The IC vs Families of Faith

The institutional church fosters dependence, passivity, and weakness among its members. Jesus wants to raise up His children to maturity, to partner with Him in changing the world. Are you ready to come along?

I believe that most leaders are ignorant of the true condition of their congregations, Isolated in our Christian sub-culture, we have little idea as to its true nature. The only clues we have come from the perspective of outsiders who treat Christianity as irrelevant or a farce.

Most leaders think they are really doing the right thing by leading, teaching, and preaching. And they are certainly doing a good thing. Most church leaders are truly sold out for God, and they have the hearts of true servants. Are they doing the right thing in the right place at the right time?

In one of my college courses I studied counseling. My professor warned us about fostering the dependence of clients on the counselor. It is very easy to do so. You see, the counselor can come to need the client as much as the client needs the counselor. And it is very easy for the less knowledgeable and often very needy client to place the counselor on a very high pedestal. “I can never be like that.” “I can never do what he does, or be as free as her.”

But the truth is quite different. And unless the counselor helps the counselee to move beyond these lies, the counselee will never really grow up.

In “Community 101” Bilezekian describes two New Testament polities, two ways of thinking about leadership in the community of the faithful. He calls one model “normal” and the other “remedial.”

The “remedial” model is meant for churches that are very young or where there have been great problems. These families are filled with immature children, not yet ready to take responsibility for themselves.
The “normal” model is meant for ordinary churches, where people are growing in the faith and discovering the gifts God has built into them.

In this model believers are continually moving into greater independence as they mature, themselves becoming leaders and pastors and teachers.

The problem is that the remedial model is the one we see in many corner churches. The leadership rarely changes, or only after an explosion or implosion. The structure is hierarchical. The masses are passive. Leaders are placed on pedestals as being and achieving things that the ordinary believer could never achieve. In essence this is a professional ministry model, and there is a priesthood in these churches just as there was in Luther’s time. No matter how much rhetoric one might hear about “every member ministry,” the medium is the message. The actions and structure speak so loudly that no other message can be heard.

Many corner churches add home groups in an attempt to develop community and get the laity to take responsibility for ministry. These attempts usually accomplish some good things; but they don’t break the paradigm. The structure of the institution prevails; it is still the few who do ministry to the many. The professionals fix the rest of us, the non-professionals.

No wonder that in 1 Cor. 14 Paul restricts the operation of the more powerful gifts with the caution that the less spectacular gifts are even more necessary: “the parts of the body which seem weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor.12:22-25). Graham Cooke comments that,

“People who feel insignificant remain ineffective and small. They become grasshoppers in their own sight and may never inherit all that Jesus died to give them. Good leaders take what is small and enable it to grow. Starting where people are at, they take them through progressive levels of encouragement, appreciation, and development to a place of personal effectiveness and personal significance.’”A Divine Confrontation.

In our culture we value power and presence. We are impressed by those who use big words, or who dress in expensive clothes, or who publish books. We value success. We listen more carefully to the pastor from the large church.

Unfortunately, this is not the spirit of the New Testament. “Those who would be great among you must be the servant of all,” and “the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.”

Why do we value the working of a few gifts so much more than others? Why do we fail to create a place where all these gifts can function together, and in fact imply by our order of meeting that only a few gifts (and a few people) are really important? Jean Vanier comments,

“So we have to create structures which encourage everyone to participate, and especially the shy people. Those who have the most light to shed often dare not show it; they are afraid of appearing stupid. They do not recognize their own gift.. perhaps because others haven’t recognized it either.” Community and Growth

Posted on September 22, 2009, in What Went Wrong. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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