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If You Aren’t Helpful to the Cause of Christ
It seems incredible that “The Cause of Christ” is not well-defined in religious circles today. Is it going to church, helping the less fortunate, apologetically defending your belief, missionary outreach, or having a good church experience; is this what the cause of Christ in toto?
I suppose it depends on who you talk to as to the answer. But what is for definite sure—whatever response you get—it is not likely to square with what the New Testament tells us.
What is more befuddling is that many sincere people go for want in ministry because it is thought “the church” is doing it. Or, “Who are you that we ought to be part of what you’re doing?” Or, another good line, though it is more implied than spoken, “Well, that’s not what our church is doing.”
Thus, many people either hide behind one of these adages or are hustled into the herd mentality that “it”—whatever it was ever supposed to be—is being done already, and we needn’t be part of other things.
In this post, I hope to deal with the reductionist attitude most church people function with and its effect on the cause of Christ.
The Body of Christ
Who is the “body of Christ”? Well, Paul says that we all “are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” 1 Corinthians 12:27. He also waxes eloquent in Romans by saying, “Just as we have many members in one body and all members do not have the same function” concerning the body of Christ, see: Romans 12:4-5. Paul’s teaching isn’t metaphoric or hyperbole.
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul writes about five callings in the backdrop of “the body” being “fitted and held together” and maturity in Christ being brought about. Notice in the Greek, in verse eleven, the word τοὺς (Strong’s 3588 [e]) in the original Greek is used four times concerning five specific involvements. This word is translated into some version of the text as “some,” meaning not all. But with this some, some, some, and some—used consecutively—it is clear that all will not be all those tasks. But most assuredly, no one of continued growth in Christ’s body will be none of those involvements.
There is no part of the body, the physical body that is, which is utterly useless. That is why Paul’s imagery of “the body” being “many parts” and “held together” for a singular purpose is pre-eminently essential to what the body of Christ means. Indeed, the maturity of the growing body of Christ in the giftings each member is to be fitted with and called into service IS the cause of Christ in an immense sense.
We have a problem in Churchianity today—what an understatement!
Most would have to be fools or blind not to see this “problem” in what calls itself church today. One look at a text like Ephesians 4:11 and a comparison to the rigmarole of “church” these days—the next utterance will be “how” could that text ever be applied? We have a passive activity of “church” instead of the New Testament concept of Ekklesia. Let me explain.
Ekklesia is the called out of God, not a seeker-friendly clergy-lead, professional, religious weekend show anyone can attend.
What does this mean? In God’s idea of Ekklesia, people are called out of the world, regenerated, endued by the Holy Spirit, raised in newness of life, to be equipped, fitted, and launched into ministry in the world to bring the unregenerate out of the world into God’s kingdom in an ever-expanding reality.
Meetings, as in the habit of some, are not a place, building, or time within a region; anyone can come should they so choose. Meetings are for teaching and equipping the faithful to be better fit and able to minister in their own right, in their own contexts—to be little lights in all the dark places of the world where they live, work, and exist on a day-to-day basis.
For centuries, we, in religious thinking, have tossed Paul and God’s idea of being the Ekklesia for being church instead, which is both a reclusive society away from the world but very much polluted and infiltrated reality by the world in several ways.
Ministry is done by special people on special days or events. We, the pew warmers, are relegated to throwing money and being continually subjected to the lack of understanding of the lowest common denominator rolling through the front door who we can’t offend because we need them to be filling seats and pay “dues” ostensibly to keep the club open. Church has become utterly foreign to God’s design, and it is producing horrific results. Churchianity is the number one producer of atheists in the world.
Besides that unfortunate reality, I want to hone in on here is a passive belief community that defaults to a program mentality and is otherwise preoccupied with playing in Sodom while waiting either on Christ’s return or a Rapture that puts them in a spot where it’s all good for them. Secondly, we need to reconsider the defaulting to professional and program-based ministry over and against any and all followers of Christ reaching out in ministry and being supported in that ministry. This shift has unfortunately become epidemic.
I shall share some real-life stories and offer commentary to make my point.
