Sunday, October 13, 2013

Evaluating God's Church

Oh, how sad it makes me when people try to evaluate the condition of God’s holy church by appearances, by surveys, and by comparisons.  I cannot watch.  I have to look away lest my faith be hindered or lest I be tempted to contend.  Why must I look away?  Most evaluations are done by those who are impressed with numbers and with influence.  Why must I look away?  Because the kingdom of God cometh not with observation.   

The “numbers and influence” evaluation game is a dangerous two edged sword.  1.) If all seems to be going exceptionally well, many fall into pride at the survey results and then God’s Spirit is grieved, leaves us, and we are left operating and progressing in the flesh.  2.) If the survey results are not what the leaders think they should be, the sheep are often browbeat to do something, change things, or start being like another part of the religious or secular world which has the results which they like.  Then methods, mission statements, grand causes, long term strategies, and much more human machinery is dreamed up by men who presume to take upon themselves the work of the Blessed Holy Spirit.   

These movement evaluators long to have a better plan, to hire a sharper strategist, or to form more clever think tanks with more titled and successful members to this end.  These self-appointed strategists compare the tiny bit which they can see of Christ’s holy church with unfair growth models.  They whip the faithful few they see around them with guilt for not equaling past moves of God which are not how God Spirit is choosing to move today.  In an indirect way they compare those few of Christ’s church whom they see around them with carnal churches which are filling their fine auditoriums by appealing to the flesh and tossing to the wind so much precious truth.  They unwisely compare the wee bit of Christ’s holy church which they see to smart Fortune 500 business type principles.  With a heavenward sigh they say “if only the deacons, presbytery, and bishops could be taught the right growth principles or be able to articulate the right passion, others would follow and our part of the church would grow.”  God’s conditional promises are forgotten for Dale Carnegie’s smooth winsome and influencing principles.  It’s as if they think that Jesus said, “YE will build my church.”  Now if only we could just get it right, we’d see things start to happen.   

Powerful alliances must be won for their funds and for their influence.  We have articulated well our missional and doctrinal statements and have ensconced them in bronze and polished walnut.  And we have seated our abrasive prophets lest they thunder a mispronounced word of God’s message to us and cause confusion and lost momentum.  Formidable academics and gleaming genius are praised and exalted as if they were the key to usefulness in Christ’s great kingdom.  And the same ones wonder why God isn’t moving as much in the most lettered nations.  Also, scary screams and cries from shouting simple saints make some feel squeamish, so the services are carefully controlled with the secret hope that emotional saints stay away.  Venerable guests from the “mainline” churches might be offended by such uncalled for outbursts.  These church evaluators don’t appreciate the spirit of these noisy outbursts.  These sincere praises and emotional noises bubble up from the same full heart of worship as the childish cries of praise to Jesus Christ in Jerusalem’s temple.  They forget that these emotional ones are often those needed saints who are filled with the Spirit of God and have been moved upon by the blessed Holy Spirit.  They don’t realize that to despise them is to despise the ways and the workings of God’s Holy Spirit.  Those trying to steer the services and the movement are in danger of setting themselves up as judges of what is and what isn’t of God’s Spirit and of calling the shots of what God should and shouldn’t allow.  Remember misjudging God’s Spirit is very close to blasphemy.  So little by little the warming fire of God’s Spirit is grieved away and the evaluating gate-keepers are left to their lukewarm selves and to their cold church growth principles.   

