Friday, September 10, 2010

Test the Spirits

Something woefully lacking in the church today is the ability (and dare I say willingness) of the average Christian to test what they are being taught.  It's all part and parcel of the old "itching ears" that I've written about before (1 Tim 4:3-4).  The reasons for it are too numerous to mention, but the fact is it exists and it needs to stop if the church is to be used of God the way He wants to and the way we all want Him to.

In 1 Th 5:21 we are told, "Test everything. Hold on to the good." Then, in 1 Jn 4:1 we hear, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Preachers and teachers today have done an excellent job of persuading the church to keep their mouths shut and to just accept what they hear.  Oftentimes people who question their pastors/leaders are labeled as rebellious, and they often take it as a personal attack.  However, that is not what we see in the scriptures.  In Acts 17:11 we see that testing teaching is actually a noble undertaking: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." And this was no ordinary preacher they were testing - it was none other than the Apostle Paul!  If Paul was to be tested, then why should any preacher or teacher today feel slighted when their audiences do the same?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Unified Leaderism

A sermon I heard the other day was about unity and how the church won't see God move like we want Him to until we get it.  The text was Acts 2:42 - "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  The preacher read the part about the apostles' teaching and right away said, "See!  They were devoted to the apostles!  They were behind their leaders!"  No, it says that they were devoted to the apostles' teraching (ie the truth).  Why is it that almost every message on church unity centers around support for the leaders?  The church is so leader-centric that it makes me sick.  The vast majority of the problems at the church I used to attend over the last few years have been due to the leaders and their inability to play nice with the other leaders like the rest of the congregation is supposed to.  In most churches, the Senior Pastor sees the church as his own domain and guards it as such.  That inevitably causes power struggles.  Also, it eventually sucks all the zeral and creativity out of the church because everything depends upon the pastor and what he wants.  Zealous and creative people hate that and they finally get tired of putting up with it.  Of course, then they quickly become "problems" and are labeled as rebellious.

The church is going nowhere until we all get the same attitude toward leaders that Paul had.  Yes, honor them and treat them with respect because they have more responsibility.  However, as far as their relative importance: "As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message."  (Gal 2:6)  And let us also look to Peter:  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (1Pet 5:1-3)