Article # six: Your Christian Community (Part 3)
In your christian community the prime influence affecting your spiritual condition is, of course, your local church (if you attend one), and it is folly to not give it serious consideration. Is this potent influence something to be overcome (shunned?) or to be embraced? Are you being pointed to Christ?
I cannot make an assessment of your church, but you can. And you should. Weekly, perhaps two or three times a week, you receive a dosage of influence and perspective. Imperceptibly, you are being made.
If your assembly were healthy, if it had even some likeness to Acts, you would be the talk of many, even outside your locale. Typical isn’t news.
Next sunday, sit at the back and take a hard look at the congregation. What fills the pews – passion or ho-hum? Christ-centeredness or religion?
I don’t know about your local assembly, but I do know about most. In average evangelical church the congregation thinks and speaks more about Pastor Whoever than Jesus Christ. Not just more, but much more. Let’s hear from a pastor of many years from the fifties and sixties…..
A. W. T o z e r : It is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has. (God Tells the Man Who Cares)
A. W. T o z e r : Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. (God Tells the Man Who Cares)
Another profound teacher of God’s truths, a pastor from the same era, made a study with his congregation to determine what New Testament teachings they were not practicing, and experiences not experiencing…..
F. J. D a k e : Honestly listing everything we had found that we were not practicing as a church and every experience that was not normal in our lives, I had 160 points on my list. I could hardly believe my eyes, and yet there was chapter and verse for every point. (God’s Plan For Man)
Has the light of their time brightened or dimmed? This comment was made in 2002…..
B r o t h e r Y u n : In the West many Christians have an abundance of material possessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. (The Heavenly Man)
The problem is elementary. Sunday service is not a gathering unto Him, but a gathering unto him, Pastor Whoever. Or unto themselves. Who are more social than Joe and Jill Evangelical?
One cannot assess his/her local church without much consideration of the pastor, his role and his influence. Nobody should be down on pastors (evaluate their character and motives). And nobody should be up on pastors (put them on top of a double standard).
L a r r y J o n e s : ‘Pastor’ John is a connecting door between two spiritual spheres, one being the denomination that endorsed him, the other the assembly he serves. Whereas the ‘laity’ lives in one world, John lives in two. From the one he is sent, to the other he has arrived. The one has trained him, the other is his ministry. The one has his loyalty, the other his energy. He listens to one, he speaks to the other. His peers and friends live in one sphere, his followers in another. The perspective he receives from one he passes on to the other. (The Way It Is)
L a r r y J o n e s : We are to break bread and drink of “the fruit of the vine” in remembrance of Jesus. It is meant to be a solemn occasion of drawing closer to our Christ. Because ‘Pastor’ John always leads the ceremonial observance, because he is so visible and so ‘heard,’ the communion service has the dual effect of remembering Jesus and John. The assembly is impressed by, and drawn closer to, both! (ditto)
A. W. T o z e r : His profession compels him to seem spiritual whether he is or not. Human nature being what it is, the man of God may soon adopt an air of constant piety and try to appear what the public thinks he is. (God Tells the Man Who Cares)
L a r r y J o n e s : ‘Pastor’ John is a man of divided loyalties. He is a product of both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which he has studied more than most, and the denomination that schooled, trained, and certified him. It was his proven willingness to cooperate that procured him the position of pastor….. and he is determined to prove himself faithful to those above him. There is much pressure on John to conform….. and to lead others into conformity. Like the plumber and the doctor in the congregation, he needs that paycheck to feed his wife and kids. And like the plumber and doctor, he has no desire to change his occupation. (The Way It Is)
Sitting in the back evaluating the congregation, you are in fact evaluating the pastor. The fruit speaks of the tree.
A. W. T o z e r : The history of Israel and Judah points up a truth taught by all history, viz., that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are. (God Tells the Man Who Cares)
It is difficult to overstate the influence of Pastor Whoever on the congregation. If he is one of “they” (“They don’t want Him…. enough!”) the congregation will assimilate his wayward sentiments. If he is a Christ-gazer the people will become Christ-gazers.
Unfortunately, Pastor Typical has not been placed behind the pulpit because he lies prostrate before his Christ but because he lies prostrate before his denominational bosses. He long ago shifted his loyalty from Him to them. He has given himself over to another. Subsequently, many in his church have given themselves over to him.
P a u l : Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. (2Cor. 13:5)
C h a l l e n g e : Have you given yourself over to someone who has given himself over to someone? Will you return repentant to your Christ? Will you place yourself under the governorship of the Holy Spirit?
P r a y e r : Oh, mighty God! May hearts be turned to You through the simple logic and truths of these words. Make much of little. Because the reader is of infinite value to You I fervently ask the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In the name of Your Christ. (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)