Culture of Honor

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“Culture of Honor” is a book written by Danny Silk (Bethel Church) mentioned increasingly often amongst certain churches.

It is important to specify that this term does not refer to the culture of honor as experienced in certain areas of the world where great significance is given to individual and family reputation. In those countries, honor is defended through violent means.

What, then, does this book talk about? There is no simple answer to this question, because the book addresses several topics that are apparently unrelated.

One could expect a teaching on how to honor one’s neighbor, but this theme  fades in the background and another one is addressed extensively: the prominence of apostles and prophets and the necessity for other ministries as well as the Church to submit to them in order to receive heaven’s blessings.

That message is presented over and over as the book unfolds. Why is that? What is the purpose of the book?

In fact, honor seems to be understood primarily in the following sense, as cited by Danny Silk:

“Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” Matthew 10:41 (p. 20)

After citing this verse, Danny Silk continues:

“Names and titles are important. Mother, father, son, daughter, apostle, prophet, Christian, human being – such names define the role and identity of a person, and, when used correctly, establish the relationship defined by God in which specific rewards are given and received to strengthen us. A culture of honor is created when a community learns how to discern and receive people in their God-given identity.”

In fact, Danny Silk is referring to one of the teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). He also cites Ephesians 4:11:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.

Silk specifies that Bethel Church’s leadership is based on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (nevertheless, he fails to mention the verse that follow: Jesus Christ himself is the cornerstone) and that it is the reason why they can enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (p. 39).

He continues with this:

 

In this chapter and throughout this book, I hope to lay the foundation for the understanding of these roles and anointings.” (p. 39)

Consequently, Danny Silk plainly describes this objective as one of the main points of the book.

In fact, the NAR’s arguments on the prominence of apostles and prophets is based on 1 Corinthians 12:28:

“And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”

The NAR, as reformulated by Silk in his book, considers the wording “first,” “second” to be a hierarchical order.

This he writes concerning the different ministries (apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists):

“They must relate to one another according to His priority order.”

He mentions that pastors need to be submitted to the leadership of an apostle (p. 60).

Silk uses a patronizing tone, bordering contempt, in his references to the other “anointings,” in particular that of pastor. According to him, teachers, pastors, and evangelists are oriented toward earthly matters, while apostles and prophets are drawn to heavenly things.

He writes:

“Teachers are only the third level of anointing. It is a C grade, and it is what keeps the church at an average level in its impact and influence. The need and the potential to get an A grade is increasing.”

Clearly, an A grade is for apostles. A little further, he says concerning teachers:

“The real change that they want to see will occur under the leadership of an apostolic and prophetic culture.”

If you are a pastor, don’t try to look for your grade — you’re not mentioned in the list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (as highlighted by Silk).

At that point, we can start wondering what is the culture of honor and to whom it is addressed.

The word “apostle” means “sent.” Apostles are commonly viewed as church planters.

Some theologians agree that the terms “first” and “second” (1 Corinthians 12:28) represent a chronological order. An apostle plants a church; then, a prophet comes along, then a pastor, etc. But even if it weren’t a chronological order, nothing shows that apostles and prophets are categories of their own to whom the rest of the church needs to submit. “First” can also indicate the importance of that role for the church without making it equal to the role of a leader.

However, that is what the NAR teaches. That view is called “apostolic covering” or “apostolic oversight.” The churches that submit to that apostolic covering often do not know what that entails and what the consequences of that submission are. There are probably a handful of leaders in each church that know what apostolic covering translates to for their church, but they tend not to communicate about it clearly to their congregation. Why is that?

Sometimes, the term used is not “apostolic covering” but board. When two elders are also considered (or self-proclaimed) apostle and prophet, it makes sense to wonder why that is, especially if that happens in an environnent where the “Culture of Honor” book is held in high regard.

Incidentally, Silk writes:

You probably heard the term “apostolic ministry” used more frequently over the past few years. I am confident that we will hear and see more of it in the coming years.

The next step can constitute of an affiliation to an apostolic ministry, for example Harvest International Ministry (HIM) (link). This ministry is linked to the Wagner Leadership Institute, named after Peter C. Wagner, who is behind the creation of the New Apostolic Reformation denomination, which he originally deemed “post-denominational.”

HIM says this about itself:

Our International Apostolic Team and our Apostolic Team consists of five-fold ministry leaders (Eph. 4:11) with recognized local or extra-local ministries. These ministers are relationally aligned, encourage, visit and pray for HIM churches and ministries.

If a church wants to join that organization and benefit from their “apostolic covering,” they commit to giving 5 to 10 percent of its revenues on a monthly basis.

About the apostolic covering, Wagner indicates that:

pastors are convinced that they would not be able to reach their full destina as servants of God without the apostolic covering of the apostles. [1]

Danny Silk describes the role of apostle as follows:

 The apostle will make the presence of God, the worship of God, and the heavenly agenda the priorities of the environment. An apostolic government is put together to protect these priorities. (p. 61)

This description of the apostle does not seem to correspond to the biblical definition of the church planter sent to the world.

