When you identify with something you represent it.
interesting happened on the way to the office the other day. I was following an SUV up Front Street that
had a bumper sticker proclaiming the joys of YOUNG LIFE. Now, I personally have no experience with
Young Life, but we have friends that were very involved and so we have had
positive exposure to this ministry. As I
followed this SUV down Front, I had good vibes.
Here, in front of me leading the way was a fellow follower of
Jesus. We are in this together! I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy because it’s
comforting to know there are fellow believers out there. Then the SUV stopped. There were any number of empty parking spaces
at this early hour; but no they just stopped in the middle of the road. Because they stopped, I stopped and the
people behind me stopped and on it went.
Then the door to the SUV with the prominent YOUNG LIFE bumper sticker
opened. Out stepped a woman who was
obviously being dropped off by her husband.
Okay, that’s fine, I get it, hubby is letting her off in a convenient
spot. Then the woman stopped. She began to talk to the driver, whom I assumed
was her hubby. I imagined the
conversation. “You’ll pick up the kids
right?” “No I’ll be running late” “Ok,
I’ll make arrangements.” So their
domestic chat continues and the line behind me gets longer. Now, I realize my view of Young Life seems to
be changing! I am identifying this
ministry with these people who seem to be so self-centered that they don’t care
that the rest of us are waiting on them. I’m thinking, “Really, is this the
type of people who are in Young life? Are they really this self-absorbed that
they are clueless that other people need to get to work as well. Could they not have had this conversation
before they stopped in the middle of the road and blocked traffic?” About this time, I’m really hating Young
Life. Finally, all the domestic
problems are worked out and mercifully the conversation ends. The door shuts and the lady walks in front of
my truck and gives me the little “Prom Queen” wave as she merrily goes on her
way and hubby proceeds down the road.
The rest of us follow; but of course we don’t matter.
Now before you start e-mailing me, yes I know that Young Life is a great ministry. I know that this couple does not represent the average person involved with this ministry. In fact, maybe they bought the SUV with the bumper sticker already on it. I don’t know. In fact it could have been an AWANA bumper sticker, or any other ministry, but here is my point. When you identify with something you represent it. Whatever entity or ministry that you bear the name of, you model that ministry or entity to the world. So in this case, I identified Young Life with this couple who thought their convenience. was more important than everyone else’s time. At that moment, they represented Young Life to me as being led by self-centered, selfish people. Let’s make sure we don’t do that. When we name the name of Jesus, we represent Him to the world. What are people seeing? Do they see Jesus? Do they see selfless followers of the King of Kings or do they see us in our selfishness.
examine the Scriptures for a moment:
Corinthians 8:18, And we have sent with
him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches.
“brother” here is an unnamed Christian accompanying Titus. Note how he is identified, “Whose praise is in the gospel.” He represented Christ well. He lived up to the bump sticker.
Corinthians 5:20A, Now then, we are
ambassadors for Christ.
we are indeed Christ’s ambassadors, then we represent Him to the world. What does the world think of Him when they
is what we want:
1:8, First, I thank my God through Jesus
Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
people see our lives, when they speak of us, what is the outstanding
characteristic they are speaking of? Is
it selflessness or selfishness?
be careful to walk well in the world, because you never know who is
to recognize that every church will face obstacles to ministry, discipleship
and fellowship. It is essential to the unity of the body that we respond to these
obstacles correctly.We need to be sure that we view them as
speed bumps and not road blocks!
The purpose of Speed Bumps: Slow us down and make us focus on what’s
As we examine the book of Acts,
we see the founding of the church and its early development. We tend to think of the early church as
perfect and that its only problem was persecution, but the early church faced
some real internal challenges as well.
Let’s examine how they handled these bumps in the road. (All Scripture quoted here is from the New King
Speed Bump#1, Fleshly Pretenders
Context: Acts chapter 2, The
Day of Pentecost. Note 1-6. We see the gift of tongues, a sign gift to the Jews
(This will be very important later when the gentiles begin to believe as we
shall see). This is followed up by
Peter’s fabulous sermon, vs.14-47.
Vs. 36 is the focal point. Therefore
let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom
you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Result: Vs. 41-42. Then those who gladly received his word were
baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they
continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking
of bread, and in prayers.
This is the
birth of the wonderful new entity, the Church!
