The way in which some act in churches and in Para-Church Christian organizations is puzzling. Perhaps, I should say disappointing. What I’m referring to is the dominant individual who insists on getting his way, no matter what. He will come up with an idea that he believes everyone else should adopt, and will find ways and means of putting it through—even though a minority suspect that the plan isn’t biblical, and would like to take time to study it from an exegetical perspective. They rarely speak up. If one does, he is trounced with a bevy of reasons for moving ahead, without delay.
Does the proponent listen? Seldom. The idea of assuring Scriptural fidelity is brushed aside in one manner or another. “Trust me—I have studied this out and, in addition, Drs. Jones, Smith and Green are all for it.” Who can disagree with these three “greats” of the Evangelical world?
How does he get his way? He lays it out—full-blown—before the group and tells them this is what they must do. There may be a few individuals who are neither for nor against it, but would like to hear more information before they endorse it. They may or may not express this desire. But it doesn’t matter; the one proposing the plan—whether it be the construction of a building, the adoption of some ambitious program, or the backing of a scheme for furthering one of his pet projects—he will get his way. How? By virtually bludgeoning the rest into agreement.
Say what you please, it all boils down to one thing.
The fact that some of us are tired of hearing weak, feeble presentations of the gospel that sometimes come even from those we respect in other ways.
Such as ‘Take Jesus into your heart.’ Show me anything comparable to that in Scripture!
“OK. What else?”
‘Let me share Jesus with you.’ Or the bare, ‘Trust Jesus as your Savior’ and the lot. Many of them present Jesus as an add-on Who merely makes life more pleasant.
If you had to choose, which would it be?
“I think the other one.”
Any particular reason for that option over the other? Or it is it a matter of mere momentary preference?
“I don’t really know? Think I may be as much influenced by color as by anything else.”
Well, it’s good to know that within the fundamental principles of the Scriptures, there are options for us from which to choose. What a tragedy when, in the name of the Lord, so much power is given to another that he thinks he has right and obligation to make all the major (sometimes even minor) decisions in other peoples’ lives—who they should marry; which car to buy, etc.
There are churches like that, where if the pastor says so, no one dare to disagree with him. We operate, instead, by biblical principles; not by someone else’s absolute authority. While there are lots of decisions which might be possible (and biblically acceptable), the Bible teaches that not all are “expedient.”
Think about that for a while. You have a lot of freedom in Christ, but only so much as you harm no other believer, nor make decisions that injure your church. But each man/woman is responsible before God for thinking these things through carefully so that all the biblical principles that are appropriate are applied in making those decisions.
“Yeah. I want the yellow one.”
A modern marketing technique is to target the sort of people that your church wants to reach. The young, upper middle class is a common group, for instance. Hardly hear of anyone targeting the feeble and decrepit, however (unless they’re the moneyed sort)!
Is this targeting a biblical strategy?
Consider Paul’s words,
I am a debtor both to Greeks and Barbarians, to the educated and to the ignorant.
Sounds like if you asked him to do so, he’d go on to mention just about every other sort of person. And, as we shall see, that’s just what he did. Can’t see the apostle targeting a certain group—can you?
How about a word of caution from the apostle Paul that probably applies across the board to people in all sorts of churches—yes, even where the Bible is supreme.
Here is what he wrote under the moving of the Holy Spirit:
Every charge must be substantiated by the mouth of two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1).
Now, if that word were heeded among Christians, there would be far greater peace in their respective congregations.
There is nothing esoteric, confusing or difficult about the verse. There is no context to define it—except for the fact that the Corinthians were always at each other’s throats about something or other.
This is the year for celebrating John Calvin’s birthday. I have been re-reading his letters and am amazed once again at the amount of time a busy writer, preacher, and Protestant apologist spent doing pastoral work. The letters are filled with concern for the average man on the street to whom he was ministering. Things like bringing people into contact with one another who had been displaced by persecution, helping select brides for church members, dealing with church disciplinary matters, writing letters of comfort to bereaved or persecuted persons, spending time at Diets representing his community, taking part in the affairs of Geneva, dealing with drunkenness, wayward church members, those who were fearful, anxious and dying, and instructing other preachers in how to counsel members of their congregations. All of this—and much more—fill his letters, showing his loving care for his flock.
Some of us who began our ministry in the late forties and early fifties know what it was like. Christians, today, have no idea. The liberals ruled! They had stolen all the key churches in the major denominations, along with their colleges and seminaries. The Federal Council (now the National Council) of Churches had even gained control of the media—you couldn’t get on the air, except through them! It was a time when those who believed something were cast aside and ridiculed. It was a day when conservative preachers were forced to meet in storefronts since they were no longer welcome in the mainline denominations. I remember it well.
Today, the roles have been reversed—the conservatives have it all; the liberals are trying to keep their heads above water. It wasn’t all bad though back then—you knew who was who. If you believed anything, you would be ostracized. So, you knew who the true believers were. Like you, they were starting all over again with their small congregations. There was no mixing with those who denied the Word of God—except to evangelize them. The two camps were apart out of the realities of the situation.
I spoke in an earlier blog about flattery and the trap that the Bible says it’s easy to fall into if a person allows it to pump up his vanity.
If we have any preachers reading, I’d like to speak to you specifically about the issue (by the way, when do you get time to read my stuff, if you’re a busy preacher?)
Anyway, here’s the point:
A visitor comes to your church. At the door, leaving the church you greet him: “Nice to have you visit, sir. New in town?”
There may be others; I don’t know. But at least there’s one.
One who is willing to come right out and say it.
Say that a preacher who acts like a CEO is failing to minister. In fact he says that on that arrangement, which is common in mega-churches today, the people are doing what the preacher ought to be doing, and he’s doing what they ought to be doing.
If it were up to you to determine what your pastor should do, what would it be?
“Care for the people? Preach interesting sermons? Baptize, marry and bury people?”
Can you think of anything else?
How about what Paul said in Ephesians 4:12, where he outlined the principal reason for the gift of the officers of the church as equipping the saints for their work of service to build up His body?