Sunday, June 16, 2024

God-Centered vs. Man-Centered Churches

As Pastors and leaders of local churches, it is a healthy exercise for us to periodically examine and evaluate our ministries. In the eternal scheme of things, where do we fit?  What on earth are we doing? What should we be doing? Obviously, our priorities should be to glorify God, evangelize the lost, and edify the saved.  When reviewing these priorities, it is good for us to be reminded that God’s glory comes first, and man’s blessing comes second. Our ministries should first be God-centered, and then (and only then) should our efforts be directed toward blessing people.  When we misplace these two priorities, not only will our ministries cease to be an outflow of our obedient relationships with the Lord, God will not be glorified, and our efforts will lose much of their eternal value.  Our toil will be nothing more than “wood, hay, and stubble”.

An instructive example of reversing these God-given priorities can be observed in recent decisions made by World Vision.  For many years World Vision has collected billions of dollars from good people and has successfully used those funds to help numerous hungry and oppressed people on our planet.  However, on the last Monday in March of 2014, World Vision bowed to our politically-correct culture and announced that it would allow monogamous, homosexual married couples to serve on the staff of its organization. Then, just two days later World Vision reversed its decision because many supporters withdrew donations.  No doubt, World Vision leaders did not want to lose their ability to clothe and feed hurting people around the world so they performed a gigantic, public flip-flop that was painfully obvious to everyone.  Question: Should we commend World Vision leaders for having the guts to reverse their decision?  Think about it.  Did they change their minds because they realized that they had offended God? They did not. On the contrary, by their first decision they demonstrated their woeful absence of biblical conviction, and by both decisions, they revealed that their ministry is man-centered rather than God-centered.  In both decisions, they acquiesced to man rather than to God. Their motive of mercy may have been commendable, but their esteeming people’s opinion above God’s Word is lamentable. I wonder if some well-meaning people in World Vision may someday say, “Lord, Lord, have we not…in thy name…done many wonderful works?”

But let’s not focus on someone else’s ministry—let’s take a discerning look at our own efforts. What can we learn from the public mistakes of others?  We can learn and be reminded that having a biblical philosophy of ministry (regardless of public opinion) is vital. We can be reminded that having good motives does not authorize us to disobey God by acting inconsistently with Who God is. We can learn that it is never right to set aside God’s Word in order to do God’s work.

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus clearly enunciated the proper priorities for all believers. He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the FIRST and great commandment.  And the SECOND is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…”  (Mt. 22:37-38) On the foundation of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ we can confidently say that any ministry that does not put God first and man second is a ministry that is out of sync with God’s priorities; it has lost its biblical focus and is on the decline.  Viewing the wreckage of many (previously biblical) ministries validates this conclusion. It is instructive to note that the starting point for the decline of many ministries (that are now diluted or defunct) was when people in those ministries unwisely set aside God’s directives while doing God’s work; they chose to do evil with the hope that good would be the result. In short, they compromised. Their motives may have been commendable, but their methods were contrary to the nature of God Himself.

So how does this apply to us as leaders?  Well, it’s great to say that we have a biblical philosophy of ministry, but we must also live according to that philosophy. We should therefore be willing to honestly examine our focus and direction. What should we be doing—and how should we be doing it?  We should be growing in our personal relationships with the Lord and we should be kindly reaching out to people around us by giving them the Gospel and then helping them to grow in the Lord.    Dear Christian leader, let us purpose to be biblical in our philosophy and in our lifestyle. Let us not lose our God-centered focus. It is when we are the most heavenly-minded that we will be of the most earthly good.

by David Harper

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