November, 2003 Wingspread
A Mistaken Premise: Bigger is Better
By Billie Marie Zal
During Autumn a melancholy spirit attempts to take hold of my heart. Our mountain begins to look a bit drab. Leaves reluctantly loosen their hold on the life giving branches and spiral silently to the ground. But I have learned to cope with Autumn depression. It's just that depression is so often magnified by the "dying" process of Fall.
We are living, too, in a time of tremendous turmoil. Our world is almost unfamiliar to us; we read of wars, riots, neighbor turning against neighbor, families being slain by some psychotic killer. And we are entering into a period when supernatural wonders begin to manifest themselves.
Just recently I mentioned to someone that a few years back no one would believe the stories we read today - things that are happening to ordinary people. Ghost stories prevail in the small newspapers. And I would say never scoff at such stories. These "ghosts" are simply disembodied spirits who were familiar with certain individuals who have long since died, and they can mimic the dead and bring chaos to the human spirit.
I have often taken photos with the Polaroid camera and to my surprise have discovered "faces" on the photo that are superimposed. They sometimes look like old, old people, and as often as not they are animals. But I do not give place to these occurrences. I will not delve into the things of darkness. It is forbidden of God, and if He says "Don't" then I won't.
I am puzzled, in a way, as to why the Church which is the Body of Jesus Christ here on earth has very little power over the things of darkness today. Surely any one member can pick up the Bible and read it. God gives wisdom, we do not have to be Biblical scholars. His Spirit wrote it, and His Spirit can reveal it's meaning to us if we want to learn. But we really are not having all that much of an impact on the powers of darkness.
I believe that the Church is weak today because a mistaken premise crept in somewhere along the way since the Church was formed. And that premise is, "Bigger is Better." Since this premise is thrust upon us the moment we receive our salvation, we feel useless if we don't get out and become men and women who are "on fire for the Lord." It is a false fire and would not even light the darkness, as we have so unfortunately discovered.
I remember when I was saved. It was an awesome experience. I was new, all new. I honestly felt as though I had been scrubbed down from head to toe, and I almost expected to see my skin soft and pink like a baby's. Being born again put me into a whole new society. I sought out other believers and was introduced to many groups in and around Chicago. One of my most rewarding experiences came when I attended a tiny little prayer group that met once a week in the "Y" Chapel on the north side of Chicago. Eugenia Price, the writer, had just been saved and she drew this little group together and let us simply tell each week how God had worked in our lives. There was no pushing and shoving for converts. Eugenia never once taught me that "bigger is better." Maybe that is why God has so blessed her books.
But there were other more aggressive groups who set out to convince me that unless I won so many souls to Christ each week, then I would have to answer to God for my neglect of His will. This type of talk did not win me to them. In fact, it turned me away. I didn't want to serve God out of guilt; I wanted to serve Him out of love for what He did for me in the Person of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.
The mistaken premise, then, stems from the ego. And yes, Christians certainly do possess an ego. We all do, saved or not. And it is this very ego that God wants to get at. He sends circumstances our way to deflate our pride and remove our high-mindedness so that we might get to know Him. And we fight the circumstances and go off on some flesh directed tangent that tells us to win the world to Christ and then people will notice us.
Why should people notice us? They shouldn't. We should never be put up and praised. I was watching a religious TV program the other night and Rosie Grier was a guest. Of course he is refreshing and he goes about testifying to his love for the Lord. Then he said that everyone he meets, he says to them, "Do you love Jesus?" Now Rosie Grier can get away with that; nearly everyone has idolized him in one way or another and some people would actually be flattered that he noticed them, even if they didn't believe in Jesus, let alone love Him. But I would never go around asking everyone I meet, "Hey, do you love Jesus?"
First of all, I usually know whether or not a person loves Jesus. The Bible tells us that we will be able to discern spirits. Also, we are told that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. If I meet a spiritual relative I am going to pretty well recognize him. And no one can love Jesus unless they really know in spirit who He is. Proof of this fact is the picture of Calvary. People had followed Him when He handed out food and healed their sick. But when the crossroads came and He said, "if any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me," He was left alone. So not very many people today love Jesus.
The mistaken premise is that if we get saved, then get busy saving souls and adding them to the church, the world is going to be saved. Bigger is not better. Getting bigger means letting down the standards so that anyone can feel saved. Discipline flies out the window and the Church is filled with a multitude of mixed seed. I read recently that a pastor of a church in California was concerned that the Church has no life, and he wanted life back in the Body. As I read on, I noticed that he had a membership of five thousand people. How is he going to get life back in the Body when there's simply no way for him and his ten or twelve assistants to attend to the spiritual needs of five thousand souls? The plan of the Body in the beginning was to form local churches - small groups of believers who could attend to one another and help one another. But there is safety in numbers, we are told, so the Church began to become bigger.
