Second instalment regarding the junk food being fed Christians today from the pulpit – in the local Church and on your local television screen and DVD programming…
Many preachers and teachers today are using their authority is a controlling and manipulative way. Apostles, prophets and pastors have declared that they have absolute authority. Iverna Tompkins, in a recent article in Charisma, takes a poke at this saying: “Because I am your leader, you are to respect and obey me without question no matter how I live or what I do.” She was speaking against it, by the way.
The Bible says…
Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Philippians 3:17-19 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
There are a number of Church structures in North America today where there is what I would call “a serious control issue”. The leadership demands exteme loyality. To question the decisions or comments of anyone in leadership is rebellion and dealt with harshly. Those who want to think through their faith and ask serious questions find it uncomfortable as they are discouarged from doing so and going there. They are taught that “as the leader goes – so go you” without comment or question. And, the key leader is often surrounded by “yes men” and hard to reach if you are not one of the inner circle.
There is, in some cases, a real spirit (demonic force) behind this control feature that often manipulates people. In other cases it is simply a wounded leader protecting themselves from further hurt and ministering out of their hurt. And, I have actually seen it where it is simply a learned leadership style. But no matter what the root – it is simply wrong and is a set up for many to be deeply hurt by the “Church”.
So, why do people attend these churches? Why are people attracted to these churches? I have asked myself that many times.
I think it is because it seems safe. You are told what to believe and why you should believe it. You are given a set of rules – what you can do and what you can’t do – which gives you set guidelines to live by. If you live by them then you know you are in good standing with God and with the local church leaders. You are told how to dress, what to wear, where you can go and not go, how long your hair can be, rules for tattoos and piercings (and jewerly) … and on and on. Some people, it seems, simply need all these structures to feel “safe”.
Don’t kid yourself -these kind of churches grow very large and become very powerful. Apparently people really need these types of boundaries and regulations to feel right and content in their faith.
I personally flee such churches and networks. I have seen them come and go in this city (one of the benefits of having been here for 30 years). I have seen them start, grow, shrink and die. I have seen them wound countless people, some of whom have never recovered. I am currently involved in one Church that was like this and has since, under new senior leadership, been moving towards a much more balanced and free approach to spiritual headship and leadership. It has such potential and such health now vibrating through it people and its services.
I believe Christians (sheep) need a shepherd (pastor) who can lovingly guide and direct them. The leader or leaders need to speak truth and preach the Bible expressing God’s guidelines and principles for life. I believe in strong Bible preaching and teaching – setting forth the Word of the Lord. But, the sheep must then decide for themselves what they will do with what the Word says. They can eat or not.
I believe that Christians need to be taught to think for themselves and that they need to wrestle with biblical truths and how they apply to everyday life. Not live by someone else’s set of rules (usually mostly man’s rules).
I believe you cannot spoon feed them forever (control what they eat, when and how) so it is best to teach them how to discern the truth and receive revelation from their Bible and how to build a life on the rock…because otherwise they are building their life on the sand – the word of the leader and this always leads to disaster.
I believe we are to trust our leaders after they have proven themselves. They prove themselves by being in solid, committed relationships over a length of time. Open and honest relationships – not just some “advisory council” set up either of “yes men” or those whose names help you to have greater recognition but who seldom have any quality time with the leader and really don’t know what is happening in that leader’s life.
I believe we are to honor leaders as scripture states we should. But, this does not mean to blindly follow and obey everything they say and agree with everything they teach and do.
There is a lot of junk out there on the leadership level of the life the Church. Careful people – junk food can be and is dangerous to your long-term spiritual health.