It’s been my observation of the Pentecostal church and some others, that it seems to tend to the building up of the identity of people to the identity of the church. By this I mean in general it spends the bulk of its time building up the identity of those whom are able to fit in with its programs, those who have the ability to run and organise the youth group, women’s groups, bible studies and men’s groups. They have a place for those who can hammer in a nail, clean, wash, paint, do clerical and office work and run various errands. Serve, serve, serve is the catch cry.
By identity, I mean the sense of self worth and belonging. There is a tendency within the church to preach a doing gospel. While grace may be preached, it’s rarely shown and practiced. By this I mean, you are saved therefore come on, get with the program. There is peer group pressure to tithe. There is pressure to serve. There is pressure on people within the church to get involved. Ones salvation begins to be tied up in proportion to how much ones serves within the church.
Ones identity in the church then starts to be formed by how much we do, how much we have, how much we serve within the church. This identity extends to our kid, with the subtle pressure for them to fit into youth group and also to be part of the church program. It’s formed through what we perceive to be our calling. It’s formed increasingly by what we do, instead of being formed by who we are. And it can seem there is an unspoken division between those who are in and those who are not.
And there is nothing inherently wrong with having a call. There is nothing wrong with having a purpose. There is nothing wrong with being generous though I disagree with the doctrine of tithing. And there is nothing wrong with having a feeling of acceptance and belonging.
Yet there is something deeply wrong when it becomes the overriding sense of who we are.
This feeling and sense of empowerment from what we do, is also highlighted by the competitiveness of the numbers game. How many have you led to the Lord? How many have you in your church? We see the pastors with larger numbers in the church as being more deeply spiritual than we do those who struggle to have a few. The message is sent to the congregation and even amongst the leadership that your identity is valued in what you do, who you follow, what conference you go to, and your identity is tied up in success and stepping out….and if you step out in real faith you will succeed.
So young pastors and church planters stepping out into the ministry for the first time aspire to having a successful ministry. Successful meaning large numbers attending, successful means working towards a larger building, and a larger budget. And so the cycle goes on. If I succeed then God is really with me. If I don’t….what is wrong with me is the questions asked, Why God? Why? Has my ministry failed?
Yet within the gist of this push, it’s been my observation that there is a lack of knowledge of Gods ways, a lack of knowledge of Gods empowering presence to live the life He has called individuals to live in the calling of life he has called them. I’m seeing a greater lack of pastoral awareness of the church to build people up to be empowered to live out their faith in the work place. I see a lack of training and building up individuals / families to go and exist as Christians within society, developing relationships and building upon / within communities within their natural community of influence.
To be continued…..