the weblog of Alan Knox

That’s not my responsibility…

Posted by on Apr 27, 2007 in discipleship, edification, gathering, hospitality | 8 comments

Monday afternoon, my good friend Theron (from “Sharing in the Life“) posted a blog called “Unstructured (Fluid? Spirit Led?) Gatherings – My Responsibility“. This post was a response to meeting with a group of believers in my home last Saturday evening (see “Saturday Night…“). In the post, Theron concludes that it is his responsibility (and, by extension, the responsibility of every believer) to be prepared to encourage other believers when they gather together. Now, there will certainly be times when God keeps us silent in order to listen to others, or “dry” times when we have nothing to share. We should expect these to be exceptions, not the rule. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that most of the time we have nothing to say to other believers simply (as Theron says) because we have not spent time listening to God ourselves, or, perhaps even more likely, because we do not think it is our responsibility to bring a teaching or word or encouragement to other believers.

In his post, Theron also suggests that we may not be concerned about encouraging others because we do not believe this is our responsibility. Instead, Theron says that we hide behind structures that place that responsibility on other’s shoulders:

Second, I realized that it is real easy to hide behind structure. A common example of this might be having one teacher who teaches the entire time a group gathers. Since the responsibility to speak, share, or teach is placed on only one person. The others who are there can either study up beforehand and listen actively or they can just show up and not really listen. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the two since there is no interaction during the gathering.

In a previous post (“Representative Obedience?“), I dealt briefly with this concept by asking a few questions. Who is responsible for teaching? Who is responsible for admonishing? Who is responsible for discipling? Who is responsible for edifying the church?

I believe the numerous “one another” statements of Scripture show us that all of us bear the responsibility for teaching, admonishing, discipling, edifying, etc. each other. This responsibility cannot be abdicated nor can it be delegated. “Religion” always teaches vicarious obedience: i.e., the normal person is “obedient” when the priest makes a sacrifice in his or her place. However, we must never assume that Christianity is a religion, nor that we can obey God vicariously through others.

Thinking through my posts for this week, I recognize that God is teaching me about my responsibility in obedience. Showing hospitality (“Hospitality – vacancy or no vacancy?“) toward other believers and strangers is my responsibility to God. I do not obey when others in my group or others within an organization show hospitality, but I do not. Similarly, examining my life to see what God is doing is my responsibility (“What is God doing in your life?“). Others can help me understand what God is teaching me, or how God is using me, or even where God is using me; but, it is my responsibility to listen to God myself. I am not being obedient just because others in my Christian group are spending time with and listening to God. It is also my responsibility to encourage other believers (“Hebrews and Encouragement…“). I am not being obedient to encourage other believers when I sit with a group of people and only listen to someone else teach. Finally, it is also my responsibility “to show vigilant concern” for other believers (“What does a non-bishop oversee?“). I am not obedient when I leave this to others (even leaders) to carry out.

To put this in more concrete terms, I am not obeying God in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ simply because a church organization has an evangelism program. I am not obeying God in fellowshiping and encouraging other believers simply because I am attending a planned event – even if that event happens on a Sunday morning. I am not obeying God in loving others simply because I give money to a missions organization. I am not obeying God in caring for those in need simply because I put money in an offering plate. I am personally responsible for obeying God in each of these areas, and many, many more.

So, whether we are hiding behind structures (as Theron suggests), or we are hiding behind leaders, or we are hiding by Christian celebrities, or… whatever we are hiding behind… we should understand that God holds each of us responsible for obeying him. And, just as Adam and Eve were not able to hide their disobedience behind fig leaves, our excuses will not hide our disobedience from God.

You are my responsibility, and I am your responsibility. The poor and the lost are my responsibility. The widows and orphans are my responsibility. The immature are my responsibility. The hurting and grieving are my responsibility. The haughty and arrogant are my responsibility. I cannot handle all of these responsibilities – in fact, I cannot handle any of these responsibilities. However, God can miraculously work through me by the guidance and empowerment of His Spirit. Will he find a willing vessel? Or, will I once again tell God, “That’s not my responsibility?”


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-27-2007

    I just realized the comment I just posted on your “What does a non-bishop oversee?” post may have been more appropriate here. Oh well…

  2. 4-27-2007


    I’ll respond to your comment on the previous post here. (Here is a link to David’s comment.)

