Tag Archives: mature

Who is Controlling the Church?

While reading Dr. Ron Welch’s book: The Controlling Husband, I was reminded of some of the churches I have the opportunity to visit, observe, or read about. Ideally, our churches belong to God.  He is the one who should be in charge of our churches, in the same way that He should be in charge of our marriages.

In Dr. Welch’s book he tells about three major keys to control: Intimidation, Narcissism, and Selfishness. How do these keys play out in the church? Intimidation can take on two different forms: violence and physical actions. In a church, we may hear statements like: “If the preacher don’t stop medaling, I am taking my money to another church.”;  “If they don’t put that little table that my Great great aunt donated 70 years ago, back in the foyer I am taking the table and leaving the church.”; or “I donated a lot of money to this church, I should be able to say what goes on here.”; Etc. These statements are merely intimidation in an effort to control the church. When money or furniture is donated to a church, it should be given to God. Once it is given to God, it is no longer ours to control! If we give to the church with the intent of controlling the church activities, then we really haven’t given the donation to God. We have merely invested it in our own fleshly desire; we have given it so we can be comfortable in church. How can we give gifts to God and not let God run the church?  Malachi 3:8-10(NIV) says:

 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Giving to God should not be taken lightly. When we try to control the church with our money, we are keeping control of how that money is used. This is the very same problem that Ananias and Sapphira had in Acts 5. They promised to give God all the money they received from selling some property. After they sold the property, they decided to keep control of some of the money. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5:2(NIV). As a result of this action, both Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead! When we fail to surrender our tithe and offerings completely to God, we become dead spiritually. We do not trust God with our donations. We want to control what happens in church. We are following our own fleshly desires. When enough people fail to surrender their tithe and offerings to God, the church will become dead. It will be of no value to God! It is simply a place where people have invested their money in an effort to appease their guilty conscience regarding their giving to God. It becomes a place where, through intimidation you force people to have the exact same beliefs that you have regardless of what God says. Another way of controlling the church is with our voices. We dominate the discussions of the governing body of the church. We raise our voices if someone opposes us; we cut off their comments without hearing what they have to say. In fact, I have seen people send threatening emails to the people who oppose their ideas or actions. Some church members use manipulation to control the church. They befriend the pastor or church leader so they can control the message that the pastor has for them. They threaten to withhold something if the message is not what they want to hear.  They may even try to bring other people into the church to help the control how the church is run. They vote for church leaders based on how they will operate the church. They are not interested in choosing people who are try to do what God wants done in church. In fact in many cases, they don’t want God to control the church. Rather than controlling the church, our emphasis should be on reaching unity and maturity in Christ. We should be building up others rather than ourselves. God made His grace available to everyone, not just us. Listen to what Paul said to the Ephesians in chapter 4 regarding what we should be doing in church:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:2-7,11-13(NIV)

Rather than control the church, we should follow Paul’s advice and work to build up each other so we may have unity in Christ. NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com

IS YOUR CHURCH COMFORTING OR IS IT ENCOURAGING?

 Comfort

Comfort – a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc. http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/comfort downloaded 12/22/14

Praying Hypocrites Matthew 6. The comfort the hypocrites received was being seen by others. In other words, if someone saw them, they were comforted.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full…” Matthew 6:5(NIV)

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8. When the disciples were in the storm, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples were comforted.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Luke 8:22-24(NIV)

3. Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 (looking back at tradition). The Children of Israel were upset by the food God was giving them and they wanted to go back to Egypt were they could be content. To comfort them, God gave them manna and quail from heaven.

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” Exodus 16:1-5(NIV)

Comfort is meant to relieve that pain or discomfort in a person’s present condition. When someone loses a loved one, we will frequently talk about things of the past in an effort to get the grieving person comfortable with the situation so they can keep going..

Comfort implies looking back or helping a person function at the level they are on.

Using the illustration of the glass half full (or half empty) we can see that comfort is looking at the water in the bottom of the glass so we can see from where we have come, we can see the success that have had to get ‘half full’.