The world is not going to be saved, either. I am amazed to hear well schooled theologians expound this theory. Perhaps I have missed their point, but Jesus said as in the days of Noah, so would it be like in the day when the Son of God comes. And remember, there were only eight people on earth who were saved. Had Noah followed the "Bigger is Better" premise he would never have built a huge ship on dry ground and taken care of all the animals that would be needed when the flood came. The world had laughed at Noah. The world always laughs. But Noah and his family were the only ones who were saved.
He had given up the right to himself; therefore he could obey God and be ready when the deluge destroyed the world. And we are no different from Noah. God expects as much from us as He expected from Noah. When I was saved I had a natural ego, a pride of accomplishment. I wanted to go out and lead the world to Jesus. I went from group to group, looking for answers. I was told by one group that if I wanted success I would have to dress a certain way. I was told by another if I wanted to succeed I would have to lead so many souls to the Lord per month, so that I could "prove my ministry."
All that I really needed to know was that in order to gain God's favor (which is all we need) I would have to die to my self life and give myself to God's watch care unconditionally. That's the meaning of the cross and this kind of living never makes one bigger. It makes one smaller - so small that we finally realize that we are nothing and God is everything.
So I began to go to the Bible and learn for myself what God wants of us. I had many opportunities to join up with groups and go out and minister. Not long after I was saved a man contacted me and said that the Lord had led him to ask us to be a part of a "dynamic" new ministry of personal evangelism. We would tour and preach and take the Gospel to various churches throughout the country. I was not all that excited about it, but he had supposedly been saved for many years and I trusted his leading. He had methods that I did not like. He was pushy. He felt it perfectly alright to make contacts and drop names. I didn't. Anyhow, we went on one tour and that was one tour too many for me.
I still blush when I recall what happened. For one thing, he was full of himself and as we drove across the hill and dale to a college in Indiana I heard nothing but self praise. I felt guilty for "judging" him (being so young in the faith) so I politely listened. By the time we arrived I had an awful headache. The meeting was worse than I could have imagined. This man had been a cheer leader at Wheaton College in his younger days, and he decided that this would make him adept at song leading. Sitting up on the podium I could not escape the amused glances that were thrown his way as he jumped about the stage and waved his arms wildly.
The worse part came when he asked for financial assistance. I never did feel like making other people pay for what the Lord had asked me to do. Had the offering been voluntary it would have been all right. But he explained how expensive the trip was, etc., etc. If I could have found a hole to jump into I would have disappeared. After the meeting the others gathered around and the money was counted. I wouldn't even look. I had already made a silent vow that this would be my one and only tour. If they wanted to win the world to Christ, all right. But I would learn to walk by faith and gain God's favor.
I had never been told that this man possessed a violent nature, but I discovered it for myself when I told him that I did not want to be a part of the team anymore. He came by my home, threw all the stationery and advertisement for the team at my front door and roared off without a word. At least I had my path set for me. Bigger would never be better.
As time went on I grew to depend more and more on God's Word rather than my feelings. Feelings can fool us. God's Spirit never does. It strikes at the core of our self life and tells us "This will not do." At one time I had a radio ministry, little weekly messages of fifteen minutes in duration. I never asked for funds, and I always said when the funds dried up I would know that it was God's time to quit. Eventually I did have to quit. But in time I might once again send out those messages every so often. They probably are more suited to our times now than they were then. Since I had not had visions of "becoming big" I could gracefully let the radio ministry go when God said so. There was another work to be done - a work far more rewarding to the building up of spiritual character in my own life than all the radio programs in the world.
Perhaps that is what is missing in the Church today. Since trying to get bigger has been so time consuming, the members have had little if any time to gain spiritual character. A tree doesn't grow in a year. It takes years and years to become mature. And neither does the spiritual character of a born again believer come into maturity overnight. It takes years. One of the believers who loved God most of all was a man named Watchman Nee. He has often said that we should never even begin to go out and minister until we have become "learners." And learning, he said, usually takes up to ten years.
I agree with him. Learning involves much suffering and painful humiliations so that we can begin to show just the slightest relationship or kinship to Jesus. But how can we learn and suffer and die to ourselves if our egos are fed by getting bigger and bigger? I don't even set goals for myself. How do I know what is ahead? And if I set a goal, how do I know if that goal is what God wants for me? I avoid a lot of stress by refusing to set goals. I do have one goal, though: to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. That's the only goal I feel safe with.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen to most of the bigger ministries if each leader took time off and went before God and waited on Him to get His mind on the matter of ministering to the multitudes. I think much of the programs would cease. I look back to the beginning, when Jesus and His twelve walked this earth and I compare. There was no hysterical activity about the way they worked. For thirty years He was hidden. Then when He did begin to minister His relatives thought He had lost Him mind. He made no fuss or bother about the way that He served His Father. When a crowd gathered, He had them sit down beneath the stars, or under a blazing sun and He spoke simply. Seldom did He give an altar call. He took time to caress the little children and to go out of a planned route in order to reach just one woman at a well.
