Saturday, 11 May 2013

Why Churches Persecute Gospel Ministers.

Recovering from something as traumatic as cancer and its very demanding treatment is a challenge, and patients need as much support as they can get.  Family is always a source of support and comfort, as are friends who call and help with food, etc. 

Yet, it is noteworthy just how little it takes to upset the equilibrium that has been enjoyed.  Satan is always looking for an opportunity to attack, and sadly there is no lack of springboards from which to launch such attacks.

What some people will not believe or accept is how many times the “Christian” church is at the forefront of attacking Gospel ministers.  “Oh, the church would never do that,” they say in defense of their own denomination.  “The minister must have done something very wrong for our church to remove him.” 

Well, on that point they are quite correct.  The great wrong that these men did was this: they preached the Gospel with power and passion in congregations that simply did not want it preached, which very thing the churches do not want.  And they have applied Gospel principles to and within their congregations, another unwanted church commodity.

Today’s liberal and anti-Gospel churches are still removing Gospel-preaching ministers from their charges, while they leave the ‘good churchmen’ to get on with their lives, not to mention their ministries.  What are ‘good churchmen’?  ‘Good churchmen’ are those who never disturb the consciences of their hearers, never question their professions of faith, never expect their faith to be seen in everyday life, never ask uncomfortable questions of the church, and never question the spirituality of the church.  They just turn a blind eye to religious formalism and outward respectability, and as long as the church is functioning “as it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore shall be,” all is well. 

But once God’s transforming Gospel arrives in such churches, it is as if all hell is let loose – against the minister and those who support the minister because he preaches the everlasting Gospel.  As Dr John Stott calls it, the Gospel is Christian Counter Culture.  It challenges everything, particularly those whose religious and eternal well-being is dependent solely on a mere profession of faith.  Such people imagine they are genuine Christians and are regarded as such, why?  Because the church’s eldership accepted them as Christians, so they must be Christians.  And woe betide anyone, minister or otherwise, who raises any questions as to their spiritual standing. 

The other side of the argument is that those whose eternal well-being is dependent upon Christ alone and their relationship with Him, love the Gospel, want to hear it preached faithfully and passionately, and will bring other hungry believers to where this message is proclaimed.

And remember this; the persecution of Christian ministers does not only happen in far away lands like India, Pakistan, China, etc.  It is happening right in front of our eyes.  

And do you know what makes this particularly heart-breaking?  God’s people in these churches stand back and refuse to challenge such treatment of the servants of Christ, thus implicating themselves in what their leaders have done to Gospel men.  It shows just how little they care for the Gospel after all.  Why do they do this?  Because their ecclesiology is essentially Roman Catholic, and by that I mean that whatever the church does is right, infallibly right. 

Thank God for those ministers who, out of love for their people and for Christ and His Gospel, are prepared to challenge a religion of mere words.  Formal religion is useless when faced with death, and we have discovered the reality of a living faith in such a situation.

How true are the words of C. H. Spurgeon that that man is surely lacking in grace who is not concerned about the spiritual well-being of the Church.  True Gospel ministers will give their all for the good of the church for they know that then only foundation the church has is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Rip away that foundation and not only will the collapse of the church be certain but whatever calls itself church had forfeited any right to that noble name.

Two ministers have already been put out of their charges by their respective denominations, one has been forced to resign to take effect in about five weeks time, and another is on sick leave because of “work-related stress;” he joins some 35 other ministers from one denomination who are off on similar grounds.  Congregations are divided right down the middle, and in most cases, this is over the Gospel, a most unwelcome commodity in many churches today. 

This happened to me twenty years ago, and it is still happening to Gospel ministers today.  And when your wife is suffering from cancer and hears about the re-enactment of such evils by churches, it does nothing to help her in her recovery.  It brings back bad thoughts of what was done to us by the church.  You don’t need me to tell you what kind of churches they are that throw out Gospel preaching ministers, do you?  If these churches loved Christ and the Gospel, and if they even loved the church of Jesus Christ, they would treasure the servants of Christ, not toss them aside as you would an empty packet.  Because these are Christ’s chosen vessels for the propagation of the Gospel, those churches and ministers will have to answer to God for the evil they have inflicted on God’s men.

Now this kind of situation needles both my wife and me.  It causes anger to arise within us, and takes us back to the days when we were going through such church-inspired persecution.  In fact, it re-traumatises us.

Born Again Nosey Parkers.

We have discovered that there are Christian people who imagine that they have the gift of encouragement, and many do, and who believe that encouragement is given by throwing out pious platitudes by the score, and telling cancer sufferers and their families that everything will be fine, there’s no problem, “look at me how well I got over it,” etc.

How cruel this can be to those with cancer and whose minds and emotions are in deep turmoil. They mean well, but do not have the Christian grace or sensitivity for this type of ‘pastoral counselling.’ The lack of spiritual experience always shows itself when such people open their mouths. It’s like expecting a joiner to carry out brain surgery.
My advice? Stay away from such people, and don’t discuss anything personal with them, for as sure as anything, they will open their mouth and put their two big feet right into it. They just do not know how to handle such sensitive and deeply personal situations. No wonder a Christian woman who has just learned of cancer in her family had to walk out of church because all that the other worshippers wanted when they asked about the situation was news, and showed no genuine care.
I suggested to the young woman’s father that perhaps she needed pastoral support from her minister – this is a Christian family. On a future visit to our home, I asked him how the visit from her minister went, and he said, the minister was a nice man but he didn’t stop talking.
In my book, that is not what a pastor does; his primary role is to listen and the patient needs to be heard. In fact, the patient is crying out to be heard, for someone to listen to them empathetically, to give them the opportunity in a safe and caring environment to express the deep emotions that are dominating their minds and hearts. Such a minister is not a pastor, whatever else he might think himself to be. After listening to the patient, he can then sum up the situation in his own mind, and offer sensitive biblical counsel and intelligent and relevant prayer. But if he does not stop talking, he will not be able to hear what is going on in the patient’s life, so be unable to offer any real pastoral help.
But how wonderful it is when you find someone who can engage with cancer suffers and their families in a most sensitive and gracious and humble way. Such people are real gems, and can add considerable understanding to the situation and provide the support those people need. They are certainly not know-alls, for they know their limitations only too well. But they have Christian grace and experienced-based knowledge which is invaluable.
People in difficulties will know who to turn to in time of need. There will be someone they know well, a Christian, to whom they can turn for support at a very trying time in their lives. It is important for sufferers to avail of whatever help is available, and to see this as God’s provision for them at this time. Thank God for them.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Tenderness and the Traumatised

