Historically, in every nation there are men who brought The Church into new levels of understanding and possibilities. These men laboured under very difficult circumstances as they had to literally come up against rules and regulations that placed significant limitations on The Church in these respective nations. The Church in most nations was birthed under very complicated circumstances and church the way we know it today did not always exist with such freedoms. Someone paid a price for that. Those that arrive on the scene long after a local church attained some success does not always understand the price that was paid and find it difficult to relate to those who saw the sacrifices and struggles of birthing a church. In fact those that lived through the complex seasons of church building are often accused of cult-like tendencies by those who do not understand the deeper sacrifices made on this journey of church building. Late arrivals in a church often accuse those who walk in a spirit of sacrifice, respect and honour as blind loyalist.
The danger for The Church today is not so much so false doctrines because false doctrines existed even in the times of the 1st generation apostles. The danger for The Church today is not false prophets or false teachers because they were around in the days of Old Testament prophets. The NEW DANGER for the 21st century church is the attitude of newbies. Individuals who in many ways are new to church, concepts of The Church and doctrines of The Church who are making “new discoveries” that are really archaic arguments and acting as if they have the monopoly on the season that The Church is in and anyone who differs with them is Antichrist, False, A Liar, A control Freak and pretty much any other imaginable name/title you can come up with. I am not in any way dismissing the importance of dialogue or robust debates. In fact I am known for robust debates and clearly articulating my position on doctrinal differences. I am fully behind debate and dialogue because that is perhaps the only way in which we can establish accuracy on often controversial subjects. The scripture emphatically states “Iron sharpens Iron”. In other words we need friction to remain sharp doctrinally.
What I am against is the spirit of pride and rebellion shrouded in the false notion of “we are contending for the faith once delivered to us”. There is a fight currently happening in The Church where rebels find a verse to disconnect from authority and accountability. We are a generation that divorces ourselves from leaders and faith communities because we could not agree on trivial matters. What we often miss in scripture is that differences on doctrine and practice existed amongst some of the premier leaders of The New Testament scripture and yet those differences did not lead to an inevitable divorce or the labelling of false teachers that we so generously place on one another in the 21st century church
Jesus and John
Mark 9:14-15 “Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast? (15) Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
There existed a glaring difference in the practices of the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus. This difference was around a very important practice for believers, fasting. Jesus did not condemn the disciples of John for fasting and neither did He impose fasting on His own disciples. In fact in His deep wisdom He allowed each camp to continue in what is working for them and also gave the other camp the assurance that the future might lead to some level of conformity between his disciples and that of John. What we learn from Jesus is that His answer did not divide them and neither did His answer make Him and His disciples more superior then John and His disciples. He did not use that as an opportunity to hurt and divide the work of God, He used it as a collective learning opportunity for all of those at work in The Vineyard of The Lord.
Luke 9:49-50 “And John, answering, said, Master, we saw a man driving out evil spirits in your name, and we did not let him do it, because he was not one of us. (50) But Jesus said to him, Let him do it, for he who is not against you is for you.”
Contrary to popular belief it was not just Jesus and John with their disciples who went about doing the will of The Father. Other camps existed. In this particular scripture we see Jesus again demonstrating the importance of not monopolising the power of the gospel. A sure danger sign in The Church is when one group claims exclusive rights to the power of the gospel. The gentleman in question was not pressured to stop and neither was he pressured to join the camp of Jesus. Jesus gave people the freedom to do the work even if they did not do it under his banner.
These two verses go against everything emerging in The Church today. We place individuals above truth, camps have the monopoly on truth and we teach newbies how to divorce themselves from authority and accountability if a slight difference in interpretation and application of a verse exists. What was important for Jesus was the preservation of accountability and authority. He pointed out how we can build and unify the work without discrediting those who have gone before us and those who are different from us and do not necessarily belong to our school of thought. He did not discard John and his disciples who were Old Covenant believers, but like a seasoned architect he gave them a context without unsettling them or insulting them.
