You've gotta be a man before you can be a "Mr.",
You've gotta be a woman before you can be a "Ms.",
You've gotta believe before you can be called "a believer".
Above all else, this article is not intended to pigeon hole us further; but rather, explore where we are, especially as we remember the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Showing up at church or learning to parrot the right things doesn't mean we're anything, other than we've learned to wear a certain flavor of mask. Why would anyone wanna wear a mask? It's because we're afraid of not fitting in, so we manipulate our presentation to "fit in". With respect, we often fear people and the systems of this world more than Creator God. This could possibly be because many say "I believe" with our mouths yet fail to to it in our hearts.
Yesterday evening, I ran into Walmart for a few last minute items. The dog was getting hungry and my wife wanted that special creamer only they carry. As I raced to the sections of the store where my items were, my mind was opened to notice again, all the packaging and manipulation through presentation. Suddenly, I once again saw a glimpse of myself and the way we (humanity) view life. We live in a world where packaging is king! Let's face it. Most of us simply buy the package, and whatever is on the inside, then we deal with that later. Even though we say we care, we balance that against our love of money, and we say we're being good stewards. Well, maybe we are. Either way, this isn't really a problem until what we've purchased breaks (and it will!).
Neat and orderly is what our world demands. If you're out of place, you have no place, thus you don't fit in! The promise of making our lives easier, less stressful, pain free, is certainly appealing and I often take them up on what they're selling! I live in an air conditioned home, with running water, electricity and all the comforts that can be imagined. The problem many times is that we often buy promises from people who don't have 'the goods' to sell; although, with their packaging you'd never know it. They jockey for shelf space, brand recognition and popularity; all which are driven by alliances (that's just another way of saying, "branding"). All these alliances are to make you feel included (warm and fuzzy, to meet a need you may not even have). Honestly, I've got no problem with the world operating this way. It is the way of the world and I'm not afraid to operate within it.
What often alarms me is when I see so many "Christian" organizations function in the ways of the world, "wearing their clothes". I know: Why am I looking at their short comings? Well, I love them and want to help! We'll get to that in a minute. There is a way of peace. These organizations, captained by someone, market their daycare, children or youth programs; announcing "we've got what you need". They print ads promoting their latest "special" service and mention how good "their" praise team and/or choir is, while mentioning there's plenty of parking; and it's well lit! If that weren't enough, social media is blasted with campaigns to brand their church or movement, and their members are "requested" to "like" their post/page and share. You'll hear things like, "our preacher can really preach" and "oh boy, we had a great message today". There isn't anything wrong with any of these things, except it seems like they're always focusing on all the minor subjects. They invest all this energy in labor that won't produce an eternal harvest, all in the name of "who", I ask? I'm certain their zeal is usually on target and I'm not faulting or attempting to modify behavior. Behavior modification doesn't work anyway!
It's just that we've almost lost sight of the reason for having a gathering in the first place! If you're gonna gather, don't do it to cover the same base over and over. In baseball, you'd get to first base and never score a run. Let's gather to train the people, so they can be empowered to go into their world a blessing to others, demonstrating God's true compassion for the world!
Maybe it's coming across as bashing or being harsh. I'm sure some will think these subjects shouldn't be talked about in the open, but I can't imagine a better place for it. What I'd like to see is honesty about where we are. In my personal relationship with God, that's where I experienced Him so it seems reasonable to expect it corporately, in like manor. As I contrast (or survey) our present presentation of Jesus to the world, I just don't see Him being lifted up IN THE WAY HE DESIRES. How can I say I know His desires? Because my mind has been changed and I can see how His engine room operates in the world.
Let's look at what the Apostle Paul wrote just after he addresses hero worship; whether Paul or Apollos should be given credit (read 1 Cor 4 in it's entirety HERE or listen to it HERE but below are the verses we'll discuss)
I can't for the life of me understand how the modern church can say we have the same leadership as what we read in these verses. Honestly, I can say but you won't want to hear it. Well, that settles it; I'm gonna tell you for sure now. "Everything we call church isn't The Church". So much of what we call "Church" is really a supporting organization to facilitate a real move of God. We fell in love with the idea that we could lean on this system (instead of leaning on His understanding) to help, kinda like a crutch. Somehow, we've come to accept it's okay to help Him since being His flesh was too difficult. I'm not saying God hasn't allowed or even led at times, to have denominations (as some might say). I certainly don't think those are a complete expression of who He is, but everyone has ideas and opinions about what they believe, so in that light, there are as many denominations as there are people. Let's look at denominations as fractions. We know that all fractions are part of the whole. Somewhere along the course of studying basic mathematics, we began working with fractions. We learned that fractions are not the whole, but they were part of the whole. So, what did we do? We learned to find "THE COMMON DENOMINATOR"! What do we all have in common? We are all loved and accepted by God. We can start and end with this simple common denominator. With a common denominator we can find equivalent fractions, expressed other ways. Through the cross, we discover it doesn't matter what organization you or I belong to, or where our membership is. We discover that God really did love the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son. Now that He sits at the Father's side, we are His flesh, for Spirit to live. In light of being a unique individual, viewing the world through unique eyes, there is nothing wrong with being a slice; in fact, THAT'S THE PLAN! When I'm speaking of being a part of The Whole, I'm speaking of being a member of His Body; human flesh for Spirit to live and move and have His being.