We see this fabulous fellowship where everyone is excited about what God
is doing. Note vs. 44-47. Now all who believed were together, and had
all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them
among all, as anyone had need. 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, praising God and having favor with all the
people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
The Church is “truckin” along
joyously; however, the Apostles begin to face some hassles from the religious
leaders in Jerusalem.
5:1-2, But a certain man named Ananias, with
Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds,
his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the
wonder why would they do this? The only
answer can be that they were given to the flesh rather than the Spirit. They were more worried about what people
thought than what God thought, so they lied, and God took their lives in response! This is the first act of church discipline by
the divine hand of God! This tells us that God takes the church and our attitude
toward it seriously. Note the atmosphere
in vs. 11, So great fear came upon all
the church and upon all who heard these things.
Question: Suppose this
happened in your church. What would the reaction be? Certainly, it would be sobering. The upside of this was that the church was
purified This was very important at this stage of development. There just could not be any fleshly
Result: Vs. 12-14. And through the hands of the apostles many
signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord
in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people
esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord,
multitudes of both men and women,
Verse 13 suggests that some
stayed away, and yet the Lord added multitudes to their fellowship! So we see a blessing on the other side of the
bump! True believer came in as pretenders went out! We find then a pure church in the sense of
sold out believers.
Speed Bump #2, Division/Strife
Context: The Apostles are still getting worked over,
5:40-42.When they had called
for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in
the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the
council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and
preaching Jesus as the Christ.
6:1, Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying,
there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their
widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
People felt they were getting
left out; their needs not being met; and the church was unfair and played favorites. (Possibly, they felt their leaders weren’t listening or didn’t care.) Whether it was true or not doesn’t
matter, it was their perception.
Question: What are some of the ways the leadership could
(1) Do nothing
(2) Try to do it all themselves
(3) Put more people into ministry
We see in vs.2-6, that they
wisely put more people in ministry. So
the speed bump became an opportunity to do something great! Now there is a bigger body concept.
Result: Vs. 7, Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied
greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump! We love the fact that
many of the priests believed!
Speed Bump #3, Persecution
Context: Stephen is killed! Acts 7:54-60
8:1-3, Now Saul was consenting to his death. At
that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem;
and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except
the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great
lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every
house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
not just the leaders that are being persecuted for their faith; it’s everyone
and Saul is the ring leader!
Question: What would happen in America if our own
government began to persecute Christians? Our emphasis would change from buildings to discipleship!
Result: 8:4, Therefore
those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
They were run out of town. With
the scattering went the Gospel. Instead
of being focused in one place, God used persecution to move them out!
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump! God used this situation
to further His kingdom and for His glory!
Speed Bump #4, Fear
Acts 8-9, we see Philip going out as a great evangelist, and the
conversion of Saul the great persecutor.
9:26, And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he
tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not
believe that he was a disciple.
church just could not bring itself to welcome Saul with open arms. They are terrified of this man.
Question: Was the fear
legitimate? Yes. This man had the authority to make their lives
miserable; and while we might expect that we would react differently, I
seriously doubt it.
What overcomes fear? 1 John 4:18 Love for Christ.
9:27, God had a man willing to
step up and lead through the fear.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared
to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him,
and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus
Result: Vs.31, Then the churches throughout all Judea,
Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump! They had peace and
Speed Bump#5, Change
10 Peter’s vision & the gentiles being saved. Note 10:34-36, Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In
truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever
fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent
to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of
11:1-3, Now the apostles and brethren who were in
Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter
came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying,
“You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
With the Gentiles coming in, the
church dynamic now totally changes!
There are 1,000s of years of culture to overcome here. It seems impossible. Yet see God’s plan. In Acts 11:16-18, “Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how
He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the
Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed
on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they
heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then
God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
here that the gift of tongues would be the bridge between Jew and Gentile. God
poured this supernatural gift out upon the gentiles as well as the Jews proving
they were equally saved by grace.
Result: 19-21, Now those who were scattered after the
persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and
Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were
men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the
Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump! The Gentiles come in
at exactly the right time. Isn’t God
good! So the Church at Antioch begins
and becomes the model for the rest of the Christendom. Note 22-24, Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem,
and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen
the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of
heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the
Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Also note 25-26! Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek
Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for
a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And
the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Question: What if they had dug in their heels
instead of stepping out of the flesh and yielding to the Spirit on this issue.
