Monday, September 17, 2012

Church Politics

1 Corinthians 1:10-16, "Now I beseech you brethren, by the mane of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other."

1 Corinthians 6:1-8, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren."

*Note: When the author renders the word 'Church' as shown here, he is referring to today's Main-Stream, Corporate Run, Business Entity, Institutional 'Church' we are all familiar with. When he renders the word church in all lower case letters he is referring the reader to Christ's Authentic, Legitimate Home Based church, which He continues to build.

One thing I do not miss from the Institutional model of man's 'Church' are the politics which are so prevalent within. Yes, the home churches of Jesus' design were not immune from these politics either as we can see from the above Scriptures. However, they were limited. In the house church at Corinth we see that reports reached Paul from the house of Chloe that things were getting out of hand. These were young and undisciplined believers who were at each others throats. They pitted sides against one another and labeled their own 'camps' to which they even boasted of their own pedigree. We even see and instance where Paul mentions the possibility of brethren going to a worldly court to settle their disputes. All of these instances can be traced to politics and further traced back to pride.

'Church' politics is where one's pride moves him to take sides. I've seen this posture many times and for many years within the Institutional 'Church.' Members are split off into groups. These groups are loyal (for the most part) to their leaders. In some Mega-'Churches' we see members "going at it" over foolish things. Some say, "[I] am of Rev. Knowitall!" Others claim allegiance to Bro. Graceinyerface. Somehow Jesus got lost in the mix. Getting revenge or Proving themselves 'right' became more important than submitting to their Saviour and giving Him the preeminence.

I've seen harmful behavior inside the Institute for over thirty years. I've seen elderly sisters not speak to one another for over twenty years while both were attending the same 'Church.' I've seen acts of vindictiveness between families. I've seen attacks upon families who were minding their own business. I've witnessed a spirit of competition among Programs and ministries as if we were in a school setting. I've seen jealousies, bitterness, sorrow, contempt, hurtful dialog, mean-spiritness, favoritism, clicks, exclusions, contentions, fornication, adultery and even pedophilia. What we see here is the manifestation of pride. The hard part is getting over oneself; getting over the anger, resentment, bitterness and pride. How do we do this?

Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." A friend of mine mentioned that when he was a young man he wanted Proof from God regarding a matter of which he was deeply hurt by another. He wanted Proof from God that all was well and that he could forgive the trespasser. I chimed in remembering the above verse. I said, "One person who does not need Proof is a dead man. If we are crucified WITH Christ, we are dead to the flesh." Paul goes on and says to the Galatians, "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"~ Galatians 3:3. Wanting Proof is derived from a sense of pride. Paul was saying that after we are born of the Spirit, are we now so foolish that we think our flesh is so much better and we should be led of it? My good and learned friend instantly agreed with me. Why? Because he knew that the Proof he sought as a younger man was a manifestation of the flesh. That means that he was allowing his flesh to dictate his response to the hurt. It all goes back to pride. A dead man has no pride. A dead man shouldn't hurt within as a result of another's affliction. He's dead! This is the ultimate spiritual state of behavior we should all strive for. Why? Because our flesh just gets in the way of us responding as we should.

1 Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." Paul said that he died daily! Why? Because he knew that in the flesh dwelleth no good thing. Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." Sometimes it is hard to know how to respond to hurts and afflictions. Attacks prick at our emotions; especially women. Yes, ladies are made up differently than men. Women are estragyn driven while men are testosterone driven. This is true, but it is not the point. If we are dead while being crucified with Christ and are to respond as dead men, then this applies to ALL Christians. That includes women. A dead woman is just as dead as a dead man. Being crucified with Christ is not gender specific. The dead won't respond to hurt [if] they realize that Christ takes the hurt away. Should men entreat their wives differently than they interact with other men emotionally? Of course! The point of my excerpt was not debating whether men and women are different in their emotional make-up or that we are to treat them differently. That's beside the point entirely.

The point remains that if we die to the flesh daily as Paul did (Gal 3:3), and we are crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20) and we respond when we are attacked, we should give it all to God and remain dead to the Provisions which are made to the flesh. Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Put in its Proper context, the next verse doesn't really say that we shouldn't be offended at every wrong thrown our way or hurt that we feel. But for illustration purposes, let us take an imaginary photographic negative of this often used Proof-text and assume that because we do love God's law, little offenses such as backbitings, rude behavior and such can be tolerated and dealt with in a mature Christ-like manner. Psalm 119:165 says, "Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them," I guarantee you that if someone shot and killed my wife, I'm gonna be offended! Just because I love God's law doesn't mean I will be impervious to every offense that comes my way, especially in the extreme.

