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by Jacob Ninan
Imagine a church trying to appoint a new pastor. Going through the applications, the committee looks for the degrees from Bible colleges and the claims to skills and experience. Applicants are then called for an interview at which time the committee is impressed by the charisma, and the good communication and social skills. The selected candidate is asked to give a trial sermon and the congregation is thoroughly fascinated with his oratorical skills, especially his use of wit and anecdotes, and the final selection is made. What may have happened is a choice based on natural abilities and charm rather than the spiritual qualifications needed for such a position (1Tim.3:2-7;Tit.1:7-9).
Or it may be a worship leader who has musical skills along with certificates from well-known international training programmes, and who is able to get everyone excited about the performance of the worship team. Get hold of such a leader, and you can guarantee people coming to church just to enjoy the experience every Sunday for free. But what if this leader does not cause people to actually worship God, but they only admire his musical production?
What about recruiting the general secretary of a mission organisation? Of course, he must have a degree in theology, but what is more important is that he has attended management programmes and is quite good at managing people! He has to be politically savvy, managing the tensions between the needs of the missionaries and the demands of the supporting denomination, and he must also be capable of raising funds and taking statistics upwards. But what if his passion is not really the Great Commission, but only personal gains?
Multiply these examples into all the strata of Christian work and we can see why the kingdom of God is suffering, even though Christian work is increasing in every direction. Bibles are made available in many languages, Bible colleges are multiplying, new churches are being set up, new para-church organisations are being formed to meet different needs, and many more ‘labourers’ are apparently in the Lord’s vineyard than ever before, including many volunteers giving their spare time for the Lord. Yet, in spite of all the activity – Bible studies, fasting and prayer, retreats, workshops and seminars – the Lord’s work is languishing! The church, as the body of Christ, is lacking in the life of God in that their lives are not getting transformed and becoming more and more like Christ! As a result, the impact of the church as the salt and light of the world is, in general, very little.
‘Natural’ men are populating the church. Spiritual men are rare. But the fact is, unless people are born again, they cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:3,5), and ‘flesh and blood’ cannot build the kingdom of God. The church, in general, is becoming a work of man trying to imitate the work of God, and there is no power to change people’s lives.
What is the general testimony of people in the church? “I was sick and Jesus healed me.” “I lost my job and God gave me one.” “My marriage almost failed and God restored it.” Etc. How often do you hear the testimony that says, “I was a sinner and Jesus forgave me and set me free. I was ‘blind’ but now I see; lost but now I am found”? Sin is not in the picture at all in many so-called Christian testimonies, but they are all about earthly ‘blessings’ that God has given them.
It is, almost, as if they have never even heard that Jesus came to save sinners! When people read the gospels, all they can see are the miracles of healing and raising of the dead that Jesus did. They are told that they can expect greater things than these and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So they come to the church looking only for miraculous solutions to their problems. Even there, they do not hear many times about repenting and turning away from sin. ‘Sin’ as a subject is taboo for many preachers who do not desire to hurt or offend any of their listeners. The most popular messages are about the love of God and His unmerited favour.
Jesus did many miracles because He had compassion on people. His goal was not the miracles themselves, but to draw people through them to recognise who He was and to trust in Him with their lives. What is happening now is that people are fascinated by the possibility of miraculous resolution of all their problems, and they are not even looking for salvation! When Jesus did miracles for people, He expected them to deny themselves, take up their cross and ‘follow’ Him in order to become like Him. But many people are just happy with the miracles and that is as far as they want to follow Him!
We know that if we elect people with criminal records into the government, we cannot expect them to pay much attention to law and order. How can we expect people with only natural abilities to take care of the growth of the spiritual body of Christ? They cannot think godly thoughts, understand things in a spiritual way or make decisions to uphold spiritual values (Eph.4:18). On top of that, since their sinful nature has not been dealt with, they come out with carnal, self-centred and even crooked activities to promote their own interests instead of the interests of the body of Christ or the kingdom of God.
What happens, when a man or woman becomes a Christian, is not just that he or she agrees to a set of beliefs, joins a church or gets baptised. That is only to accept Christianity as one’s religion. But when a man is born again and becomes a child of God and a citizen of the kingdom of God, there is something supernatural that happens. God puts His ‘seed’ into him causing him to be born of God (1Jn.3:9), puts His Spirit into him, writes His laws upon his heart and mind, and gives him strength to walk in His ways (Ezek.36:26,27). He becomes a new person and old things pass away (2Cor.5:17). His way of thinking changes, as do his outlook and ambition in life. His begins to get a new set of values, and as he gets to know God and His ways better through the word, his understanding and behaviour also change. It is in this way that he begins also to affect the world around him as the salt and light of the earth.
Now imagine those who have not come to Christ in this manner, but have managed to get to positions in the church and Christian organisations because of their education or abilities (Jn.10:1)! Their natural mind cannot understand the ways of God (1Cor.2:14). They continue to think and behave in their old, sinful manner, even though they may learn the special jargon Christians use in the church. Then, it is no wonder that God’s church and His work do not progress to fulfil His plans, but they suffer from the same problems that secular organisations have. The testimony of the church suffers, and the glory of God is not seen there by the world which is watching with a critical eye.
In a sense, we cannot blame these people. They do not know anything better. The fault is with preachers and teachers who knew what they ought to do, but still chose to hide parts of the truth for various reasons, such as not offending anyone or for increasing the numbers.
It is difficult to always separate the tares from the wheat, lest we should throw out the wheat along with the tares. But what we need to do first is to sigh and weep over the abominations that are going on in the name of Christ (Ezek.9:4) without fearing those who will shout, “Judge not!” Then those who fear the Lord should speak out about such things (Mal.3:16). The church should get back to the preaching of the Gospel with all its purity and power, without fear of man or compromise. When people are to be appointed in responsible positions in the church as well as Christian organisations, their spiritual standing before the Lord is to be considered primarily and also the suitability of their spiritual gifts for the particular tasks before them.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, July 2018
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