Shortly after turning 21 I took my bass playing to a different level when I joined a Christian Rock Band. Man, I thought I was accomplishing BIG things for the Kingdom… don’t get me wrong…none of what I have told you are bad things. As a matter of fact, they were all guardrails likely keeping me from running off the road and into some really bad stuff. Still, through it all there was still something missing… I had a question burning inside for which I could not find and answer. My question was this; “If I had been doing all of this “ministry work” for the Lord, then why do I feel so empty inside? My answer soon hit me like a brick in the face. Ya know, like one of the ACME bricks from Looney Toons.
I began to realize that all my work was selfishly positioned to gain a man pleasing response. Paul draws the line in the sand with this verse coming from Galatians 1:10- For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (NIV). Black and white, right? Listen to how the Message Bible puts it. Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Wow! Have you ever been in a church service in which you got real excited, jumped up and down, and even yelled a few amens? Maybe you even shed some tears and felt a little horripilation (goose bumps)! However, soon after leaving, you could not see a single piece of evidence of change in your life…
Perhaps you were fooled into thinking that you were receiving something Godly or spiritual, when actually, it was nothing more than a rise in endorphins. Were you somehow robbed or cheated? After all, you are paying tithes, so you should get your money’s worth, right? Now, don’t arrange a meeting with the elders and deacons just yet…hear me out. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is occurring in churches all across America. For some reason we have adopted a school of thought that says we must meet a certain spiritual quota in order to have a successful service. It is almost like we are earning churchy church points that we then use to compare our selves with other individuals in the Church.
We have even come to a place where we can fabricate a false move of the Holy Spirit in our services. So that, at the end of the day, we can make it look like we win, and the people are pleased with their church experience. If that doesn’t satisfy us, we create programs and events so that, at least to the world, it looks like we are doing good things.
Here’s what happens. When we do not see the immediate effects of the work that God is doing in someone’s life, we as ministers can get very discouraged by thinking we are not preaching, teaching or ministering in a way to produce change in an individual’s life. This is the result of a lie that the enemy has snuck into our church circles. We come to believe the lie that that if we do not see brokenness, repentance, encouragement, or healing with our natural eyes then nothing is happening. But I want to tell you, God is a supernatural God. The work He does cannot always be seen in the physical. Paul says it like this I(Paul) planted a seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.1 Cor 3:6 Paul didn’t always see the fruit of his labor but you better believe he had faith that what he planted, someone would come and water. You see, the sooner we as Christians realize that God’s work in someone’s life is simply that, God’s work, the sooner the pressure of believing that we have to out perform the next guy is released. Better yet, the sooner we can get refocused on preaching and teaching the true Gospel.
In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul confronts the church for straying away from the gospel. The same attack the enemy used back then is the one he is trying to use today. He has already lost the ultimate battle, so the only thing he can do now is attempt to distort the truth for us today. The more he can distract us and keep our eyes off of Jesus, and what He did for us, the more he can keep us bound and empty. In verse 6 Paul says. 6I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel- 7Not that there is another Gospel... The background of the book of Galatians is this; Paul went planting churches in southern Galatia, teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, not long after he left the area, a bunch of false teachers came along telling the Galatians that they still needed to live under the Law. One can only imagine Paul’s frustration; he goes on to tell the Galatians that they were foolish and hypnotized. Now, how much different is that from what is happening in our churches today?
We too, have been hypnotized. I believe that over the last few decades there has been a rise of a false sense of spiritual accomplishment. We tend to think that if we offer the right programs, play the right worship music, and speak with the right theatrics and enthusiasm, we will be able to please the people and keep them coming back. By doing this, we are in effect saying that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection was not sufficient. In reality, this should be the foundation on which all else is built.
A thought came to be a while back; when you read in the Bible that Jesus had a huge following everywhere He went, and that Peter preached on Pentecost and 3,000 were added to the kingdom. It is very hard to believe that somewhere in all this, people were not being pleased. I tend to think there was a little bit of both happening.
Allow me to illustrate what I mean: Let’s imagine that I am lame, lying by a pool. Now, it just so happens that, every once in a while, an angel comes down to stir the water. After the angelic stirring takes place, the first person that can jump in the pool gets healed. Sounds like a deal, right?! I, however, have a problem; I can’t walk, and I have been this way for 38 years. My only hope is for someone to throw me in pool, at just the right time, and for the healing to truly work. Otherwise, my day could turn bad really quick. After a few years of hanging out by the pool with no luck, a man comes up and asks me if I want to be healed. Of course I say yes! He then instructs me to get up and walk and to take my mat with me. By golly, I’m pleased! But much more than that, I am healed…I’ve experienced a change in my life!
If you are a believer in Christ, you have everything necessary to continue the ministering work of Jesus Christ! Perhaps the reason people were always following Jesus around was because they were experiencing change everywhere they went. We are not called to please the world. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells us that the world will hate us. Personally, I am thrilled to lay down the burden of trying to compete with other ministers. I know that in everything I do, as long as I am leading people to the cross, God will supply the increase. I also rest in the fact that their joy, their pleasure, and their happiness is a by-product of their changed life, in Christ. It’s time that we, as the American church, give up and let Jesus take over.