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Ministry In The Fourth Dimension

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 172

There is more to our ministry than meets the eye. Our ministry is not just our physical preaching, our physically exerting effort in leadership. Our ministry is not just visiting the sick and saying a perfunctory prayer.
 
Ministry is more than meets the eye. What we see, feel, and experience in our three-dimensional world is only a mere reflection of a greater, more comprehensive reality of ministry in the fourth dimension.
 
What Is Ministry In The Fourth Dimension?
 
Ministry in the fourth dimension is a ministry which recognizes that earthly ministry is merely a microcosm of a universal, permeating fourth-dimensional reality. Fourth dimension ministry recognizes the profound correctness of Paul's keen--yet sobering--observation.
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
The ministry--and the battles we fight--are not simply third-dimensional activities. They go beyond what we see. Indeed, they are intrinsically connected with the ultimate supra-cosmic conflict between God and Satan.
 
A Peek Into The Fourth Dimension
 
Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the relationship between ministry in the third and fourth dimension is in Revelation. Revelation begins with the "Letters to the Seven Churches." These letters are, in one sense, a simple third-dimensional approach to congregational issues.
 
Those who read further into the Epistle and who have "ears to ear what the Spirit says to the churches" discover something that transcends what their five senses perceive. They discover the fourth dimension of ministry.
 
This fourth dimension is where the real spiritual battle of the Kingdom occurs daily and intensely. It is where Satan, unleashed for a time, rages defiantly against Christ and His Kingdom. It is also the dimension, however, which repeatedly depicts an unconquerable Christ in victoriously bringing all things to their final consummation (Revelation 21:22). It is this dimension in which fourth dimension ministry really occurs.
 
Scripture And The Fourth Dimension
 
This fourth dimension is not just in Revelation. It permeates all of Scripture. Every battle, every action, every miracle which God enacted in, with, through and behalf of His people was a fourth-dimension act.
 
One need not embark on a maniacal witch hunt to find the fourth dimension of God countering the Satanic powers in events such as Babel, the Noachian Flood, the Exodus, the Canaanite battles, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, encounters with Kings (e.g. Ahaz in Isaiah 7:1ff), et al.
 
Perhaps we have succumbed to the same malady as Eliphaz who, in Job 22:14, spoke of "thick clouds" that veil God. He accused God of not seeing us. The reality, however, is that our third-dimension perspective has veiled and blinded us to God and His greater working.
 
Jesus And The Fourth Dimension
 
Jesus' calming of the sea, healing and raising people from the dead, and His own resurrection were not just visible, empirical third-dimensional realities.
 
They were distinctly fourth-dimension encounters. Though observable third-dimension realities, they were more than just miracles. They were primarily and most significantly the power of God triumphing over evil at the highest levels of supra-cosmic reality.
 
When the seventy-two disciples returned from their ministry they rejoiced, "Lord, even demons submit to us in Your name." Jesus reply to their third-dimension observation directed them to the realization of what really happened in the fourth dimension. "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
 
Jesus concluding words, "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" direct the disciples to focus their joy in the right dimension. Don't rejoice in what you see, Jesus indicated. Instead, rejoice in the greater and more important reality that your ministry is a result of your names being written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).
 
Why Do We Fail?
 
First, and most obviously, because we are weak, fickle sinners subject to falling into temptation. It's not just conflict, church struggles, family difficulties, antagonism, burn out, and personal issues which cause us to fail. These are merely third-dimensional issues. The reason for failure is in the fourth dimension. Satan is sifting us.
 
Second, Satan knows our weakness. Behind the facade of faith, inside the outward appearance of confidence, Satan knows the core of the heart. He knows our fears, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He even knows the ones we don't know or could even imagine that exist.
 
Third, we fail because we refuse to yield our third-dimension ministry to the God of the fourth dimension. As long as we cling to a third-dimension ministry, we crowd God out. We think we are in control. We think the programs we plan, implement, and find success in are our successes. By the same token, we think the failures are ours too.
 
Fourth, since we fail to recognize the fourth dimension of ministry, we fail to resource the vast, unconquerable resources of God's power, grace and protection for our ministries. In the blindness of three-dimensional ministry, all we see is a limited resource of rapidly depleting strength replaced by horrific recognition of our weakness.
 
