Our church culture says you need to be licensed, ordained, or “full time” to have a real and/or significant contribution to the spiritual lives of others….. this is lunacy(and yet we believe it!) Don’t say you don’t believe this, if you live like it is true, you do believe it. I am licensed and ordained (who cares), but this has nothing to do with having any consequential spiritual contribution. Do I know Jesus? Am I actively following Him thru obedience? Is the life of God flowing thru me to others? Now we are getting somewhere.
I remember when I was first hearing God speak to me. It was within a few months of my meeting the Lord, way on back in 1985. I didn’t have much experience, many guides, or any language to understand what was going on. How did I characterize what was happening? I told people I had been “called to preach.” This is the only language I had for what was going on, and it was grossly inadequate. God was calling me to Himself, and I misunderstood. The language of that day assured that people knew what I meant. When I said these words – God has called me to preach – people knew what that meant, or had a frame of reference. If I had said – God is calling me to Himself – there would have been weird looks and confusion. “Does that mean you are about to die?” would have probably been the next question from those I was talking to.
What was the Lord saying to me? Habakkuk 1:5 – look to the nations, and be amazed, for I will work a work in your days (in the nations) that you will not believe even tho someone told you (in advance). – my version from memory. I interpreted this as a call to preach, because that is the only lens I had at the time. I felt like the Lord was calling me to spiritual significance, and only preachers are spiritually significant, right? I was already headed down the wrong road.
I am convinced that much of the spiritual furniture arrangement in our current church culture is for us, not for the Lord. We do things in a certain ways because it makes sense to us, not really because God is committed to it in this certain way. And that’s ok, but the problem comes in when we tell everyone else that this is “the way that God wants it.”
Hey, when we are getting started, there is tons of grace for this kind of stuff. When we are getting started we often can’t find our backside with both hands (Texan for we don’t know what we are doing), so it’s going to be sloppy. No big deal. But what happens is that over time we reinforce these ideas in ourselves and others when we should begin to know better and be growing out of them. You can see it all around you. Religious vernacular draped around thoughts and ideas that are in fact human motives and inspirations. It’s not bad to be motivated, to be inspired, but it is a problem to say it is God’s inspiration when it is in fact us, or other humans. Let’s leave the dark side out of this for now.
But we use this kind of talk to manipulate others, right? We are trying to get people on board, to give, to get behind us, to be involved. What better way than to drag God into it and coerce people from this perspective? This is profoundly sad. People don’t appreciate the guilt trip. But that is not exactly what we came here to talk about, so let’s get back to that.
Where did we get the idea that you have to be a priest or preacher (or missionary, bishop, pastor, apostle, cardinal, sage, church planter, flavor of the week) to have a significant and consequential spiritual contribution? Deep question, and one that we cannot answer completely in the limited attention span that you will have while reading this. 🙂
I am sure there are deep roots to this idea, and we could go back, way back, to the catholic church, to the third century, and to people long dead and buried. Let’s don’t. It started a long time ago, of that we can be sure. But we – you, and you, and you and me – are the ones who are keeping it alive, and probably largely due to our insecurities. We want to be legitimate. We want to be seen and known as the real thing, and so we follow well accepted paths of legitimacy. Unfortunately, before God, these paths don’t actually make us for real.
I heard a guy talking about authority one time. He had some great thoughts, which broadened my thinking a good bit on the subject. The longer he talked, the less I got from it, but I remember with clarity the first of his comments, even tho this was some years ago now. He said that “positional authority” is the lowest form of authority. Think of it in the same way that “assumption” is the lowest form of intelligence.
How do we understand this comment about positional authority? Like this: If we are operating in positional authority, we are getting our influence from the position we occupy. If we loose the position, our influence is also lost. This (unfortunately) describes most of the spiritual authority that is visible in our times. Isn’t it time this changed?
In the interest of brevity I am about to wrap this up.
Think of Jesus. He didn’t have a position, and yet there never was/will be a man who had more real influence. You want to be like Jesus? Stop expecting your position to give you influence, or stop looking for a position to legitimize you, because it won’t.
Just a few more observations:
In the US, church buildings make us spiritually legitimate. In Latin America, a microphone and an amplifier makes us legitimate. In other parts of the world, I am sure it is something else. Sad things is, whatever we look to for legitimacy other than God Himself, doesn’t actually make us for real. It only deceives us and binds us in shallowness.