Barb's Space

Observations about life, family, church...anything else that is on my mind from the perspective that God rules, no matter what

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Location: Indianapolis, IN, United States

I am a 66 year young woman who has changed much in the last few years. I'm single again. I changed jobs twice (learned new skills), had a serious stroke in 2008, "retired" and after getting better started taking up new interests, and am continuing to get more fit. Some things have matured. I've enjoyed watching my three guys grow into men I respect and am proud of. One waited 11 years to have his first birth child. Today I'm a grandma of six (four boys and 2 girls between two families) with a third girl on the way. I have learned to love Jesus even more, and I have regained my sense of adventure. Someone said, "The best is yet to be."--I believe it, if I keep an open mind and heart and keep growing and walking with God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"I Will Build My Church" - Part 2

In I Will Build My Church Part 1, the issue discussed was how body members and Eph 4 ministry "people gifts" frequently have viewed the functions of leadership and membership. What was actually described in over-simplified terms as the norm today is a Christianity where the leaders wear all the hats that the various parts of the body are gifted to assume, and the "membership" takes the role of backseat driver and evaluates the results and calls the leadership to account. That's man's structure, not God's.

We are not members of an organizational structure, but members of "Christ's body." God wants us all to participate closely first with Him, then with each other in executing His plans. One of the major effects of the organizational model of "church" is the crippling of both body members and leaders. The "members" call the shots through the use of money and voting power, tying the leader to their expectations rather than God's. The leaders call the shots by tying people to their vision and programs through guilt, etc. None of this is godly, effective or a way God can build His church, because both sides are using man's methods and fleshly control. Neither side in the organizational model of church has the blessing of God behind it, and that is why they must resort to fleshly means of control.

Before I go farther, I want to acknowledge that yes, I am oversimplifying--I'm not even going to discuss the denominational "system" that helps hold the local church "structure" in place. Others have been there, done that. I don't want to focus on that especially since, as I said last time I agree with someone's statement that
"the seed of destruction is sown into the beginning of any new work." This is what man does. Making it more personal, we try to make an institution or tradition of what works--as if God as Creator can't choose to do something differently any time He wants! I have recently revisited this facet of the "mount of Transfiguration" account (Matt 17:1-8) that illustrates this tendency of ours. Verse 4 NLT shows Peter's (and let's be honest, our response too) to God's glory: 4 Peter blurted out, "Lord, this is wonderful! If you want me to, I'll make three shrines, ...."

Confession time. I've seen how strong this tendency is in me (yes, now I'm getting even more personal). Learning to walk with the Holy Spirit and not touching His work with my own ideas of how to make it better has been something I've had to learn. The learning isn't done yet, either. Just the other day I saw Him doing something through someone, and because it looked like the person had been operating in this gift for years (the Holy Spirit can make it look like that even if it's a first time experience for someone), I treated the situation as such and said, "This is great. Now we need to... ." The end result? I confused a "first timer," and when I got home, the Lord said in my heart, "She told you this was new for her, right? So why are you adding things? You need to see that those things get done, but don't lay it on her." Since it took a little while for me to get it, I called and left a message on her answering machine, asking her to please, please call me the next day. She did and I explained how sorry I was to have confused her. I told her (rightly so) that it was great she had the boldness to obey God, and explained what I was responding to (the way it looked--like she'd done it "forever"). Then I asked her to forgive me and told her she was doing just fine (she was!) and not to concern herself with anything I'd said.

This brings me to another facet of God building His church. God won't be able to use us in the process if we have to "know everything" (we don't), or if we have to "save face." What I did wrong could have caused someone who is "trying her wings" in a wonderful obedience to stumble and feel as though she was missing it when in reality I was missing it. Getting real with her, however, opened the door to future conversation where we have the potential of getting to know each other better. I just might get to find out what else God's saying to her, and perhaps, just perhaps I could answer some questions that puzzle her about her new gift since I've worked in that area awhile. Exciting possibilities.

This also illustrates a misconception in the Body of Christ that can cause us problems. If leaders feel they have been entrusted with authority that they have to maintain, then they can't admit easily to errors. Couldn't that attitude help make a mountain of misunderstanding, hurt and tension out of what started out as something minor?
Leaders need to be able to have and take the freedom to say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"

Also, isn't that erroneous attitude of having to maintain God-given authority what makes leaders (and others) vulnerable to sin and satanic attack? If leaders have to uphold their image and authority themselves, they can't confide their battles and weaknesses to trusted others. Isn't that in part also what causes leaders to fall? Yes, it's true that leaders can't and shouldn't tell everybody everything. However, leaders desperately need friends (including some within their place of service) who can see them "warts and all," and respect their position while praying over their battles. If they pray and ask God for the friends He wants in their lives, then it will in no way weaken their God-given authority, but will instead strengthen it. The people God sends as friends will be mature and love them with God's love and pray and war for them with God's compassion and His zeal.

To have to always keep up an image is unhealthy, not to mention sin. It ties in with the thinking that a person's position is his or her identity, when the truth is our identity is to be found in our belonging to God, being His purchased, Blood-washed possession whom He dearly loves.

To embrace God's freedom is not to give away our authority--it is the means to enhancing it. We as individuals (both leaders and people) have nothing we need to prove--God already loves us. God has chosen us and has faith in us and has given us everything we need to become all He wants us to be. We don't have to push or fight or compete for our place--we just have to discover it in childlike faith, and begin taking steps as we are led like my friend did with her wonderful obedience. By the way, she could not have done that if she didn't have a supportive pastor who is more interested in seeing God's work and plan raised up among the sheep than in getting a program going. Only when this becomes the heart of leadership can the people truly flourish and find their places. As this happens, we will see God build His church by leaps and bounds.

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