Part Four of the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, presents ways to recover from the pain we will likely experience in our relationships (church, family, and friends) when we are misunderstood because we no longer participate in traditional forms and expressions of “church.” If you or someone you know has been damaged, accused, threatened or other wise spiritually abused in a religious atmosphere, I entreat you to watch this video (as well as Part Five that will be coming next in this series). I think they are the most helpful and practical things I have ever done in this regard.
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.
There was a Body before there was a Christian “Bible.” This is a threatening fact for many. It is none-the-less, an indisputable historical fact. The implications can, and have been, argued for centuries, but the fact cannot be.
Recently I have been blessed with the expansion of relationship with brothers and sisters outside my direct church family. Like the gospel will do, and like Jesus will do, those lines become blurred and the family just becomes, well, more family: still the church–still the body–just more connected. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that doctrine can be a relational stumbling block in the “extended” family.
The city of Laodicea was founded around 260 BC, in the Lycus River valley in what is now Turkey. It was a bustling city known for its great wealth from medicine, textiles/wool and finance. Laodicea was so wealthy that when it suffered a major earthquake in 60 AD, they refused the support of the Empire and financed their own rebuild.
Laodicea had it all – except water. So they constructed two aqueducts. One sourced from the cold mountain water of Colossae, and the other flowed from the hot springs of Hierapolis. However, by the time the cold fresh mountain water from Colossae and the hot, healing waters from Hierapolis flowed through the aqueducts, the water had become lukewarm. This provides some context for the images that John writes concerning the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3:14-22.
The Spirit of the Lord challenges the citizens of Laodicea on their self-sufficiency stemming from their wealth. They think they are rich because of their finance, textile and eye medicine, but the Lord sees them as blind, bankrupt, and threadbare. We also find this strong statement: I wish you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!
The image of cold speaks of the refreshing that cold mountain water brings. Likewise, hot speaks of the healing, therapeutic aspect of the hot springs. They are neither refreshing or therapeutic – they are lukewarm. The religious elite of Jesus’ day had some lofty thoughts about God, they knew the scriptures well and lived with moral excellence. They had become comfortable, all about their traditions, interpretations, practices and knowledge but missed the very Messiah they had been anticipating. In spite of their religious prosperity, they were neither refreshing to others (cold) nor were they healing and comforting (hot).
Laodicea: What could this mean for us as a church today?
What if lukewarm is where we are no longer refreshing to others, or no longer healing and a comfort to folks? Is this the same as salt losing its saltiness? Could it be that sometimes despite all our great doctrines, practices and traditions we have subtly lost sight of Jesus and His mission? The place where to love God and love others as Jesus loves us becomes a mere platitude or a sappy sentiment? To do so is to be lukewarm.
I am not diminishing the importance of healthy theology or healthy practice, but they are not an end unto themselves. They posture us towards Someone and something greater – Jesus and His mission. This posture helps free us from the trap of self-righteousness that is often so darn intoxicating and yet makes us so lukewarm. Like the Church in Laodicea, we are invited deeper into a relationship with King Jesus. It is here that we discover what it means to buy gold refined in the fire, to be clothed in the garment of Heaven, and to buy medicine for our eyes so that we might see, really see! This is to be hot and therapeutic or cold and refreshing for a world that longs for good news that is actually Good News!
Copyright 2014, Michael Rose. Michael is a spiritual director and the author of Becoming Love, Avoiding Common Forms of Christian Insanity.
His passion is to help others to learn to live loved and live lives of love. He blogs at IamSignificant.ca
Like sequels to a lousy B-grade horror movie, bad ideas often get recycled in the Body of Christ. It happened again for me this week in a painful phone conversation with a dear, damaged, soul. The bad-penny doctrine I am referring to is the concept of absolute submission to an alleged “spiritual covering” as a necessity for your spiritual welfare and advance. The spiritual covering is allegedly embodied in your pastor/leader, etc. This issue has been hit hundreds if not thousands of times over the years by myself and other authors and bloggers. As confirmed by my phone conversation this week, like a zombie, it just won’t die. For Jesus’ sake, and for the well being of His church, I am going to briefly hit it again here.
The advice Job’s friends gave him typifies quid pro quo thinking: if you do well, you prosper; if you do evil, you suffer. If you are faithful to God and follow His precepts, only blessing follows; if you don’t follow His precepts, you are cursed—bad things happen to you. It is important to note that God personally appeared to rebuke Job’s counselors for thinking that way. Unfortunately, that is the way most teachers and preachers (especially televangelists) present the gospel and the way most believers live it. It shows a deep lack of understanding of the realities or the new covenant.
Guest Blogger: Jose Bosque
I have had this article on my heart for months. I am both intrigued and broken hearted as I contemplate this issue. Why do born again brothers and sisters that I am acquainted with come so close to dealing with the issues of organized church in their own Christian walk only to pull back and never truly engage? They claim to be hungry for a genuine Christ-centered walk, yet they seem incapable of escaping the trappings of a church-centered religion.
Now when I speak of the “real church” I am talking about the One Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Church He is building. I am not talking about a physical structure but of a people in whom the God of Love dwells. That is the true church – the ekklesia. Unfortunately, the counterfeit is well known. These counterfeits often look like glorified amusement parks and country clubs that masquerade as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s not about the name game, either. I don’t care what an organization calls itself. They may be Independent, non-denominational, Pentecostal, Baptist or Catholic etc. These names are man-made labels used for identification and separation that will find no place in the Lord’s eternal redemptive plan. What I am talking about is a Bride for a King who is pressing in to break free of the bondages of human religion and embracing the freedoms and joy of a life in Christ.
A body of water needs fresh inflow and regular outflow if it’s to avoid turning into a fetid, stagnant pond. Over-emphasized truth crimps the flow of our lives in one way or the other: on the input or output side. Without an outward focus and expression, the message of intimacy with the Lord will turn us into stinking spiritual ponds.
In the natural, the objective of intimacy is for reproduction. In the natural, frequent intimacy will usually result in another life unless unnaturally stopped–contraception. Teaching intimacy with the Lord, over, and over, and over, and over again without an “output” equivalency, is like spiritual contraception.
God uses very flawed, damaged, and “imperfect” people to accomplish great things for His kingdom interests. After all, damaged, imperfect, and flawed people are all He has to work with to begin with, including you and I! The expansion of His kingdom is not held hostage to the development of our character. Faith works by love, not by holiness and this is offensive to all spiritual over-achievers.