Friday, January 28, 2011

A Ministry Should Be Dependendent on God, Not The Church!

     Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, (Philippians 4:11-12).
     We can learn important lessons by considering God's disciplines in dealing with Elijah. As Elijah fled to the wilderness following his first confrontation with King Ahab, God said to him, "Elijah, go to the brook Cherith, and I will feed you there." God sent big, black buzzards--ravens, scavenger birds--each morning and evening with Elijah's meals.
     What humiliation! All his life Elijah had been self-sufficient. Now he waited on scavenger birds to deliver him his daily bread....
     Elijah was like so many faithful preachers of the Word who are too true and too uncompromising for their congregations.
     "We don't have to take that," the people protest. And they stop contributing to the church. More than one pastor knows the meaning of economic strangulation. Preach the truth, and the brook dries up! But the Lord knows how to deal with each of us in our humiliations. He takes us from truth to truth. Men Who Met God, pp 96, by A.W. Tozer.[Emphasis by this author]
     Once again, great pearls of wisdom from my friend, A.W. Tozer.
     One of the biggest obstacles (and fears) for any minister of the Gospel is the entire issue of financial subsistence. The messenger of God’s word, like any other professional, needs funds to at least purchase food, lodging, clothing and other expenses, be they enough to at least cover the basics.
     As we can clearly see in today’s church headlines, most well-known evangelists and pastors do quite well, many of them even gaining millionaire status with lavish homes, expensive cars and some even with their own Lear jet. But, for the most part, smaller ministries and churches in the country backwoods, barrios and ghettos, nowadays especially, don’t do too well, which is causing many of them to close shop.
     When we examine the ministries in scriptures (like those of the Apostle Paul) we can see that a major decision had to be made as to how those ministers would conduct themselves in order to accomplish their respective mission. In the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 9:1-27, Paul addresses this issue very succinctly, especially in verses 15 through 18, where he states, 15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. 16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
     Many in the ministry will counter and say that this is all very good and noble of Paul; however, we are living in different times which call for different measures. They say that today’s ministers invested much time and money going to seminary or Bible colleges, and they have wives and children they need to care for, thereby a guaranteed salary or a relatively sustainable compensation plan is necessary to minister in today’s world. This may be why Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 should be followed by those who want to be ministers, which has proven to be the case under so many circumstances that a servant is often torn apart between family and God's calling.
     But yet we have to ask this question: “Is the ministry a profession or a calling?” As we have seen in the past 2000 years since Christ ascended to Heaven, most preachers and pastors (regardless of the denomination) have chosen to pursue a profession rather than responded to a Holy calling.
     Once examined carefully, we can see that throughout history, much of the church’s mission has evolved around the financing (and the power gained therein) of this ecclesiastical structure. That man-made and conceived foundational force (of the need for organization) has been the demonic tail wagging the religious dog since at least the formation of what King Constantine called the establishment of the “Church.” Since that time (when Constantine ordered the hatchet to be buried between the pagans and the true followers of Christ) what we conceive as “church” has been the model for this religious cultural entity we perceive to be handed down to us from Jesus Christ Himself.
     When it was stated “do not forsake the assembling of ourselves” in Hebrews 10:25, this had more to do with warning us that we need to exhort one another to avoid apostasy because the return of Christ is imminent. While we do not know the day nor the hour of His return, the ecclesia (a people called out) need to embrace one another The word assembling is only used twice in the Bible, here above and in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and they were both referencing the soon return of the Lord; once concerning Him “gathering” us for a meeting in the air when He arrives and the other is the assembling of ourselves to exhort and uplift each other because great tribulation is on the rise, and the church of yesterday and today, as we best understand it, unfortunately, no longer has the relevance or commitment to fulfill its initial purpose!
     The days of mega-churches and large Christian organizations are numbered; soon (and hopefully) the “home” church concept will prevail and return to the days when servants like Paul (and the body of Christ) could be found on every block in the neighborhood.
     Once again, my dear friend Matthew Henry explains with deeper and more gracious eloquence than mine, what a true church should look like, what a true church should be doing, as The Day draws near:
     “We have the means prescribed for preventing our apostasy, and promoting our fidelity and perseverance, v. 24, 25, etc. He mentions several; as,