Leaders must never forget that most of the church is made up of crude, unlettered, uncouth, and ugly men who have been confronted by the Holy Spirit, given a new heart, filled with love, and then sent to go and confront others while employing all of their awful personality quirks but now with the blessing of God.  These unrefined members of Christ’s body don’t understand the “power” of positive thinking nor the “importance” of impression management, nor would they care if they could understand.  They do not feel the need to wow the world in order to draw men to Christ, for they know they must glorify Christ and He will do the drawing.  They don’t usually win prestigious awards, titles, degrees, or competitions.  Often they are the most untalented, unnoticed, and unwanted people in God’s church.  Remember, Jesus Himself taught us about the kingdom of heaven with leaven.  And unlike that of earthly kingdoms, the leavening agents work unnoticed, unseen, unheard, and untasted until after the bread goes through the fire.  If the leaven is seen, heard, noticed, and lauded for its fine flavor, it probably is not leaven but something else. 
It is good to look to mighty moves of God in the past and the present to be challenged, encouraged, and to follow them as they follow Christ.  But we must not compare God’s church around us to others to induce guilt, to horse whip others to get movin’, or to speak disparagingly of Christ’s despised and underestimated body.  If we think we see cause for alarm we must not wag the finger at the faithful, but rather cry out to God, for God is He who moves men’s hearts.  And we must compare ourselves with the Word of God only, for God’s Spirit will use His Word to give faith needed for God to work in us and through us.  For they that compare themselves among themselves are not wise.   

Also those leaders who compare their followers with others whom they admire often end up causing their followers to be like those with whom they are compared with.  The church leader who gushes about corporate growth models turns his church into a secular type entity.  The church leader who compares his church with more worldly churches creates in his flock an admiration for worldly type churches.  The church leader who always talks about performance, growth, methods, and evaluational surveys takes the focus off of Christ and His promises.  He also creates the danger of following man’s reasonings and missing the direction in which the Holy Spirit would want to lead them.  For the ways of the Spirit are not known to man and can be revealed to us only by the Spirit of God, not by group powwows. 

If there be a problem in any holiness churches, the answer lies not in fresh vision, newer plans, fresh styles, or in articulate leadership, but rather in God’s promises.  Look at the unlimited potential in the following promises.  Then note any conditions.  For when we live in conformity to God’s conditions, God lets us be a part of His holy church which is already victoriously marching forward and will triumph. 

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; (Isaiah 44:3-5a)

The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
The LORD preserveth all them that love him:   (Psalm 145:18-20a)

The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.   (Psalm 147:11)

Ask, and it shall be given you…   (Matthew 7:7)

For every one that asketh receiveth   (Luke 11:10)

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.   (John 15:7)

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?   (Jeremiah 32:27)

The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
So we fasted and besought our God for this:   (Ezra 8:22b-23a)  [if the context of “seek” is fasting and prayer, then does “forsake him” imply neglect of fasting and prayer?]

…your heart shall live that seek God.   (Psalm 69:32)

God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you:   (1 Samuel 12:23)

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.   (Psalm 126:5-6)  [The context is God turning the captivity of Zion; the Gentile church also is now grafted into / a part of Spiritual Zion!]

the desire of the righteous shall be granted.   (Proverbs 10:24)

The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us;
He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.
The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children.
Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth.   (Psalm 115:12a,13-15)

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 
For I will not contend for ever   (Isaiah 57:15-16a)

Those of us who believe the Wesleyan interpretation of the Bible believe that Christ will cause His church to fill the earth.  The Gentiles will greatly turn to God.  Israel will see this great blessing of Christ on His church and will be jealous and will all be saved.  This great final ingathering of Christ’s church will be the latter rain corresponding to the early rain.  Some think that this great harvest might be brought on due to great afflictions caused as the earthly kingdoms break up and fall so that Christ’s kingdom can fill the earth.   

So, brethren, there is no need for us to browbeat one another.  The kingdom of Christ, the stone will become a mountain and will fill the earth.  It is Christ, not us but He who will build His church.  Our simple task is to abide in Christ -- in simple faith do His will -- and to expectantly hope in His promises.  Let us diligently and individually study to be found in Christ without spot and blameless.    For He will carefully guide us as a shepherd lovingly leads his flock, and the meek shall inherit the earth.  Soon it will be Holiness Unto The Lord everywhere, throughout the whole church.  Keep preaching that Christ came to make all holy in heart and in life!  The holiness church will not be confounded; Christ will triumph!  Don’t look around you; look up!           
-pdd, Feb. / Mar. 2013

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