The final article in the "Holy, Wholly, Holey Series" was about Idolatry, and today I commence the first article in a Series I have called 'Idols in Ministry'.
It is never my intention to 'point the finger' at people, or to bring shame to anyone, but it is my purpose to present various scenarios from the world of the Church that can be useful in helping people to take a step back and examine more closely the motivation behind their actions.
Faith without works is as equally as dead as works without faith and it is an easy thing to inadvertently shift the focus of our lives away from 'Christ', to a focus of 'being' the faithful servant and doing 'the work of God' and in the process, to become a poor facsimile of what we once were.
M. Wallace Johnson
Idols in Ministry No 1: The Counselor
The book of Joel is a great source of comfort for those who have sinned, repented, and called again on the Lord. It is a prophetic story of the coming judgment on the nation and final restoration of the people, but the focus of the story is 'repentance'.
There are many books in the old testament that speak to us of the rebellious heart of the ministers, leaders and people of Israel, and the promises of God to those who repent.
Romans Chapter 3 verses 3 and 23 tell us clearly that we are all sinners; all falling short of the Glory of God. None of us are 'righteous' in ourselves. The message of both Old and New Testaments is the same - 'Repent and be saved'.
For many people, repenting of an act or behavior is not hard to do. The hard thing is to deal with the after effects in the mind and heart. We can put that into more modern language and say that the ongoing psychological effects of past causes, makes the joy of our salvation not so sweet. Then again there are the physical consequences of past behavior. (Damage from alcoholism, broken relationships from disintegrated marriages, criminal histories that haunt us to name just a few.)
Many a repenting sinner needs counseling and unfortunately there are many in the Church today whose only qualification in the art of counseling is the authority of their position or their knowledge of Scripture. I do not mean to denigrate those who have no secular training, nor do I attempt to take away from their years of 'on the job training'.
To put it bluntly, the prophets warn us over and over again of the 'failed' behavior and the 'failed' responsibility of ministers that has damaged God's people and caused them to fall away from correct relationship with God.
Ezekiel 34: 3-6 Ye did eat the fat, and ye clothed you with the wool, ye killed the fatlings; but ye fed not the sheep. The weak have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force have ye ruled over them and with rigour.
In the Gospel of John Chapter 14 Jesus gives us the promise of the Comforter; the Counselor; the Spirit of Christ. He can lead us into the truth, but he does not do so by force.
Many today hear the call of God; repent of their sins, and come looking to be filled with the Spirit of Christ, but instead, are caught up with 'Idolaters'; people who within their hearts have raised up their own 'inner man' to sit in the throne of God.
It was my great misfortune many years ago, to attend a counseling workshop, the organizer of which broke every rule of both professional counseling and Christian Ministry, and I believe that at the heart of the problem, was this person's 'self-exaltation' to a place of honor, that quite removed Christ from his throne and his ministry.
This professional counselor chose to relate a particular 'real life' personal counseling experience - which of itself was fine - but in doing so, quite deliberately 'named' the person who had been counseled, and justified doing so by saying: 'we're all friends here'.
This was more than a question of 'ethics'. This person was involved in Christian Ministry and the naming of the 'sinner' breached every possible 'ethical protocol' that one can envision.
The 'sinner' was named and shamed even if only in front of a select few 'professional' counselors.
Ministry's job is to minister using every available legitimate tool to empower people to learn to walk in the Spirit and Nature of Christ and that cannot be achieved when we ourselves do not walk in the 'Spirit and Nature' of Christ.
To quote a well known Pentecostal evangelist I had dinner with many many years ago, 'I hear many people say that they are filled with the Holy Spirit but what I see in their lives is anything but Holy and anything but Christ-like'.
'We' are not 'Saviors'. 'We' are not 'Redeemers'. 'We' are not the Lord. 'We' are 'Servants' and it is our duty to 'represent' our Master. We are to show 'His' Character, Nature and Personality.
'We' might be famous - might have big churches - might have powerful ministries - might sell a lot of books - but we are not the centerpiece on the Altar, the star attraction, nor the one to be adored and worshipped.
We must lead to Christ and not to ourselves.
We must open our hearts to those who come, and quietly let go those who would not follow.
We must give comfort and give good counsel, but we must remember to trust and rely on the 'Real Counselor' - the Holy Spirit to continue to do his work in any one individual's life. If they reject us, it matters not! We are not masters. We merely serve the master.
M. Wallace Johnson
Articles to date by M. Wallace Johnson
Idols in Ministry Series
Idols in Ministry No 2: 'Them and Us'
Idols in Ministry No 3: Religious Rituals
Idols in ministry No 4: Doctrine
Idols in Ministry No 5 Reputation
Idols in Ministry No 6 The Devil
Idols in Ministry No 7: Secret Wisdom
Holy, Wholly or Holey Series
Introducing M. Wallace Johnson
Gifts of God
Prayer and Fasting