While “box checking” can give believers a sense of security and completion, the sacrifices are chilling. We sacrifice His life, His love, His joy, His peace, . . . all the fruit of the Spirit, the hope of His glory. While we may hold to the cardinal doctrines of the gospel, we allow the power of the gospel, which is the resurrected life of Christ, to slip away unnoticed.
My eyes welled with tears recently when it was reported that a church that I loved very much had slipped away from Christ being their life. When Christ goes—everything of real life goes. All we then have left is framework, i.e. having services, singing songs, preaching sermons, taking offerings, printing bulletins, running programs—lifeless framework. We go from there to maintaining a framework, institutionalizing the framework, supporting a framework, and evaluating our lives by how well we function within the standards of the framework; status quo becomes the norm. I’m okay, you’re okay becomes our standard of comparison and “box checking” becomes mode of operation.
While “box checking” can give believers a sense of security and completion, the sacrifices are chilling. We sacrifice His life, His love, His joy, His peace, . . . all the fruit of the Spirit, the hope of His glory. While we may hold to the cardinal doctrines of the gospel, we allow the power of the gospel, which is the resurrected life of Christ, to slip away unnoticed. Jesus would identify this kind of church as one who had left her first love (Revelation 2:4). When this happens, we can easily gain an attitude of being rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing like the lukewarm church (Revelation 3:17). Jesus was on the outside and they were okay with themselves unaware of His absence.
How do these things happen? While many suggestions could be given here, there is one thing that seems clear to me. Churches are listening to too many voices.
At this point, I’m not talking about the voices from the world or false teachers. I’m talking about voices within the evangelical church. Pastors are bombarded with messages of all kinds, and if they are a young pastor, they are even more susceptible to conform to these voices.
There are the voices of peers, opinion, expectation, ambition, tradition, denomination, good-ole-days, strong personalities, current trends, theological frameworks, preference, styles, and brands of fellowship—plus the voice of urgency. All the while Jesus is knocking at the door saying, “Can I get a word in edgewise here?”
As leaders we must be very diligent, even vigilant, about slowing down, being still, waiting and listening for one voice—the voice of Jesus. Our congregations must be shepherded to do the same thing.
I love the idea of simplicity. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” (Acts 2:46).
The Jerusalem church was joyful because its single focus was on Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church of his simplicity in leadership as he shepherded them out of their multiple issues.
“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you,” (II Corinthians 1:12). He was aware that in life and leadership even fleshly wisdom can become a substitute for Jesus if we aren’t careful. Duplicity always short circuits the power of God.
Of course, falling prey to Satanic lies is also another way we are moved from our simple devotion to Christ in favor of the sophisticated error of teachers who promote their own agendas with their truth out of balance. Here’s another word from Paul to the Corinthians. “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” (II Corinthians 11:3).
The church must hear one clear message from her Head alone as given in the His word by the illumination of His Spirit in the context of her local setting.
Lord, make us deaf to every voice but Yours.
Joe Humrichous is the executive director of Paradigm One and Bible Prayer Fellowship. The message of the sufficiency of Christ for both the pastor and the local church was birthed during a time of brokenness in his early ministry. Now after 50 years in ministry, Joe is passionate to share this reality as it applies to corporate prayer and church leadership. He recently served as a pastor at First Baptist Church in Covington, Indiana. He and his wife Teresa have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.