Keeping "Simple Faith" in culturally driven, church communities and choosing accountability partners.
I know, It seems like an odd subject! Nevertheless, there is a big connection betwen the relationship of simple faith, the cultural church genre and choosing the people to have genuine intimate intentional discipleship with. Where and how does the wretched sinner, saved by grace, stand in todays new world church?
Working through mixed signals
Many whom I have had contact with and who I know have had the best intentions in cultivating Gospel centered and yet culturally driven church communities often fall short on matters of simple faith and discipleship. There is a pattern in some of our movements to develop a core relationship of faithful followers with those who love the profound truth of the Gospel while at the same time, buried deep within their protocol for discipleship is a back-up plan that says – “If it is to messy to deal with then make it go away!” Far to often I have experienced this personally and have seen the aftermath when there is an abandonment of someone who was weak in faith and it was done under the banner of discipleship and accountability.
Here is an example. I recently read a quote that was spot on as it relates to our great commission; “…we really do need each other to finish well…What I am saying is that I believe it is time for genuine intimate intentional discipleship”. Unfortunately, well-meaning believers who had at one point abandoned me, leaving me in isolation when I was weak and doing it in the name of keeping things clean made the quote. The conundrum is figuring out where being truely genuine, intimate, or intentional come into play! Fortunately Jesus was there for me!
Chances are, if you are in a culturally driven venue such as the one I referred to, you will experience the same dilemma that I personally had to work through. The scenario unfolds as truth is shared, confession happens, accountability is established and then someone finds themselves left alone and discarded by those they thought could be depended upon. These are the ones you thought you had genuine intentional relationship with. Don’t be disappointed! The problem stems from a core value that is counter cultural to the style of ministry that Jesus was about and it is an all too common scenario that is played out in the church today. It sends mixed signals to those who are weak and in need while promoting a self-righteous barrier that can potentially divide the body of Christ. The problem lies in a misunderstanding of the Jesus style of discipleship. Many follow the patterns of Jesus in the discipleship process but dismiss themselves when things get messy or they just get to busy. Jesus, when He completed His task of making disciples, went to be seated at the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to carry on the work. This is why it is important for us to understand that genuine intentional discipleship must happen first as we follow Christ and not another man or role model.
So, How do we work through the mixed signals?
Realize, Nobody’s Perfect!
You can have all the training in theology, and doctrine, be an expert counselor and still not get it! However, Salvation, Sanctification, Justification, Propitiation, Mercy and Grace are all being worked out and into the lives of believers all around us. We must cut each other some slack. Too often in our cultural Christianity we have a knee-jerk response to the weakness of those around us. Nowhere is this more readily identified than in rants on various blogs where leaders will take the opportunity to flog their masochistic constituents in an effort to drive a point home, thus slowly killing their following while elevating their self righteousness. We must begin to realize that in the case of the self righteous, they are the weaker brothers! They are not our enemy and we stand to benefit a great deal by forgiving and praying for them.
Luke 18:9-14 KJV
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Fix your eyes on Jesus
Hebrews 12:2 KJV
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus has a way of bringing fit and finish to even a tough project like myself. It is one of the many inherent benefits of being the son of the Master Creator. Being a man who for much of his life has been involved in construction, born of a father who was and still is a master craftsman, I can relate to the idea of looking to the author and finisher to bring completion to my present project!
See the signals for what they are.
Let the seasons of isolation turn into opportunity to develop your intimacy with your Heavenly Father. The first response to the typical isolation scenario is to recoil. I have found, however, that it is an opportunity to understand just how our Heavenly Father feels about us without the distractions and influence of others. I firmly believe that God allows these kinds of seasons to produce a great spiritual awakening in us and to prepare us for ministry in the next season. For more insight to this kind of living, study guys like Elijah at the Brook of Kidron. (See 1 Kings 17). I’m sure at some point he would have characterized His circumstances as - “for the birds.” God on the other hand was preparing a miracle at the end of this season he was in.
Set the dial to Jesus!
Hebrews 10:16 KJV
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
Jesus is the one real resource for discipleship! I’m not implying we don’t need relationship with one another, rather I would say that true relationship and discipleship is a response to the work that Christ does on our behalf and that it is what His Spirit does in us. This drastically changes the impact that our disciple-making has on those who are part of the body of Christ. No mixed signals! God has made a covenant with us, His will is written on our hearts and in our minds to the point that it is transformational.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Forgive, Forgive, Forgive, and Forget!
Hebrews 10:17-18 KJV
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
We must begin to function properly in the area of forgiveness. The way to do this is simple. Forgive others in the same way you have been forgiven. To further amplify this idea, we must forgive in the same way Christ forgave. This conjures characterizations and words like; completely, forgotten, undeserved, just as if I’d never sinned, free pass, it’s ok now, and my favorite, “What you talk’n bout Willis.” If one’s idea of forgiveness is doling it out over a period of time as it is deserved or merited, then your idea of forgiveness is flawed!
Choose your accountability well!
A true story was shared with me about a pastor who fell in his own sinful pride and had an affair. I won’t go into details except to say that many will identify two things about the restoration process that he was made to go through. First, He did “The walk of shame.” This is to simply say that those in authority around him and ultimately those he was accountable to made an example of him. This is where he was made to walk the isle of his church and stand before that body while he divulged the details of his sin. Note! This was no more than man perverting the authority that was given to Christ alone. I will say no more! Suffice it to say that His peers in the denomination have formulated the conclusion that He chose the wrong accountability partners. Sad!
What to look for
Commoner, Sinner, Saved by Grace!