…You start walking mine.
In all of these comments, did anyone stop to consider why I entitled The Most Important Post Evar “We’re All Adults Here”?
See, the way I see it we are each, individually, responsible for our own faith. I’m pretty sure I’ve got everyone on board with that one. If you disagree with that, I think you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and should probably read James one more time.
So… My faith = my responsibility. Your faith = yours.
Second brilliant and salient point…
There are those within the Body who are older, wiser, more deserving of respect and who are given both the calling and the ability to lead, care-take and uphold those who are, shall we say, not so much of any of the above.
Now here’s where it gets a bit hinky…
Just because someone tells me they are “called” does not make it so. I believed for years that I was “called” to something specific. What it is doesn’t matter, here’s my point… The opportunity and fruit were never realized… No room was made… Guess what?
I get to be ordinary. Those things I thought to be true were not recognizable to the body of believers I found myself in fellowship with.
Yet… Ask anyone who spends any time with me or who has been to dinner at my house and ask them if I am hospitable… Ask my friend Kris if I have ever shared the Word with her and helped her understand. Have I ever taught anyone?
Those gifts are recognizable. They swirl around me and create a space that is Heidi Shaped wherever I go.
No vote is necessary. No committee. No striving to become. It’s how I was created to be. So I am.
When I’m not fighting against it… But that’s another story.
There is a man I met a long time ago. Kind, scholarly, plain. He and his family spent 30 years in Honduras, in the mountains, tending and loving, teaching and guiding a tribal group. A group that loved them and a group they loved too. They spent their lives, all the best parts, on this group of largely insignificant, uneducated natives.
And they will shine brighter in heaven than most. I’m sure. I was young and stupid when I knew them, but I do remember them as kind and unpretentious and very, very, very real. Without guile.
That man was an Elder in the faith. He has gone on to be with the Lord but if he showed up at my doorstep today and said, “Thus saith the Lord!” I’d hear him. And I would submit.
Marion and John… Strong, brilliant and beautiful people who spent every Monday night for a year with a young couple, their infant son and taught us how to love each other and how to live. Did we listen less because they weren’t “recognized” by the larger community of the mega-church we were attending?
Did the sacrifice of their love, life and guidance mean less or impact me less because we met outside the organized structure?
The strongest accountability and the most tender authority I have ever experienced has happened through those who came along side me, who walked with me when it was dark and who did not shout at me from their lofty position.
Conversely, the strongest demands for accountability and the most crushing power of demanded submission has been from those who have stood in front of the assembly loudly proclaiming what they believed was their “right” to be heard.
Experiential? A bit.
Is there to be order? Of course!!! Should we submit? Well, children to their parents, wives to their husbands and husbands to Christ.
Believers one to another. Provoking each other to love and good deeds.
To some were given, Farmer Tom quotes from Ephesians 4:11. Some, not all. And that means 3 men in a congregation of 50 or 8 in a fellowship of 500? That’s all? Those are the recognized ones and therefore given greater latitude and opportunity to speak while the rest of the congregation sits quietly and “submits”?
Six years ago I struggled with a frustration and anger that couldn’t be contained. I lashed out at my children and husband on a daily basis. Frankly? I was a terrible person to be around.
One day, someone spoke into my life. He spoke this verse, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9.
There were no loud thunderclaps, no bolt of lightening. No altar call or offering. Just a quiet voice in the seat behind me. The car seat behind me. Between taking bites of Goldfish and shaing his sippy cup.
And it rocked my world. My 3 year old son spoke the Word and it changed my entire perspective, brought repentance and has changed me. Irrevocably.
What authority did he have that I should submit to the words he spoke? That of a fellow believer.
There is no structure, no external force on the planet that would cause an insubordinate heart to bow and no man-made contrivance which would cause you to live more honestly before G-d and man.
If you don’t choose to do so. Choose. Free will…. Responsibility.
See, this faith thing isn’t quite at quantifiable as we’d like to believe it is. Angie and I became friends outside the fellowship we attended. The church gathering was merely a vehicle to get us in the same room so we could be introduced. It didn’t make us friends. That was a conscious choice we have continued to make for the last 4 years.