The Nation is a many membered body; ONE body, which when we're in tune with Spirit, we produce ONEvoice (that's why we are aka ONEvoice or Restoration House Ministries). Well, now that we're back from that commercial break, let's read verses 9 thru 13 of 1 Corinthians 4:
4:9 If you really want to know, there is nothing glamorous about being an apostle! It seems to some that God has us on exhibition as it were, as clowns in the circus; the laughing stock of the religious world-system! We are the latest gossip in town. Even the angels frown upon us! And you want to idolize us, think again! We are not handing out autographs! Neither are we your latest brand of Christianity! We have a death-sentence hanging over our heads!
4:10 Because of Christ we are considered fools (in the eyes of the religious society!) Our foolishness serves only one purpose though: to prove to you that Christ is your wisdom. Our weakness serves to convince you of your source of strength in Christ; our ill repute in the eyes of popular opinion is to persuade you of your honored standing in Christ! (Do not allow what we are suffering for you to distract you from realizing how wise, and strong, and honored you really are in Christ.)
4:11 While writing this to you my life would seem such a contradiction! I mean here I am telling you how complete and without shortcoming you already are, and I can hardly remember when last I have had a decent meal! As I am writing this my mouth is dry with thirst, I’m stripped of my clothing; I have been beaten black and blue, and have nowhere to go.
4:12 I feel the fatigue from my physical labor. When people insult us we make sure that we speak well of them. We are harassed, but bear with it.
4:13 Hurtful rumors do the rounds but we find refuge and comfort in our true identity. We are reckoned as scapegoats, the scum of society. This is what we are faced with on a daily basis. (1 Cor. 4:9-13 Mirror)
To my human understanding it seems strange we have so many churches led by so called "apostles", "prophets", "evangelists", "pastors and teachers", who seem more interested in campaigning, strategizing, advertising, packaging, aligning, branding, and a whole host of other marketing angles rather than demonstration of power. I see so few leaders exhibit the reckless abandonment to Christ, as seen in the preceding few verses. It's a lack of fathers; I am convinced, but it's also our lack of submission to apostolic fathers in the Church. Looking on Facebook and other social media, you'll get a good idea of 'who is with who' by the posts we 'like' and by the people we ignore. No wonder the world thinks we're just a bunch of religious bigots. Often, WE ARE!
To anyone who does not believe the message of the gospel, it's to their own loss the message of the cross seems foolish; but to us who discover our salvation there, it is the dynamic of God. Isaiah wrote: I will confuse the wisdom of the "so-called" wise and prove their experts wrong! (1 Cor 1:18,19 Mirror)(Isa 29:14)
Too many times I've been surprised to discover I've been wrong about people and their approach to ministry and life. I think we often are a little quick to pronounce judgement when we're often saying, "they're not like me". Possibly, that's what I'm doing again right now. I hope so and am willing to learn, even if it's the hard way. There's a list of people I could tell you about, where my initial instinct was in error because they appeared to be of the world; they presented themselves in a way that I was not familiar with being abandoned in Christ, so I discerned incorrectly. In those times, I was wrong. We've got to give each other this grace. Grace to recognize God is bigger than our understanding. Hopefully, we can learn to recognize when our hearts burn from hearing truth, so much the Holy Spirit can interrupt our plans for His, ceasing our divisive ways. When I got to know the people I am thinking about, it was easy to hear their heart and passion to see God's children be led into the place of promise and it was then I could appreciate the amazing Gift in them. When I stopped looking at their package I began to see people as Christ sees them.
The main reason I didn't recognize them as being a gift from God was I didn't know their story. I hadn't gotten intimate with them, probably because of fear. I was caught up in my own circumstances and more than likely, marketing my own products, calling them "whatever". I've come to believe there is a small place of power, where He rests and we're invited to reign there with Him (in His Rest). This throne is a place in the perfect Love of God, where Love governs and fuels everything. It's not a worldly definition or an emotional love. It's through faith in Him, that we are Baptized by fire to see God is/as Love. This is the engine room of God and the power plant. The offense is foolish to the world. The power of Pentecost is available, and possibly more, so that we too have all things in common (common denominator). Once we find the common denominator, we can begin to make whole numbers out of the fractions (we can understand people and appreciate them as a gift).