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"If God called us to a task, He will then qualify us for the job" - Jack Hyles

Scripture

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" - Galatians 2:20

by Theo Sim.

Idolatry Practice in the Church?

Recent happenings in some of the mega churches lead me to conclude that the inattention of the church to acknowledge the cruciality of shepherd leadership to nurture leaders, ministers, and the whole congregation from top to bottom by accompanying them in going through life has ended up in casualties. A forewarning to all of us that church membership and doing well in ministry cannot guarantee one’s immunity from burning out, stress, anxiety, and emptiness in life. 3

People are struggling in life and desperately looking for answers to be set free. The thought that church could be a place of hope and acceptance that can provide them guidance and help in the time of need turns out to be void. While relishing such things such as money, position and popularity, the ministry cannot fulfil the emptiness in their hearts which, then ends up in despair. Most of them end up isolating themselves after running into adultery, fornication, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. Again, the sacrifice of idolatry results in broken families, stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, boredom and to the extreme some would choose to end their life in such an immoral way.

What is wrong with the Church and why are all these things happening?

Today, it is evident that churches around the world are obsessed in becoming mega churches. Being ambitiously set on drawing big numbers, acquiring wealth and performance driven, they have actually become oblivious to the idolatrous nature of their ministry. Church leadership is weak these days and becoming full of lust, politics, impersonal and not to mention the lack of ethics and morality to become the light and the salt to the world. The personal, caring touch for the flock that is supposed to be the responsibility of the church leaders is being neglected these days giving room to question the effectiveness of their leadership.

Jesus came to the world showing us the true meaning of servant-hood. Far from this pattern of servant-hood, so many Pastors and leaders of these mega churches resemble Corporate CEO’s, acting as bosses by positioning themselves at the top wanting to be served, striving for self-exaltation. They build bigger church buildings, state of the art auditoriums, and hold captivating performances. They are fully engaged in chasing after numbers and are performance driven. There is shallow teaching and preaching that will not penetrate to the heart and bring about life transformation. Sadly, most churches are adopting this mega church mentality and unaware this is the trap of the enemy, giving credit to the real scepticism and cynicism towards Christianity while it also jeopardizes people’s life.

It comes as no surprise to find ministers and members of these churches unable to cope with stress and burning out and not being looked after by their senior leaders. There is the lack of personal touch, edification of the body of Christ not to mention ‘one on one’ discipleship. Further-more, they are neglecting the crucial process of building shepherd leadership to feed and nurture the sheep (in this case the ministers) through discipleship in contrast to what Paul said in Colossians 1:28. 2 They are ignoring the importance of the healthy and close relationship to nurture the sheep.

Quoting from the latest statement from the famous author Francis Chan during the talk show on Facebook recalling the sober moment he had while at Cornerstone Church before he left it seven years ago he shared the story about baptizing a kid from a gang but later left despite being quite involved in the church. The kid testified that he could not understand the mega church. The former gang kid imagined that the church would be better or no different than his previous 24/7 treatment in a gang as a family. However, he realized that church had turned out to be just somewhere we attend on Sunday. 3

Totally in contrast to Jesus whose heart was moved with compassion as written in Matthew 9:36: “But when saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (NKJV), startlingly, this verse pertains to the condition of the church in the world around us today. Pastors who are supposed to feed and nurture the sheep and are paid to do the work of shepherding the congregation of hundreds even thousands, which is impossible, lack the pastoral compassion set for us to follow by Jesus.

Misconception about Church (Ecclesia)

There is a total misconception about the Church from what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18: “On this rock, I will build My Church.” Jesus said this to His disciples in Caesarea Philippi, the location where people worshiped idols and believed that place to be the gates of hell. The word Rock is written as Petra. It is the same word that He used in Matthew 7:24 when speaking about building the unshakeable foundation of life. Jesus was talking about the power of discipleship to enable one to stand still despite storms and floods coming into life. The word “Church” that He used is written as “Ecclesia” in Greek. It may be foreign to us today, but during that time, this word was widely used, so the disciples understood the single meaning of it.

He will build His Church, Ecclesia where the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Through the sacrifice on the cross and by His blood shed on it, the bondage of this idol that demands sacrifices will be destroyed, and people are called out to be set free and become part of His body that will manifest Him entirely. This has been the restoration of the covenantal relationship between God and humanity through Jesus and His body, the Church through eternity.

