the weblog of Alan Knox

Help or Get Out of the Way

Posted by on Dec 27, 2010 in discipleship | 28 comments

Help or Get Out of the Way

Within the last 12 months, two people have shared very similar stories with me. Unfortunately, these stories are not encouraging. But, I’m afraid that they are becoming more and more common. I’ll briefly share the last story.

I had lunch with a business associate. After we talked about web sites and such, he said he wanted to talk to me about something church related.

He said that he had met many people around the city of Raleigh through his business connections. He had a desire to introduce these people to Christ and to help them live in community with one another and those around them. He wanted to begin getting together with those who were interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple them as they shared their lives together.

Now, this friend is part of a church in the Raleigh area. He approached one of his pastors with this idea. He explained his desire to disciple people and help them live in community with Christ and with one another.

The pastor said, “No.” It’s true. My friend was told that he could not do this. He was given three reasons: 1) Whatever my friend did, he would need to work through his local church and their Bible study programs. 2) My friend would have to go through his church’s Bible study program leadership training routine. 3) My friend’s group would have to focus on promoting their church.

My friend was dumbfounded. He was expecting encouragement and support from this leader. He said that he had heard the pastors talk about reaching their city with the gospel. It now seemed that was not their only (or primary?) interest.

Like I said, this is not an isolated instance. Another good friend ran into the same kind of resistance when he and some friends wanted to start evangelizing and discipling their neighborhood. Their leaders told them, “No,” because they would have to go through their church programs, and there was no one in leadership available to oversee their endeavor.

May I speak directly to those in leadership who feel threatened by this kinds of plan? I know that you feel you are protecting people and building your organization for the glory of God. But, if you ever stand in the way of someone evangelizing and making disciples because it’s not going through your organization, then know that you are standing in opposition to God, not with him.

If someone approaches you with a desire to disciple those around them and live in community in Christ with them, either help, or get out of the way!


28 Comments

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  1. 12-27-2010

    Sad and spot on. Thanks for this, Al. Don’t go getting all militant on us, though.

  2. 12-27-2010

    Just another unfortunate confirmation of what I observed during 17 years in the Institution. What an incredible display of unbiblical leadership in action. The good that can come from such interactions is that followers of Christ realize that they do not need to ever receive permission from anyone to engage in evangelism and discipling activities and that those who would stand in the way are not to be followed, their example of hindering God’s Kingdom is not worthy of emulation.

  3. 12-27-2010

    Amen to not needing permission… I echo Hutch’s point, that at least these friends of yours, and hopefully others, might see through this that the whole idea of needing to get “approval” to share the gospel and disciple people is ludicrous! If Jesus Himself commanded us to do these things, then why on earth would we need to get someone else’s official go-ahead?

  4. 12-27-2010

    Christopher,

    Not going militant… just blowing off a little steam. :)

    Hutch and Daniel,

    Yes. I’m hoping that others (leaders and non-leaders) will understand that they do not need to ask permission to obey Jesus.

    -Alan

  5. 12-27-2010

    Hi Alan, I think your post is spot on.

    One minor point of contention though is when you write that instances such as these, “…are becoming more and more common.” I would suggest they they have been vey common for a long time. I don’t know that this view is increasing or not, but I do know I have had these same encounters many times over the past decade or so.

    I may blog one of my most recent stories that reinforces what you are writing… In the meantime, can you answer one question?

    You wrote, “But, if you ever stand in the way of someone evangelizing and making disciples because it’s not going through your organization, then know that you are standing in opposition to God, not with him”

    Barnabas and Paul were given a mission by the Holy Spirit, yet they did not act on that until they had prayed, fasted and received the blessing of the Church at Antioch. Again, I don’t think this undercuts anything you write about, but I would love to have you share how this biblical story differs from the kinds of story you cite above.

    BTW, I am teaching a course this January on Leadership… it should be fun to incorporate stories like the ones you share above with the students as we discuss what it really means to be a leader in the church.

  6. 12-27-2010

    Alan this is a sad story. Thankfully we do not need permission to minister. I am also thanful that in our own efforts my family has met nothing but support from the local church organizations. Not from those we were previously members of so much as the ones we used to drive past to get there. God makes things happen for a reason. We can trust things are going according to plan even when it doesn’t seem that way to us.

  7. 12-27-2010

    Joe,

    You’re right. I should have said that I am becoming more aware of these situations. This could be a change in my perception, instead of a change in leadership methods.

    I would be in favor of churches praying and fasting together to decide if a plan was from God or not. That option was not offered by these leaders. They were comfortable in accepting that the plan was from God, but only if the person/persons jumped through their hoops.

    Bobby,

    That’s very encouraging! Please write about how others have supported your efforts! I would be very interested in reading the stories.

