PART 11 THE CHURCH OF GOD OR CHURCH OF MAN
PART 11 THE CHURCH OF GOD OR CHURCH OF MAN
THE CHURCH OF GOD AND MAN
As for myself, once I’ve come to the realization that the church I’m attending, i.e., its leadership, is preaching the gospel of repentance and faith along with clear teaching that there’s a Trinity, then I know that some of the members have received the Holy Spirit. And that’s a great thing. Once this has been established, the next thing to look for is what constitutes spiritual growth?
I can only say that there’s much diversity as to what establishes this. I believe that for many churches, the dos approach is the most common one. Some have many functions, and obligations pre-set weekly, monthly, and throughout the year. Some involve church dinners, fund-raisers, missions, observing certain religious days, corporate prayer, financial commitments, etc.
These kinds of activities are what those in leadership focus on. The more you do, the more they’re pleased with your performance and as they implore, so is God. Some might even suggest that you should abstain from alcohol all together as this would provide further evidence of Christ likeness to others.
As we can deduce, confession of sin, learning and memorizing Scripture, and recovery isn’t the main focus. Thus, the weaknesses of the flesh [aren’t] addressed, the influences of the Spirit are thwarted, and inward transformation never occurs.
Besides spiritual growth, there are other aspects of the ministry that believers should be mindful of. In my earlier days in ministry, I was involved with what I’d call a Spirit-filled church. At worship, God’s presence was penetrating, the Word was taught with incredible illuminations, unbelievers were being saved, and learning how to walk with God, not just on Sunday, became a reality.
However, as time went on, I noticed that there were certain teachings that would cause my spiritual ears to perk up. These, I’d classify as being those about power, control, and abuse. Whether this was done intentionally or through ignorance, I cannot say. Here are a few examples of such.
At certain points of a message, there would be a thus saith the Lord inserted, seemingly indicating that the words spoken were received directly from God and were to be obeyed unequivocally. While [it’s] true in the Old Testament that Moses received and spoke direct revelation, today in the New Testament church as the leader investigates truth, it’s the Holy Spirit who illuminates (gives understanding). As far as speaking under the anointing, this simply means that the Holy Spirit is present to help us in conveying the best sense or meaning. Furthermore, the Spirit isn’t working with us when untrue or unbiblical teachings are brought forth.
Another issue had to do with financial giving. Some of the teachings on giving financially in the form of tithing devolved into messages of selling land and houses for the support of the ministry. It’s true that in the early church, persecution was so intense that the believers sold real estate to help their fellow believers who lost their jobs, most if not all of their possessions, and for many their very lives. And I’m sure that if this were to happen again, believers today would respond in the same manner. But, otherwise, I don’t think this should be the form of giving that’s pressured upon the assembly. Acts 2:44-45
And finally, sexual indiscretions by those in leadership were considered as no one else’s business. God would deal with them in His time and manner. We’re told in 1 Timothy 5:19 that if someone in leadership has been found to have committed an egregious sin by at least two eyewitnesses, then an accusation should be allowed to be made. Likewise, we’re told that if a fellow believer has committed an offense against us, then we’re allowed to address whatever was the issue and go to them alone and address the matter (Matthew 18:15). And if the sin was well known, Scripture tells that they should be immediately removed from fellowship by means of a censure (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:1-11).
In some circumstances, there was no doubt that God’s power was operating, while on the other hand, it was clear that man’s efforts were operating. Attempts were made by some in leadership to address these doctrinal deviations from the truth of God’s Word; however, eventually little or no substantial changes were allowed to be made. I’d call this church, or any church that operates in this manner and others like it, a church of God and man.
With that said, I thank God for the many godly aspects of this ministry that helped me become the man of God I am today. No matter what church we decide to attend, hopefully, we’ll be able, through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit be able to recognize that which is true and hold fast to it, along with being aware of that which isn’t true and try to address it.
What I’d like to do now is leave you with an article that would characterize such.
ABUSE OF AUTHORITY
[There’s] a fine line between the healthy and unhealthy use of power. At any time, even the best of leaders can begin making decisions that increasingly put their own interests before the needs of others. The misuse of authority, however, [isn’t] always subtle. History tells the stories of countless leaders who boldly acted as if their position placed them above real accountability.
