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