My wife and I reached out in ministry to college-age international students for many years. We had a wonderful time and saw fantastic results, gaining many life-long friends. Eventually, we felt the urge to do similar work overseas in Japan or elsewhere. I think we had been imprinted into believing that “overseas” was the epitome of ministry. I wouldn’t say that such is bad or wrong. But it certainly has traditions and approaches that may not be what it seems, as we learned in time: but that is another story. In the process of going into missionary work, one has to “be sent” or raise support. The first place you go is to your church. So, we approached the place we went. The missions pastor sat down with us, listened to our hearts, and then threw cold water on us. He said, “What you are doing with the foreign students is great, but it isn’t under our control.” Never mind that they weren’t doing anything like what we had been doing. They wanted us to stop whatever it was and get under their outreach control to be taken seriously instead of considering anything we were doing or coming to see it and perhaps bringing it into what they were doing. I wondered at that point whose church we were in, his or God’s. It was a sign we were involved with an ego-centric religious entity rather than an entity of building people up and helping them branch out into what God wants.
Context for Next Two Stories
Many years later, I was diagnosed with health issues that take people out of circulation. When my job found out about the diagnosis, they said sayōnara. I became unemployable because any other job interview would send me packing if I mentioned my new condition. Not mentioning would quickly show up at work as it did in the last job. I have never been one to be told, “You can’t.” The suggestion was offensive, not because I have a perversity towards proving everyone wrong. I am more the type that if a door closes, I will find another or even a window that will work. I can’t not be functionally uninvolved with something substantive. It’d be like caging a songbird in a soundproof room.
I soon set my hand to something I could do: being encouraged by people with a vision for my proposal. Doctors also said it would be good therapy. The downside, which turned out to be an enlightening experience, was that this effort needed funding.
For years, I felt the need to make an old title available in a more approachable version. I had been incredibly blessed by this story many years before. However, every version—three—that I’d read was terrible, in a manner of speaking. The way scholars parleyed the material or because publishers mistreated it in their publishing relegated this book to obscurity. Thus, in my new “condition,” I sought to put my hand to the job after seeking expert counsel.
Two experiences, among many other, helps make my point about why the cause of Christ is hampered.
A cousin, who I had not spoken to in many years—by his design—called me one night after my diagnosis. For years, he’d become too good for us, even after my family had cared for him for most of his first two decades. His stepfather and mother wouldn’t do the basic things a child needed, and we took up for them in this regard. Once he heard of my new situation, he called to express condolences and ask for forgiveness for distancing himself. He also went so far as to say, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know.” I thought it was indeed soul-warming. He’s not the type of guy who, if someone needed anything, would be scrimping to be able to help. He’s also a big “church guy” and a proud family man with many grown children. I pondered his kindness in calling and owning things in favorable terms.
A few weeks passed. I was in the throes of fundraising and working on the adaptation process for this book. I pondered the thought of my cousin’s call once again. He seemed earnest, and lastly, his words, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know.” To me, words offered are never to be empty.
Additionally, whether I tell someone such a thing as my cousin did or not, I would be helpful as much as I could. To me, following Christ is measured in doing as He did, not talking a good game. Thus, a word offered to me should be as good as gold.
So, according to the offer and seeming new openness, I called my cousin and explained the vision for this book and how it would be helpful to me, medically and so forth, to pursue it. The call concluded with an openness but no commitment and no “are you kidding me” dismissals. In another couple of weeks, I called back. Here is his response, verbatim; he said, “I did a lot of soul searching and prayer about this. We’re not going to be part of your ‘project.’” It is hard in print to communicate the mocking tone that was communicated. The word “project” was enunciated with a level of disdain I couldn’t imagine. Especially after such a warm approach on his part and the fact that many, even Atheists and people of differing beliefs from my own, readily joined me with various amounts, gladly and with no appeal other than a mention.
Undaunted by a “no” or even scorn or disdain, I pursued my cousin with, “I so badly wanted to believe your words weren’t empty, polite cliché. His response was cold, and it rocked my molars. He said, “You should have been happy with my ‘graciousness.’” I about fell over. Since when was graciousness mere words? Graciousness means that people dissimilar to myself offered token support because they had a sense of empathy whether they agreed with me entirely or not.