There would have been two totally separate churches, Jewish and Gentile. This would have been tragic. The early church needed both the Jews and the
Gentiles to make it what it was to become. I’ve always felt the greatest
miracle in Acts was that the Jews and the Gentiles could come together and
function as one body. (See Ephesians
Speed Bump #6, False Doctrine
Context: Acts 13:1-5, Missions officially
begins. In Acts 14:21-23, we see some
structure with appointing of elders in these new churches.
When Paul and Barnabas retuned to
Antioch they gave a report. Acts 14:27, Now when they had come and gathered the
church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had
opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
What a great praise report about what
God is doing!
15:1-2, And certain men came down from
Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the
custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no
small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas
and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and
elders, about this question.
church is facing a severe test; false doctrine is coming in. If this doctrine was accepted, it would make
salvation based on faith in Christ and circumcision. Any time we add anything to the finished work
of Christ to atone for sin, we eliminate Christ! The doctrine of salvation is based in Christ
alone, by grace alone through faith alone.
We add nothing.
Question: What happens when someone comes into your
fellowship and seeks to teach a different doctrinal position then the church
holds? Does doctrine really matter? Yes!
For the body to have unity there must by necessity be a unity of
fundamental doctrine. Any doctrine that
diminishes the work of Christ is a false doctrine and must be rejected. Any doctrine that causes division must be
Results: The Council at
Jerusalem. Acts 15:6-29. They concluded that both Jews and Gentiles
are saved by grace alone! 15:8-11, So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged
them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction
between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you
test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our
fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.
The result of that: Vs. 30-31, So when they were sent off, they came to
Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the
letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump! There
was unity by taking a stand for sound doctrine.
Speed Bump #7, Contention
Context: Paul & Barnabas return to the churches.
Acts 15:36, Then after some days Paul
said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city
where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”
Speed bump #7, Contention
Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted
that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in
Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became
so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and
sailed to Cyprus.
get around the fact that this was indeed a personality conflict, and there was
contention between these two brothers; However, I’m not sure they departed
end of verse 40. The brethren recommended.
I wonder if the leadership at Antioch didn’t help them work through this
problem. Any way you look at it, they
went their separate ways.
Question: How do we resolve conflict? We
must set aside the flesh and examine our convictions. Are they of the Spirit?
We may need the brethren to help with an outside voice. Our desire should be peace, not war, note
Result: Two teams of missionaries head out. Barnabas and John Mark, Paul and Timothy.
Acts 16:5, So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number
So we see blessing on the other
side of the bump!
What do we learn from all of
this? Speed bumps aren’t bad; they just
are. They aren’t road blocks. We need to take the godly model to heart and
keep going on. Rather than despair when
we come to obstacles, we need to ask, “What is God doing and how can we best
There is always a blessing on the other side IF we walk in the Spirit
and not in the flesh. The flesh becomes
the Road Block, not the situation.
The church is messy. Always has been, always will be!
does the church shoot its wounded?” is an often-repeated refrain. It is my contention that the very premise of
this question is a lie from the pit of hell.
Jesus, when speaking of Satan, said, “when he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a
liar and the father of it.” This is a lie he loves to have repeated. Yes, I will admit that some churches
sometimes react badly and innocent people are hurt, but that is the exception
not the norm. The churches I’ve pastored
and been involved with have been caring and careful with the flock. If you repeat a lie often enough, eventually
it’s accepted as truth; and I believe that to be the case with this lie. So where does this idea that the church
shoots its wounded come from?
is my contention that most of the ecclesiastical wounded are in fact the result
of self-inflicted wounds! It is the
mandate of the church to call God’s people to holiness. The people of God respond and desire to be more
like Jesus. Yes, we fail along the way, but the church doesn’t require
perfection. No one is thrown out for
failing to measure up. If that were the
case, the church wouldn’t exist. It’s
been said and I agree, “The church is not a rest home for saints, it’s a
hospital for sinners!” There is always
the ebb and flow of victory and failure.
The church takes the fallen saint and seeks to minister to them and lift
them out of the muck and mire to once again join in the journey of glorifying
Jesus. The church is messy. Always has been, always will be!
the problem comes is when members of a body continue to shoot themselves in the
foot and then resist the medical care offered by the church leadership. Every church I have been a shepherd of has a
church covenant for membership. That
covenant usually requires that the members are in fact willing to put
themselves under the authority of the elders of the body. They agree to be held
accountable for their actions. This is
as it should be! We are accountable one
to another. We are there not to judge
each other; that’s God’s domain. We are
there to address sin in the lives of believers and to hold one another
accountable for bad behavior. Inevitably,
the people who accuse the church of shooting their wounded have often shot
themselves in the foot and refuse aid.
someone or a couple are struggling with sin in their life and it comes to the
attention of the elders of a body, those elders are obligated to reach out and
seek to help the sinner be reconciled to God.
