We act like slaves! Yes, it’s true. Many of us do not lead, have lost our prophetic edge, do not lean on spiritual gifts and instead follow recycled “old school” thinking. Traditions and our church templates are comfortable and accepted and staying inside those walls seems best. It makes sense but there’s no faith in that. Of course it’s far less risky than stepping out like revivalists of old did, scorned and persecuted because they dared to love Jesus enough to risk it all just to have one authentic encounter with God. You see, we think we’re free, but we act like inmates who can’t leave their captivity because it’s all we have ever known.
Look around you. In the body of Christ, we have become so conditioned by our “institutionalized” confinement that no one questions it. Our slavery mindset keeps us slaves. We’re inward, wanting people to come into the church, rather than being known as a church who sends most out. Who needs someone to put a ring in our nose to lead us around, we gladly put it in ourselves. We have a generational slave mentality according to Danny Silk, Bethel Church, Redding. He asked last year at Leaders’ Advance, a conference for ministry leaders, “How many generations have gone on without revival as normal? What expectations develop after 100s of years of poverty thinking? What Silk was getting at was to point out that we are conditioned to let others lead us and as a consequence, we have lost our way, our identity and our ability to rise up and be leaders ourselves. We are in need of nothing. All our needs are supposed to be met at the local church. After all, the world is a big place. Everything moves so fast and you might do something wrong without someone else covering you.
Poverty thinking is passed on from one generation to the next and knowing this, God picked Moses to be left adrift in basket down a river only to be rescued by the sister of the future king. Moses did not have a poverty mindset. He was raised by kings and outside that generational slave mindset so he could deliver his people from generations of slave thinking. Modern thinking like, a “good” Christian falls in line, a “good” Christian doesn’t question, doesn’t miss church, always does what everyone else does, tithes, serves, is loyal, etc. are all examples of the accepted believer’s protocol. Here’s the secret. Leadership thinking is passed on that way too but it’s not modeled or mentored nearly as much as falling into line is. What’s lacking is fathers to help raise people up to put them on a path to security in the faith. Paul demonstrated that in his book to the Hebrews in chapter 5:12 when he wrote, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” If no one has any experience or is never given the opportunity to lead, many times he will by default be a follower. Sadly, church resembles less kingdom principles and is more like silos of individual groups and cliques of believers. As Graham Cooke said, “We really aren’t growing the kingdom much, we’re just attracting somebody else’s kippers.”
So what is our problem? I think the bottom line is we’re addicted to structure to such a degree that there’s no room for the spontaneity of God and thus spiritual gifts are met with great suspicion. Spiritual people are inherently distrusted. Even our most prophetic people practically follow any teaching, as long as it’s wrapped in prophecy. We follow calendars for when and what we ought to pray instead of following God in the moment – and we think that’s God. In fact, we don’t study it or even question it because we trust the source. This is how Calvinism started. John Calvin believed in God but he had the strange idea that the spiritual gifts were no longer for today. He believed they died out with the apostles. Ask a Calvinist where scripture teaches such a thing in the word of God and you get vague references mostly taken out of context.
When we follow God, he will give you his desires, not someone else’s. Pouring new wine into old wine skins no more works than pouring old wine into new wine skins. Neither works. In everything, and it doesn’t matter who’s teaching it, if we bring our own agendas to the works of God, we’re pouring old wine into new wine skins. We keep the institutional teachings going. We keep people in chains rather than set them free. Setting people free to meet and find God on their own individual terms is essential if we ever hope to discover what our identity is in Christ. Do we need limits. Of course! But our shepherd leaders should be modeling pasture principles instead of prison principles, that let people explore God rather than being confined and limited to their personal views so we’re not like Calvin, raising disciples of ourselves rather than disciples of Christ.
In closing, I want to show you a clip. I do hope you’ll watch it. It lasts 4 minutes and comes from the movie, Shawshank Redemption. This is the brief story of Brooks. In the movie, Brooks has been in prison for 49 years – so long that he’s become institutionalized. He’s deathly afraid to have his freedom. In fact, he’d rather stay and die in prison because it’s all he knows and all he wants to know. I feel like Brooks personifies the body of Christ. It takes more faith to walk in a pasture where the only fence that surrounds your movements is so far off in the distance you can’t even see it. After a while, chains are simpler. Take Elizabeth Smart, the Mormon girl abducted from her home at night and made into a teenage bride to some deviant with a messianic complex. Elizabeth was so confined and controlled for nearly a year that her captor brazenly t00o her out in public. Even her eventual rescue happened at a public park when police approached her group rather than her going to them. They suspected she might be Elizabeth Smart and not sure, it took coaxing by one on-the-ball officer who was able to get Elizabeth to reveal that fact to them.
I share this not suggest that we’re held captive by the church, as much as to suggest that we choose our own captivity. The solution is simple. We need fathers and we need open handed leadership that does not treat people like they’re commodities, who quite frankly, often demonstrate little faith in God to guide and protect believers without their help. We need believers who hear God and believers who follow God themselves more than they follow someone else’s teachings who happen to hear God. And we need a church that doesn’t treat spiritual gifts like the plague to the 21st century. Have our churches become so secular now that our followers are suspicious of spiritual gifts to such a degree that they won’t trust anyone who operates in them? If true, it’s sad fact of our own religiosity.
The way out of religion is easy. God told you how to do it. He said YOU should, “Ask, and it will be given to YOU; seek, and YOU will find; knock, and it will be opened to YOU,” Matt 7:7. The way to God is not through your pastor. He told YOU to do it and would not tell us that if he didn’t have every intention of answering us. So what are you waiting for? Go find your identity in God. Find your assignment. Ask, seek and knock – and then become what God wants you to be rather than Brooks, at the end of our own worldly rope with no faith, no life and no hope in God.