IN ORDER TO WEAR THE CROWN, YOU HAVE TO BEAR THE CROSS – PART 2

CONTINUED FROM PART 1

How many Christian leaders do you know today whose ministry meets this job description?

  • If anyone wishes to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all – Mark 9:23

Christian leaders in various ministries often lord it over everyone else within a congregation. They lay down the law on how things should be done claiming that they heard so from the Lord, but when a brother or a sister in Christ challenges them in their decisions, they will assign the root of these challenges to the devil. They glory in the free rein that comes when placed in a position of authority within a church, but will only be accountable to people of their own choosing, often self-centered and egotistical individuals like themselves who have bought into their vision and the power that comes with obeying the voice of the vessel and not that coming from the source of the anointing. How many Christian leaders have you known who had a Personal Assistant/Secretary paid with the money which God entrusted the church for reaching the lost, for mission? I have known a few. Do those leaders truly have it in their heart to serve or to be served? Can you imagine Jesus approving of his followers having an assistant who would be requested by a “servant of all” to do the menial tasks that they would not do because their calling demanded their gifting to be used in more pressing and God honouring matters? What can be more pressing and God honouring in Jesus’ eyes than to die to self and do the things no one else wishes to do, love the people who no one else wants to love, and spend time in the presence of the Father on our knees, where no one but Him can see, in repentance for failing to practise those things we preach?

  • But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called teacher, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12

The scripture above reiterates more of the same.

  • If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me – Luke 9:23

I have never physically carried a cross, but I can imagine the physical pain must be as tormenting and depleting as the pain one experiences when carrying an emotional, mental or spiritual cross. The weight of the suffering you experience when you carry a cross DAILY humbles you to the core, breaks your spirit and makes you vulnerable and often transparent. I can quite openly say that it is very seldom that I witness these traits in a church leader. In fact it is often quite the opposite traits that are displayed by church leadership:  self-sufficiency, arrogance, obscurity and inconsistency, as they are eager to please and become all things to different people, like a chameleon which will change colour to blend in with the environment around it.

  • No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God – Luke 9:51

How many of us have put the hand to the plough as we come to understand the significance and beauty of grace, and then further on in the journey have looked back in doubt and fear of what we were leaving behind? Initially we are on fire for the Lord. We pledge to give it all up in the quest to contribute to touching people’s lives with the love of Christ. Then disagreements take place, rejection takes place, temptation comes along, jealousy of our brothers and sisters, dreams of vain-glory, jealousy of those who succeed in the world’s eyes, and we make the almost fatal mistake of looking back, of accepting we are not of this world, but still living very much in the same way everybody else does. It is regrettable that the average Christian will look back and wish once again for the things unbelievers seek after: the holidays, the gadgets, the expensive hobbies, the clothes, people’s approval, you name it, but it is much more tragic when we witness church leadership, those who should lead by example, also seeking after these things and then preaching the very opposite on and off the pulpit. It is no wonder the world outside does not want to get a look in. So many church leaders become legalistic and think that just because they tithe, they are doing their bit and that should be their license to have a few privileges (or blessings as they call them) in life.  I am not only referring to those who often sit on the higher levels of the church hierarchy, but also to people like you and me who blinded by pride and spiritual understanding, begin to set ourselves on a class of our own and begin to lose discernment and become judgemental, forgetting that though perhaps we are beginning to play a part in the harvest, we still remain in desperate need of daily repentance and new mercies from God.  The old verse of “But for the grace of God go I” soon becomes a distant and vague memory of the height we ourselves fell from and in many instances continue to fall from.

  • Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country – John 4:44

It is often the case that when a person becomes a new creation in Christ, those who previously knew him, will reject him and mock him for his faith. It is often those who were once closest to us who will turn against us.  And it is even more so the case that when the heart of one of God’s followers begins to be broken for the things that break God’s heart, they will begin to declare and reveal those things which have remained hidden in a church or a gathering of Christians who operate in the Lord’s name.  When God’s prophets begin to blow the trumpets and His watchmen begin to warn of impending danger, the power of hell shall really come against you manifested in the treachery and betrayal of those you counted as friends and kindred spirits. 

  • You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39

I know some who have a deep knowledge of scripture, but interestingly the more they know the scriptures, the least they seem to be made into the image of Christ, for instead of being compassionate, merciful and forgiving, they become puffed up by their knowledge and they begin to worship the word itself and their own righteousness, instead of the Lord of Lords whom the Bible speaks of. Can it be that when someone has a great command of scripture, they fail to grow into Christlikeness because though much of their time has been invested in studying the word, not enough time has been given to coming into God’s presence in humility and repentance. They seek after the admiration and the power that may come when one commands scripture, but they are not so interested in subjecting themselves to the anonymity and the obscurity endured by those whose impurities are being burnt in the fire of affliction and through the groanings of their spirit.

