By Shane Idleman; www.wcfav.org
"Thousands are leaving Bible-believing, evangelical churches every month in America! Where are they going?" asked the thought provoking article. The answer may surprise you, "They are going to other Bible-believing churches right down the street."
I sincerely believe that disunity is a major problem among Christians today, and pride is often the catalyst. We get upset if someone takes our parking spot or our seat while other Christians are being martyred around the globe. What a sad testimony to our faith.
Please don't misunderstand, there are issues that have been central to the Christian faith since the inception of the church; these are known as "essential doctrines." If a person denies one or more, they are walking on dangerous ground. I'm not implying that the essentials be compromised. Within the church itself we are to judge and discern, but this can be misunderstood, and we easily become "wrongfully" judgmental. Failure to recognize diverse gifts may explain why.
For instance, many Christians have different ministries, but all fall under the umbrella of Christian service. Within each of us, God creates varying desires, talents, and levels of interests. If God has called a man to preach His Word, that will be his passion. If God has called a Christian to pursue politics, that will be his or her passion. (God established the concept of government; therefore, He desires godly leaders who govern according to His standards.) If God has called a Christian to concentrate primarily on feeding the poor, that will be his or her passion. If God has called a Christian to the mission field, that will be his or her passion, and so on.
Problems often arise when we fail to respect different gifts. For example, those who believe that Christians should not mention controversial topics contradict the most basic of principles. From time to time, God clearly calls us to do just that—to confront, rebuke, and challenge. I encourage you to read Jesus' words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, to the religious leaders of His day, and to the cities that did not repent. Genuine love compels us to share the truth even when it hurts...even when it's not popular or politically correct. Being compassionate doesn't mean that we need to compromise the truth.
Those who have been called to preach, much like the prophets of old, will confront compromise, condemn social digression, and powerfully denounce sin in the hope of reconciling man to God—they speak the truth in love. This is why the Old Testament prophets were primarily statesmen, reformers, authors, and preachers. They ruffled feathers, and so will we from time to time. However, people called primarily to the position of pastor/teacher often have a shepherd's heart...love, compassion, and kindness are marks of their ministry. In a sense, one is called to break the heart, the other to mend it; one concentrates on repentance the other restoration. There is often a clear difference between teachers and preachers. Teachers aim for the mind; preachers aim for the heart, will, and emotions—to stir and to convict. Often...
The teacher builds—the preacher tears.
The teacher counsels—the preacher convicts.
The teacher rejoices—the preacher weeps.
The teacher plants—the preacher uproots.
The teacher teaches—the preacher preaches.
The teacher mends—the preacher breaks.
The teacher is full of hope—the preacher is full of fire.
The teacher loves to listen—the preacher needs to speak.
The teacher sees the good in others—the preacher sees the depravity in man.
The teacher desires to be among the people—the preacher desires to be alone with God.
Watch this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsWh-yUdJJE
Often, there's a mixture of both preacher and teacher in a person. We should not expect everyone to share the same passion for specific ministries, but instead, we should thank God for diversity. If the Scriptures are not clear on certain issues, don't allow preferences and personal convictions to develop into judgmentalism (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5-6).
Liberty has limits—the key is to ask, "Will it build me up spiritually or pull me down? Will it harm others?" Each person will have his or her own convictions in gray areas not clearly outlined in Scripture; allow them that freedom. When arrogance influences faith, we can become judgmental. But at the same time, judging "rightly" means that we filter everything through God's Word. We should not excuse sin in exchange for tolerance—extending grace does not mean approving of sinful behavior, but it does mean extending compassion.
(This is an excerpt from pastor Shane's book, Answers for a Confused Church. Watch the brief trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsWh-yUdJJE.)
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, Ca. More can be found at www.wcfav.org. Watch his sermons on "Judging" here: https://vimeo.com/wcfav/videos
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