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Culture of Honor: Sustaining a Supernatural Environment Paperback – December 1, 2009
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God is in the process of restoring Kingdom mentality to the church, and those who get it willmove under the blessed order of God s government. This book is both an indication of this process and a clarification of the strategic issue of honor as it relates to how Christians work together in church. Chapter 2, entitled The Funnel From Heaven, is an absolute must-read for those who not only are wondering why the fivefold ministry is not working as we had hoped, but for all who have not seriously considered this vital approach to church life. Danny s contribution toward the Kingdom Church will help us all navigate this adventure of Kingdom life together. ---Jack Taylor, President, Dimensions Ministries
In this book, Culture of Honor, Danny Silk unearths the ancient foundations of the Kingdom of God. With great wisdom and insight he examines and explains the fundamental building blocks of a supernatural society and constructs the framework for a powerful Christian life. This is more than a book; it is a manifesto of reformation, destined to become a classic that will be a reference for generations to come. Culture of Honor is a must-read for every serious believer. It is essential that this book find its way into every seminary in America! ---Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church
About the Author
Danny Silk serves as a Senior Management Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. He is a primary developer of the staff team and Director of the church ministries including the Transformation Center, city outreach, and Bethel s Healing Rooms. Danny and his wife, Sheri, are also the founders of Loving On Purpose, a ministry to families and communities around the world.
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We used this as a study book for our home group. At first, I thought I was seeing things, but the further I read, the worse it got. There are some very good points in this book. The many reviews should show you that (the "ice cream"), but there are also some very, very bad things in this book (the "rocks"). I can only highlight a few.
For me, the biggest mistake is Silk's effort to try to replace the current church hierarchy of a pastor down pyramid organization with an apostle down pyramid organization. I make this point because he hammers it from start to finish. This is one of his main points of the entire book. He begins his blueprint with 1 Cor. 12:28 (NASB) which says, "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." The question is, does "first" refer to priority or to chronology? If priority, then Silk is on the mark.
Let's see how that works out. Silk outlines the office of apostle, then prophet, then teacher. So far so good. Then the model begins to break down and Silk ignores the rest of the list. Here's what the full hierarchy of authority looks like with Silk's interpretation:
4. (workers of) Miracles
5. (Those with) Gifts of healings
6. Helps (helpers)
8. Various kinds of tongues
Helpers with more authority than administrators? Where are the pastors? Where are the elders? Nowhere to be seen. This clearly isn't a list of hierarchy within the church, but rather a chronology. Who establishes new churches? Apostles do. Who's first to affirm the new church? Prophets. Whose responsibility is it unify with instruction? Teachers. Administrators are those who come later in the process when the groundwork has been laid. Then, guess what? The apostle moves on. Paul was a perfect example of this.
This is no small matter. Enshrining apostles as "primary leaders" is a huge mistake. Putting people in positions they aren't cut out for is a recipe for disaster. God's design is both simple and clearly stated in scripture: First, the apostle lays the foundation for the church and when things are moving along, he appoints elders and deacons. People each exercise their gifts within this context under the guidance of the elders. It's simple. It works.
Because this new model is plagued with problems, Silk tries to ease concerns that apostles seem to ignore the needs of the people (p. 64), which is exactly the opposite of what Paul did, who provided for his own needs and all those with him on a regular basis. He was with the people side by side every day, not separated in some kind of super-spiritual role.
Teachers are the burr in Silk's saddle, whom he affectionately refers to as "... the lawyers, scribes and Pharisees of our day." (p.68). Silk finds teachers quite annoying because they believe "... the Word of God is the source of life and truth ..." Ouch! So where does Silk believe the source of life and truth is - the supernatural revelations of apostles and prophets (biblical or not because they trump Scripture). He goes on to say that it's the role of teachers to "... take the passion and the revelation of the apostles and prophets and show us how it becomes truth ..." (p. 69). What? Becomes truth? Once this door is opened, anything can come in, or "fly" in, as Silk and the group he associates with freely endorse and embrace everything from green prosperity angels to feathers from heaven as signs of God's endorsement. Maybe they are. Maybe they aren't. People need an objective, unchanging source of authority. Hmmmm, like the Bible, which states we aren't to accept anything that contradicts what they've been taught, even if it comes from an angel (Gal. 1:8).