When we are in anguish over a tragedy, or suffering with a debilitating disease, or are crying out to God to spare a loved one's life, we all have the right to feel something. Its not a sin to feel bad or overwhelmed. Its not a sin to feel grief over our children. Its not a sin to weep over the body of the recently departed. But, wanting Proof, desiring vindication on petty matters, attacking others, harboring bitterness, lingering with hurt feelings, and blaming our response to those feelings on chemical reactions within our human bodies are just manifestations of, and an excuse for Providing for the flesh. Yes, there is the extreme to consider, but there is also the smallest of infractions where some people just can't let go. They have to be right and want everyone to know it. Again, its a simple matter if pride. Some of us just need to grow up. The Problem is lust. A lust is a want. Dead men don't want. Dead men tell no tales. That means they don't gossip, make snide remarks, verbally attack another or any such foolishness. They're DEAD to all of the small stuff. Let us reserve our emotions for the important stuff like tragedies, illness and matters of life and death.

If we are struggling with hurt feelings, I'll ask a question that was brought up by someone in our assembly. "How's your forgiveness level?" If our forgiving is just in word only and not sincere, we haven't learned to be dead so that Christ can shine through us. We are to "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ. He must increase and we must decrease. We are to let Him shine through in times of hurts, afflictions, trials, temptation, tribulations, persecutions, oppressions and attacks. Why? I think we all should know the answer by now; we're dead. One might ask, "So how does this apply to the Institutional 'Church' and the Home based church?" Simple; People are people no matter where they go. They have the same emotional states and should look at Christ as their individual Saviour and Lord on a personal relationship level. 'Church' politics are a manifestation of the pride I just spoke of. I believe this pride shows itself more often and more potently in an Institutional setting than in a home based setting. Why? Because the Institute is man derived and therefor is riddled with carnal behavior throughout. Normally when a dispute arises within the Institute, it takes a strong spiritual person to recognize the truths mentioned earlier to make things right. Are there saved, spiritual people within the Institutional model of 'Church?' Sure! These saved and spiritual folks just don't realize that they are members in a facsimile of church. This is a result of their conditioning. They're good-hearted sincere people. They're just mislead through the traditions of men.

In Christ's authentic model for church, we have a greater responsibilty to behave as Christ would want us to. If we regard ourselves 'dead men,' church politics won't rear it's evil head. We should have learned this by now from reading about the behavior at the church at Corinth. But alas, sometimes it takes awhile for it to sink in and see that it may apply to ourselves. Home churches are much smaller, twenty or less up to seventy in number. These small numbers allow for more concentrated Bible teaching and relationships among the brethren. They also encourage equality in participation. There is no 'one man' that grabs the spotlight and demands a leadership role. Elders are recognized by their gifts, talents and character. These are regular men who 'live' the life Christ taught. They do not candidate for a position. They are not recruited from afar. They are just 'there' demonstrating the Christian walk on a daily basis. They are not thrust into the limelight nor do they seek it. The same thing goes for Teachers and Deacons. No tithes are required or even needed because the church meets in homes. There is no Senior Pastor that needs a paycheck from the church because he is stationary and supports his family through working a full time job. He understands that being a pastor is a ministry; not a Profession. No Profession, no politics. See post titles 'The Hireling' and 'Should Pastors Be Paid?' for more.

In the home church, loyalties are to our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Institute, loyalties are (for the most part) to the pastor. If someone comes into a home based fellowship that doesn't understand these things, they are taught very quickly. As a side bar let me say that the unsaved are not part of the local body of Christ, therefore they are not normally brought in until they are saved. As I've said many times before, "The church are the saved, not the lost." The church should evangelize outside of the assembly to bring the newly saved in. In the home based church we have our occasional challenges as well. I'm just glad that they are few and far between. At times there is a 'carry-over' from the mentality of the Institute to the home church. What is considered 'normal' behavior in an Institutional 'Church' is not necessarily the Proper behavior in Christ's home church. These new folks are just searching for the truth regarding what the Bible teaches church is supposed to be. They have been indoctrinated in the traditions of the clergy, liturgy, customs, Protocols, Procedures, By-laws, customized standards and general 'Church' politics. They never realized they were (or are) in a political atmosphere.

New people who leave the Main-Stream 'Church' sometimes bring their emotional baggage into the new atmosphere of the home based church. Of course there are some already within the home based church who do not help with the transition of the new person coming in. They do not know them and sometimes take liberties, which Prove to be harmful. This seems to boil down to a matter of lack of maturity, unfamiliarity toward each other, lack of communication and lack of understanding of the Scriptures on both sides. Neither intends to hurt one another. They just aren't used to one another yet. Fortunately it is a situation which can be remedied very quickly because we know that the Scripture teaches us to love one another as Christ also loves us. This is the remedy found in the home based church of Jesus' design and is practiced.

Politics are derived from self-lust of the flesh resulting in pride. Paul teaches that we should be dead to the flesh and allow Christ to live through us by His Spirit while our flesh sleeps. So the next time we are hurt by someone else, let us remember that we are crucified with Christ, yet we live through His Spirit. If we live through His Spirit, politics within the church isn't a factor. So, if someone is offended by this piece, I'd like to ask if they realize that they may not be dying daily as Paul did. ~ Grace.


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