When the sinner refuses help, won’t follow Biblical advice, or even
refuses to meet with the elders they are in covenant with, what then must
happen? Usually, that means some form of
wrote to the church at Corinth about the situation there where one of their
members was having an intimate relationship with his father’s wife. The church seemed to be affirming the sin
rather than seeking to reconcile the sinner.
Here, ultimately, was Paul’s exhortation to them.
Corinthians 5:9-13, I wrote to you in my
epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did
not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous,
or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the
world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a
brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or
a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have
I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are
inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from
yourselves the evil person.”
also wrote “deliver such a one to Satan
for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the
Lord Jesus.” (1 Cor. 5:5)
the same wording is used when he writes to Timothy, “having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected,
concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and
Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
there is an unremorseful and unrepentant member of the body, who refuse Godly
counsel, the only chose is expulsion. In
our culture, that sounds harsh but it’s certainly Biblical. The point of excusing someone from the flock
is so that they might yet repent and then be reconciled to God and ultimately the
body they were a part of. Inevitability,
the one ejected from the body for their own good becomes the wounded that has
been shot. Had they accepted the counsel
offered and there was true repentance and reconciliation, they would have remained
in the body and healed to the glory of God.
Because they refused to acknowledge their sin, they were put out. The unrepentant sinner then becomes the
victim of an overbearing church, at least in the eyes of those who don’t know
or want to know the real truth of the matter or the teaching of Scripture.
illustration in the church at Corinth dealt with immorality, but sometimes it
is someone who is teaching unsound doctrine or is divisive, or just plain
arrogant and unruly. Inevitability, the
leadership will have to deal with these issues; and if the offender will not
yield, they will ultimately have to part ways.
Usually, people who are in disagreement with their own leadership leave
on their own accord, but the leaders or the church still get blamed.
point of any church discipline is ultimately to reconcile the rebellious to
God. It’s not to punish people because
they displease us.
a church releases individuals from their membership covenant because they will
not receive Biblical counsel from the elders, it isn’t fun. It hurts.
It is hard on those who have to make such decision and I am sure those
who are expelled feel slighted and hurt and think the church has kicked them
when they were down. In reality they aren’t being honest with themselves. They
have refused to yield to the covenant they had previously agreed to. They can
run from their problems and they can run from their church to another, but they
can’t run from themselves, nor ultimately from God. While Satan will use their situation for his
own ends and the cry that the church shoots their wounded will continue, God
knows the heart and judgment is in His hands.
is interesting to me that in Romans chapter one we see a culture that will not
turn from their evil. In fact, the last
verse states, who, knowing the righteous
judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death,
not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. So God’s response is to give them
this reason God gave them up to vile passions.
turned away from these people and let them go their own way. Now I recognize that these are unregenerate
people, however, in the context it’s about a culture that knew the truth,
rebelling against it. God then gave them
up to their own devices. We wouldn’t
accuse God of shooting His wounded here would we? And yet we are so quick to condemn His church
and its leadership for basically doing the same thing. I think that’s because we think the church
should never do anything that would somehow hurt someone feelings or
self-esteem. The problem with calling
people to holiness is that it does both of these things! Holiness is about dying to self to live for
the next time you hear that so popular cliché “The church shoots it’s wounded” don’t
buy the lie. There is often a lot more
to the story. Please remember that Satan wants to diminish the church in every
My Philosophy of ministry is
based on the concept that the Church is the family of God not the “business of
God”. The Church is all about people, not about the “bottom line”. It about
ministry not buildings. It’s about discipleship that puts people in ministry.
My view of ministry isn’t based on the concept of success but rather the
concept of what makes for a healthy Church.
What a privilege it has been
for Kathy and I to shepherd God’s people. God has called and gifted me to be a
pastor teacher. I have served as a church planter, missionary pastor, solo
pastor, associate pastor, field director and Bible College Instructor. It has
been a blessing! As the Montana Field Director I was usually in a different
church every Sunday. I’ve learned so much about churches and about “The Church”
by serving in this position. Often people say to me “you are so passionate!” I
have to admit I am excited about God, His Word and his People.