1. That we should consider one another, to provoke to love and to good works. Christians ought to have a tender consideration and concern for one another; they should affectionately consider what their several wants, weaknesses, and temptations are; and they should do this, not to reproach one another, to provoke one another not to anger, but to love and good works, calling upon themselves and one another to love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, to love their brethren in Christ more, and to do all the good offices of Christian affection both to the bodies and the souls of each other. A good example given to others is the best and most effectual provocation to love and good works.

2. Not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, v. 25. It is the will of Christ that his disciples should assemble together, sometimes more privately for conference and prayer, and in public for hearing and joining in all the ordinances of gospel worship. There were in the apostles’ times, and should be in every age, Christian assemblies for the worship of God, and for mutual edification. And it seems even in those times there were some who forsook these assemblies, and so began to apostatize from religion itself. The communion of saints is a great help and privilege, and a good means of steadiness and perseverance; hereby their hearts and hands are mutually strengthened.

3. To exhort one another, to exhort ourselves and each other, to warn ourselves and one another of the sin and danger of backsliding, to put ourselves and our fellow-Christians in mind of our duty, of our failures and corruptions, to watch over one another, and be jealous of ourselves and one another with a godly jealousy. This, managed with a true gospel spirit, would be the best and most cordial friendship. (Matthew Henry Commentary on Hebrew 10)
     You will note, Henry makes no mention about the churches incessant discussions concerning the signs of the times and neither the day nor the hour of our being caught up to meet and greet Him in the air and escort Him back to earth upon His arrival; but rather to exhort and to provoke us all to love one another and to do good works, which is the true religion of God (James 1:27).
     This was Paul’s mission; to preach the Gospel without charge. When he wasn’t preaching he was making tents to support his ministry. He was not a “community organizer” nor was he trying to build a political entity to gain favor from neither Pontius Pilate nor King Agrippa. He was not saving his tent-making money to earn a doctorate in theology because he knew those folks earn bigger dollars, to impress others with titles, nor did he devise the latest income generating sales plans to sustain his job, nor was he devising any unique retirement formulae that would provide him higher dividends when he retired. Paul was not a professional preacher; he chose to be a mere servant of the cross. But, most of all he never once compromised the Gospel to ensure his financial welfare.
     Like Elijah, Paul learned to be content in his being a mere messenger, one who expressed his gratefulness for whatever assistance he received from his brethren, and he thanked them as he said, I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength, (Philippians 4:10-13).
     If we could eliminate those professionals fund-raising preachers (while many may be well intended) from that ministerial fraternity that inconishly presents itself as God’s church, many whose goals are more inclined to fatten their coffers than feeding the sheep, we would find relatively few servants doing God’s will.
     However, those who would remain, because their identity is best reflected by the fruit of the Holy Spirit, would not need spending fruitless time debating doctrinal positions that lead to divisiveness, but rather would be found responding to the clarion call to serve those in need (of both spiritual and physical sustenance) within their respective communities.
     It is from this attention that the needy are fed to rise up and in turn touch the lives of their neighbors, resulting in domino affects wherein revival succeeds from a genuine heart of service. Then we can see “church” as God intended, rather than the traditional theatrical and cultural spectacle that prevades the ecclesiastical community, more reminiscent of the gothic religious behemoth the Puritans fled three hundred years ago, but sadly and yet carried off with it the aesthetic trappings that we see in the spiritless entity we today call the American Christian Church. Sadly, it is still led by those who are more dependent on the provisions from their flock than from the abundance and grace from God!

For more information about this blog, the author and his books, The End Times Passover and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation, please click on Joe Ortiz

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Thanks for your wonderful and impelling truths. We need more such inspirations. Laila