I’ve been “in the church” for sometime now. Grew up and attended a Presbyterian Church, in college I “became” Lutheran, attended Christian Reformed Churches, Reformed Churches, Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches, and now, the Independent Christian Church. In many, if not all of those church environments, I have been encouraged to grow in my faith. Usually, it was some form of “read this”, “pray more”, “serve more”, “give more”, “be more dedicated”…etc.
This morning, I was reading from 2 Corinthians 1:24. The NLT reads:
“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”
This is a stunning text.
“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice.”
Paul is saying that the faith is not about us (leaders) merely telling people what to do…how to act, how to live. Paul is not better than anyone else. Leaders don’t “have it all figured out”. Yet, that is often the perception…we act like we know what’s best, so we heap burdens on people. We steal their joy when this happens, when we give them what we ourselves cannot bear.
“We want to work together with you…”
When the church has an outreach…where are the leaders? Are they present? Have I been present? I’ve heard (and even said!) “Does the pastoral staff have to be at EVERY event?” That is a great question. Truthfully…I think “it depends”. If there is a culture of service, love, outreach and discipleship created within the church, I would answer “maybe” or “no”. But…if the church is struggling, of they are weak…then the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Several months ago, someone asked me “Why do we have to have a model to follow?” The answer is because we don’t see our faith lived out. Are we loving? Are we serving? If not…why not? If we all knew what we are to do…we’d be doing it! We need a “model to follow” because we simply are not working together. We expect people to do our bidding, and follow our teachings of application.
“so you will be full of joy…”
Simply telling people how to live out their faith without equipping and leading by example leads people to bitterness. It smacks of “do as a I say, not as I do.” Serving and loving should be a joy.
“for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”
We do this together because you’re not sanctified by what I do. And frankly, I’m not sanctified by what you do.
We are faithful followers of Christ when we labor together, when we live out our faith in community.