Silk also introduces the idea that believers are "unpunishable." I get his point. Christians shouldn't be living in fear of punishment, that's true, but the idea that we are then outside the realm of God's justice is plain false. Jesus drove the point home in the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matt. 18:21-25) where the king finally takes the man who was formerly forgiven and sends him to a debtors prison until the debt is paid. The message is as clear as can be: God's forgiveness becomes unforgiveness if we don't forgive others, hence, we always remain punishable. No need to be afraid, but we should always walk in the fear of the Lord.
There are loads more errors and mistakes, but I'll finish with these two. First, on page 96 he says that King David would be a modern day equivalent of Bill Clinton. Ah, well, with three giant exceptions: David was sorry and repented and lived an otherwise life of obedience to God. No small differences there that Silk doesn't point out. Second, on page 94 he states that Bathsheba "was an amazing woman" because she was married to Uriah, who was "stellar." No argument about Uriah, but if guilt by association is wrong, how is virtue by association right? Bathsheba wasn't raped, she was a willing party. Afterwards she didn't tell her husband. When she found out she was pregnant, she still didn't tell her husband but instead told her husband's boss - David - who promptly put in place a plan to kill him.
It seems that many of Silk's ideas are half-baked concepts that he serves without really scrutinizing them. My advice to anyone wanting to read the book is to compare and evaluate everything he says to Scripture and when the two disagree, opt for the solid rock of truth over the rocky road ice cream of man's ideas.
Some preliminary words. First, let me say that I am most grateful to God for what Bethel is and does, truly. Second, I mostly enjoyed reading this book and did indeed learn from Silk. I agreed with much of its contents and particularly liked the pastoral approach to conflict resolution and confrontation. But, third, there were also some things that caused concern. At the outset let me say that my criticism is not meant to be negative but constructive. Karl Barth said the function of theology is to keep the church's proclamation honest. I think this is related to the injunction in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 - "Test everything. Hold on to the good." This is especially important when any person or movement attains significant popularity such that enthusiastic followers are in danger of uncritically drinking in all that is being taught. So, it is in that spirit that I write some critical reflections.
1. I found the general tone of the book to be concerning. I find Silk often adopts a `straw man' approach in this book which basically says: "This is what everyone else thinks. This is what we at Bethel do. We are right. Everyone else is wrong." Mostly, this approach is simply annoying. In general, I agree with how Bethel `do things', but, based on my limited experience, I disagree that most other people don't operate this way.
2. I found Silk's tone towards both pastors and teachers to be annoying, disrespectful, and ironically, dishonouring. This is the negative side of Silk's constructive proposal, which I will get to in point 3.
"Pastors emerge as a long term leader when all the hope of rescue is gone. People gather around a leader they believe will tend to their particular needs. It shows up in politics and business as well as churches. If the people's primary focus is on them selves, they will elect a leader who has the same focus." (p71)
"When a pastoral anointing is the primary leader the people expect to be the centre of the universe." (p71)
In other words - pastors are self-centred and when they are in charge of churches, those churches will become self-centred as well.
Some questions then a comment.
(1) What is the fruit of this teaching? What effect will this teaching have on people's perceptions of pastors? Will this fruit be good?
(2) This is clearly a caricature. Most pastors I know seek to lead their congregation to have a focus on God and others. And yet, on the following page he acknowledges that pastors have the ability to focus on people and of `Heaven'.
"It seems clear to me that the very best that we can do in an environment where teachers and pastors lead is to justify the behaviour of utilizing earth's model to deal with God's people." (p100) Again, a comment and then some questions.
(1) This is simply total nonsense. Teachers seek to teach God's Word, declaring what God is like and His will for people's lives, and to help people apply it to their life. This is not `earth's model' as opposed to `heaven's model'.
(2) If people read this and believe it, will this lead to an attitude that honours pastors and leader or dishonours them? I think clearly the latter.
Silk equates contemporary teachers in the church to the lawyers, scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day. (p68). Again two questions:
(1) Is this true? If so, what positive function, if any, can teachers have? If this is true then why does the Bible portray God giving teachers to the church as a gift i.e. a good thing?
(2) What is the fruit of this dishonouring teaching?
As a teacher I feel like Silk has undercut my right to reply to his book. He says that I am like a Pharisee, and "every teacher is compelled to be right." (p68) In other words, if any teacher disagrees with Silk, it's as if he is saying, "well we knew they would, didn't we? After all, they are the modern day scribes and Pharisees who always think they are right." I largely agree with Silk that "every teacher is compelled to be right." BUT, this includes him! As my former professor would say, he is hoist by his own petard. My agenda as a teacher isn't to be right, but it is to seek the truth.
