Grace is costly. It may accrue to us freely, but it cost Jesus dearly. Love is costly, as is peace-making reconciliation. It is not enough to understand these things as abstractions. We must grow in grace-ness (graciousness) toward others—even those with whom we may disagree or those who may have hurt us. Jesus was wounded in the house of his friends and betrayed by one of his most intimate friends. The disciple is not above the Master. We have been given a ministry of reconciliation to, and for, the world and it is a tall order. Would it not make sense that it actually work among those who call upon Jesus as Lord, before we try to export our convictions to others?
I have been a follower of Christ for forty-two years. For thirty-four of those years I have been self-employed. Fewer things are more offensive to unbelievers, and more undermining to the Lord’s testimony in the earth, than vocally “Christian” business people whose true God is the love of money and whose business ethics resemble more of Bernie Madoff and Martin Shkreli than Jesus Christ. Being a Christian in business is more than having a fish sticker on the bumper of your business vehicle. It is having a Jesus stamp on your heart.
If you have spent any time at all in Western/Evangelical/Charismatic Christianity, you have heard things like these:
- God is big, you need to dream big.
- God has big dreams for you.
- Your faith needs to be big.
- You need to be a dream chaser.
- Your faith is too small.
- You are destined to be a world changer.
- Overcome your ministry limitations.
- Take your ministry to the “next level” . . . and so on.
American cultural values of success: size (numbers in attendance), finances, and fame (sff) –bigger is better–more is “God,” have spread through Western (American) popular Evangelicalism like a bad outbreak of athlete’s foot fungus in a men’s locker room.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
Next to death of a loved one or a divorce, fewer things are more emotionally and psychologically challenging than changing a “church” association. Often when people begin to question their church experience and consider “leaving,” they feel alone, misunderstood, accused, disoriented, and perhaps even crazy or thinking they are losing their mind. They often feel unloved and unsupported. In this first session of an eleven-part series called the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, I introduce the topic and provide a frame of reference for understanding that you are not alone.
I am often asked: When is it appropriate to challenge or confront my church leadership? There is a full spectrum of opinions about the definition and expression of leadership in the church. There is also a broad spectrum of opinion on if, when, and how to confront church leadership. Jesus is our example in this matter, whether we like His example or not. Take my little “Leadership Legitimacy” survey and discover what Jesus would have you do.
The expression of pastoral ministry in the church can tend to aggregate at extremes in the Body of Christ. On the one hand you can have pastors who are oppressed by domineering and controlling board members and elders, whose mission in life seems to be to be to break pastors down and keep them in poverty. On the other hand, you can have pastors who think themselves as demi-gods at the top of a pyramid hierarchy who think people are little more than resources given by God to them to fulfill carnal ambition rooted in insecurity and thinly veiled as “corporate vision.” In Part One here, by my friend, Nick Vasiliades, explains why fundamental values and ideas in most western churches of how pastors are expected to function are the underlying reasons for so many misconceptions and malpractice of one of the necessary, precious, and legitimate gifts of the resurrected and ascended Lord to His church. Is it possible to be a supernaturally gifted “carer of souls” and avoid reactionary expressions? Yes, but not as long as we cling to biblically baseless definitions, values, and expressions of pastoral ministry.