“Brother, I believe we are in trouble” was the assessment of a tenured pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation in Texas. That was a summary statement after a discussion of issues, attitudes, and challenges facing the Bride of Christ in the 21st century.
In my own conversations, I have heard stories of dysfunction within congregations that are amazing. Some seem to have the ability to do things to people in the world of religion that are unconscionable in the world of Scripture, and sometimes even illegal according to the laws of the land.
Perhaps you have experienced some of those things. Pastors and staff members tend to pick up and move on, all the time smiling but inside dying. And the collateral damage is usually the wife and children.
I recall an expression from my childhood: “If God will keep him anointed, we will keep him humbled.” Many have used this and perhaps the first time it was said someone just made it up as an example of how some were treated. However, I have heard it verbalized, usually around the time to consider salary.
Dr. Ray C. Stedman’s “Spiritual Warfare” is an older book about winning the daily battle. I would encourage you to click on the link and order the book. Stedman brought Biblical balance to Ephesians 6:10-13. Later in this post I will borrow from him to offer some suggestions for winning this battle and hopefully whet your appetite to read Stedman.
“God is not interested in religion, but he is tremendously interested in life. I am deeply convinced that we can only understand life when we see it as the Bible sees it.” Stedman is on target here and should encourage those of us who believe Scripture to be the inerrant word of the living God.
We minister after several hundred years of the effect of the movement called Rationalism. This gave rise to what we know as Modernity. This was a movement elevating reason above revelation. It rejected absolute truth and sought to find meaning in reason and the solitary individual. It has affected all of the structures of Western society, including the Church and its institutions. It has resulted in a breakdown of morality, personhood, and community. Sarcasm is the humor of choice. Even conservative movements in church and politics have not escaped the results of reason that trumps revelation.
Here is the rub. We minister weekly to wonderful people who want to love God with their whole heart. But their worldview is affected by all of the influences around them that value reason over revelation. Therefore, Scripture becomes a big evangelistic tract, and not the truth of the living God. You have heard, “Well, as long as they are saved. That’s what counts, and they made a decision ….”. You know the thought process.
These are those with a worldly world view where reason trumps revelation. And they are in our pews. The key for them is that we continue to love them unconditionally and preach/teach the truth of Scripture. But how do we survive the onslaught of the reason of the world expressed through people whose talk is prefaced by “I think…”?
Stedman offers some help in a chapter entitled “Advice When Attacked”.
First is to put on the armor of God – the whole armor. This is essentially done in our thought life.
Second is to pray. Stedman does a masterful job of showing how the armor and prayer belong together.
“Our problem with life is that we do not see it as it is; we suffer from strange illusions. This is why we desperately need and must have the revelation of the facts of Scripture. Life is what God has declared it to be.” – Stedman, p. 130.
Third, Stedman points out that we must do more than think; we must bring our thoughts into fulfillment.
We can summarize God’s helps to winning the daily battle by putting on God’s armor, praying, and acting. In the text of Ephesians 6:10-18, that is the order. The result of reversing these is impotence in prayer and a lack of success in the spiritual battle.
There is so much more as Stedman fills in the relationship of armor, prayer, and doing. Good reading and may you and your family win the daily battle! Sundays are much better when we win Monday through Saturday!