    I agree with much of what Nee says in your quotes. I think at times he stretches the body metaphor beyond how Paul used it, but we all do that occasionally. As long as we can recognize which part is speculative, we should be okay with stretching a metaphor, though others might not agree. I’ve been wondering lately how much the current house church boom in China is due to Nee’s influence. I’ve seen his name mentioned in that context before, but I haven’t read anything definitive. I’ve also been wondering if the US or other parts of the world would see a similar expansion of the church if we recognized our responsibility to God to serve the body of Christ.


  3. 4-27-2007


    Great post, at the beginning of this post I was planning on expanding on what you were saying – but you expanded for me at the end of the post :).

    I do have a question regarding teaching. How do you view “teaching” in the bible? Is it a formal situation, is it informal (i.e. teach by life-example or casually), or is it a combination of both?

    In Hebrews Paul is upset that the Christians are still on the milk, when they should be teaching by now.

    I guess my question is… in the institutional church, should any (and every) Christian have the opportunity to get up and teach their Sunday School? Or is their responsibility something altogether different?

    Sorry if this sounds confusing. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    God’s Glory,

  4. 4-27-2007


    Actually, I’ve been doing some research on an eventual post on Nee and his influence on the current church in China.

    Here’s a peek preview, a quote from an article by Dennis H. McCallum of Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio:

    “It is hard to tell how large the Little Flock movement was in China at the time of the revolution. One reason for this is the fact that Nee felt it was fleshly to consider numbers. Therefore there was no systematic effort made by Little Flock themselves to count their people. There was no formal membership in the group, since Nee believed membership in the body of Christ was determined by God, and there was no good reason for the church to try to draw up a list.

    According to Cliff, in 1949 the Little Flock had over 70,000 members in 500 assemblies. However, according to the Ecumenical Press Service the “Little Flock” had at this time 362 places of worship and 39,000 members in the one province of Chekiang. These figures were interpreted as indicating that members of the “Little Flock” made up 15-20 per cent of the whole Protestant church in China, and that they may have been the largest single denomination. In other words, this estimate would show anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 members for the Little Flock. Cheung affirms that there were “thousands” of assemblies by 1956, and that the Little Flock was the largest Christian group in China.

    Nobody has even hazarded a guess as to how many of the millions of Christians meeting in house churches today may be the outgrowth of Little Flock groups. Two things are clear: There are many house churches that are directly derived from Little Flock churches, and there are many other groups that owe a substantial debt to Little Flock doctrine and practice for their survival.”

  5. 4-27-2007


    A simple answer to your question would be that teaching should be at least informal. There is nothing wrong with formal teaching, but for discipleship I do not think you can stop with formal teaching.

    As far as what should happen in an institutional setting, I don’t have a good answer for you. I believe it is good to allow many believers to take part in teaching other believers.


    Thank you for the quote about Nee and his influence on the church in China. I’m looking forward to your post on the topic.

    What do you think about Xenos Christian Fellowship?


  6. 4-28-2007


    The only think I know about Xenos, other than the article on Nee by McCallum, is what I have been able to read on their web-site. What I see there seems interesting, and on-target. But, then again, I really don’t have that much knowledge to say anything more.

  7. 4-28-2007

    David and Alan,

    I always appreciate you guys and your discussion. I’ve learned a lot from you two.

    Alan and Lew,

    I used to be one of those who viewed the teaching endeavor as something that I was totally responsable for when I taught. In other words I lectured for the entire time.

    But now, I’ve been liberated by allowing the Holy Spirit to teach through a body of believers. I’ve come in with what I believe the major points of a passage were and instead of telling them what they are I ask them questions about the text.

    What happens? The text gets taught/exposited by the body of Christ. Sometimes my whole outline is taught for me by others. But, what is more important, is probably that more than ever I’ve seen not only others, but myself, grow in our walk with Christ.

    It also is humbling, because before I would try and teach it all by myself and it never seemed to cause growth. And, to an extent if it did, I would pat myself on the back.

    Now, I can see God’s hand moving in it all, and at least for me it keeps me humble realizing God is at work and not my “eloquence.”

    But, is what I’m doing teaching? I suppose that is the next question.

    Great post Alan.


  8. 4-28-2007


    I only know about them through their web site as well. You probably won’t be surprised at this, but I think they’re a little to structured.


    I think I would like to sit in on your class sometimes. It sounds very interesting.

    Perhaps, instead of asking “Is what I’m doing teaching”, we should be asking “Are believers growing in maturity toward Christ-likeness?”