After the disciples were endued with power and went out to minister they followed His pattern. Their idea was not so much to get bigger as to show by their own lives that something had happened to them - that they were new creatures in Christ Jesus - that what happened to them could happen to others. The emphasis was on the manifestation of Jesus rather than the glory of a "big ministry."
It has been my personal prayer for some time that the Church come to her senses and go back to the place where Jesus was left behind. I in no way mean to make fun of the public ministries today on TV or elsewhere. I support these ministries because I, too, want to reach people and hear the wonderful story of salvation come from their lips. As Christians, we cannot help but give not only to religious ministries, but to compassionate work such as programs that feed and clothe little children and the desolate in our country as well as all over the world.
But more than anything else, I pray that God's Spirit will have just one more opportunity to pour Himself out on the multitudes on this earth before the end comes. Because the salvation of multitudes will not come by power - nor by might - but only by the Spirit of the living God. Will you pray with me that this might happen in our day?
Originally published in September, 1989
For: Randal Smith at OSP - He cut his arm. We need to pray for his physical healing, and most importantly, he needs prayer that he will receive God's spirit of peace of mind and have joy.
For: Mike Small at Menard, Illinois. He asks that we pray for Derek and Carmen. They are expecting a baby soon.
For: Our neighbors across the road -Jerry and Collen Brock, Sandra, and their entire family. They need God's healing for their health and for comfort to the entire family.
For: Cantrell Watts at OSP in McAlester. He wants everyone to pray that he will learn to trust God more and have a better understanding of Him. He wants to learn effective prayer and to have God's spirit come into him and give him a better understanding of the Word. He also asks for prayer for deliverance from the spirit of sexual lusts.
For: Daniel Keith Perry at McAlester, who is a former gang member, and wants to some day be able to minister to people involved in gangs. He asks that everyone pray for him as he tries to change his life and follow Jesus. He wants to become a better example for others and to hopefully reach young gang members and bring them to Christ.
For: Adam Wayne Tate at McAlester, who is coming up for parole next spring, in May, 2004. Keep him in prayer during this time that the parole board will show him favor.
For: Marcos Zavala, who is at the Montfort Unit in Lubbuck, Texas. He has been experiencing pain in his leg and hip area and he isn't sure what is causing it yet. Pray for his healing.
For: Katy Rogers of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, who lost a leg during an accident. Pray that therapy may help her get complete use of her prostatic leg.
For: Robert Crowder at Taylorville, Illinois, who asks that we pray for his daughter, that she will find Jesus and that she will soften her heart and make contact with him.
For: Michael Kinley at OSP in McAlester. He goes up for parole in December of this year and is asking the parole board to parole him from one sentence to another. He needs for us to agree in prayer with him that his request will be granted.
For: Anthony Grayson at Fallsburg, New York. Anthony is seeking habeas corpus relief in the federal courts and wants us to pray that he will receive some type of relief through these efforts.
For: Kim Tardiff at Laconia, New Hampshire. Pray that her Aunt will soften her heart and allow Kim to see her three daughters. Pray that Kim stays free from the use of drugs; and pray for her Uncle who has hepatitis B & C. He is very sick and needs to find the Lord.
For: Steve and Judy Oakley here in Prairie Grove, friends of our's for over 30 years..........Judy is having Chemotherapy treatment for Leukemia and has to go back for more treatments later this month.
For: Tony Collier at Dixon, Illinois. Pray for his friend, Amy's health.
For: Calvin Huddleston who is incarcerated in Illinois. He got a bad case of "food poisoning," we think, and had to be admitted to a hospital. It was pretty serious for a while but he's doing better now. He needs prayer for a complete recovery.
For: Danny Brandon at the Florida State Prison. He needs encouragement. I personally ask each of you to pray that God will bring someone into Danny's life down there who can teach him and that he'll have someone he can fellowship with. Also, pray that God will deal with Danny's anger issue ( and Danny, don't get mad when you read this).
For: Sister Ann and all the sisters in Little Rock, who love you more than you'll ever know. They pray daily, without ceasing, for those of you incarcerated.
And please remember to pray for all of us here on Baca Mountain as we try to go on. Our hearts will always ache, but ask God to help us better understand His will in all things.
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