A long-term friend I’d known for years—since I was a teen—was often a sounding board and perhaps even a confidant. We’d both been through a lot in life. I helped him get a job and took photos of his son, who was suddenly to be engaged because they could arrange other means. He helped me navigate a challenging work situation and so on. We’d traveled together, had similar-age kids, and attended church together. When my health went south, I shared with him my vision and the fact that doctors encouraged it and that people of scholarly stature endorsed the effort.
He turned to others of our mutual connection for advice for some unknown reason. None of these are doctors, writers, scholars, or people who could legitimately level expertise regarding my situation. Their collective “wisdom” was that I didn’t need to be doing such things in my condition. He, in turn, actively turned people against me and the project. One such connection I’d known for years sent encouraging notes mixed with apparent untruths. “We love what you are doing, blessings, but we cannot be involved at this time.”
When church people start with mixed messages, I get a little peeved, even if it’s not concerning me. We ought to be people of truth and fidelity in what we say and do. Another friend of mine, who I’d done some work for and worked with him, told me outright, “No, I am not interested.” I could deal with that. But when someone tells you that “they can’t afford” to be part of what you’re doing, but the next week they are blasting out that they are on vacation in Branson and gave their son a brand-new car on social media for all to see (including me), it’s a bit insulting. Contrary to their statement, I wouldn’t have thought anything of his denial had I not seen such flashy evidence.
So, I called him up and said, “Dude…” Then he started in him-hawing and throwing out excuses—not being used to facing the disparity of his words compared to the evidence. He finally asked me literally if I had underwear and soap. I answered in the affirmative and asked what that had to do with the price of tea in China. He said, “We don’t give to things unless it’s a real need,” which captures the purpose of this story. In his eyes, I should sit back and collect a government check. However, if I feel God’s call to do something I’m capable of, I’m sorry, out of luck in his eyes because I have soap and underwear. Can you believe this claptrappery?
Why am I sharing these stories?
I share these stories not to be unforgiving or vindictive. Instead, they help make my point. The cause of Christ is often tricky to near impossible because religious people make it that way. Many are posers instead of followers of Christ. They do not believe in the priesthood of all believers. They don’t believe in the family of God. All that is a mystical metaphor that allows them to do as they please, and it’s all good. These sorts think—that only “official” ministries and outreaches are the only true ones: the ones with 501c3, boards, or groups of people raa-raaing an involvement. They never get the idea that everyone and anyone, who is following Christ, is a potential minister or outreach functionary. They divorce themselves for personal connection and let impersonal ministries pick and choose who might be a recipient of benevolence or denied of such for inane reasons.
A friend of mine, who he and his wife serve many people locally and throughout the state, ran into serious problems. They reached out, sharing their story in a Go Fund Me appeal. They posted it on social media, generating a lot of buzz. Yet, I noticed that the needle didn’t move beyond $200 for six weeks. But! The well-wishes, the we-love-you-guys, and “we’re praying for you” posts were unending. This need was genuine. Not a handout, or someone is gaming everyone. These were notable people with years of service. Few in our state do not know them after a three-year battle with the state on a legal matter where the state wanted to make them an example. And to hear these empty well-wishes? It made me sick, if not righteously angry!
How can those of the body of Christ even venture out in need or realness with this type of passive tyranny afoot? Yes, tyranny, I say! How else would you characterize the mendacity and excuse-laden aloofness, blind eye to the need or funding of ministry? Apostle John wrote, “By this, all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have a love for one another,” John 13:35. Apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8.
Graciousness—i.e., love in one manner of speaking—is not empty words. Love is substantive to need or the demonstration of a value either placed upon a situation or person emanating from an actual mindset someone has as a guiding principle. Apostle John put it this way, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed(s) and truth,” 1 John 3:18. If we do not have love, as in a demonstratable history of doing things for others, we are worthless and meaningless, especially to the cause of Christ. Titus wrote, “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so they will not be unproductive.”
Now, my fair-weather friends could point to their families and “churches” as the focus of their support and giving. True enough. However, how many more “churches” do we need that turn out such shoddy believers, and how are we differentiating ourselves from unregenerates who also care for their families? God calls us to a higher cause and greater involvement than doing what sinners do. Sinners support their clubs and fraternal orders but also give outside them. Why are Christians so cheap and married to officialdom that is about as efficient as government?