  • The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. John 7:7

A follower of Christ who is admired and well liked by those who live unrighteous lives, those who know they are in sin, continue living in that sin and have no intention of changing their ways, is in my opinion a contradiction in terms. There are so many pastors out there today who keep up with the world’s trends and currents in an attempt to win a few, that they will cross the line, all in the name of evangelism, displaying the very behaviours and habits which Jesus clearly condemns, the very things that defile a holy God.

  • He who speaks on his own does so to gain honour for himself, but he who works for the honour of the one who sent him is a man of truth: there is nothing false about him. John 7:18

This is an easy thing to spot. Do the things a church leader does, say or aspire to point to Christ and the cross, or to himself? Do they heavily emphasize the gifts of the spirit as opposed to the fruits of the spirit? Is their longing to see brothers and sisters in Christ grow in the fruits of the spirit, or is it more about elevating the people who receive the gifts of the Spirit above the One from whom all good and perfect gifts come?  Does their adrenalin kick off when they witness signs and wonders or do they tremble in fear when they witness the redemptive power behind a life changed beyond recognition?

  • The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13

I wish I could say this never happens, but sadly I have experienced this first hand. It is not when a church is experiencing growth and blessings are pouring out that you need to challenge and question whether the motives of those leading it are genuine or not, but when all is stripped away, when the waves of judgement and drought come and true devotion and sacrifice are asked of us. Those who were in it for themselves will not hesitate to abandon ship when the storm hits. Those who are following the True Shepherd, however, cannot and will not be shaken no matter what is taking place around them.

  • I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My father will honour the one who serves me. John 12:24-26

I have mentioned in other posts previously how I find it astounding that church leaders are on a permanent quest for acquiring knowledge. They go to conferences, read hundreds of books, write another dozen and they never stop the process of filling up to start emptying out so that others can begin to fulfil their own callings. Many church leaders would do well to spend less time and the Lord’s money attending all these conferences and retreats and spending time instead with those who would greatly benefit from their already great knowledge and gifting. There is only one source that will quench our thirst and that is the Word. It must be heart breaking to God to see his children constantly seeking after the latest church trend, leadership tool or fancy evangelism tactic devised by those who are too busy to travail in prayer and to hear it first hand from the only ONE who truly knows where the Church is heading. But again, it is much easier and profitable to feed on someone else’s interpretation than to find out for ourselves. I say profitable because it is obscene when we get a glimpse of the millions of pounds, dollars, etc which are moved around thanks to all the Christians books, tapes, seminars, conferences, etc, etc, etc. Does much of it go to help the lost? Some of it does, but much of it also goes to building bigger ministries  with bigger resources and bigger facilities. Does any of this echo Jesus’ words: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me? Does a person who is constantly seeking to grow bigger and to have a greater impact themselves resemble the grain of wheat who is prepared to fall to the ground and die so that many more seeds are produced? I don’t think so. The majority of leaders want to have their cake and eat it.  They want the multiplication without undergoing death to themselves first, so though the crop multiplies, the quality of the seeds produced soon reveals itself to be poor and infertile.

  • As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13,34-35

I do not believe God will place anyone in a position of authority within a ministry until they have been purged in the fire of affliction, sacrifice and humble servanthood.  Those who step into callings before they are ready; those who take on mighty tasks which they were not appointed to by the Lord; those who presume to walk under an anointing which was never given to them, are doomed to failure,. Perhaps to the world, even to other Christians, they will seem successful and to be operating within the will of God, but by their fruit you shall know the disciples of the Lord. As they move and step up in their calling, pay attention to the fruit they leave behind. The condition of this fruit will give you a glimpse into whether they have entered into the blessing of the Lord or into self-promotion.

  • I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that bears fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1

Suffering is at the core of the Christian life. When you read the scriptures this transpires out of them. And so it is, that a Christian’s progress is destined to be severed at the height of its growth. I have witnessed Christians who marched proudly and who paraded themselves in front of others as the receiving end of God’s ongoing blessings. Everything is always rosy with them, and they see anyone who undergoes suffering as a sign of weakness, as a lack of genuine faith. They are judgemental and lack in compassion. Such Christians cannot be in God’s will, for God’s word assures us that those who bear fruit will be pruned, and pruning in the life of a Christian will often come hand in hand with a test, a circumstance in their life which will humble them beyond recognition and challenge their faith to the core. I believe the Lord’s pruning resembles the pain inflicted when a limb is severed.  However, though the pain that comes with pruning is indescribable, the magnitude of the growth encouraged by such radical and tragic measure always overshadows, outweighs and quietens the pain we initially felt. The more intense the pain, the bigger the re-growth, the more fruit, the stronger and more passionate their zeal for the Lord and those things which abound in God’s heart.

Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them… so when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. Matthew 6:1-2

When you hear a Christian leader publicly speak of what they give in a tithe, or about their donations to a charity or Christian organisation, it is time to begin to pray for that person and pray hard. I have known church leaders who practically told me I was not a true Christian until I was prepared to give everything I had to the poor (which is biblical). I did not have a problem with what they were telling me, but I was disturbed by their falsehood as they themselves were incapable of following their own advice.  They immersed me in guilt and condemnation and soon after that I discovered that though they were tithing, they were simultaneously indulging in private hobbies and enjoying privileges which people work hard to obtain, such as private medical insurance, with the money they were earning for doing the Lord’s work. Jesus had much to say against that Pharisaic hypocrisy.

  • The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:2-4

This scripture just confirms the point made in the previous one.

  • Therefore, if you are offering your gifts at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Again, by your fruit you shall know them. If you know of someone who has any kind of ministry, big or small, and you are aware that in their private life all is not as it seems; if you have experienced pain, hurt and rejection at their hand or you have caused them any pain but they have turned their back on you and refuse to extend you forgiveness, the love of God cannot truly be in them, so most of what they are achieving is probably a result of the workings of the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit.

  • All men will hate you because of me… Matthew 10:22
  • Woe to you, teachers of the law and the Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15

We must remember that just because it seems like someone is bringing people to Christ, it is not necessarily so. If the one leading operates out of a desire to only receive the blessings and the glory with no personal sacrifice, those who follow that person will most likely operate out of the very same motives and with the same expectations. Just because someone attracts crowds, we must never assume the Lord is in their midst. These will often be the kind of environments where the wolves will appear in sheep’s clothing and cloud the judgement and discernment of those who once were on the right path.

In order for the church to become the Bride of Christ with no spot or wrinkle, all Christians, specially those in leadership roles and positions of authority, need to begin to abide by these principles which Jesus Christ established.  Anything else is sheer hypocrisy and delusion.  Anything else will not stand when the Lord returns to claim His Bride.  No matter what we have made it:

IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD THE ONLY WAY UP IS DOWN

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16 thoughts on “IN ORDER TO WEAR THE CROWN, YOU HAVE TO BEAR THE CROSS – PART 2

  1. “…I say profitable because it is obscene when we get a glimpse of the millions of pounds, dollars, etc which are moved around thanks to all the Christians books, tapes, seminars, conferences, etc, etc, etc…”

    After spending most of my 25 years as a Christian who suffers from financial lack, it struck me that being a properly discipled Christian was expensive. Books, tapes and seminars were always out of my reach. So, I complained to the Lord about the unfairness of it all.

    He let me know very quickly that He was the Teacher and if I needed something for my journey, He would provide it somehow. He has been faithful to do just that.

    • Thank you for your comment Larry.

      Isn’t it amazing how church leaders’s habits and practices can put those who follow their example into bondage? Many church leaders, by their own admission, feed majorly on other people’s revelation, journey, experiences and witness and so when you become a Christian after a while there is this high expectation on the part of Christian leaders for you to be well read and well informed about what everybody else is saying. If you are not up to date and in agreement with all the “church elite’s” opinions of what they thin God is currently saying or doing, you become a nobody with no authority or anything which could possibly be of any use to Christians around you. You blow your chances of being accepted into the “selective” leader club. You become invisible!

      Quite frankly, that is exactly the place where I believe God is training his armies right now for battle, because more often than not it will be in a place of anonimity and invisibility that one can remain humble enough to be genuinely burdened with the things of God.

      Could this perhaps be the very reason why the church has become so ineffective in reaching unbelievers? Could this be why the revivals of old that everybody seeks after today will not come until we put all the books and cds down and we begin to limit our source of food solely to the word of God and to solitude in His presence?

  2. anewcreation,

    For my twenty-five years of being a believer, I’ve watched the church hope and hope for revival. As if another inrush of the Spirit could breathe life into our dead prison-like buildings and make everything glorious.

    Yet, every revival fire throughout history has always burnt itself out after a short period of time and the buildings have always reverted to the same-o same-o.