    -Alan

  8. 12-27-2010

    Joe
    Paul, Barnabas and the saints in Antioch had a completely different church view than what takes place in 99% of institutionalized fellowships. (I leave 1% room for the very few.) The saints in Antioch viewed each other as peers, brothers, members of one another, with full mutuality. This is not true in the vast majority of institutionalized fellowships. They have a power pyramid with the clergy at the top and lay folks down below in the steerage section. Our Bibles read English words such as “rule”, “obey”, “office”, etc that are bogus translations. “Oversight” is legitimate, but it is only oversight. It is not over-talking, over-deciding, over-visioning, over-thinking, over-hearing from God, or any other kind of over that is very common today. The chain-of-command heresy does horrible damage in the household of faith. (Every train has one engineer, every plane has one pilot, every business has one CEO, every church must have one SR. Pastor, blah, blah…) I have read the books, heard the sermons, and the board room lectures on shut up or resign that are so arrogant, power hungry, prideful, and corrupt.

    The same man who is so very friendly to you, learns your name out of a hundred or more, says he loves you from behind the pulpit, and many other POSTURES of being a brother to you, will quickly change if you challenge any key element of his vision for the church or key element of his power base that you see is corrupted from God’s Word. He won’t feel challenged if you only use your opinion as your basis for a challenge, but if you show from God’s Word that he is off base, you will see a completely different man.

  9. 12-27-2010

    I’ve seen similar situations. Your succinct rebuke is spot on.

  10. 12-27-2010

    Tim,

    There are leaders in modern traditional churches like you’ve described. I also know that are leaders who are humble and willing to submit to others.

    Chris,

    Thanks.

    -Alan

  11. 12-28-2010

    Alan,
    Sounds very familiar

  12. 12-28-2010

    Sad stories – and so unbiblical! You can find “unauthorized” people doing Kingdom work in plenty of places… there’s Eldad and Medad in Numbers 11 (Of whom Moses says in exasperation; “Would that ALL the Lord’s people were prophets…!”) And the unothorized exorcist that Jesus won’t shut down in Luke 9. (“But Jesus said… ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’”)

    But in some ways I think it’s sadder how blind the leaders are to their charge to equip the saints for the work of ministry, so congregations that were supposed to help the river of grace flow freely end up becomming bottlenecks.

  13. 12-28-2010

    Alan,

    I’ve experienced something a bit different. I’ve known people who had similar ideas but never acted on them or dropped the idea all together because they feared the pastor would veto their idea and the realization that all the hoops to jump through were too much. Then there are the rogues who go and do things anyway, with no opposition from the leader(s), but who receive no support or even recognition from the “official” church. Really sad.

  14. 12-28-2010

    Alan
    I made room for you assertion and agree from what I said earlier. It is a tragically small amount of men in this reality. Have you read any books that teach this approach to institutionalized faith?

    How many hired pastors have never experienced a believer seeking to go beyond institutional boundaries come to them for support?

    How many have experienced this have been able to nicely distract or divert these saints from the vision God gave them?

    I have read books and journals on pastor leadership that give specific advise on how to say just that. Is it not safe to say this is part of the system?

    Praise God there are even hired pastors who come to the saints in full repentance asking them to consider converting to organic fellowship, and have been rejected. I have heard from some of them. It can go both ways.

  15. 12-28-2010

    I’ve seen that many time here too.

    I think that’s one of the symptoms that occur when we want to replace the Holy Spirit and when we want to control everything, instead of letting the Spirit of God doing it.

    The first role of institutionalization is to ensure that the control is in the hands of human being, …. instead of God himself.

  16. 12-28-2010

    I was sorta hoping (but not really expecting) everyone to say that my friends’ experiences are not the norm. Apparently and unfortunately, it is normal.

    -Alan

  17. 8-15-2011

    Amen, Amen and Amen!! There are so many Churches that are like this today. It seems that its about growing “their” church instead of growing the Kingdom. Programs, programs, programs, stuff, stuff and more fluff. I love your post Alan. They are bold and to the point. Keep it up.

  18. 8-15-2011

    the problem of institutionlism

  19. 8-15-2011

    I had a similar experience once. Felt compelled to stop and speak with an elder lady on her porch once, asked her about the tiny little steeple house next door to her home. She told me two folks meet there on Sunday, that’s about it. I asked (told) the ‘pastor’ where I attended at the time if he’d support the endeavor.

    It just so happened it would be on a Sunday that I visited that place, and it was forbidden for me to miss Service for such an occasion as connecting with possible brethren in need.

    So sad.

    So frustrating.

    So motivating to seek the way of our master, and not the way of men.

  20. 8-16-2011

    Thanks for the continued discussion on this topic. I’ve had several friends who were told not to follow their convictions even though there was nothing wrong with what they thought God was telling them to do. In fact, what they were planning to do was very much in line with what we see in Scripture.

    -Alan

  21. 6-13-2012

    When is the Church (& I mean the Western Church) going to stop elevating one function (pastoral) over all the over functions & strive for their approval? This has been happening for so long & only now, more & more people are speaking out on it.

