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The mistake of thinking that doing “God’s work” is more important than doing God’s will

We should be able to recognise the dangers that lurk alongside those in Christian service – and not make the mistake of thinking that we are immune from them.

ROBIN MURPHY 27 DE FEBRERO DE 2020 17:00 h
Photo: Markus Spiske (Unsplash, CC0)

The publishing of the Christianity Today article of 7th February (“Acts 29 CEO removed amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership’”) brought to light a set of behaviours that should have been recognised and never allowed to continue.



The unacceptable behaviour described was basically psychological bullying: an older, “wiser”, more powerful Christian using the authority that his status gave him to manipulate other believers, at least anyone who would allow him to. Sometimes the controlling behaviour was relatively mild but at other times it was clearly dictatorial in its manner.



Paradoxically the person concerned was an able Bible teacher and a church visionary of international standing. Because of that there are, on the one hand, people who felt blessed and enabled to serve God in a remarkable way due to his ministry; on the other hand, people who, because of the other side of that character, have been left significantly bruised and scarred by their experiences under his leadership.



This very sad and lamentable business highlights a number of dangers.



1. The mistake of thinking that the fact that someone may be a gifted preacher, Bible teacher or visionary in itself qualifies them for being a pastor / primary church leader. Rather, such people need to be part of a spiritual environment where they are nurtured and mentored so that they learn the spiritual walk that leads to the fruit of the Spirit being evident in their lives.



They need to be – not just in theory but in practice – subject to a supportive, group of (Biblical) elders who will pray for and encourage them but also hold them accountable and where necessary constrain them. (1 Corinthians 13 – not just for weddings but for life!)



2. The mistake of not appreciating the significance of warning signs and not taking the trouble to act on them.



3. The mistake of thinking that doing “God’s work” is more important than doing God’s will.



4. The mistake of failing to take on board the sobering significance of Matthew 7: 21 – 23 (“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father . .” )



5. The mistake of thinking that by confessing to being an imperfect sinner, saved by grace grants me licence to persist in my sin – including repeated, intentional misuse of power enhanced relationships which can lead to psychological bullying, spiritual abuse or other forms of abuse. (Having the right – Romans 6 – theology on this does not in itself preclude us from this error.) If we really grasp the grace of God it should lead us to real repentance which leads to behaviour change. (Romans 2:4)



6. Failing to recognise the dangers that lurk alongside those in Christian service – such as vanity, conceit, pride, arrogance and jealousy – and making the mistake of thinking that we are immune from them.



It is important to hold our relationship with God as the centre piece of our lives as Christians. Not merely something to give lip-service to but something that we live in the reality and enjoyment of right there in the nitty-gritty of our daily lives.



As we reflect on all this we would do well to take care in two ways. Let wrong doing be recognised and dealt with as early as possible (in line with Scripture, humbly caring for each other by God’s grace), but not let our own pride lead us to believe that such failures do not occur elsewhere.



Can we think of any other church organisations or denominations where abuses of different kinds have taken place? Are our own church systems immune from such failures?



Certainly we need to call out wrong doing but let us not be hypocritical in our dismissal of The Crowded House Sheffield and those who were pleased to join and give of themselves to what was an inspiring approach to being church - rooted in Scripture and at the same time attempting to engage with the communities around them with the Gospel in a meaningful way.



Their Biblical vision challenged many, myself among them, to imagine an expression of church in which the commands of Christ can be a lived reality: “A new commandment (not an unrealistic suggestion) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34&35)



This is a high calling, but if we are to take this seriously and obey Christ we need to engage and challenge one another as to how this can be a reality in our churches – that Christ may be honoured in us and through us for His glory.



“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1&2



Robin Murphy, retired university lecturer (Northern Ireland).


 

 


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