Posts Tagged ‘christian leaders’

Western Christianity has made Success a virtue! And often we measure success by position, power, and wealth.  Aren’t we Christians tempted to baptize PP&W (position, power, & wealth) as an early installment on our heavenly reward.

The prophet Isaiah takes on this gospel of success in chapter 10.

In Israel, judges had a longer history of exercising the will of God over His people than even the kings. Moses had established a system of judges while the Israelites were still in the wilderness after their flight from Egyptian slavery. Once into the Promised Land, judges like Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel led the people, commanded the army of Israel, sometimes served as its priest, and eventually anointed its king.

By the day of Isaiah, the judges were corrupted. They “issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans.” (10:2).

But these men of influence had been “blessed” by God. They had power, position, and wealth. They were leaders. And perhaps they did have PP&W from God, but, if so, they had received it as reward rather than as responsibility.

No blessing they had received, not their influential circle of friends, nor their position, and especially not their wealth was going to protect them from the punishment of God for their corruption, injustice, and their abuse of the helpless.  “What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you . . .? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe?” (v.3)

”But I am doing great good for God! I’m using my PP&W to accomplish His will on earth. I’m sure my SUCCESS is from God because He is blessing everything that I do!”  If this is what the judges were thinking, how wrong they were!

That’s probably what the Assyrians were saying! Here’s what Isaiah had to say to Assyria, the most successful country on earth at the time.

What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger.
I use it as a club to express my anger.
I am sending Assyria against a godless nation,
against a people with whom I am angry.
Assyria will plunder them,
trampling them like dirt beneath its feet.
But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool;
his mind does not work that way.

His plan is simply to destroy,
to cut down nation after nation.

This message is a shock to the PP&W group! What? A powerful person can be used by God to accomplish the will of God and not be “blessed” for it??  A successful person can achieve every goal, be the tool in the hand of God—and then be the object of God’s wrath??

The apostle Paul addressed a group of similarly minded people some seven hundred years later and wrote this explanation to themOr do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

The people of Paul’s day should have learned their lesson from reading what Isaiah had said about Assyria:  After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant.

Proud and arrogant? I thought being self-made, self-assured, self-confident, decisive, etc. was what we wanted in leaders—especially church leaders!  That’s why we pick “successful “ men as elders and deacons!

Look at the words that came out of the mouth of Assyria!  You’ll easily recognize the insidious problem with PP&W!  The Assyrian king boasts:

 By my own powerful arm I have done this.
With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it.
I have broken down the defenses of nations
and carried off their treasures.
I have knocked down their kings like a bull.
14 I have robbed their nests of riches
and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs.
No one can even flap a wing against me
or utter a peep of protest.

His PP&W was proof of his special relationship to God! He didn’t know that his success was the patience of God, trying to lead him to repentance! He thought he deserved it!

So, Christians, success may be a warning as well as a reward. A few of God’s best servants were “successful,” but only a few—a remnant!  And if you think your success is proof that you are among the few, the chosen—just be careful.  Your success may be God calling you to repent!

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Yesterday, I described my doubts about our business/corporate organizational model for churches, where elders act as owners/directors, ministers/staff are employees, and church members are either customers or unpaid volunteers.

Today I want to flesh out the statement that our churches would be better served and our ministers would not live without loving friendships if we used a family model for church instead of a corporate model?

What would a family model for church look like—especially focusing specifically on money and relationships?

  • In our family, all of the money belongs to everyone. Mom and Dad have more to say than the young kids about how it is spent, but everyone has a degree of input and control. And as the kids mature, they have more input, more control. The assumption is that all of the funds are used for the good of the whole. Who earns it, who spends it, who needs it–none of these factors has anything to do with who belongs to the family and how valued (loved) each member of the family is.  Nothing at all!
  • We are family because God brought us all together, not by our own choice and not because of how we perform. No one is in danger of being “fired” because of their failures or lack of productivity.  Everyone is accountable, however, and everyone is subject to rebuke and correction.  Mom corrects Dad, Dad corrects Mom, parents correct kids—and there even comes a time when mature kids correct Mom and Dad! Sure, tragic situations might force the family to exercise “tough love”—but only for the good of the one being disciplined.
  • A family problem is “our” problem, not “your” problem. A son’s dishonesty is our problem; Mom’s depression is our problem; a daughter’s need for college tuition when money is scarce is a family problem. Problems are resolved together. A family is the safest place to resolve problems because each person in the family is loved unconditionally!  Nothing can separate us from those we love the most!
  • Dad is the head of the house, but that doesn’t mean he dictates everything. For instance, a good Mom (Proverbs 31) may manage the financial household:

14 She is like the merchant ships, 
   bringing her food from afar. 
15 She gets up while it is still night; 
   she provides food for her family 
   and portions for her female servants. 
16 She considers a field and buys it; 
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 
17 She sets about her work vigorously; 
   her arms are strong for her tasks. 
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, 
   and her lamp does not go out at night. 
19 In her hand she holds the distaff 
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 
20 She opens her arms to the poor 
   and extends her hands to the needy.

And, besides, the elders/pastors are not the head of the church; Christ is the head of the church . . . and there is only one head!

  • Dad, Mom, and kids each have specific roles to play.  The family relationships work best when Dad does not try to be a kid and when kids are not expected to be breadwinners. It’s better for Mom to be a Mom and not teenage daughter’s best friend.  But these distinctive roles enhance love; the family is dysfunctional if the roles create jealousies or mistrust.
  • Secrets destroy families. Dad’s secret life at work; Mom’s fantasies; kid’s secret addictions! Truth sets us free. Transparency is the sign of a healthy family—even with money.  It’s better that the kid’s know why Dad takes an extra job. It’s better Mom and Dad work out their plan together for getting out of debt. It’s better the teenagers know the family’s general financial condition, so they understand why they can’t …. or they can . . . . Closed door meetings and leadership secrets produce and are the product of distrust. The truth sets us free!

Wouldn’t churches work better using a family model, a model where ministers are family members, not employees? Wouldn’t  a family model work better where elders and ministers and members were brothers and sisters instead of owners, employees, and customers? 

I can’t stop without pointing out that the church is called the “family of God” (1 Thess. 4:10, 1 Peter 2:17) and the “household of God” (Eph. 2:19, 1 Tim. 3:15, 1 Peter 4:17), but never the business or the corporation, not even the organization of God.

Ministers who are family will not be treated like ministers who are employees! Ministers who are family will not be afraid to have close friends in their church—because those friends are their brothers and sisters, not their constituency or their stockholders.

The love of money breaks apart families as well as churches—we all know that. But a healthy family uses money to love each other and to love others, not to control each other and control others.

Churches need to be healthy families!

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