This book, written by Jack Fortenberry, is a gem that each one of us, especially those in the business of pursuing true fellowship with the Godhead must get hold of and read. You cannot put it down after beginning reading it, especially if you've been sensitive enough to notice a bizarreness that upsets one's spiritual balance within the institutionalized church. Everybody has a right to think; we are entitled to our opinions, it's acceptable; BUT we all meet at the point where there's mutual agreement that something different about fellowship with each other and with Christ and the Holy Spirit has to be done, urgently. For there's an ominous visible void in people's hearts; a persistent yearning for more of the Word, more of love and less of clergy and less of interpretation of scripture, which calls for eloquence and consequently manipulation of God's people.
Here in Africa pastors have programmed morning devotions, and lunch hour services, evening sessions, deliverance services, and overnights and vigils and home cells, and revival programs and youth services, and missions even to the holy land etc, in an attempt to fill the spiritual void in their congregations, but this did not work. In fact Sunday services begin as early as 6:00 am and end at 8:00 pm in many churches here. but people return home tired and empty. On Monday they go back to their old lives- corruption and the rest.
All the Christian programming from the West- TBN, the God Channel and love TV and many more are aired here for free, featuring eloquent speakers and documentaries. But the spiritual wilderness in the hearts of African believers still stubbornly abide. "Church" is on 24 hours seven. Yet a glance at faces of people sitting on pews on Sunday morning and further glimpse over their lives at work and in their homes reveals a shimmering desire for spiritual fulfillment. Many "prosperity gospel" preachers have influenced great wealth creation among some members of their congregations, but this didn't quench that hunger for a true encounter with the Lord. Finally in the last few years, more and more people (especially the elite) are falling out of church, and the youth are most hit. There's mutiny in homes with young people getting into things unimaginable.
Jack Fortenberry has a revelation about where the problem is, and in his book "Corinthian Elders" he ably discourses with the reader's heart about returning the Christ into His rightful position of headship for His Church; removing human obstacles brought about by unscrupulous people trying steal glory that's not theirs; glory that belongs to a jealous God who says, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:8). These meddlers have upset the divine order between the LORD and his people. Jack Fortenberry rightly points out that elders are rarely directly addressed in most Epistles that emphasizes the one-on -one relationship we need to have with our creator. He takes us back to the Corinthian church and exhaustively explains the role of elders in the New Testament church and what happened when there was a deviation from what was rightly theirs to do. He goes on to marry this with what's going on in the contemporary traditional church that has found herself in the same situation. Paul had a stance about the steaming favoritism and confusion and said, "My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom (1Cor 2:4).
In the "Corinthian Elders" the author notes that just like believers in Corinth and Colossae shared a desire to pursue Christ but lost their connection to the vine by not trusting His love and indwelling, we too become worldly if after experiencing the revelation of His character and the veracity of his word we again rely on men to lead us into spiritual truth. He emphasizes the need for fellowship with one another as believers by asking the question, "Would our relationship with other believers be described as in unity? If not disunity, or even apathy, is evidence our eyes are not on Christ alone for salvation and edification. "The one who loves his brother abides in the light (Christ) and there's no cause for stumbling in him." 1 John 2:10 (page 18). He goes on to say, "The point is simply that we are guilty of not loving each other as were those brothers in Corinth which indicates we are not looking to Christ." (page 21). Jack deciphers the calling and importance of "elders" in the Corinthian versus our traditional church. He gets into issues of favoritism for the clergy in the assembly, church governance (governing by consensus), ...not by majority vote of a congregation but by consensus of everyone who is meeting together." (Page 50). He masterfully brings it all together, pointing the reader to the Cross of Christ and says, "Complete in Christ." Wow! What a revelation!
Every believer should seek after this well-researched and prayerfully laid out work. It has answered a lot of questions that have perplexed my mind with regards to `going to church' versus `being the church' and understanding my rightful position within the assembly of believers. After reading the book, my view about church and fellowship has really been sharpened. Now I know this to the truth: Colossians 2:18-19 "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize... and not holding fast to the head (Christ). Please find time and read this book. It will sharpen the revelation that the Spirit is pouring unto many souls around the world, that Christ is preparing His pride for the rapture and it's time she embraced Him and not `middle-men' in fellowships and all dealings with Him. Kudos Brother Jack Fortenberry for this great, inspired piece.
Brother Jim Nduruchi