Motives and desires all at a convergence and many without an eye to the Word or an ear to the Spirit!
So…what does this have to do with the problems of the Church?
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4:1
To answer the question above…a lot! Because the same motives and inspirations that drive the power plays in ruling nations and the mass genocide of people also comes into play in the local church, just on a smaller scale-or is it? Well, maybe not the physical killing, but we can be very effective in the spiritual killing. It is our human nature to take something good and ruin it. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not talking about mass murder-rather, mass exodus. The misdirected passions and power plays of individuals and leaders are driving people, who have the gifts to build the body of Christ up and fund and work the programs, to leave or be in conflict. Because they are driven out, the people with the necessary gifts and abilities are no longer in our body or able to exercise their gifts for God's glory. Thus, the people are unable to be their best for the furthering of God's Kingdom. The church can have the attitude of the dictators and drive people away, or it can have the vision of the visionary leader, who promotes reconciliation and cooperation. The results will be up to us; will we be churches that are torn apart, or ones experiencing the joy of serving our Lord?The Disease of Dissension
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. James 4:2
The disease that gets us in this predicament is concentrating and focusing our efforts and desires away from the call of the Lord. We have the attitude of win at all costs, and put away the true mission of the church, replacing it with our personal vision that does not include the precepts of God's will. It is just like "Desert Storm," where a coalition of nations led by the US used a majority of its war machines to take out Saddam Hussein and restore peace in the Middle East. The first President Bush called this ""total war"," as a term to distance it from the strategy of the Vietnam conflict of limited resources and hit-and-run tactics.
Too many Christians have this mentality in the church: total take over-totally "my way or else." They will use every resource to win, regardless of right or wrong, whether it is moral or immoral, or whether it is godly or ungodly. It amazes me how people justify themselves and their actions with out of context Scripture, and rationalizing the "I'm right" attitude. A story in point is when that elder had a "win at all cost" attitude to expel me from the church. She resorted to all kinds of tactics, including rumors, and calling the parents of the youth to say their youth were in danger and I could not be trusted. She continued her ""total war"" campaign against me for nearly five years. She tried everything, including accusing me of sexual misconduct and fornication. The ironic thing is she was the one who was living a life of sexual misconduct and putting others in danger. So, she took on this "total war" strategy to throw people's attention off of herself and to project the conflict on someone else.
When I was in college, I was on the other side of the coin. We received a new pastor who was very obtuse and, from our perspective, totally ineffective to serve as a pastor. So, after a year of trying to work with him, a strong faction of the church turned viciously against him. At first, I was against this move, since I was on staff and trying my best to work with this guy. But after listening to the complaints, such as he had no relational skills, he refused to preach the Word of God, and possessed a passionate hatred of the tenets of the faith, I decided to join in. We had the "win at all cost" mentality; after all, it was "our church" and he was an outsider who did not belong. We circulated petitions for his removal, went to Dioceses and the Bishop and we resorted to exaggerating the problems to convince people. I feel ashamed about what I participated in. He was a terrible pastor, and was fragmenting our church, but we could have handled it in a godlier manner. The end result was that he left, along with half the congregation, who were fed up with the fighting.
We must recognize our personal motivation as it is-personal-and recognize the purpose of the church as Christ calls us. Our motives need to be centered on the person and work of Christ and not our desires, no matter how right we may think we are. And, with this out of control sense of mission, we convince ourselves the opposition is evil and we are on the side of good. We get so engrossed in our fights, we fail to differentiate our desires from those of God; and in fact, we are actually serving Satan. As a result, we become our own worst enemy, because we become the antagonists who are being counter-productive to the mission of Christ.
It is like the movie "Blues Brothers," where Jake and Elwood received a vision from God to save a Convent that they grew up in. To fulfill their commitment, they proceed across the country with a not so high respect for the law or peace of the communities through which they were traveling. This makes a very humorous movie, which I enjoyed, but is this the attitude of how to be effective in the church? A lot of Christians live their life like this; they may not drive an old police cruiser through a mall, but they do "drive" the members away.
The final nail in the coffin of the church is when we take the extreme position that "God told me to." I'm not saying God does or does not speak to us today. I believe He does give clear direction through His Word and through a deep prayer life. But, I'm suspicious of people who say, "God told me to…," especially when it is counter to the truths of Scripture. This mentality is very dangerous to the church, as it creates the illusion that the deceiver and conflict provider is the savior. This is a clear delusion that must be confronted by the truth of God's Word, (see chapter on conflict resolution).
To the deceiver, this mental illusion convinces them to do whatever it takes to win, even with actions and passions that are normally regarded as inappropriate and misleading such as starting untrue rumors. After all, you do not need facts and evidence to back you up when immature Christians will gobble up every morsel of gossip they hear, regardless of its validity. When we say "God told me," how could the average person stand up to that? I observed one church where a lot of members were always hearing what they perceived as "words of knowledge" that God was directly speaking to them. Now, I'm in no position to test the validity of their claim; I do not know what is in a person's heart, or what went on metaphysically. However, I can test what they say against Scripture, using some common sense logic and reasoning to determine the validity. And, if their word of knowledge is counter to the Word of God, then you can rest assured that it is not from above, it is from within-or below.
They were seemingly using the emotion of shame to get others in the church to bend to their will with the manipulation of saying they were representing God. The new Christians could not discern and were confused, so they would go with the flow; the mature Christians would leave in disgust.
The result was that a lot of people left and formed a new church, which, free from the immature rhetoric, has grown to over 600 people in two years. The home church withered to under 200. The majority of the growth of the new church was not sheep stealing, but rather, new converts. Remember: people are always attracted to love and care over strife and conflict!
What are the Desires of our Heart when we lead a Church?
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool. Jeremiah 17:9-11
How much easier it is to hear the desires and wickedness of our hearts than to hear the voice of our Lord. It is not that our God is silent or whispers below our ability to hear; our hearts are so consumed with our own will, we cannot hear God over our own noise level from our own desires. The "heart" in this passage is not the organ that pumps our blood, but is the very character that represents who we are. Our minds and will are governed by the character of who we are. As human beings, we have free will. We have a free agency over the decisions we make and the life we choose to live. We have free reign over our thoughts and the choices we make. Because of the fall, we are also in bondage to sin and separated from God. Because of the redemption of the cross, we have escaped the punishment of sin and are transformed by our new identity in Christ.
But, the Christian still must deal with the dilemma of the moral options and the evil desires of our sinful nature that basically remain the same. We are still sinners and have the evil nature with which we were born; only now we are saved from the punishment for it. So, we need to grow in maturity to learn how to surrender our will over to God's and thus be able to make the correct choices based on God's Word and our growing devotional life. If you are not growing, then you will be unable to make the correct moral decisions. The "me centered" reasoning will take over and hinder the "God centered" reasoning.
When we set our will free by giving it over to Christ, we will notice a significant change in our attitudes and compassion level, and the work of the Lord will grow in our presence. The alternative is that our desires will rule the roost and we will have a church filled with conflict, not with God's people.
It is interesting to note that a partridge will steal another partridge's eggs, and claim them as its own. However, the new birdies will still return to their original parents the instant they are hatched. The partridge that committed the theft gained nothing but the humiliation of an empty nest. It is the same way with us non-feathered followers of Christ. When we center on our policies of war with our fellow Christians and neighbors, all we end up with is an empty nest. A church empty and useless to our Lord for His glory; but, rest assured: Satan will be quite happy with us!
Except from the upcoming book, The New Exodus, coming in April 08!
© 1999, 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org