As a student of the Living Word, a faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a seeker of Truth, I, Dan, write this to the people of the Church in my community. Whether you attend casually, serve in the church at any level, or shepherd over any part of the Body, may the grace and peace of our Lord be on you and your family.
I thank God for you and the role you’ve played in my life. You’ve been a friend, an encouragement, a mentor, and a blessing in times of need. God has used you in amazing ways, not only for me, for many others in the Church body. And I pray that you continue to experience the richness of God in your life as you continue to carry out the mission of the Gospel of Christ.
It is because of your faithfulness to the Gospel that I have hope and confidence in the future of the Church.
Today, my heart is grieving, and I lament the unjust breaking of a local expression of the Body of Christ. And it seemed important to me to bring everything back to what I believe to be the heart of God as revealed in the written Word. It’s certainly not a heart of division, manipulation, and selfish pride and control. Rather it is a heart of justice, righteousness, and humility. We have a mission to carry the Gospel into all the world and to be known by the Love we share for one another.
the heart of justice
Justice has two elements. One is about doing what’s right. The other is about making right the wrongs that have been committed. It can be seen in big things like fighting against human trafficking, bringing healing to the victims and consequences to the criminals who force people into modern slavery. It can also be seen in little things like giving a glass of water to the thirsty. Our Lord Jesus taught us that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for him (Matthew 25:35-45). So no matter how big or how small, this is justice.
In the local church, justice can be seen when the body of Christ reaches out into the community with the spirit of love and of hope and of healing. Just like when a church steps out to minister to and pray with their local police department during a time when many are unjustly treated for the evil acts of a few. Being a voice of encouragement lifts the souls of people who desperately need it. It also looks like stepping up to speak against racism in our communities and making the statement that all men are created equal and should be treated as such.
The church should be a beacon of justice in our local communities. That’s how the world knows we are different. We have a responsibility to fight for justice.
Also in the local church, injustice can be seen when half-truths and manipulation are used to convince others that they are acting in the best interest of people. Releasing a leader from a position because you disagree with how it impacts you personally, and without any moral or ethical failure from that leader, is unjust. When the character of a God-ordained leader is wrongfully questioned, and the man is painted as a threat to the livelihood of the local Church, then injustice is happening.
Remaining silent when injustice happens is also unjust. Silence implies agreement. And the heartbeat of God is to do justice. To right the wrongs. And that is why we must speak out when it happens, no matter the personal cost.
the heart of righteousness
The word in Hebrew for righteousness is also often translated as kindness or mercy. So righteousness is not about having an attitude of being right. It’s about pouring Love into people and their situations. It’s about approaching them with understanding, not judgment.
However, when self-righteousness becomes your focus, then questions people ask of you become offensive. And that self-righteousness reveals a Jezebel spirit that intends to lead people astray and/or creates rifts in the Church. It uses cunning and deception to influence people and position themselves as the hero you should be following.
One thing I’ve learned along the way is that it’s not about you (or me). It should never be about you. When people come to you with a differing opinion and vision, your position should not be one of taking offense (if it is, then you need to, “let it go, monkey”). Rather you should strive to understand. You listen to the heart of the person who has a call from God on their life to fulfill the mission of the Gospel. If there is disagreement, then you respond with mercy and find a path forward, together.
Loving righteousness is about seeking and pursuing that kindness and mercy with everything you have. Just like with a spouse, sometimes it’s not easy work. But there couldn’t be a more important work that you can do to preserve the relationship. Having a self-righteous spirit in any kind of relationship will destroy it, and hurt others who are anywhere near the fallout.
So pursuing these things means that you take the high road when you don’t agree. Drop the offense, and seek the best path forward for everyone.
the heart of humility
The heart of humility is maybe one of the most fundamental elements you can pursue. Without this, everything else crumbles. And the opposite of humility is pride.
The prophet Isaiah has a stern warning against pride. He says (in Isaiah 2:12)…
The Lord Almighty has a day in store
for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
When leaders justify their actions by making statements like, “What about my calling,” then they are speaking out of a prideful spirit. In a situation where someone is asked to step aside to allow others to rise up into their calling, but you refuse and use your power to remove the threat to your position, then you are among the proud and lofty who Isaiah says will be humbled.
The heart of the Lord is that we would walk humbly with Him. It’s His journey that we’re on, not our own. We have liberty and value in the eyes of the Lord, but that’s not something we put on ourselves. Ministry is always intended to be passed on from one generation to the next. If you fail to pass it on, then you’re failing the whole intent of raising up the Church as it was always intended.
Humility is hard. I get that. It may mean that you’ll have to put your desires aside. And that’s not an easy thing to do. But the reward in it is that you put yourself in a position to see the incredible work that God can do through others you’ve helped raise up (if, in fact, you have sown those seeds to raise up that next generation of leaders).
The prophet Micah shares incredible insight into the heartbeat of God (Micah 6:6-8). During a time when the Law instructs people to offer certain sacrifices for their sins, Micah shares that God doesn’t even really care about that. He continues by explaining the true heart and desire of God, which is to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
To behave otherwise is not only irresponsible to the people around you, but it steps away from the heart of the Lord our God. And it deeply saddens me to see leaders who say they are following God’s plan when the evidence only shows they are serving their own self-interests.
In the end, I have no doubt that God will accomplish His mission through the people He has called to impact their community. He always does. And my heart is that we all would do what it right to see God’s plan accomplished. There is a role for each of us. And division only works against that.
So may we be led by the Spirit of Truth. May we stand up for what is right and against what isn’t. Let us pursue kindness and mercy, and do the hard work of getting His work done together. And Lord, help us to be humble in our walk with you as we pursue the calling and the role that you’ve given us.
May His amazing grace be with you.
Since this was written initially due to a specific situation in the church I’m a member of, I wanted to follow up regarding what happened next. In a move that we all thought only God could do, we experienced the restoration of our pastor due to a change in the hearts of our elders. They showed humility and mercy at levels I aspire to. Each of them listened to the heart of God and individually came to the conclusion that they needed to make this right (justice).
I share this not to boast that one side “won” over the other. It was never about that. But to show that it is possible to see church strife work out when the hearts of men and women humble themselves, seek direction from the heart of God, and display a willingness to change.
So if you’re in a church that’s going through something similar (as the emails I’ve gotten have indicated), please be encouraged. Pray fervently for the seemingly impossible and trust God that He can bring reconciliation and healing no matter how bad the circumstance may seem. Don’t seek for one side to win, seek for all sides to win and for God to be glorified. He can make it happen. God is still on the Throne.
Here’s the Facebook post I shared the night we believe we witnessed an incredible move of God’s Spirit…
That's my pastor! #restoredTonight I witnessed God move in a big way. I saw men of God humble themselves and change…
I’m humbled and blessed by the actions of ALL of our leadership. These are some great men and women of God, and the legacy they’re creating in our church body is a big one. If God can move like this in our body, I’m excited to see what He’s going to do through us in our community.
Be blessed, my friends! And praise God!