Because I am a Pastor, you probably surmise that I really like church and that I am inherently “pro-church”. Generally, that would be a true statement. However, and that is with a capital H, I am well aware that church – even a healthy church – can suddenly and without warning turn toxic. Why you might ask? Isn’t Jesus the head over all things concerning the church? Yes, indeed, He is. But those of us who fail to realize that we are mere humans often forget that essential fact. Even worse, those who believe themselves to be “God’s gift to the church” (or the human race, for that matter) can and often do become toxic agents within a body of believers. Those who somehow “maneuver” themselves into positions of influence and power eventually become of agents of much harm and confusion.
People need people. We all need people. We typically find significant relationships through the organizations we are a part of. Church is an organization where wonderful relationships can form. However, the church is also an organism, and organisms inherently have problems and upheaval from time to time. At times certain members or parts of an organism become unhealthy and need healing, discipline and restoration. Trust me when I tell you that serving as the pastor of a local church can be a dangerous occupation. There are seasons of abundance when you feel you are truly loved by the people you lead. Then there are seasons when you are certain that you are loved but not liked so much anymore. Truth be told, there are periods when people you’ve loved much and been blessed by their appreciation greatly suddenly turn and, seemingly, become your mortal enemies.
Let me hasten to say, even in the most negative relationships, some level of resolution and peace can be found. I merely reference the above to let you know that leading a flock of God’s “sheep” is not a perpetual stroll along streets of gold. Why should it be? God became flesh and walked among us. He is known in the Bible as the “good” Shepherd. He functionally served as a “shepherd” here on earth for three years. In the early to mid-stages of His “ministry”, He had throngs of loving and loyal followers. By the end of His days of physically leading the church here on the planet, He was down to a small group of disappointed and demoralized onlookers. Out of that number, there seems to have only been a few faithful followers prepared to go the distance with Him. Even they were on the brink of dispersion to their former lives.
The intensity of the spiritual warfare involved in following Christ, dying to self and living for eternity can exhaust or demoralize the heartiest of brave soldiers. Ah – perhaps that is the secret. The true church is not an assemblage of sight-seeing spectators! The true church is an army at war. We are fighting a notable, yet largely unseen foe. He is a master strategist of doom, gloom and dissension. Our Savior showed us the way we would have to do life if we are to be successful as followers of Christ. We are going to have to die to ourselves in order to live unto God. We are going to have to live a sacrificial life of love, service and labor as unto the Lord rather than the praises of men. Translated, this means that we should not expect a life with lots of applause and gratuitous praise. We should not expect an immediate or even “fair” return on the investment involved in living for Jesus in this organism called “church”. Furthermore, as long as we are alive, we remain active duty soldiers at war against the powers of darkness. Soldiers sacrifice for the good of the cause and for the sake of others.
THAT-MY FRIEND-IS WHAT BEING THE CHURCH IS REALLY ABOUT!
Don’t be scared off by this. There is no more exciting, rewarding and fulfilling life than being a follower of Christ in active duty as a part of HIS church. I’ll have more next time!
PC (Pastor Chris)