3. It appears that there are two main and related proposals in the whole book. (1) It is essential for churches to develop a `culture of honour'. I completely agree. He has many good things to say on this. One quote I like is "Life flows through honour." (p25) (2) In order for this to happen one must adopt a particular church order or structure. He develops this structure in chapter 2 entitled "The Funnel of Heaven", and it is this which I shall evaluate.
1 Cor. 12:28 - And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
The guts of Silk's interpretation is as follows: "Paul clearly lays out an order of priority in this passage, and this order is related to the realms of the supernatural that correspond to each particular office. As you could see in the previous illustration, the anointing of the apostle and the prophet creates a perspective that is primarily focused on perceiving what is going on in Heaven and bring that to earth." (p56)
On page 67 he talks about `levels of anointings'. Speaking of the teacher he says "It's a C on the grade scale, and it's what keeps the church only average in its effects and influence."
Positively, Danny Silk, speaking for Bethel here, says that for too long the Church has ignored prophets and apostles. These two important offices need to be rediscovered and reintegrated into the Church so that the Church can become all that God has created her to be. Yes! But there is an interesting phenomenon that often happens in history where there is a long-neglected truth, when suddenly rediscovered, gets overemphasised.
For example, consider when Martin Luther rediscovered justification by faith alone, which led to the Reformation. In Luther's case he became so anti-good works that he wanted to remove James from the New Testament, because it spoke highly of good works. Also, Luther and the other main Reformers Zwingli and Calvin worked to remove the human element from regeneration/ conversion completely so that it became entirely a work of God. People couldn't even receive the salvation as a free gift because that would be considered a `work'. This led straight to double predestination and other bad things. Positively, Luther's discovery was right. Negatively, he swung too far on the pendulum.
I feel that Silk is doing the same. Yes prophets and apostles have long been neglected and the truth of these offices needs to be reclaimed for the Church. But he has swung too far. Furthermore, Silk & Bethel are not the only voices to say this. Many other voices have been saying the same thing for some decades e.g. John Wimber & the Vineyard churches, the charismatic renewal from the 1970s on, other leaders like Rick Joyner and movements like New Frontiers led by Terry Virgo (UK), C3 led by Phil Pringle (Australia), a whole host of Pentecostal denominations, and so on.
Having read several commentaries on 1 Corinthians 12:28, and other related verses such as Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 4:11f, the consensus of scholars appears to clearly contradict Silk's teaching.
First, most are agreed on what a prophet is. Using Lincoln's definition, prophets are "specialists in mediating divine revelation". (Lincoln, 249). I believe Silk would basically agree. But Silk's use of apostle is unusual. He says: "The apostle will make the presence of God, the worship of God, and the agenda of Heaven the top priorities in the environment. An apostolic government is designed to protect these priorities." (p61) Now this seems attractive, for all believers want (or should want) more of the presence of God, worship, and the agenda of heaven.
However, the vast majority of scholars understand apostle to be a church-planter or missionary. The word apostle literally means "sent one". Aside from referring to the original twelve as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, the New Testament refers to a wider group of apostles (including Barnabas in Acts 14:4 & 1 Cor. 9:6 and Andronicus and Junia in Romans 16:7). There is this scholarly consensus because that is what apostles, as described in the New Testament, did. They were sent out as missionaries and planted churches, hence their name sent ones.
Blomberg says "Clearly he [Paul] is using the term in its root sense of those sent out on a mission, in this case a divinely commissioned one. Christians would later come to call such people missionaries or church-planters." (Blomberg, 247) Arnold says that apostles are "...closer to what many Christian groups might call church planters or church-planting missionaries." (Arnold, 259) Lincoln calls apostles "divinely commissioned missionaries and planters of churches" (Lincoln, 249). Barrett describes apostles as itinerant pioneers who founded churches (Barrett, 294).
This meaning doesn't appear to fit with Silk's use of the word. Also, he appears to envisage an apostle as being stationary, rather than itinerant. This goes against the literal meaning of the term and its usage in the New Testament.