    When are we going to realize that we don’t have to run everything by the pastor or even get his approval on anything that the Lord has directed us to do?

    God did give some to be pastors, but to say I have little use or regard for them (or the current church structure/hierarchy) would be an understatement. My only use for them is to marry, bury, comfort & offer guidance. Because of a lack of accountability to anyone & the resulting God-complex, there is way too much abuse, control, self-serving, self-promotion & self-preservation happening, most are completely out of control & that’s because we allow it in elevating one function over the others.

    No one person is above another or has control over another; we are ALL to submit one to another, period.

    We, as a global organism, have to wake up & realize that we’re all equals & need to support one another in whatever Christ has called us to do & it may not be within a particular church’s parameter, outline or guidelines.

    As you can see, I’m passionate about this because I’ve seen this happening for close to 40 years now & this, in my opinion, is not what Jesus or the Early Church envisioned.

    Granted, there are some leaders who are humble & true servants who couldn’t care less if people are discipled “here or there” as long as there is growth & fellowship.

    How do we change things? I have no clue. I’ve been praying for several years about this & have seen no signs of change or repentance.

    Do we speak up & confront (in love of course not w/ division in mind) the “system”? Many have done that & been accused of rebellion & divisiveness; rebellion if they leave by obeying God & not the pastor/leaders, divisiveness if they remain & speak out.

    I had to leave my former church because everything had to be run by the pastor & I had to be obedient to God; period.

    I’m just tired… of… hearing… these… reports; it… breaks… my… heart… everytime…

    Lord Jesus, come quickly…

  22. 6-14-2012

    Philip,

    You’ve raised some good questions. I think the answers will depend on the circumstances and the people involved. We do what God leads us to do that helps build up his church.

    In the cases I mentioned above, my friends decided to follow what God was leading them to do even though the “church leaders” advised otherwise.

    -Alan

  23. 8-10-2012

    “He wanted to begin getting together with those who were interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple them as they shared their lives together.”

    Those who are ‘interested in the gospel’ does not equate those who are saved…this does not fit the Biblical definition of a disciple. Jesus told us to “make disciples, teaching all I have commanded…”. We do not teach those who are “interested” all Jesus has commanded – they do not know Him, why would they need to know what He commanded. In your own words, “Disciples Follow Jesus” (posted July 30th, 2008, re-posted on FB earlier today). Your friend’s intention to evangelize is excellent – but discipleship would come after…for those who respond to the Lord’s call. Jussayin’.

    Now, a couple of thoughts here. I see a great amount of disregard for the motives of the pastor. There are a number of details not in this story, but I still see a pastor who was doing what he knew to do. It does not matter what denomination he is from, whether he is hired/paid, how “organized” his “institution” is. He was simply doing the job he was trained to do – right or wrong.

    Once again, I see the breeding of an “us” vs. “them” mentality. This is what has separated the Church into the factions we have today. It is “our revelation” vs. “their error”. We shout unity and tolerance, but bash the first person who does not line up according to our measure.

    I agree that titles, paid positions, denominations, institutions and organizations can miss the intentions for the Body of Christ. But, I see a written tone of “them”. Regardless of the denomination, organization, institution, titles used, methods adhered to or rules/bylaws observed – if they love Jesus, it is not “us” vs. “them”, because “them” is “us”. We need to be careful that disagreeing does not put someone in a “them” category.

    Does this ring true?

  24. 8-11-2012

    John,

    Thanks for the comment. You’ve given me a couple of things to think about.

    In Scripture – especially the book of Acts – I see the pattern of proclaiming the gospel, continuing to teach those who are interested, then further helping those who become true followers of Jesus. So, spending time with those who are interested is part of the discipling process, although it is not the entire process.

    It is not my intent to present an “us” vs. “them” in this post – or in any of my posts for that matter. Anyone who is in Christ is my brother/sister and there is no us vs. them between us.

    As I read back through the post, I do not see “us” vs. “them.” But, then, I know more about the actual situations than what I’ve written about here.

    -Alan

  25. 8-11-2012

    I do not even read in your writings that this is your intention. Somehow, other comments seem to pick that up and their language expresses such. My comment was more for the other readers, to warn fellow Christians that we might not fall into that trap. It is easy to consider ourselves as part of a separate army because we serve in a different camp. But, “those” Baptists, “those” A/G’s, “those” whoever’s…if they love Jesus, “they” are “we”. Well, I said that already. My point is, I just wanted to warn others as well as remind myself of these points.

  26. 8-13-2012

    John,

    Thank you very much for clarifying. I’m glad that you don’t read an “us” vs. “them” in my writings.

    -Alan

  27. 5-16-2013

    Same thing Jesus ran into.

  28. 5-16-2013

    Steve,

    That’s true.

    -Alan

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