Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
– Romans 12:14-16
“Are you determined in having your own way in living for God? We will never be free from this trap until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of ‘the Holy Spirit and fire’ (Matthew 3:11). Stubbornness and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set on our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our own rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Him. Whenever we rely on self-respect, we systematically disturb and grieve His Spirit. And when we finally understand that it is Jesus that we have been persecuting all this time, it is the most crushing revelation ever.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Combining these two quotations, we should glorify God all the more for Jesus has blessed us even when we have been persecuting Him.
The Chambers quote is not talking about people outside the church who go their own way, he is talking about people within the church.
Take a busy church with a lot of busy people. Someone comes up with an idea for something new. They overwork the overworked people and they drive, drive, drive. Why? Those other projects are nice, but this is the one that I thought of. It’s that self-will that drives the new project. Even though others will be blessed, is it wrong to do this new project? Are you persecuting Jesus in doing the project? The answer may be in a different question. Is the new project to glorify you because you thought of the project and you supervise? Or is the new project God’s project and only God will be glorified?
Please don’t bring this new concept of spiritual argument before the ruling body of most churches. The five-hour business meetings will become 10 hours of gridlock. Oddly enough, every committee will rally around their projects and programs to protect them, whether they work, or they don’t work. It would be so easy to take everything down to the shredder and start over, but no one is willing to do it. They all feel that their programs have proven their worth or they might show improvement, if the other guy’s programs were cancelled, freeing the overworked workers for their program.
While this is going on at the leadership level, each person in the church is having their own battle. Are you doing this work to glorify God, working out of guilt, or do you have a problem saying, “No?” Guess what, the church members who sit on the sidelines and don’t do anything aren’t impressed with your ability to work hundreds of thankless jobs. Some might be laughing at you.
Maybe your reason for doing the work is that it must be done. Yet, is the program that you are doing really glorifying God? How many of these energy-draining programs are social activities where God is not even mentioned? The activity may bring people to the church, but mere attendance is not worshiping and glorifying God. It is turning a house of worship into a social club. Does Jesus weep when that happens? Jesus turned over the vending tables in the temple, because they were defiling a place of worship with commerce. Is a social gathering without worship equally as bad?
I don’t mean to stop all charitable work and giving. I don’t think all the social activity should be eliminated, just altered to focus on Jesus.
Also, I’m not sure if I can fully agree with Chambers here, but if we are doing anything for our own self-will or self-glorification, we need to reassess. I have started projects and programs within churches just to have them fall flat. Was the fault in my leadership or in not finding out if that is what God wanted in the first place? Of course, some of these projects were the brain children of others, and I was only following orders. That just shifts the self-will project onto another’s shoulders.
In Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Church, he suggests that when something isn’t working, drop it. I heard a pastor preach to a ruling body about that very topic. The ruling body added several new programs, calling them “Purpose Driven Programs” and overloading every willing worker, yet they cancelled nothing out of the energy-draining programs that already existed. They remained a program driven church, but with new labels.
Why do we as individuals do this, and we as churches continue to do this? The sin is pride, and the root of the problem is that we do not “believe” that God’s plan will work. We need more faith. We need to trust in God more. We need to confess when we’ve taken control and screwed something up. More importantly, when we feel the need for a new project, we need to listen to God and spend more time in God’s word. We need to follow God’s guidance, rather than trusting in our gift of leadership and going forward on our own steam.
God can take a few cracked pots and make beautiful pottery from them. All we must do is let Him do it.