First apostles, Second prophets, Third teachers
Silk says this represents an order of priority that reflects an order of authority and anointing. Again, this goes against the grain of what most biblical scholars think. In short, biblical scholars agree that this numbering refers to chronology, not authority or importance. Answering the question, `Why does Paul rank the first three?' Gordon Fee explains: "It is not so much that one is more important than the other, nor that this is necessarily their order of authority, but that one has precedence over the other in the founding and building up of the local assembly." (Fee, 619-620)
Explaining this in more detail, Blomberg says: "To take `first', `second', and `third' in verse 28 as a ranking in significance would clearly violate the whole point of Paul's discussion thus far. So it is best to see in this enumeration a chronological priority. (cf. Eph. 2:20). To establish a local congregation requires a church-planter. Then the regular proclamation of God's Word must ensue. Next teachers must supplement evangelism with discipleship and the passing on of the cardinal truths of the faith. Only at this point does a viable Christian fellowship exist to enable all the other gifts to come into play." (Blomberg, 247)
4. Thoughts on Church Structure in General
Having a pastor as leader of a church is not as unbiblical as Silk suggests. True it doesn't occur in 1 Corinthians 12:28, but then Silk's choice of that verse rather than, for example, material from Acts or the Pastoral letters, is rather arbitrary. The concept of pastor occurs in the New Testament in two primary ways, the first of which is the literal word `pastor. The second is the image and language of shepherd, which is quite common. So, against Silk, it is not unbiblical for pastors to lead churches (a comment on elders is to follow). But agreeing with Silk, the ideal for larger churches to aspire toward is to have pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets on leadership of local churches, and apostles planting new churches. However, often churches are too small to have all these giftings, which is why prophets, teachers and evangelists are often itinerant.
Silk mentions Elders occasionally but as I read his book I kept find myself asking the question "What about the elders?" He rebukes pastors for leading churches, and says that instead apostles and prophets should do this (with teachers in third place and pastors further behind still). But in my Bible when the apostle/church planter Paul established new churches he appointed elders to govern them and then he moved on. Having this team of godly men and women leading the church is different to a lone pastor. Silk largely overlooks this in his book.
The 'Right' Form of Church Structure
In theology, some subjects are a matter of right or wrong - such as the affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully man. But other subjects are better seen in terms of different helpful perspectives on a matter. For example, there is no one way to understand Jesus' saving work on the cross - the New Testament contains numerous interpretations of this amazing work (e.g. see Robert Peterson's Calvin and the Atonement). So when it comes to church structure I believe there is not one biblical structure proposed to us, but many.
I know that the Roman Catholic Church would claim that it has the right church structure. I know of a powerful church planting movement in Great Britain called New Frontiers [...] which embraces fivefold ministry. Members of this movement claim that they have the right church structure. Silk claims that Bethel has the right church structure. New Covenant Ministries International [...] claim that they have the right church structure. Presbyterians believe they have the right church structure. So do Anglicans, Baptists, and so the list goes on.
My personal conviction is that there is not one single `correct' church structure. Rather, I believe that certain elements should be present such as plural leadership, order, structure, oversight in some form, accountability, leaders with different and complementary giftings, servant leadership, and so on. And so I find Silk's claim that Bethel have `got it right' to be unconvincing, despite the fantastic fruit coming out of that remarkable church.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to "Test everything. Hold on to the good." This is what I have sought to do. I found that Silk's tone in general and especially towards pastors and teachers was largely dishonouring and unhelpful. I reject some of Danny Silk's claims in Culture of Honour surrounding church structure. I have tested them and found them wanting. But like Silk I want to cultivate a culture of honour, and I want to see the importance of prophets and the prophetic continue to be restored to the church. Likewise the church continues to need itinerant apostolic church planters to make Christ known. Reflecting on Bethel more broadly, I have not heard or read much from the most of the Bethel leaders and so will not comment on them. But I have heard many of Bill Johnson's messages and attended a conference at which he spoke and I remain thoroughly impressed by him and the gifts that he stewards and the church that he leads. I believe Bill Johnson to be one of the most important church leaders in the contemporary Western Church. Consequently I intend to keep learning from Bethel as I seek to become more like Jesus.
Arnold, Clinton E., Ephesians; Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010)
Barrett, C. K. The First Epistle to the Corinthians 2nd ed.; Blacks New Testament Commentary Series (London: A & C Black, 1971)
Blomberg, Craig. 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994)
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 1987)
Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians; Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 42 (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990)
Teachings that we are not unpunishable, that we need to create a supernatural environment right here and now, that teachers spend too much time studying the word of God, that we can use our inheritance now and so on.
There were three good points in the entirety of the book.
1. That Jesus sacrifice on the cross was the propitiation for our sins.
2. That we should always deal with others with a spirit of love.
3. And that if someone is taken in a trespass that they should be restored in a spirit of love.
Other than that you can throw the book out. It does not line up with scripture. He likes to use examples for many of his teachings such as likening a confrontation with a proctology exam.
Read the book for yourself and check every bit of it against the word of God.
As for us, we burnt it.