Every few years, I feel obliged to read through the Old Testament, and each time I seem to find many things afresh. I have been reading through Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
The pattern repeats itself over and over
1) Kings of both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel lead them away from true worship of God, or at least refuses to get rid of the high places
2) God judges
3) Back to step 1
Is is a very broken pattern. But, we must remember the original problem that led the Israelites down this path. God never desired for the people to be spiritually led by a King. His desire was to have them directly follow him.
Today, nothing has changed. Church attenders cry out for spiritual leaders. They say “If only I could find a pastor like ____”. “If only our current pastor was like ____”. “If only we could find a pastor who would set a vision for our church.” “If only we could find a pastor who was true to the word”
Just like the leadership model for the Israelites was broken, being in the evangelical wilderness is accepting that the leadership model in the evangelical church is broken. Instead of searching for a spiritual King to lead us to to the promised land, we must travel the path without a strong leader. Instead of depending upon a leader to guide us down the path, we must travel the path alongside other Saints. Instead of searching for a church with a strong King, we search for a church where saints throughout the church are valued for spiritual help and guidance.
This is the fundamental problem with just visiting different churches. Most people’s natural inclination with this approach is to be attracted to the church with the strongest leader. Instead, we must search out and find a church in own neighborhood. We must find a local church, not based on strong leadership, but based on a strong and deep group of lay leaders and servants.
This approach is challenging, and these kinds of churches cannot be discovered by visiting a church service. It can only be found by getting to know the people and understanding the leadership structure. We must think of it as a long dating and a long engagement before we finally get married. First, date a church, then get involved but only on the periphery. If the church has a council, try to meet the members. Attend some small groups for a season.
In the past year we have attended a new members class, met the church council, read the business meeting minutes, studied the budget, and have become involved in a weekday small group. The small group has had dinner in our home, and the pastor has visited our home. Yet, we still haven’t joined the church. Many wonder why, but we are tired of quick dates, short engagements, and short marriages. This time we want to get married for good.