How much spiritual and emotional damage can be done by those who do not have pastoral hearts, whether ministers or not! When believers are undergoing the afflictions of this life, they need great tenderness from God’s professing people. Pious platitudes are worse than useless, even though they are true. Inexperience in pastoral matters can do great damage to souls. I am reminded of what Jesus said of Himself quoting Isa.42 that “a bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench” (Mt.12:20). Gentleness is needed when dealing with broken people.
Not all those who are called “pastor” are pastors at heart. They seem, rather, to use the pastoral office for self-promotion and self-gratification. Such ‘pastors’ become aloof from their people and when called in for help, are way out of their depth when it comes to providing it. Their approach is to squeeze this disruptive pastoral visit in as well as possible to fit their busy schedule because they have far more important matters to see to than caring for members who are in spiritual difficulties.
Sadly, the ministerial office is ready made for self-gratification, etc.
But there are genuine pastors in churches and there are Christians who have a genuine pastoral heart, and they are gems. Thank God for them all, and pray for them.
But in the cancer scenario, ministers must exercise great care when it comes to implementing the American idea of testimony-giving in church services. This can also demonstrate the insensitivity of ministers in their zeal to promote the Gospel. These men seems to have a panel of testimony-givers they can call upon to tell their stories, and often no thought is given to those sitting in the congregation who are being torn to bits because of what they are going through in their own families. This is reckless, and ought not to be practiced  Christians feel the need to get up and leave such services, and others made a conscious decision to turn off when such people were speaking.
All the end of the day, in cancer cases, and in testimonies, no two cases are exactly the same. Just because one Christian has experienced certain situations does not mean in the least that you will find the same. Testimonies are highly individual and subjective things, and as such can do extreme damage to tender hearts that might be present and listening. Also, many testimonies are more like life-stories rather than up-to-date witness statements about what the Lord has done and is doing in a person’s life.
Great care must be taken in church situations when dealing with broken hearts, and everything must be avoided that will further traumatise those who are seeking spiritual help.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Institutionalised Church

When the church of Jesus Christ degenerates into an institution, it ceases to be the church of Christ in any meaningful sense.  An institution is something over which men have complete control, and they exercise their control whenever they have opportunity.  This ensures that the work of the Holy Spirit is quenched because He is unable to work freely in such circumstances.

The institutional church was created when Constantine was 'converted' to Christianity in about 313 AD, and brought the entire empire into the church, and in effect christianised it. The official church, when confronted by the Montanists in the early centuries, opposed this new movement of the Spirit, notwithstanding its errors, a logical response when the church progresses towards a form of institutionalism.

These early moves to institutionalise the church paved the way for the full-blown manifestation of institutionalised religion with the advent of the Roman Catholic institution in the Middle Ages, a body that poses as Christian, but is not.

The institutionalised church takes on the paraphernalia of the state, with its hierarchy of authority and positions and higher offices, etc. Institutions are 'rules ridden' and while rules have their undoubted place, these rules are often used to remove Gospel ministers from dead orthodox churches and to silence the authentic Gospel.

Now a problem arises when Gospel ministers 'take on' and challenge the institution, not by a full frontal confrontation, but by simply preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. When Luther took on the Roman institution, the entire armoury of the church institution was brought out against him. And the result? Luther was removed from his ministry within the church of that time.

And when Gospel ministers do likewise in today's increasingly decadent church, exactly the same response is discovered - Gospel ministers are removed, to the relief of the institutions best and most loyal servants. No doubt they will be rewarded in die course by the church; what reward they are likely to receive from the Lord is an altogether different matter.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Failing To Witness!

A friend sent this to me which I thought I’d like to share with you.  It is devastating in its impact, and very disturbing.  The challenge this brings to Christians is powerful and ought to stir us to become active witnesses to Christ and His great salvation.  The unsaved writer is standing in the judgement hall and is pointing the finger of blame at you for not sharing with him the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read it slowly and let the words seep into your soul.

My friend, I stand in the judgment now,
And feel that you're to blame somehow.
On earth, I walked with you day by day,
And never did you point the way.

You knew the Lord in truth and glory,
But never did you tell me the story.
My knowledge then was very dim,
You could have led the way to Him.

Though we lived together on the earth,
You never told me of the second birth,
And now I stand here, condemned,
Because you failed to mention Him.

You taught me many things, that's true;
I called you "friend" and trusted you,
But now I learn, when it's too late --
You could have saved me from this fate.

We walked and talked by dawn and night,
And yet, you showed me not His light.
You let me live and love and die,
You knew I'd never live on high.

Yes, I called you "friend" in life,
And trusted you through joy and strife,
And yet on coming to the end --
I cannot call you now "my friend".

                                                 Author: unknown

What do you make of that, then?  How many have we let down by remaining silent?  Silent witnesses to the Gospel!  What a contradiction in terms.  Perhaps we are to become much more vocal in our witnessing if we are not to be in the position of the person addressed in the poem.