Fifth, we fail because third-dimensional ministry reduces God to a third-dimension God. Three-dimensional ministry hideously denies the awesome, illimitable power of God. It denies His inestimable victory over Satan. It fails to resource every means which God gives us by which Satan can be defeated in each and every battle.
 
Sixth, we fail because third-dimensional ministry is focused on externals. We gauge ministry success by our goals, by our successes, by our budgets, by our church attendance, by the effectiveness of the latest program, by our popularity index, etc. Certainly these are important indicators of the organizational health and vitality of the ministry. However, merely to focus on these overlooks the greater fourth-dimension dynamics.
 
For example, church attendance is not just a third dimension issue. The reason people do or don't come is not simply the three-dimensional issues such as the style of worship, the sermon, the hymns, the friendliness, and time, etc. The real reason is found in the fourth dimension.
 
Whether they come or go, support or antagonize, fight or flee, begrudge or forgive is a direct reflection of what is happening to their souls in the fourth dimension. Third-dimension behaviors are direct, inescapable indicators of the fourth dimension realities. Jesus said it this way, "By their fruits you will know them."
 
Seventh, we fail because third-dimension ministry causes ministry to be improperly assessed on a moment-to-moment basis. It causes pastors and parishioners to assume the same heart-wrenching anxiety that investors have. Stock market investors watch the stock market rise and fall and frantically react with a false semblance of control to its motion.
 
Third-dimensional ministers do the same. They react to the instantaneous, the immediate, the short-term. They habitually react to retain control instead of recognizing the larger fourth-dimensional forces as work. They focus on the temporal, not the eternal. They focus on the external, not the spiritual.
 
The Benefits Of A Fourth-Dimension Ministry
 
Understanding that ministry is not three- but four-dimensional is perhaps the pastor's greatest asset. When pastors come to a recognition of the fourth dimension of ministry, certain new things come to our awareness. The awareness of fourth-dimension ministry...
 
1) Provides a much larger framework from which to consider the ups and downs of ministry. It recognizes that what happens is all within the watchful eye of Him whose eye is on the sparrow. Nothing happens in our ministry that does not escape His careful, gracious, and loving attention.
 
2) Helps divert the focus off our own efforts. We don't build the church. Neither do our leaders. A third-dimension perspective deceives us into believing both and denying the real truth. Christ builds His Church. He builds it daily. He builds it in the midst of full-scale Satanic onslaught. His power for us and His church is such that the gates of Hell shall neither overcome nor prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). It's not just His promise. It's a pan-dimensional reality!
 
3) Directs us to the simple realization that God is the potter. We and the ministries to which we are called are merely His clay. All to often it is the pain, agony and trauma of the third dimension that direct our eyes into the fourth.
 
Get real, pastors. There's nothing you have done to shape the ministry. Get out of this narcissistic third-dimension delusion. God has not made you "God" yet. When God died, He didn't need a replacement. He simply rose and reinstated Himself to greater power and authority. He is still the Potter. We are still the clay. Sometimes we could use a little softening action of Law and Gospel in our lives.
 
4) Subordinates the material and external appearances to the greater spiritual and the eternal realities of the fourth dimension. Our ministries and faith are strengthened as we resource the power of the resurrection for us and set our hearts and minds on the things above...in the fourth dimension. There, Paul assures us, our lives are "hidden with Christ, in God" (Colossians 3:1-4 NIV).
 
5) Provides a framework by which fear is overcome. "Fear not those who can kill the body and not the soul," Jesus told His disciples. "Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 6). As long as His disciples were focused on preserving third-dimensional realities--such as those who could kill the body but not the soul--fear would overtake and weaken them.
 
Jesus exhorted them to raise their perspective to the fourth dimension. Don't fear men who merely have third-dimension control. Rather, focus your energies on the reality that the real battle is not merely a third-dimensional struggle for the body. It's a fourth-dimensional battle for the soul.
 
6) Helps Christians to understand the existential, heart-wrenching suffering, pain and spiritual torture pastors feel during the difficult and traumatic ministry experiences. The hurt you feel is not simply a conglomeration of  third-dimension dynamics. It's not just a backlash of others' dysfunctions. It's not simply an irreconcilable disagreement.
 
