As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew fishing. He asked them what their qualifications were. He soon discovered that they hadn’t completed their training to become Rabbis. Therefore, they weren’t worthy of his attention. But then he thought again. Instead of having disciples, who might eventually threaten his position, he could hire them as personal assistants who could help with the administration as his ministry grew. So Jesus asked them to work for him on a voluntary basis at first until he could pay them minimal wage. When Jesus pointed out how working for him would improve their résumé and future job prospects, they agreed.
Not the Bible: The Ungospel of Matthew 4:18-20
Jesus called disciples not personal assistants. He offered hands on training where they got to baptize (Jn 4:2), they were given authority to lay hands on the sick and cast out demons (Mt 10:1), they would go on and do greater things than Him (Jn 14:12) and ultimately they would become co-heirs with Him (Rom 8:17).
But this is a far cry from what we see happening in today’s church.
Why is this?
Often a church movement is started up by a charismatic pioneer who leads by force of personality and then only on his/her deathbed hands it over to a safe pair of hands to steward.
And by steward they mean – keep the same.
No longer is it about what the Spirit is currently doing but about following the pattern laid down by the pioneer (which may have been what the Spirit had been doing at that time).
So we have an administrator in charge whose job it is to keep everything “safe”.
This is great for those who want religion – but for those passionately pursuing God’s Spirit then ultimately they cannot be accommodated and so will have to leave the church.
This was our experience in one church body that my wife and I attended. It was started by a powerful move of the Spirit in the 70s, but then was eventually handed on to a safe pair of hands. Rules and boundaries were installed to ensure proper running of the church – but these only lead to the Spirit being quenched when things stepped out of the comfort zone.
The second reason is that church is often run like a business, where the pastor is the CEO (Mt 20:25) and their pay is dependent on their success (ie the size of their congregation). So it’s all about building their church and their ministry rather than the Kingdom.
Like other businesses, this leads to a fear of raising others up to leadership, epitomized by the encounter Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader:
“When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.”
This fear of losing their leadership (and income) means that it’s in the pastor’s interest to keep the flock passive and dependent on them.
We experienced this. At one church our pastor recognised that my wife and I had the gift of leadership and they sent us for training – but they didn’t give us any opportunity to lead! They used us to fill the gaps in the rota (ie the jobs that no-one else wanted to do) and we served diligently in those areas – but this wasn’t the calling on our lives. Our gifting was recognized but not used and it became clear that in order to serve God as He wanted us to – we had to leave.
Christians are meant to be holy like our God is holy. Holy means set apart – different to the ordinary, different to the world.
You see the government of heaven is family. The Father initiates in loving the Son – but He gives glory to the Son and raises Him to the highest place so that at name of Jesus every knee shall bow (eg Phil 2:9-11) . And in return the Son gives the glory to His Father.
As earthly fathers, our job is not to keep our children in their place and always be subservient to us. Our job is to raise up adults who go beyond us. As parents we’re not threatened by their achievements – we celebrate them.
This is what we tried to do in the organic church we led. We wanted to give space for everyone to bring their piece of Christ to the gathering so that the fullness of Christ is revealed. We sought to call out who people were in Christ and encourage them in their giftings.
Like Jesus, after three years our mission was complete as everyone had left to pursue their callings on their lives and we were proud parents with an empty nest.
One person in charge while the rest just do what they say is not the body of Christ, it’s a freakish monster.
The third reason is that we let it happen. We have been brought up in a culture that has replaced hands on learning (discipleship/apprenticeship) with sitting in a classroom; TV entertainment which requires no involvement from us and a general passivity that means it’s easier to be a spectator than to be an active functioning member of the body of Christ.
To be fair, this passivity was true even in the OT – where the people wanted Moses to be the one to go into God’s presence (Ex 20:18-19) rather than to all be prophets (Num 11:29), where they wanted a King to lead them (1 Sam 8:5;12:12) rather than to all respond to God’s call.
People often want religion (ie tell us what to do) rather than relationship because it’s easier.
Even when we were leading an organic church, there were some weeks where my brothers and sisters in Christ wanted to sit back and let me run the show. Frankly sometimes it was easier to let them so that I had my comfortable “order” instead of the dynamism of the Holy Spirit conducting the meeting which, whilst more fulfilling, was definitely more scary.
Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be disciples not lackeys; to be friends not servants; to be brothers not employees.
No wonder they left their nets.