Maybe you’re unaware of ministry efforts around you or that you can and should be a solid part of what is happening outside of what calls itself church. Perhaps you are not aware that 70 percent of your money, given to institutions, goes into upkeep, staff, and administrative costs that do little to nothing to equip and field saints in actual ministry outreaches. Perhaps you are unaware that you could be a tremendous help to others by getting involved in steering, maturing, and outfitting ministries to do in-the-trenches work that wins, equips, and builds the cause of Christ rather than an institution or denomination, or edifice. Or, perhaps you are hiding and wanting others to think well of you, but you are unwilling to be involved at any level, especially where funding or means are necessary. You don’t have to go along with the poser mentality in Churchianity.
What can you do?
- Get Involved
Listen to needs and appeals. Doing so does not commit you to doing anything other than seeing if there is legitimacy in an overture. Ask questions, get information, and think about what is being said. Offer to pray with the person and follow up with them. Build relationships and see what God wants to do. Pray about things earnestly. You should be honored that a person saw you as fit, not a target, to consider what they are doing, if it is anything. Do research. The person may need guidance. You might be able to do or be that for them. Then, again, you may not be equipped or able in connection to them. You can network them. We all have many contacts that could affect a person, ministry, or effort.
Why must the religious community be a place of “no” or blowing holes in everything rather than a place of sharpening, guiding, blessing, launching, and coaching? I left most forms of what calls itself church years ago because it was an uninhabitable spiritual desert in these very aspects. All that was possible for me was warming pews and throwing money for a weekend show of professionals or special people; all seemed more capable than I at everything happening. Did this mean I was unfit or incapable? Not hardly! It just showed that the religious club was very narrow and was into a cookie-cutter reductionism of a popularity cult mixed with religious busyness that wasn’t interested in what all believers could do if they were helped, guided, and bless to be what God wanted them to be.
A friend reminded me of a text and drew my attention to a section of it that fits very much with our thoughts here. The familiar text, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 touches on the issues I am drawing attention towards. Though this text is about The Lord’s Supper, a part of the sentence contains a consideration. Paul writes, “For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself” (NLT). What is this underlined segment saying? Honoring “the body of Christ” is recognizing everyone who is a follower of Christ and being in fellowship with them as much as possible, including recognizing them and working with them as much as you can. Proverbs 3:27 admonishes us to apply what honoring the body of Christ means. Solomon wrote: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in the power of your hand to do,” (NKJV).
I have been so blessed to have come into contact with several people in my book efforts. One, a Mennonite brother from Texas, told me he’s impressed with what I am doing and, “That is why I am making every effort to support you and network you.” WOW! Help doesn’t always have to equate to money. Another brother, a Hutterite minister from South Dakota, told me, “It’s my job to see what God is doing in your life and see what I can do to make it happen.” WOW! These two hardly know me from Adam’s cat, yet they’ve jumped headlong into being supportive in non-monetary ways. Another man I met at an international Missions Conference visited with me. Two days later, he calls me out of the blue and asks, “How can I help you finish well.” He heard my heart in trading stories and was gripped by the sad stories as well as the vision. These connections have proven to be as valuable as gold in some senses. It’s not hard to be a blessing, and it is kingdom purposing: an intentionality to be involved in meaningful ways. There have been many other blessings of people joining and being part of something beyond themselves.
Are you a part of all that God wants to do? Is your fellowship doing everything God intends to do collectively worldwide? If the answer is no, what are you doing to fix it? It is CLEAR that what calls itself church is failing on a colossal level to be substantive on any level outlined in the New Testament. Therefore, it should be last on your list of functions and support because it is illegitimate. One can be Ekklesia, where two or three are gathered in the name of God.
There is quickly coming a time when the local public function of Sunday-going-to-meeting will be persecuted, if not illegal, in the Western world. Then, where will you be? The gifts and callings of God, bestowed upon all believers, will have to be claimed and used in order to fellowship and practical belief to function because all the special people and religious buildings will migrate into being groomers for the oppressive political order, or they won’t exist.
We need to get real, folks. We need to stop being affected by the poser mentality at play in Churchianity and become functional, relational, and active in building the community of faith to be substantive to the cause of Christ. Good intentions and all the hocus pocus of religious tradition and polite aloofness aren’t going to cut the mustard.
See the book I’ve been alluding to in this post.