It is one thing to hear someone else speak of God moving in their midst, making things happen as if by chance at the very moment when His intervention made the crucial difference between success and failure. It is quite another to experience God’s power and intervention first hand, right in front of one’s own eyes; to be the witness of a chain of events unfold with such precision, perfect timing and intelligent design. It is an incomparable emotion when you start seeing the evidence of a vision becoming a reality, a dream becoming the here and now, a hope no longer deferred.
For the last two years or so now something has been stirring up in me to do something out of the ordinary, to embark on something so much bigger than my immediate reality, to push the boundaries and to aim higher, to soar with the eagles and to get a glimpse of how the term “goals and objectives” translates in God’s kingdom. I am tired of being counted as yet another Christian who understands church solely as an organisation which is constantly racking its brains to come up with fancy and appealing ways to ensure self-preservation and self-enhancement; and organisation where membership growth is perceived as the ultimate goal and where individuals are seen soon after the initial welcome and polite introductions as workers with the potential to increase the numbers. I am tired of belonging to a collective of people who are just content with professing their faith in God and Jesus Christ but who will go out of their way to avoid any contact with the very kind of people who Jesus loved and dedicated his life and ministry to. I am tired of dreaming small or even not dreaming at all; I am tired of being part of a body which is constantly shouting about God’s power to redeem and restore but will not venture out into their community to see that awesome power into action. How easy it is to be sure of our faith and our convictions when nothing inside the four walls is challenging us to trust beyond our own abilities and truly walk by faith.
The world shouts out: HYPOCRITES! And who can blame them? Even the very Church leadership many Christians revere and submit to is scared to walk away from religious lies and well-established hierarchical models because by doing so they will be questioning the integrity and validity of the very hand that feeds them and their families. But then they will have the audacity to preach to everyone else about trusting the Lord for provision and deliverance. I think there will be many of us on judgement day who will fall flat on our faces with shame when we see clear as crystal the millions of pounds/dollars which went to feed the expensive lifestyles of the very ones who were called to lead by the example of a frugal life; the millions which went to adorn churches and ministries, programs and agendas when the majority of it should have gone to mission, to alter the lives of the very ones we claim to love and to want to reach. How will we justify that most of our churches only gave 10-20% of its funds to mission, be it local or international, because much of it went to finance a gym membership, endless conferences and spiritual retreats, private medical care or private school fees? It is not the unbelievers who will feel shame and remorse, but those of us who supposedly follow Christ and who should know better than to short-change the very people who we were called and chosen to help.
A great shaking has been taking place for a while now inside the walls of The Church. Judgement does begin in the house of the Lord, and many like myself are no longer able to continue living the lie that churches are having a major impact in touching the lives of those around us who are desperately seeking God although they do not know it. Yes, much of the work churches do is wonderful and yes God knows there are many churches who are not after the big numbers and puffing up their own kingdoms, but reaching the lost, feeding the poor, healing the sick, loving the unlovely is all we have been called to. Why is it then that 80% of what a church and its members invest their time, money and effort in is to do with the church itself and ITS VISION (often the vision of a fair few who run the show), and the very small percentage left goes to the one thing which matters most? Our calling is to serve GOD AND NOT THE CHURCH ITSELF; our call is to touch the lives of others with the love of Christ which should flow through us if we are truly HIS. Why are there not more Christians deployed into our communities using their gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and restore, to love and to nurture? May it be because the majority are caught up in following the vision of one leader and not following God’s will instead?
Did not the Apostle Paul clearly state the different gifts and roles that God gave to his church?
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Why then have we allowed for pastors and teachers to have all authority over churches? Won’t the spiritual anointing and gifts of many fall into atrophy if only the pastors, teachers and/or evangelists exercise their spiritual muscles over the rest? What about the prophets? What about the apostles? What about the saints? And have we not misunderstood scripture when we interpret the works of service to mean any activity, money or ministry which serves to perpetuate the well-being of a local church as an entity, and not so much the well being, spiritual and physical of its members and specially of those outside the church walls?
James, Jesus’ brother gets to the bottom of what I am trying to get at in the following passage: James, 1, 27:
Religion that God our Father accepts as PURE and FAULTLESS is this: TO LOOK AFTER ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR DISTRESS AND TO KEEP ONESELF FROM BEING POLLUTED BY THE WORLD.
In the first century orphans and widows had very little means of economic support. So in God’ eyes, His people were called to put God’s commands into practice. How else can we be told apart from the rest of the world, if not by doing the very things that truly show a servant’s heart because they are done unconditionally, not to woo people into joining our congregations, not to give people a false sense of security so that so long as their money is on the plate, we act as the loving shepherd, but if for any reason the money ceases to come in, the shepherd becomes the wolf. These things must be done out of an overflowing spirit of love which cannot be contained within and is crying out to restore the broken-hearted and forgotten souls in our communities.
Despite the fact that many church leaders publicly admit that their role is to equip the saints for service, the churches they run are all about their vision, their sermons, their authority. Whilst I am not questioning they have been chosen by God to have such spiritual authority, has God not anointed with the same authority and in equal measure His prophets, His apostles, His teachers, His evangelist and ultimately all His saints? What are we doing but drowning the spirit of God that is crying to display its power in our communities through every single vessel who has already accepted Christ as Lord and is therefore a partaker in His power, gifts and ability to touch, if not transform, the lives of those who are at rock bottom and who are ripe to accept God into their lives?
I often wonder about the scripture in Matthew 9, 35-38:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. WHEN HE SAW THE CROWDS, HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE HARASSED AND HELPLESS, LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD. The he said to his disciples, ” The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to SEND OUT workers into his harvest field.”
Again, why have we misinterpreted such a clear message? When Jesus spoke of the workers being few, he did not mean people serving on a Sunday morning putting out the chairs for the congregation, making coffee for people after the service or even spending hours organising art and craft for the children, as good as all these things are. We have to be honest with ourselves and our calling and ask: Are these things absolutely paramount for a successful harvest, for a glorious kingdom? Do you suspect like me that we will look back one glorious day and realise that much of the harvest rotted in hell, because we fooled ourselves into believing that putting out a chair was as essential to the kingdom as actually seeking out to find the harassed and helpless sheep who is hiding in a corner frightened to death of its peril and waiting anxiously to be found? Will the church of Jesus Christ stop meeting because only one person instead of 4 put chairs out? Will our children walk away from the faith because they did not attend Sunday school? Will a person feel less loved or touched by the Spirit on a Sunday because coffee was not offered to them after the service? If we had kept our services simple and if our heart was truly for the lost and for exalting and bringing glory to God rather than our own achievements, then we would not need to try and embellish what we are trying to achieve by creating unnecessary activities and responsibilities which send us off course; which deviate us from the true harvest that is crying out to be found and welcome into the kingdom. As good and well meant as Sunday school is for children, many of us parents will often use it as a masquerade to pass on the bucket of our responsibility as Christian parents to bring up our children in the love of God and others, in the faith in Jesus Christ. God knows that is one area where I often feel tempted to throw the towel in and expect someone else to do the hard work, but our children are the hope of the future, our first port of call and if we cannot be bothered with and for them, why do we spend so much time trying to keep everybody else in our local churches content and satisfied with the Sunday service? Who are we trying to fool? God certainly sees through all our fleshly attempts. We look at appearances; we are content with just how things look from the outside to outsiders. God, however, only sees the heart and will judge us accordingly.
Can we for once and for all begin to see the hypocrisy inherent in all these things; the lack of integrity; the hollowness; the fleshliness which utterly lacks the power to inspire those outside the church walls, and sadly many within too?
to be continued in Part 2