The hidden side of faith

by J. Randal Matheny, editor

• Later today the wife and I take to the highway for a board meeting of the Lar Cristão Children’s Home, about two hours away from us. She and I act in more of an advisory role. The Brazilian brethren in charge do a tremendous job of keeping up with the administration, as well as the ministry to the children.

• Bureaucracy is the bane of ministry. Red tape can often be a killer. That’s why I like the efforts of a number of brethren to encourage churches to go to the homes for their meetings. Time is spent directly in the gospel. No lines, no waiting, for government employees to approve or stamp anything. The lack of overhead also frees up monies for evangelism and benevolence. Much like the first century. Not a bad idea, eh?

• The church today has programmed into its DNA the idea that you can’t have a stable church without (1) a building in the name of the church; (2) a full-time preacher; (3) a preacher-training program. (I’ve heard people say exactly that.) Those may or may not be a good thing. But hear this: None of them, not a one, are absolutely necessary to have a stable, growing church. We say we’re a get-back-to-the-Bible people. But some denominational attitudes have yet to be buried in the ground.

• Let’s go to the hidden, individual side of faith, for a moment. God can save anyone. God can redeem any soul. God can empower us all. But some struggle with the shame of sins past and temptations present. Many addictions leave people despairing of freedom from sin. Though it’s a phrase I hate passionately, can we like the Lord hate the sin but love the sinner? Have we room in our tidy churches for the messiness of the battle? If we don’t, we may not have much room for the Lord himself.

• It’s an issue of attitude. Of respectability versus solidarity in the battle against the evil one. Of whether or not we are willing to bear one another’s burdens. To gain the upper hand together. For divided, you know the story.

• Shame is a powerful motivator, both positive and negative. It keeps many from confessing sin, from seeking help, from outing the devil in his dark nooks and crannies of a Christian’s consciousness. Paul used shame to get Christians to do right. Satan uses it to keep people under his control. For we know the heinousness of sin. And we know we are responsible. And we know the hurt and harm it does. We even know the relief we would feel to be out with it. But the father of lies whispers about rejection and hypocrisy. And we keep it in.

• We need the Lord. We need each other. No building is necessary for the church’s success. No full-time preacher is required to keep things moving along. No separate training programs or colleges or ministries needed outside the congregation. But we need each other. The oneanotherness of the faith is all over the New Testament. If we lose it, or fail to develop it, we are dead in the water.

“So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness” (James 5:16 NET).

 

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