Therefore, at the end of Matthew before He ascended to heaven He gave us the command which we acknowledge as the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations.

In the last chapter of the Gospel of John.21:15-17 (AMPC) 2, Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Jesus and commanded him to:

  • “Feed My lambs” (v.15),
  • “Shepherd (tend) My sheep.” (v.16)
  • “Feed My sheep” (v.17)

1 Peter 5:2-4: “Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonourably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully. Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation). And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the [a]conqueror’s crown of glory.” (AMPC)

Peter echoed Jesus message to shepherd the flock. He was giving his counsel to the elders including Pastors and spiritual leaders by giving his testimony of how he witnessed Jesus’ sufferings. He was one of His twelve disciples that Jesus uniquely approached to heal his past wounds (guilts and regrets), and simultaneously commanded him three times to shepherd the flock. One wonders what would happen if Jesus did not take His time to heal Peter.

Further, Peter described the responsibilities of a Pastor as a shepherd to the flock covers the function of the priest, prophet, and king without domineering or dictatorial, not for own gain, but with encouragement, exhortation and be the living example to the flock. That is exercising spiritual care over a community. A Pastors’ lifestyle must be about manifesting the grace of God with the heart full of agape love, compassions, humbleness and sincerity to serve others. Pastors must ensure that each body member is being looked after and nurtured to grow into spiritual maturity and bear much fruit, through the means of shepherd leadership and discipleship, putting emphasis on quality. Multiplication will naturally come as the signs of healthy growth.

In 1 Thessalonians 2: 4-12, Paul explained in full description the fruits of his ministry. He testified about His sincerity of his calling. He was heart free from covetousness and God entrusted the ministry to him. His intention was to please God (not men). Furthermore, Paul illustrates his ministry as a mother who looks after her children, as a father who deals with his children: to exhort, stimulate, encourage, charge personally without exhaustion and make sure each one of them is growing properly into maturity. Here Paul is talking about building shepherd leadership through the means of discipleship, sharing his life which serves as a good example to them.

Here are some of the characteristics of Shepherd Leadership that covers what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:4-12: 1

  • Follow the Lord’s example
  • Guide the sheep
  • Nurtures and Protects the sheep
  • Cares for the needs of the sheep
  • Equip people to serve (Discipleship)
  • Full reliance on the Head (Christ) for all resources
  • No self-exaltation

The keyword here is Servanthood which is the lifestyle of dying to self and living only for Christ(Phil 1:21). 5

In Colossians 3:1-2, Paul mentions Christ who is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. Imagine how sad Jesus must be, looking at the idolatrous condition of church today where weary and scattered sheep are left with no one to shepherd them. 1

What can we do?

There must be a movement to redefine the Church as God intended to be. Jesus said: “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) .1

There is no time for silence. Christians, specifically church ministers must be encouraged to take the flock into a deeper discipleship journey. That can be achieved if churches allow them to enrol in proper Bible Schools that not only put emphasis on academic study but also provide room for personal in-depth discipleship that bring life transformation.

As Bible students, we need to speak out and step out from the bondage of the idol worship of mega churches that copy-paste the mega corporations. Our prayer and longing is for Jesus’ intervention through the work of the Holy Spirit to overhaul and dismantle the work of the enemy by pulling down the stronghold of the mega church mentality, which is idolatrous.

I recommend that we listen to Francis Chan’s testimony. The link is provided at the end of this article. I pray that his testimony will open our eyes to see that Jesus is bringing back the Church (Ecclesia) to His original design: The Church that emphasizes quality instead of quantity; the community or assembly where each body member can manifest their God-given gift/s to build or edify the body; bringing us back to house churches that engage fully in shepherd leadership demonstrating His body lifestyle of loving and edifying one another through the means of discipleship. 4 This surely will result in the fullness of Christ and the Lord will add to His Church. 2

Bibliography:

  1. The Maxwell Leadership Bible, Second Edition, copyright ©2002,2007 by Maxwell Motivation, Inc.
  2. Amplified Classic Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
  3. Blackaby, H and R. 2011. Spiritual Leadership. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group.
  4. http://churchleaders.com/news/306138-francis-chan-facebook-employees-asked-god-make-rich-left-megachurch.html
  5. The Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

 

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