Biblical examples of misused power
In Bible times, the sons of Samuel used their appointments as judges of Israel to take bribes, pervert justice, and accumulate personal wealth. Later, God's choice for the first king of Israel, Saul, abused his power in an effort to kill the man chosen to be his successor. When David became king, he misused the authority of the throne of Israel to commit adultery with the wife of one of his officers. Then David conspired to have Bathsheba's husband killed.
Centuries later, a little-known church leader named Diotrephes misused his position by denouncing others to elevate himself. He was so protective of his own position that he [wouldn’t] even welcome the Apostle John into his congregation (3 John 1:9-10). We don't know how Diotrephes publicly explained his lack of hospitality. But [privately,] he might have assumed that all [he’d] done for the church entitled him to unchallenged prominence in the group.
The principle and the red flags
In biblical times and now, abuse of authority involves a harmful and destructive pattern of leadership that diverts organizational power for personal use at the expense of others.
A culture of fear.
Such abuse of authority thrives in a culture whose people fear one another. Leaders are afraid of losing power. Subordinates know the danger of confronting those in authority. Loyalty is emphasized to distract from [what’s] really happening. Mutual intimidation lies just under the surface of what seems safe to talk about or question.
A culture of confusion.
In church or parachurch groups, leaders [often] use spiritual language that implies they have a private line to God. The result is that the group learns to hear the teaching or prayerful decisions of leadership as if they were listening to God. Such confusion leads to trouble.
A culture of control and exclusion.
When spiritual overseers [aren’t] held accountable to fair process and well-defined checks and balances, they can impose their will in ways that go beyond their rightful sphere of control. Such leaders may remove a [non-compliant] person from the group, not for the sake of the organization but as a means to protect their own leadership. By threatening exclusion for [non-compliance], leaders can require submission in matters that are more personal than public, more cultural than biblical, and more arbitrary than fairly reasoned. Ironically, abusive leaders often suggest that their own accountability to God places them above criticism and question, without granting the same freedom to others.
In the noise and commotion of such abuse, phrases like "touch not the Lord's anointed" or "obey them that have the rule over you" are used, not to promote a healthy fear of the Lord but rather an unhealthy fear of [man].
A better example
Jesus' example of leadership is a corrective to such abuse of authority. In His kingdom, leaders think and act like servants. They hear the questions and cries of those who are hurting. They give others the consideration they want for themselves.
In Jesus' kingdom, elders and deacons [don’t] correct someone else without first working on their own faults (Luke 6:39, 41-42). They remember the Lord's words: "A disciple [isn’t] above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).
One leader's inspired counsel
Listen to what one of Jesus' understudies tells us. Watch for the value the [Apostle] Peter puts on heartfelt service. Note that he wants both elders and church members to serve God not by coercion but because they desire to. Peter writes to fellow elders, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Spiritual shepherds [aren’t] to "lord it over" the flock of God. Just as overseers, elders, and deacons [aren’t] to be pressed into service, neither are they to intimidate, shame, or compel others to serve, to give, or to follow. Even when confronting false teachers, representatives of Christ [aren’t] to be authoritarian in style, but "gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Sooner or later, therefore, we need to realize that we don't honor even the most trusted spiritual leaders by believing everything they say. We give them their rightful place when we weigh their words, ask important questions, and dig into the text of their [messages] for ourselves. The New Testament record of Acts honors the citizens of Berea precisely because they [didn’t] passively accept what they were taught by Paul and Silas. Instead, our record of the New Testament church says of the Bereans, "These were more fair minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).
The implication is clear. God [doesn’t] give His leaders power and authority to control anyone, but to speak a truth that sets people free.
Father in heaven, please help us to love and reflect the leadership of Your Son. Teach us to follow Him by listening to the questions and cries of the weakest among [us] while reserving strong words only for those who are using their authority at the expense of those they have been called to protect.
Father, may those of us who are in supportive roles learn to respect those who are [leading] while also learning to think for ourselves. Please give us hearts that are ready to hear Your Word, eager to learn, and ready to express, by our actions, the truth and grace of Your Son.138
I thought that this article was well written and clear in its delivery. The final church we’ll look at is what I call the church of God. Are you ready to find out what this is all about? Let’s go.
138“ABUSE OF AUTHORITY,” OUR DAILY BREAD 19 February 2022 <https://bit.ly/3H2ikRF>.