About a year and a half ago, I had a few spiritual epiphanies that led to some major growth for me (after some painful, but necessary spiritual and mental pruning, which often precedes growth). At the time, I chronicled the discoveries on this blog. The main point of it was how we cannot grow, much less flourish, if we set ourselves up as the spiritual authority in our own lives.
Here’s a quick excerpt to recap:
…no good storyteller would take the reader down a path without lots of signposts and foreshadowing and God is the best storyteller of all.
In the course of the fortnight where this concept became the heaviest thing on my heart, I received an email from the Resurgence about the latest Church leadership coaching, entitled “Be Under Authority Before You’re In It”. Ok, Lord, I’m listening.
A few days later, Angie and I discussed Church membership and how our submission applied to it and she did some research on it, coming up with very authoritative articles from Matt Chandler and John MacArthur (It’s essential you are a member of your church! But, I’ll let you read those articles separately to discover why). Both articles contained very convicting quotes for this train of thought:
Matt Chandler: I was preparing at the time to preach through the book of Hebrews and “happened” to be in chapter 13 when verse 17 leapt off the page: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
John MacArthur: Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth.
So, if I don’t submit myself to Church authority, how can I ever truly grow as God plans me to? How can I ever expect the Church to grow? How can I effectively witness to those inside the church and, more importantly, those outside it? And, ultimately, how can I say I’m truly submitting to Christ?
It’s not just about obeying Christ, but obeying the authority of the local Church. And, for those to work, the church you belong to must obey Christ as well, in all aspects.
So, as we start the next chapter of our walk, one that begins at the doorstep of Northpoint Church, I ask that you continue to pray for us, pray that we grow exponentially over the next few months as we take a sabbatical from serving, and learn to just be.
The reason this is once again on my heart is twofold: one, I feel I’ve finally, completely learned to submit to the spiritual authority God has placed in my life and secondly, I’m struggling with seeing some friends of ours doing the exact opposite.
I’ve always had a knack for leadership and teaching, but I’m at a loss as to how to help them discover the truth I’ve recently learned.
There’s an old saying where I come from “You can’t teach anyone anything they don’t already know.”
In essence, that boils down to the recipient has to believe what you’re trying to convey. And, just as I had no interest in learning that lesson years ago, I need to honor the timing God has for their growth as well.
But, that doesn’t mean I should sit idly by and watch and wait.
With that in mind, here’s the key truth I’ve taken from this over the last year or so:
If you refuse to submit to the authority of your local church, not only are you harming yourself, you’re harming the church and, what many may see as a bigger pitfall in this busy-busy-busy world we live in, absolutely wasting everyone’s time even attending that church or any of its functions.
If I refused to submit to the authority of Pastor Buck at Northpoint Church, I would be wasting my time going to church, wasting his time in trying to shepherd me, and sucking the positive resources out of Northpoint that God placed there to help the Church achieve the mission and vision he planted in Buck’s heart. In essence, I would be fighting against God.
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Thankfully, God humbled me, knocked the “ME!” shaped chip off my shoulder, picked me up, cleaned me off and set me straight. Which could have only had one of two good outcomes, either I submitted to Buck’s authority or I led my family to another church where I felt I could submit to that Pastor’s authority.
In this age of under resourced churches, “God tippers”, growing antipathy toward Christ and record numbers of people leaving their faith, don’t you think we should strive to be part of the solution, not the problem? For ourselves, our families, and our church.
One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 23:6 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
It taught me how much God really loves me, and helped me learn to make sure I wasn’t blocking that love by setting myself up as my own spiritual authority, eclipsing His light with my own ego. God wants us all to grow, blossom and flourish, we just have to stop blocking the Son.