What's happening deep inside is not simply the pain of having to face your own weaknesses, dysfunction, or unresolved personal issues. If it was, it wouldn't be so painful. Instead these types of suffering are rooted in the fourth dimension. The deep, intense existential spiritual agony is nothing less than our sharing in the very sufferings and death of the body of Christ. Because we share in His pain, we also share in His powerful and victorious healing.
 
7) Affects view of our calling: greater purpose for what we are currently doing than we will ever realize. We only see through a glass darkly! We may receive occasional glimpses or flashes of the reason and results of our ministry and calling.
 
To the extent that this interpretation is rooted merely in the third dimension, it conceals the bigger picture. It denies the larger significance of God's plan in the fourth dimension. It glosses over the spiritual realities that what occurs in ministry is a direct result of the supra-cosmic battle between God and Satan so vividly described in Revelation.
 
Whether we are forced out of ministry, ministering during a split, pastoring a congregation during a time of heavy, unprecedented membership loss and decline, the last word to explain these events is not determined by third-dimension criteria (i.e. the could-haves, should-haves, if-only's, etc.). That last word is found in the annals of the church militant-turned-victorious. Though there may be heavy causalities in this battle, the victory is won. Don't dwell on the battle-losses. Rejoice in the all-too-triumphant victory of the fourth dimension!
 
8) Places a greater burden of ministry awareness. In a third-dimension ministry, everything is merely perfunctory, an action, a means to itself. In fourth-dimension ministry, the effect is inestimable. Often we don't really recognize the profound "ripple" effect our tenacity, patience and churchmanship has on others' spiritual struggles. Jesus, however, made it clear.
 

"Whatever you have done to the least of these...you
have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40).

9) It gives us a greater awareness that our sin does not merely take place in three dimensions. It permeates the fourth dimension as well. Addictions, dysfunctions, character deficiencies and other sins go well into the fourth dimension. It is there that, in the battle against Satan, Satan may use them against us.
 
10) It gives us the confidence that God's gracious forgiveness is so multi-dimensional that it permeates every dimension of reality in an inestimably transcendent manner. It not only destroys sin, but it annihilates Satan's power to use it against us. Indeed, that is precisely the power of the cross of which Paul spoke in his letter to the Colossians. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15 NIV)
 
11) It magnifies the significance of Christian Baptism. In Romans 6 Paul wrote, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?...If we have been united with Him into His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection." (Romans 6:3,5 NIV).
 
This mystical, unfathomable, but essential union with Christ goes beyond a mere third-dimensional identification with "Christianity." It goes beyond the superficial confession that one is a Christian. Instead, it is a fourth-dimensional reality which recognizes that in a most profound and inestimable manner we are "in Christ." We are not just part of His Body. We are His body. We, and our ministries, are in a very profound fourth-dimensional sense, not just extensions of Him. By virtue of this union we are Christ in His world.
 
12) From the fourth-dimensional perspective, it is really Christ who ministers in each of our congregations. It is He whom Satan opposes in conflict. It is really Christ who hurts and grieves when Satan opposes the Kingdom. It is He who rejoices when even one sinner repents regardless of our human participation.
 
13) It inseparably and intimately connects us to the communio sanctorum. It associates our ministries with the prayers of the souls under the altar who pray for us (Revelation 6:9). Immersed in a fourth-dimensional perspective, they see the pain of the church. They see the church militant in all its agony and struggles...even to death. The groaning of the world of which Paul spoke in Romans 8 preoccupies their every prayer.
 
United before the throne, the prayers of all God's people from all time and all creation are drowned out in a narrow third-dimensional perspective. In the fourth dimension, however, their prayers and those of our Lord resound joyously in even the greatest struggles. Their apocalyptical praise, "Worthy is the Lamb...," is the song which permeates every single moment and aspect of our ministries in the fourth dimension.

Discover A New Dimension!

Your ministry is more than just meets the eye. It is occurring on a completely different dimension. No matter what the dimension in which it occurs, one thing is certain. The victory is already won. Because of Christ's resurrection, Satan cannot overpower us.
 
No matter how great the injury, how deep the disappointment, or tragic the circumstances, we already have overcome. Perhaps all that is needed is to put these circumstances into a different perspective...of the fourth dimension.
 
Thomas F. Fischer

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:21 PM