I don’t presume to have this thing figured out. Yes, free-form fellowship gets scary and out of hand and just plain weird. So does organization and ritual. Be honest. We all know how we’d like it to be. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping for a group of like-minded believer who earnestly seek to please G-d, serve each other and to spread the Gospel. Simple faith. Strong faith.
Koinonia before eternity. If there is such a thing.
I’ll ask you this. When the world ceases to even allow us, those who claim Christ, to meet in our prescribed fashion and we are forced into small groups with no recognizable leader as we meet surrepticiously to avoid persecution and to protect our families and loved ones, what will remain?
Bi-laws? Committees? Denominations? Bulletins? Ordinations? $10,000 chairs? Or will we be reduced to 12 people in a house whispering over the book of John and remembering Esther? 12 people who are less interested in who is in charge and more interested in how to persevere? Perhaps? Will we even have a “worship minister” or a “coffee ministry”. Those beans need savin’!
Do you think we’ll really still be arguing over Calvinism v. Armenianism, Saturday v. Sunday, Torah v. Grace? Really? Will we still be throwing at one another our knowledge of the original languages and pontificating over the finest points of the Pauline dissertation on Grace? Pontificating until we slit someone’s throat with one of those finer points…
Those things have been very important to me in the past. Very Important. It was intoxicating, to me, to study and dig and learn and read and when my brain was full to bursting to share my knowledge with whatever poor soul happens to be in my nearest vicinity. Oh, I could debate and discuss and divide and, and, and…
But it’s not quite as important now. I don’t really care who is up front. Just because his name tag says pastor doesn’t mean he’s got one whit of verifiable insight into my life. In fact, it honestly doesn’t even mean he’s an honest man who would be honorable with the gift of submission and accountability those he fellowships with would give him. Names on a list mean nothing.
One conversation, one spark of interest, one single handshake and I will take the time to consider. I will give you a chance or two. Most often though? I submit to the believers I know. Why? Because I know them to be believers. Not because they say so but because they show it in their life. They’ve got fruit. And I see it, I smell it, I am fed by it. I like to worship with a group of folks who are engaged in their worship but that doesn’ t mean their faith is “real” it could just mean the music’s great and the “vibe” is good.
The elders in the early Church were recognizable. Not just because the committee voted them in or they had a Ph.D behind their name. The prophets, teachers, pastors, etc. functioned as such whether they were on staff or not.
Can Eaglewood help it when the Lord speaks to him and the Holy Spirit within compels him to act? And if he could help it, if he chose to quench that Spirit and disobey, would that make the calling less important and needed by the Body? Can Farmer Tom help it that he sees those younger in the faith and expends effort and passion seeking to show the truth of the Word clearly and without compromise?
Can Jason help it that he strongly desires to exhort and encourage those around him even at the cost of being excluded and misunderstood?
Yes. You can all “help it”… If you want to deny how you were created to be and the calling the Lord has placed on your heart. If that’s how you want to live… You can choose.
Of course, it’s not much of a life for a believer… Just sayin’.
I will freely admit that Men Up Front are about as exciting to me as, well, getting mugged in an Eastern European underground rail station. I’ve spent my life watching the abysmal performance of men who stood as Leadership. Spiritual Authorities… Bud Hornback to TMUF. Meat grinders, all of them.
Men with titles. Who gives a rip? I don’t. I would much rather be surrounded by believers with hearts. Obedient believers with hearts. Obedient believers with hearts who aren’t trying to prove to each other how right or wrong we all are.
Am I jonesing for a Love-In? Get real.
Yeah… That’s what I want. Just to get real. In the Body. What is man’s construct? What is G-d’s intention? Why do we try so hard to create our own interpretation? Safety? Certainty?
I don’t know a lot. I look at the last few years of my life and, honestly, I’m not real impressed with G-d’s performance. I’m tired. I’m broken and I don’t have a lot of hope for my future. It’s been almost a year and a half since I “craved” the fellowship of anyone. Beyond knowing it’s “needful” I really have no use for more than my husband and children. I go through the motions, I ask the right questions and make the right noises at all the appropriate times. Church, as we play it in the modern world, is a game easily played and manipulated.
I think what encourages me the most, from all 43 comments, as of this writing, is that there are still a few people who care enough to have the discussion and seek to encourage, exhort, challenge and even defend the Word.
I applaud you all. Keep seeking. Maybe one of us will find the truth. Hopefully the rest of us will be willing to listen.