The wisdom of Jesus is simply this, share the truth without hurting and dividing the work. The disciples of John continued to honour John and remained committed to him even when Jesus arrived and John said “...he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire”. Jesus never tried to persuade them to leave John because he was Old Covenant. Jesus understood that their honour and respect for John came from a deep place because they were part of the journey. They understood the sacrifices John made to bring the ministry to the level it was at. Jesus showed them that He values it too. Jesus was more accurate then John and had a better grasp on the things John tried to articulate but He would not teach anyone to divorce themselves from John’s incomplete teaching. If there is anything we can learn from Jesus it is this: In our deep cry for accuracy we are still obligated to preserve the work in the camps that do not necessarily see what we see and understand what we understand…
What is the church doing about prostitution in the city? What is the church doing about drugs in the city? What is the church doing about unemployment in the city? What is the church doing about education in the city? What is the church doing about teen pregnancies in the city? The list is endless.
These questions and arguments are directed at the church on any given day. When I hear these questions I often ask those posing these question: What have you done about all of this? I ask this question because I have the sense to know that community transformation can only happen when more stakeholders are involved and when individuals take personal responsibility for what grieves their hearts.
I also have the sense to know that the crux of the matter is not how involved the church is but the deep rooted sense of entitlement that exists in the communities especially in relation to the church. Sometime ago a local church was vilified for putting a charge for the use of their facility when a building was needed for the funeral service of a local celebrity. What most social commentators missed was that this same church moved from rented facility to rented facility for a number of years and nobody felt during those difficult seasons that it was improper to charge a church for the use of a facility.
If the argument of what the church should be doing is legit then we are compelled to compare apples with apples. We cannot take the exception and hold the church at large to that standard because most churches on a community level are dealing with different issues in the 21st century South Africa. Let us consider a few facts about community churches:
When churches break out of this particular cycle after years of faith and labour; everybody comes along for their claim to fame. This is where the argument of “What is the church doing for the community?” starts. The community is often oblivious to the struggles of the local church but will hold the church to a very high standard the moment the church breaks out of this vicious cycle of struggle. This is unfortunately the level of hypocrisy that exists in society. I remember a few years ago sitting in a meeting with different community stakeholders about an initiative for the community. In this particular meeting all stakeholders was discussing what value/benefit this will bring to their organisation and when the church representatives in the meeting asked the same question there was silence and tension. The only reason why it was uncomfortable was because the community stakeholders decided long ago when it comes to matters of value and benefit the church should be excluded. The church is not allowed to ask “What do we get for our efforts?” period. The reason why most churches are withdrawing from community initiatives is because of this high level of hypocrisy and lack of integrity that exist when it comes to working with community based organisations and its leaders. It is perhaps in the same line of thinking that the Apostle Paul warned young and eager Timothy to be careful about his involvement in community based initiatives
2 Timothy 2:4 “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer”
The same communities that demand the church to be involved in everything are the same communities who signs petitions against the church when:
What makes it extremely difficult for the church is that communities get to play dirty but the church can’t and won’t. Jesus said to his disciples “I send you as sheep amongst wolves…” Jesus prepared us for the level of hostility that we will have to deal with as we try to touch and change this world. We have to remain sober and vigilant and carefully discern who and what we get involved with. The key warning for us as we embark upon city transformation is “CAUTION”. We have to approach matters cautiously. The spirit of this age wants the church to look like a criminal and an idiot.It is for this reason why we will have to embrace the wise counsel of Jesus when He said “Be as gentle as a dove and as wise as a serpent”. I want to reiterate that Jesus prepared us for this hostility
With that said we can’t ignore the significant impact the church has made. It is time for communities, cities and nations to give the church her dues. The church has done more for community transformation on a local, regional, and national level than any other organisation in the nation and has done so with little to no resources. If you have to ask me I will state emphatically that the church in South Africa paid her dues and continue to do so.
Romans 13:7 “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
Finally do not allow the bullying spirit of this world to give you your version of a Christian. One that is timid, idiotic and just say yes to everything. The church is called to be a voice that speaks up, the church is called to be a force that resist demonic onslaught and establish kingdom purposes in the earth, the church has a fighting dimension and the church is a prosperous entity that does not exalt poverty to prove humility!!Arise church, Arise church!!