a great way to get materials into the hands of those who need them. If someone insists they need materials in the meantime, tell them to contact the Bible Society in their respective nation or download some information for free materials in their countries online.

Do not allow poverty concepts to interfere with principles – Let me say something that may sound cold, but I truly just mean it to be honest: being poor isn’t new. People in foreign countries who cry poverty aren’t experiencing something that hasn’t been felt since the beginning of time. Is it something that is fun or fair, no, it’s not – but it’s not new and innovative, either. They should not be marketing themselves as such for that reason, like poverty is something that changes basic Gospel and Christian principle. Teach them how to rise above poverty – by sowing into the Kingdom and learning how to handle their money – not by giving them a handout. You can send them money and in another month they will want more money because they haven’t learned God’s principles of sowing and reaping. Instead of being drawn in by poverty claims, make sure they learn Biblical principles that pertain to finances.

Require them to communicate with you on a regular basis – This is perhaps one of the most powerful ways international coverings falter: at first, you hear from the ministry you are covering all the time. They are solicitous and charming, and seem to be in constant contact. Then, as time goes on…you hear from them less and less. The communication fades because the foreign minister either has gotten what they want or has figured out they aren’t getting it. Just as we require communication with American ministers, so too foreign ministers must be held to regular communication with their leader. Do not allow expense to be an excuse to get out of the meetings. Schedule regular times to talk and discuss ministry matters. Skype, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, even Facebook IM are all free and accessible to foreign ministries – so non-communication is never an option.

Require their presence at meeting times – Group meetings by which everyone international (and even possibly national) are called upon to gather for a conference call or Skypecast are essential. If time is a problem, have “regional” or “time zone” meeting for each group, timed so they can all be online. These meetings should be teaching or instructionally-based and should serve to get people together for instructional purposes – not social or recreational ones. Encourage the people on the conference to pray for one another, meet together, and share in joys and concerns.

Do not allow them to become extensions or “representatives” of your ministry – You are covering their ministry, not absorbing them into yours. The reason foreign ministries always seem so eager to do this is because they believe having an American name or claiming to be a representative of an American ministry will further their own career in their country. In these instances, most of these ministers take the certificate issued and name of your ministry – not to mention your name – and run with them. Make it clear that being in ministry means they are developing the vision God has given to them – and that you are here to help them develop that vision. Also make clear that the needs and circumstances which exist where they are are different from where you are, which means they need to rise to address the educational, spiritual, and practical needs which exist there. They need to have their own ministry identity, ministry paperwork, and ministry name.

Don’t allow them to be covered by more than one ministry – Once upon a time, a ministry came to me for covering, which I agreed to do on the spot, because I didn’t handle things with a lot of discernment in those days. I learned a few days after the fact that, despite my acceptance of them, they went to a friend of mine for covering as well. Foreign ministries will go from person to person, ministry to ministry, gleaning what they want here and there, to try and get money, acceptance, extension, etc. from whoever will give it. If someone wants to be covered by your ministry, make it clear they may not be covered by another ministry, nor may they receive money from another ministry via solicitation.

Do not go to their country for free, and do not sponsor or pay for them to come over here – If God calls you on missions, mozel tov. Go wherever God sends you. Do not go overseas because someone wants you to, and do not put up the money or sponsorship to bring someone over here – especially if you don’t know them very well. This is just good, plain common sense. God doesn’t ask us to “rescue” people from the difficulties of this life – He encourages us to teach and edify them in His Kingdom principles so they can experience a better life no matter where they may be.

Don’t overlook the basics of Christian doctrine in instruction – Don’t assume that because a minister from another country claims to be in ministry or claims to have gone to a foreign Bible college or ministry school that they know everything there is to know about ministry. Don’t overlook the basics of Christian doctrine, including the five-fold ministry, nature of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, baptism in the Spirit, spiritual gifts, baptism in water, communion, salvation, atonement, sanctification, holiness, order, church and Kingdom government, etc. Do your job as a leader and make sure they have a sure foundation to grow upon for ministry.

(c) 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.