Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Free Church or an Institution? Our Choice

Good morning my friends, welcome to another great day in our journey together. What a thrill it is to serve our Lord together. I hope you have great expectations for today. We are continuing with Galatians 6.

I think we all agree that there are a few fundamental things that we have gotten wrong with the Church. We never intended to do anything wrong and our motivation was a pure one, I think, but that doesn't mean we didn't get it wrong. The Church has taken on an attitude that just does not belong to her. We have allowed her to become an institution, a place of business, an employer of people. Parts of the Church have even gone so far as to hire their pastor like an employee. I forget the name of the church that has just been in the news lately but they pay their pastor over $600,000 a year. He must be quite the pastor.

This is not the forum for getting into a deep study of Church government but I think the shrinking Church is a good indication we have taken a wrong turn in the road, or a wrong dozen turns. However, we do have time to consider those God has blessed us with, who instruct us in the Word and spiritual matters. For the most part we would consider this person to be our pastor but for the sake of my point this morning let's refer to him as the head or lead elder. Today we refer to them as pastors but the Scriptures refer to them as elders. What is our attitude toward the bunch of them? Are they a hired team whose purpose is to grow the church? Is there suppose to be an entertainment value to them. The funnier the speaker is the better? Paul wrote to his son-like friend, Timothy:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)

We have no problem with honour, usually. Although I wonder what kind of honour it is to turn spiritual authority into something you can hire? Paul continued with Timothy on this matter:

For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (1 Timothy 5:18)

We have taken what Paul has written here to heart and we have turned the lead elder, the spiritual authority in our Christian community into an employee that we hire and fire. Does that seem right to you at all? Congregations have shaped and molded the thinking of the elders so the elders end up preforming for the congregation, acting with businessmen's or entertainers hearts. Paul put it this way to the Galatians:

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. (Galatians 6:6)

There is a natural responsibility that we have to those who instruct us. If we are paying attention then we find ourselves prompted by the Spirit to give as he prompts us. I don't know if we could ever back track and take the roads we were suppose to take but changing our attitudes toward the Church and the elders can change our hearts. If we allow our hearts to be changed in this matter of our teachers and preachers then we will find our attitude changed toward the Church. Then maybe how the elders respond to us will also change and we will find even greater blessing and growth in the Church.

Do not leave the care of the elders up to the institutionalized church. Listen to the Spirit and respond in love. Change your attitude toward your tithes and offerings. That is not your means of providing for the elders. Instead you share with them all good things that you receive from the Father. Make it personal for yourself.

In my first church I felt loved and appreciated by my people because of their sacrifice for me. I did not ask for it and it came unexpectedly. They could not afford to pay a proper salary but we were richly taken care of by food, clothing and great fellowship. They poured out their love on us and it was easy to serve and instruct them because of it. I think how they looked after us also impacted how they responded to the instruction:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

We have an obligation in love to care for those who have spiritual authority over us and that comes in the form of sharing all good things with them. Do this and you will see your attitude change and the blessings of God flow through the instructions you receive. This word does not come because it is pastor appreciation month. I really dislike the idea of such a thing. We need to show appreciation to our elders throughout the year as the Spirit prompts us with the specifics.

Somehow, someway, we need to be part of the healing process in the Church, that we will be part of the solution. Our attitude toward our elders could be a big part of this healing.

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