This morning, I meet with a friend at Parena Bread. He is someone I have known for many years. We have ministered together. We have prayed for each other. We have cried over things together. He has see the good, the bad and ugly as I have tried to walk out the call on my life with no real manual to follow outside of scripture. It has been a long roller coaster!
When we sit down, there is a ground rule that he has: I can’t talk about miracles, revival or the supernatural. It is not that he is against those (He is a Pentecostal pastor after all); he believes that I can talk for hours about these subjects and use them to “hide” behind. He is your practical pastoral type guy. He is the type of guy that loves to hug people and make sure they feel loved.
This makes for random meetings very interesting and really on his terms. Everything that I burn for is off limits! The only thing that is left in the Dallas Cowboys and “relational stuff.” The problem is he is a Chief fan so even discussing the Cowboys does not work!
The practical call from my brother
As I sit there enjoying a bread bowl of potato soup, he hit me with this bomb. It came like a Patriot has just been fired from the Marshall Islands and was heading right toward me. I have no question that my pastor friend wanted to lovely wound me for God’s purposes.
You have no problem having faith for miracles and revival but you suck at having faith for the small things in your own life.
You would have understand how I see church in the apostolic role. I do not come to hold people, hug their babies, or even have coffee with them in the foyer. I am there for One Man, Jesus. I do not care who is next to me or who is on the stage. I am there to encounter the Holy Spirit. I do not go for the “sermon.” I go for the encounter. I am just wired that way.
Yet, the pastor had hit me with something. Believing for miracles is easy. Believing for revival is second nature for me. I live for encounter but I despite the practical things of church life. I actually have become very successful at escaping fellowship at churches quite well. I actually left a church because they tried to convince me to be “part of the family.” I was not there to get to know the people. I was there there to know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection!
So I was there being grilled on the lack of faith and my attitude about the small things in life and in the church. He reminded me that I had never preached one message about relationships on the horizontal level. To date, there is only one article about how we deal with people or marriage!
How did the early church do Christianity?
If there is even a question about how to see something biblically, I head right to Acts. Above all, I want to be have an authentic faith just like the apostolic church had. How did they see it and what did they do? The problem is I did not how to look very far at all to be confronted with the answer. In fact, they were in community at Pentecost. They were “in one accord.” (Acts 2:1)
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer….All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…. (Acts 2:42-47)
The early church were all for one and one for all. They prayed together. They worshipped together. They did evangelism together. They lived out their faith together. They didn’t just do the spiritual things together but they cried together, the grieved together, and they even eat together. They cared about the small things in each other’s lives as well. As uneasy as it was, my pastor friend was right and the apostolic church confirmed this was the lifestyle they had.
The letters to the churches from the Apostles also tell a story of this. They moved in community in all they did. There is no getting around this in the New Testament.
Healing in Community
I will be honest, the least read book in my New Testament is probably James. I just don’t study it a lot. Some things in it are hard to understand because I am a 21st century gentile, not a first century Jew. However, after having this discussion with my pastor friend, I was reminded how James ended his book for the Jewish brothers.
“…the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore CONFESS your sins to each other and PRAY for EACH OTHER so that you may be HEALED. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:15-16)
What is clear here is that James believed there was a connection between physical healing and relational community. I think this could be taken way too far but there is no denying that James was suggesting this to the Jews he was writing his letter to. Divine healing is integral to the gospel but is there something about community that releasing healing power on the faithful as well? It sure seems this is was they were being told in the letter.
There is something spiritual that happens when we openly discuss our issues with our fellow believers. It is not just about accountability, it is actually prophetic. As we share our struggles with one another, the Holy Spirit is moving and touching those struggles with His power and compassion. This is the what we see all over the New Testament.
Confrontation in intimacy
There is something that I realize from my study of the New Testament that is more true that we want to admit. It makes the world of difference if someone is received or rejected. Most of the “confrontations” that I have had with people, especially pastors lacked this truth and because of it, they were just disregarded.
Confrontation must flow out of a precieved reality of intimacy among the brethren.
To be clear, this is not the Matthew 25 intimacy that I would normally be speaking on. This is not intimacy with the Holy Spirit but rather do we have intimacy with the brother or sister we are seeking to confront. When we have that in place, the confrontation is received and the relationship is stronger because of the accountability; not destroyed by the assucation.
Many people want to talk about Matthew 18 as their model of confrontation but what they seem to forget is Jesus was not talking to random strangers about how to do it. He was speaking directly to people who had walked with Him and been in deep levels of intimacy with each other. It was more like He was saying, “Now that we have close working relationships, handle issues among you this way.”
Something else that many people miss about Matthew 18:15-17 is that it is right before Matthew 18:18-20. In other words, we forget that there was no chapters or verses until 1551. This is not two different thoughts but one seamless understanding given to people that Jesus had intimacy with. Jesus was given them a revelation that we miss, confront people to make them closer to God and walk in holiness so that they pray, angels move and demons flee. The purpose of confrontation is to make them holy.
In the age of rage, we forget that the ultimate goal of relationships is holiness. We live in a time that confrontation is about “proving someone is right.” This is the anti-theist of Matthew 18. It was not to “win them over to a view” but win them over to holiness and deeper intimacy with God and with the brethren.
What about teaching them as an unbeliever or a tax collector? In our culture, we do not understand what this really means. What we do know is in 2 Thessalonians 3 that we are told to not associate with them but even then, we are still to see them as a brother and long for them to turn from error.
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:25)