Furthermore, what about the elders? Silk criticizes the leadership of pastors over churches instead of apostles and prophets, but he does not mention the position of elder. When Paul had planted a church, he would establish elders to lead it, and he would go on to plant more churches elsewhere.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.1 Timothy 5:17

But talking about those topics of teaching and education, Silk wrote:

Most schools and universities in our country have embraced a worldview that separates knowledge from experience.

He wants to demonstrate that knowledge is an obstacle and that experience must be the basis (typical of the messages from Bethel Church and similar ministries).

However, experience must be confronted with knowledge. The two are dependent on each other. Applied to the spiritual context, for example, it means that we have to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). If we exclusively use experience as a basis, any manifestation will be considered as coming from the Holy Spirit; however, there exist other spirits. How then can we know who these spirits are from without basing our judgment on the Word of God and comparing our experience to Scripture?

Silk also emphasizes the importance of the role of prophet:

The next plumbing piece that is vital to revival culture is the role of prophet. (p. 55)

He cites 2 Chronicles 20:20:

“Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”

However, he omits the verses that gives a description of what prophets are like and those that describe the punishment reserved for false prophets, i.e. death.

A few examples (there exist many more):

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. Deuteronomy 18:20

when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22

As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet. Jeremiah 28:9

The New Apostolic Reformation’s “prophets” themselves acknowledge that a large proportion of their prophecies do not come to pass, but they don’t seem to have a problem with that reality.

What is their take on the culture of honor?

Let’s look at what Silk has to say:

Honor encountered difficult times in our culture. Independence is worshipped. We focus on our private relationship with God and have difficulties recognizing spiritual authority and considering others as more important that ourselves. The result is that we are cut off from heaven’s flow. (p. 65)

According to Silk, we are to consider apostles and prophets to be superior to ourselves and we have to submit to them. Without them, we are cut off from heaven. Many passages in Silk’s book support that message.

What does the Bible say?

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

This passage is addressed to each and every one of us. There is no human preeminence. Furthermore, the subsequent verses say this:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24

And what should we think of the following passage?

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17

Here, elders labor in preaching and teaching. The message that Silk is trying to convey goes against these verses; Silk shows very little honor toward teachers.

He goes even further when he speaks to church members:

We are confined within our earthly limitations when our leaders are teachers, pastors, administrators, and evangelists who are not hooked up to the anointing and revelation flow of an apostolic government. (p. 99)

In other words, the “simple Christian” does not have access to heavenly things if his church’s pastor does not submit to an apostle. The Reformers must be rolling over in their graves.

is the culture of honor put into PRACTICE?

Weirdly, Silk’s tone shows little honor toward those who do not share his ideas. He gives the example of a booklet received at a church that presented the pastoral couples by mentioning the name of the husband only. Even though it is indeed an outdated practice, Danny Silk writes:

The booklet was a lie. That church was no different from other churches.

He goes even further by talking about anxiety and control. All of this because the booklet did not mention the name of the pastors’ wives. He shows little honor toward that church.

Along those lines, the entire book takes a superior tone: “we at Bethel,” etc.

He explains all the good things that Bethel does and that other churches do not display. At the beginning of the book, for instance, he introduces the case of a young couple that had premarital sex and recounts how well he handled the situation, while according to him most other churches would not have had the appropriate reaction. The example that he gives is furthermore puzzling as he highlights the difference in the atmosphere created at Bethel, an atmosphere where people do not judge one another, yet the young couple walks into his office trembling and certain that they will be sent away from the school:

They came expecting that we were going to punish them for their mistakes (p. 25)

After a year at Bethel, these two students had visibly not perceived that the atmosphere was different.

“Atmosphere” is, by the way, a term that Bill Johnson uses in a curious manner in the preface of the book.

He recounts the story of the adulterous woman whose accusers were ready to stone her. He describes the scene as follows:

The Master started writing. We do not know that he wrote. All we know is that the atmosphere created by what the giver of grace wrote completely disarmed her accusers. They fled as grace blew away men’s judgment as fast as last casts away darkness.

Though it is poetic, Bill Johnson’s explanation does not correspond to the biblical account:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. John 8:3-9

Does Bill Johnson’s atmosphere of grace correspond to the reaction of the accusers after Jesus says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”?

Incidentally, Bill Johnson acts as Senior Pastor at Bethel Church, but he is recognized as an apostle (Kris Vallotton being the prophet). Thus, according to the teachings of Silk’s book, the church should be led by an apostle, not a pastor, yet he is a senior pastor. Could it be that it is so in order not to scare away anyone by the title “Bill Johnson, Apostle”?

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[1] C. Peter Wagner, Changing Church (Ventura, CA : Regal Books, 2004), 36

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18 June 2016 admin News No Comments

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