    My belief is that we need reformation which will probably only come about through a civil war of sorts in Christianity. Civil Wars are always fought over leadership, those in authority versus those who have different view of how the leadership should be.

    It will probably be messy and take years, but I personally don’t see any way around it.

    • Hi again Larry,

      I do believe that another inrush of the Spirit, as you put it, could breathe life into our dead prison-like buildings and make everything glorious. Of course it could, we are talking about God here, the God who created everything and everyone around us.

      God has a purpose for everything and in everything and I believe He knows the reasons why every revival fire eventually dies down. I guess that if revival was permanent, and conversions took place at the rate it did during past revivals, all those who have been called by God from the beginning, would belong to him by now and then the end would come and Christ would return. God is giving us more time for a reason He only knows. His ways are unknown to us most of the time, although we claim to know Him so well.

      But it is my hope that this new wave of the Spirit would bring life to the dead prison-buildings, by bringing about collective death first. In other words, I see a revival where buildings have become extinct, but the Spirit of the Lord lives all the stronger in people’s hearts and nothing and no one can stop the Spirit from advancing and claiming what belongs to God. It is like the grain of wheat which has to die in order to produce many seeds. In religious circles, in leadership circles it is understood that God is in the midst of all the leadership conferences, the books, the seminars, all the other man-made and man-designed things, but when the shaking comes, it is always only the spirit of the Lord that remains, and so it will be yet again, for it is written that it will be so. The death of the old things will be the spark that will ignite an inextinguishable fire that nothing and no one will be able to put out, and Christians will not need to work so hard at creating and environment which is in their eyes conducive to the presence of the spirit; to come up with a formula of doing church which will beat all the others. It will simply be through the testimony of a life lived in righteousness, faith, hope and devotion, a life solely dedicated to loving God and loving others where the world will find it impossible to deny that the Spirit of the Lord lives and redeems.

      The civil war within Church that you talk about is in my view already taking place, and there are thousands of casualties, devoured by the enemy who has been prowling around and used the pride of man to turn against His own.

      The other point you raise about the fight over leadership between those in authority and those who have different views on leadership, again, it is my hope that the concept of “leadership” within The Church would disappear. I don’t see anything in the Bible to support this idea of a few controlling and manipulating the rest. I don’t see anything to support the idea that only some can hear directly from the Spirit of God, only a few can have discernment, wisdom and revelation. I don’t see anything about dedicating one’s ministry to attracting more people to bigger buildings, but all to do with going out into the harvest, making ourselves vulnerable to all sorts of attack as we go out in whichever environment we move around, and proclaim the message of salvation through repentance of our sins.

      I am not fearful of what is yet to come, but excited to see the Spirit of God come in might to purge His Church, to separate the wheat from the tares, to purify His bride for the day of the coming of our Lord.

  3. This was a powerful message and so right on! Christ is shaking up his church to find out who is truly with him! I find it amazing the people who will stay in a dead church just because it is the one they always went to. I only want to hear the truth of the gospel not some watered-down version. How I wish I could sit under the teachings of Tozer and Spurgeon. Those men unashamedly gave the entire message of the cross and were not afraid of offending the church with the truth!

    • Hi Marianne,

      It is good to hear from you again. I hope all is well with you.

      I too wish for the likes of Tozer, Spurgeon and many others to appear again in our midst, but perhaps the time has now come for us to be courageous enough to be the ones who at this time in the life of The Church need to unashamedly give the message of the cross and not be afraid of offending others with the truth.

      We must pray that if that is where the Lord is calling us, we will not act cowardly and go back to the security of the nest.

      God bless you and protect you.

  4. Very good post! I think Christian leadership is a very difficult ‘cross’ to bear, so to speak. As Paul said, leadership, specifically, teaching, comes with a double judgement, because many stand or fall according to whom they follow.

    May we really pray for our pastors and teachers, to be grounded in the Word with a heart towards servanthood. Not a bad prayer for ourselves, too. 🙂

    Blessings, Linda

    • Hi Linda,

      Great to hear back from you again. You have such a gentle spirit. You are a good influence to have around and I am glad you left a comment.

      You are absolutely right, Christian teachers and pastors have a very difficult cross to bear, the problem is many do not honour such a high calling with humility, and instead use it as a launching pad to gain power and a good reputation as well as to be admired by others as spiritually discerning and infallible in their discernment.

      I do appreciate your very timely suggestion to pray for our pastors and teachers, and to apply this same prayer to ourselves.

