Beware of “Samson” Community Church

6 06 2013

He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Judges 16:20

Pride goes before destruction,
    a haughty spirit before a fall.  Proverbs 16:18

It’s an awesome thing, being used by God to further His work in this world.  I am sure you would agree that the empowerment by God to accomplish things bigger and greater than anything we could do on our own is a true blessing.  That is true for individuals and it is true for churches as well.  The problem, of course, with being gifted and blessed is that it can start to go to our heads and we can lose site of any sense of humility.  We can grow so accustomed to the giftedness and blessing, we can forget where it comes from and whose bidding it is for.  That, it seems to me, was Samson’s problem.

Strong ArmBy pretty much anyone’s standards, Samson “had it going on”.  Having taken the Nazarite vows and having committed himself to God’s service, he was empowered with almost super-hero-like abilities.  He became a powerful leader among God’s people and actually served as one of Israel’s more famous leaders (one of the “judges”) for some twenty years.  What was his “super power”?  Uncommon strength.  That giftedness propelled him to great acclaim among the people.

But Samson had a lifelong struggle with self-control and instant gratification.  He had, it seems, a virtually unquenchable appetite for pleasing himself, even if it meant being disobedient to God or to his Nazarite vows.  He worshiped God.  He loved God.  He had great faith in God.  He was remembered by the writer of Hebrews as one of the heroes of the faith in God’s story (Hebrews 11).  But he was seriously flawed with regard to his self-absorbed attitude and notions of entitlement.  And there were consequences to that attitude…dire ones in the end.

With great giftedness and blessings come great responsibility and humility.  That was a reality which seems to have often escaped Samson.  I see it in particularly gifted churches as well.  When a church becomes the popular place to be and enjoys season after season of growth and esteem, and as it becomes more and more effective in its efforts to impact the world around it, its people (and dare I say its leadership) can get a little prideful or even haughty.  I’ve seen churches who were particularly blessed act a little bullet-proof.  I think we are all capable of treating our “successful” church as there to satisfy MY immediate needs and comfort as opposed to humbly thanking God for this season of blessing and turning it all outward to help others.

In short, Samson’s story paints an ugly picture of what arrogance and entitlement look like, even in one of the heroes of God’s story.  I wonder which of our churches today are painting similar pictures in God’s eyes?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Truth, Knowledge, and the Arrogance with Which We Hold Them

21 02 2012

Tuesday Re-mix - 

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12

I have no idea what mirrors looked like back when Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth. But I’m certain they weren’t as good then as they are now. I rather suspect that the image in the reflection was pretty poor, maybe like looking at your reflection on the back of a silver spoon. However their mirrors worked then, one thing is clear: Paul is telling us that our state of “knowing” spiritual things is pretty poor on this side of Heaven.

For me, this is a truth which keeps me humble, especially when I am discussing theology or scriptural interpretations or even more general matters of God. Whatever it is I think I know, however certain I think I am, I must hold even that certainty with a healthy dose of humility. And when I lose that humility, I lose my ability to influence those who might disagree with me.

I sometimes think that we in the evangelical church have convinced ourselves that our job is to persuade. We act as though the gospel, despite its inherent power, somehow needs our polished communication skills and persuasive abilities in order to carry the day. We act as though it is our responsibility to appear so certain in our beliefs that even the strongest atheist will fall to his knees and surrender to God as a result of our argumentative prowess.

In that instance, then, humility is seen as weakness. Humility does not win arguments, and it does not crush your opponent with unassailable logic. Humility in my understanding of God will never sweep anyone off their feet as a result of my presentation. So, as long as it is up to me to persuade people to follow Christ, I really cannot afford to sound anything other than absolutely certain in my position. There is no room for humility, or even gentleness, for that matter.

But the irony is, the very source of all the truth tells me that, for now, I see only as through a poor reflection in a very old mirror. So when I “preach” at people with all that certainty and unswerving pride, not only do I come across to them as arrogant, but I betray my own “truth” by acting as though I see perfectly clearly, thank you very much.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that nothing is knowable, that we cannot be truly certain of anything at all. I am just saying that, even in our certainty, there must be humility…there must be a level of lowliness as opposed to a haughtiness and a need to persuade.

Believe me when I say this…the gospel does not need my persuasive abilities or your polished presentation. It never has. But what WILL make a difference is a people so filled with God’s Spirit that their humility is astounding to everyone around them. That humility, coupled with the truth of the gospel, will change this world.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Let’s Get Over Ourselves

11 10 2011

Tuesday Re-mix -

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature
God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature
of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8

Arrogance is just ugly.

Whoever you are and whatever your message may be and however important that message is to me, if you deliver it with arrogance, I will not hear it.  It really is that simple…that cut and dried.  Maybe it is just me, I honestly do not know, but arrogance just so rubs me the wrong way that (despite my best efforts) I simply cannot get past it to hear the message behind it.

My bet with this blog post is that I am not alone in this perspective.

To me, there are just not very many character flaws uglier than arrogance.  I say that with a touch of self-deprecation, because I know with certainty that I am capable of this particular flaw myself.  I really, really hate it when it comes out in me, because I believe it is so very ugly when I see it in anyone else.

The more I read and listen to people outside the church about why they are not interested in being inside the church, when you start cutting through to the essence of their complaints, when you boil them all down, they mostly seem to come down to arrogance on the part of the church in one form or another.  But the interesting thing is, I don’t think we (the church) are all that in touch with our own arrogance.  So here are some areas of  “latent arrogance” on our part…arrogance to which we may be blind but which is very real to the outside world:

1.  Theologians, We: Do you believe it is possible to have a right theology and a wrong heart?  Indeed, my theology can be perfect, i.e., my interpretation of scripture can be right on the money without my having even the slightest evidence of the Spirit of God living in me.  I see it here in the blogosphere all the time…people chiming in to theological debates with such venom and vitrious, it makes me (the lawyer) blush!  Part of the problem here is that we forget the Biblical truth that “for now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”.  We hold our theology as if we see everything perfectly clearly, thank you very much.  How can we believe we see all Spiritual truth perfectly clearly when our best source of Spiritual truth tells us that, in fact, we see it all pretty dimly for now?  For more on this issue, I love this post from Donald Miller.

2.  Insiders, We: I recently posted here on the problem of having our own “denominational vocabulary” and how that tends to disconnect us from those outside our church.  The first time I published that post, a particularly insightful comment (thank you, David!) reminded me that we are never in more danger of being arrogant than when we are feeling like an “insider” in any organization or institution, particularly including the church.  Like Peter, who was in the exclusive “inner circle” of apostles who got to see the Transfiguration, we run the risk of thinking we are something when we are not, and a humiliating correction is probably in our near future!

3.  Moralists, We: Granted, there are obviously plenty of social issues upon which even Christians do not agree, but we do agree on an awful lot, assuming a Biblical worldview.  What baffles me is that we somehow expect the rest of the world to see these issues the same way we do, and when they do not, we (arrogantly) decide they are just ignorant heathens, devoid of any redemptive value.  What’s more, we then rail against them and boycott them unless they relent and agree to act like Christians.  Frankly, some of our camps spend more time and energy trying to get non-Christians to act like Christians than we spend trying to get our own brothers/sisters to act like Christians.  Here are some important words from Paul to the Corinthian church who was dealing with moral issues of its own: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” I Corinthians 5:12-13.  Judging those outside the church is, well, arrogance.

I could go on and on, but we’re already way too long for this post.  But seriously, friends, can we just get over ourselves in these regards and begin earnestly seeking the mind of Christ in our attitudes toward others?  Oh, what a difference that might make in the world!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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