My pastor from the States, Bryan Stupar, posted on his Facebook page some time ago wondering why we don’t hear about all the good stories coming out of the Church. Why, he asked, do we only hear the negatives – the fall of leaders; the many, many hurt people; and the hypocrisy? He challenged bloggers to write some good news and I set out determined to share some of the amazing stories happening all over the world as the Kingdom of God, which started out the size of a mustard seed, slowly, slowly spreads into a tree filling the whole earth. I did some research and found some awesome people doing awesome things for the Kingdom here and here and check out all the ministry going on here
But then I got sidetracked.
Why, I wondered, WHY is the church rife with so much disappointment and pain? Why do so many walk away from God’s chosen instrument whose task is is to bring about His will on earth as it is in heaven?
Because, like it or not, the Church – as in all believers all over the world – is the vessel, the clay pot if you will, holding the treasure of His truth and love.
We are living stones as it says in 1 Peter 2:5, and He’s fitting us together into a spiritual house. That means if we’re not yoked-in locally to a fellowship, we’re missing out. Not only on getting equipped for the work of the ministry but we’re also denying the portion of the Body in our city our particular gifts and talents. And God has something to say about hiding our talents.
But I’m not going to bash those who aren’t attending church. There are legitimate hurts and sorrows that individuals have experienced that send a shudder through my soul.
I am going to call out the leaders of churches, however.
Because I’m a leader and while I’m not walking in sinless perfection, I believe in some areas the Lord has taken the plank out of my eye that I might see more clearly the speck in my brother’s eye. In this case, my brothers and sisters are the pastors, leaders, shepherds, ministers, elders, deacons – whatever you want to call them.
Quite frankly, many of us leaders are ministering from a place of hurt and not from healing.
And this has proved disastrous for the sheep.
Leaders who minister from a place of hurt often haven’t dealt with the strongholds in their own life. As a result, they can lack confidence in their calling, be unsure of their identity, and often will operate in an area outside their gifting. These leaders can be like the wolves in sheep’s clothing from Matthew 7 who end up harming the sheep. Oh, for awhile they might be able to hide it, counting on their outward behaviour to hide a ravenous mind. But eventually, it will come out.
What do I mean by strongholds? Strongholds are the patterns in our thinking that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And we must tear down those strongholds we’ve built where we’ve allowed the enemy to take up residence.
But wait! Isn’t it enough to be born again? Not quite. When we’re born again, we’re given a new heart but Romans 12:2 tells us we still must, must, MUST, as believers, renew our minds. We must stop the old way of thinking (lies!) and put on the Mind of Christ (truth!) That old way of thinking doesn’t just go away.
I’ve seen that old way of thinking in my own life. A few years ago, I felt someone challenged my role in ministry. Instead of figuring out why my hackles were raised (I don’t know, like there was some kinda deep-rooted issue in me that God wanted to deal with) I went on the defensive and then the offensive. I lashed out at this person, a fellow leader, and much hurt and confusion was the result. And I hurt other innocent parties as well! The sheep were confused, betrayed, and wounded because of my actions. The worst part of it was, I didn’t even see it until months later. There was a deeply-rooted stronghold that had been threatened and I was going to protect my empire no matter what the cost.
This is why Jesus called the religious leaders of His time white-washed sepulchres. They had a legalistic stronghold valuing the outward appearance whilst ignoring the weightier matters of justice and the love of God.
This is maybe why James told us that teachers will receive a stricter judgement. As a teacher, one should know and experience the transforming power of a renewed mind and then be able to pass that on to others rather than feeding the sheep the poison that leaches out of every brick that makes up a stronghold.
There’s a very good reason why 1 Timothy 3 talked about the requirements for the elders and deacons, aka the leaders in a church. Leaders CANNOT expect to lead people closer to Christ if they still struggle with the strongholds listed here. Leaders MUST be set free from the areas of hurt in their own lives.
Otherwise, every single time we who are leaders are questioned, criticised, unappreciated, ignored, passed over, or even outright attacked, the fruit that comes out of that trial will be rotten and we will spread that rottenness like a barrel full of bruised and mouldy apples. We will be like the blind leading the blind.
Kind of a terrifying thought, isn’t it?