      I feel a burden to express all these things in my blog, but often times I read them afterwards and realise I myself am full of spiritual pride which I need to repent from, so thanks for that reminder to look within. I do try to go over what I write quite a few times and ensure that I write as “I” or “we”, instead of “They”. I am in as much need of repentance and grace as the next Christian. That is why I love to write on the blog. Whilst sometimes I expose things I see around me, at the same time, what I write makes me accountable and helps me to keep my own journey in check.

      Blessings to you too.

  5. anewcreation,

    I’m 100% for every move of the Spirit. If God’s in it, I’m for it.

    But Christianity has an insatiable hope that the next revival will be the one which changes the church for the better. Check out the effects of the Welsh Revival, one of the most famous revivals ever:

    http://www.welshrevival.com/lang-en/1904effectsonrevival.htm

    But what’s not mentioned in the effects is that two years after the revival, the nation of Wales had reverted to it’s pre-Revival ways. Just two years!

    The problem was not the move of the Spirit, but rather, the church system with its hierarchy. Enthusiasm and excitement are squashed in pews.

    Wolfgang Stimson wrote: “The church is a fellowship without fellowship.”

    The early church met in homes around a dining table and actually fellowshipped and liked being with each other. They did not sit in pews, looking at the back of other people’s heads or toward an anointed person standing in a pulpit. Each contributed in the assembly. Each had a value other than dropping a check in the offering plate as it was passed under their noses.

    The Christian Civil War I foresee is a return to the early type of church. And you’re wondering, how can that turn into a Civil War, right? Money and power.

    As the churches see their offerings dwindle they will react. It will be a mess…and yet, I believe the confrontation will be backed by the Holy Spirit so that His Bride will be without spot or wrinkle.

    • Hiya Larry

      I don’t see what you describe to come as clearly as you, but then again you have been a Christian for longer than me and I know that there are many things which I am yet to experience, which you already have.

      I do however think that what we both long for in our heart is exactly the same, and I praise God that he has surrounded me with a few souls who think alike, see alike and hear alike.

      God bless you.

  6. “It may hurt, but it’s the truth”, a friend once told me. Such is the case with this post. Pride (and its devilish cohorts like self-sufficiency, worldliness. self-righteousness, materialism, and self-indulgence) is insidious. Tragically, the politics and organizational structure of the visible, institutional church sometimes actually fosters these rebellious attitudes. I know – I once was a pastor myself!

    I still remain susceptible to the prophetic challenges of this post. Every time I find myself in a subtle but carnal drift towards pride and forgetting just what it means to be a servant leader like Jesus, it requires a renewed contrition and brokenness before my Lord. He always reminds me that the character of those He has called into His kingdom and truly desire to “take up our cross and follow Him” is found in the Sermon on the Mount. I’m always drawn to the Beatitudes as a model for a Kingdom lifestyle (Matthew 5:3-12) and to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as evidence of His dominion over us.

    Thank you for this post. It beckoned me back to my knees with an open heart before my God. There I found again the darkness that can dwell in the nooks and crannies of my soul. But there on my knees I also find His grace and the power of His Spirit to live the transformed life of sacrifice and worship He has called me to. (Romans 12:1-3).

    Grace to you, my friend!

    • Hi Linden,

      Thank you so much for such a heartfelt comment. It means a lot to me to have your feedback, specially as you were a pastor once and obviously know a lot more than I with regards to what really goes on in the workings of a church. I can only speak from the heart as a member of a church who has witnessed all these things and has in the past been caught up in it and run along with it because I was operating in the flesh and couldn’t see the tares from the wheat. But God in his mercy gave me so many chances to see things for what they really are that I now feel compelled to share this with all those who want to read it.

      Thank you for your encouragement, wisdom and sharing of your own experience.

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you so much for that link, which I will check out today.

      There is much discussion and prayer taking place currently about all these issues, but not enough raising our voices in unison. There is much fear of rejection within The Church by those who feel we have forsaken our first love. And in many instances it is easier and safer to comply with orders and ways imposed from “above”. Anyone who dares to challenge the way things have been done for hundreds of years, and even more so done in the last few years, will be ostracized and often treated as damaged goods. Doesn’t sound too Christian, does it? But it is there right in the midst of all the things that are done in the name of Christ. The humility that is needed to receive correction and rebuke and to get over ourselves and consider other ways, God’s ways truly shines for its absence in The Church today, at least in the Western Church. Everybody knows best.

      Thanks again Linda.

      Have a blessed day.

  7. Pingback: IN ORDER TO WEAR THE CROWN, YOU HAVE TO BEAR THE CROSS – PART 1 | BELIEVE

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