Encourage

Encouragement on the other hand, is looking forward. It is: heartening, urging, stimulating, and fostering one to continue filling the glass.  It is the idea of moving from our current position in the glass to the filled position in the glass.

1a :  to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope :  hearten <she was encouraged to continue by her early success>

b :  to attempt to persuade :  urge <they encouraged him to go back to school>

2 :  to spur on :  stimulate <warm weather encourages plant growth>

3:  to give help or patronage to :  foster <government grants designed to encourage conservation>

http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/encourage downloaded 12/22/14

1.  Praying Christian, Matthew 6.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

Jesus was encouraging his disciples to focus forward to what God was going to do rather than backward to what they had already done. Their reward was in the future and not the present as in the case of the Hypocrite mentioned earlier.

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8 When the disciples were in the storm, God comforted them by calming the storm, but he encouraged them to have faith in God for the future.

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”  Luke 8:24-25(NIV)

3.  Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 After God comforted the Children of Israel in the wilderness by giving the manna and quail, He encouraged them to look forward and preserve the manna for generations to come. By doing this, God was causing the Children of Israel to look forward to generations to come. God wanted them to be ‘filled glasses’ not just ‘half-filled glasses’.

33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preservedExodus 16:33-34(NIV)

God wanted the Children of Israel to know that God was the one who was feeding them and they could trust God to provide for them in the future.

Why is it important to know the difference between comfort and encourage?

I believe the church should provide both comfort and encouragement for believers, but if the church concentrates on one and disregards the other, we have a lot of Christians that are only half full, they will never know the fullness of God’s gift to them.

In earlier translations of the Bible, like the Authorized King James Version the word comforted is sometimes used because at the time of the translation it was the best word to use. However, like many of the English words that have evolved or changed over time, comfort used in the earlier translations may now be better translated encourage.

For example, in many of Paul’s letters to the early churches, Paul was trying to encourage the churches to grow in Christ. He wanted them to mature.. He wanted them to effectively spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was not just comforting them so they would remain the same forever, as the earlier translation would tend to indicate. Paul was encouraging the believers and in fact he was teaching them to encourage one another.

In I Thessalonians 4:18 and  1 Thessalonians 5:11,  Paul makes the statement that the believers were to encourage one another because of what God was going to do. The modern translation of the Greek word used here means to encourage

You will notice In the first part of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was comforting them. He is attempting to get them to realize who they are and what they came from. Then in 1 Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul has moved past the comforting position and moved into the encouraging position.  There is a place for both positions in the lives of Christians. If Paul had stopped by just comforting them, their ‘glass would remain only be half full’. They would not mature as believers but would remain dormant.

Jesus frequently began with comfort and ended with encouragement.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. (Comfort)You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (Encouragement) John 14:1-3(NIV)

In our society today, we have churches that are great at comforting. They frequently talk about what happened years ago, but they have a tendency not to move forward because of traditions or fear of upsetting the church members who have already passed from this life. But they frequently fail to encourage spiritual growth for those who remain. They believe that anything new is ‘sin’. They tend to be controlled by tradition rather than the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, we have churches that provide great encouragement, but they tend to just ignore comfort of those who need comforting. They encourage people by talking about going to heaven or about God providing them good things. But they fail to comfort them by talking about sin, the cause of their discomfort. They throw out traditions altogether. They sing a lot of new songs but ignore the comfort that the traditional hymns provide. They disregard the theology taught by the traditional hymns and do what people want them to do. They become more like the local coffee shop than a church. They are controlled by the false idea that everything our parents did in church was wrong, and needs to be changed to something more acceptable to society.

The Bible teaches that Christians are to comfort those who need comforting and to encourage  those who need encouragement. The Bible teaches that we are to encourage one another to mature, and become more like Christ.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18(NIV)

 

NOTE: All scripture in this blog was downloaded from Biblegateway.com