Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Same God - New Covenant: Speaking to the Church

This is for all you teachers and preachers out there. Please consider this if you ever speak to a group of 5 or more.

There is a flaw in the thinking of those of us who live in the New Covenant times. (That would be all of you reading this.) The flaw is that we still see God in an Old Covenant relationship with his people – his Church.

In the Old Covenant, (before Jesus came) God related to Israel, for the most part, as a whole – as one nation. They were given the law as a whole, they were told to fast and pray on the same days, they were told to feast and party on the same days and they were all given exactly the same prescription for how they were to conduct themselves. He was the God of Israel. We do see him deal with individual people but even most of the time in dealing with the individual it was for the nation.

Now we spring into the New Covenant times. Jesus comes and starts to deal with people – one on one. How many times in the New Testament do we see him speaking to a single person? He does speak to crowds but sometimes actually makes it confusing for the crowd and then explains it to the smaller groups or individuals. Then he dies and ascends and then we have the Holy Spirit that indwells each individual person.

So now we have the same God as the Old Testament but the playing field is drastically changed. One author likens this to a man who is single, now finding himself married - he is the same man in both instances but now the rules of conduct are vastly changed.

The problem that I see in public speaking, whether it is from a pulpit, a TV screen, a book or a teaching tape is this: The speaker assumes that the message they have to speak is for EVERYONE listening. They view the Church like God treated Israel in the Old Testament.

Here are some of the statements made that I have heard or read recently that show this mindset:
God wants to heal you today. (all of you?)
I relate to my child this way, and you must follow exactly what I do. (but what if they are totally different temperaments?)
God wants you all to be owners of your business instead of working for someone else. (But what if I am not geared to be a business owner – what if I hate to do all the things that that requires – or what if I want to spend time with my family instead?)
If you put out a fleece like Gideon did, you are showing a lack of faith. (Give Gideon a break, he was about to take a very small army against a huge one…wouldn’t you want to make sure you did not mistake what you thought was God for bad pizza the night before? – What about the fact that God understands my level of faith and is not irritated that I ask for confirmation?
You must make a covenant with God over your city. (Really? What if I can barely keep up with my toddlers and new baby right now? Do I have to do that too?)
It is never ok to borrow money. (Never?)
A stay-at-home dad is never right. (and you know this how? What if my family is more important than me working two jobs when my wife can work one and she loves it?)

(Please feel free to add to my list!)


Do you see how the old mindset creeps in? The old mindset says that God intends the same thing for everyone at the same time. How in the world can you stand up in front of 100 people and tell them, in detail, how they are supposed to live, work, treat their children, run their business, or eat? (please don’t misunderstand me – I am not talking of the central truths that say we must show the fruit of the spirit in dealing with people or the central truths of who God is – I’m talking about those who would say that we need to spank a child at every act of willfulness or those who say that you need to only eat the Daniel diet to be truly well or that God ALWAYS does things a certain way)

When you call a fast for your church do you make sure that you address the pregnant moms and the guy going through chemotherapy? When you plan your many meetings do you account for the man who is already working 50 hours a week? And how about the lady in the wheelchair that has had the “God wants to heal you today” spoken over her hundreds of times? Does God want all of us wealthy today? Do each one of us need to step out in radical faith this week? Is everyone called to be at the conference you have planned this week or they will miss God?

Please, I beg of you. When speaking to more people than you can actually know, individually, what is going on in their lives or when speaking to more people in a setting where they cannot ask questions on the spot of how your words impact their lives, please don’t make sweeping proclamations. Please don’t assume that God is saying the same things to all of them at the same time.

He is an individual God. His timing is always right. His words always pierce our heart.

Your words may just be making it much harder for your listeners to live and walk with this amazing, individual God that we have. You may be heaping bundles of bondage on them that they were never meant to carry. Please don’t do this to the people that God has allowed you to speak to.

11 comments:

Maria said...

Barb,

Excellent point. Your post reminded me of a season when we were attending a small midweek service at our old church. There was always a message, and then there was an opportunity to receive prayer in response, and because it was fairly small, there was lots of time spent. I was in a season when I was receiving quite a bit from that. Anyway, the picture I had was that most of the time preachers are scattering seed -- just throwing it out over the congregation, and a lot of it landed under the seats and in the aisles, etc. But this was more like taking seeds and planting them individually, watering them and tamping down the soil over them. It's easy to do the scatter shot thing. It takes a lot more time and patience to nurture seeds in hearts that are ready to respond. There's probably a place for both, but if we aren't getting some of the latter, the former is going to feel like being hit with a pellet gun after a while.

Barb said...

Maria, I think this is why we become so numb in our traditional services. There are so many sermons that we have to take in and then perform something in our lives to show we were listening but that were really not for our lives then or maybe never that we start blocking them out. It makes us hard of hearing for the things that we need spoken to us. I like your scattered seed analogy.

Katherine Gunn said...

Barb, very good. I have emailed this one...

Erin said...

Beautiful, Barb. I've never seen it put so well, and the comparisons between the OT and NT. It sure seems to me we should be taught how to seek God for ourselves.

Joel B. said...

Wow... really great stuff! This is one reason why I think there are probably a lot more "pastors" in the church than the church really realizes, and how the role of pastor isn't nearly as huge as the church makes it out to be. What I'm saying is, among the body of Christ, there are probably many who are called in the role of 'pastor,' but in a much smaller and intimate context than an entire congregation, and they are perhaps not even called to 'pastor' the same group of people for more than a short period in which they're serving to help a small amount of people grow right where they're at.

(I may be very wrong about this... but my overall point is that one person cannot possibly know the needs of a large group of people, and can't possibly serve in the way that many pastors and leaders try to serve today, except in a very general sense. It's up to smaller groups of people (with or without someone called 'pastor') to minister to one another in ways in which all are able to share their hearts).

Your blog, for example, or my blog, or anyone's blog, may be sometimes oriented in specific ways to specific people who can relate to the specific issues, but a lot of the time it's very general stuff.

On a different note, sort of off from what you were saying overall, but what I thought as I began to read the first couple of paragraphs: I think many people don't realize that prior to the Cross, Jesus was actually often ministering to people in an Old Covenant context. I believe that much of what He said to people, whether in groups or individually, was not for the Christian church (that was yet to come), but was a lead up to the Cross, and Jesus indeed was "born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law..." (Gal 4:4), and His teachings were often 'law' or 'Old Covenant' teachigs. The Law and the Old Covenant had a purpose that led to the Cross, but it all made way for the Resurrection and the beginning of a brand New Covenant. Most of what we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John still takes place in Old Covenant times. :)

Anyway, I personally believe that the perception that all that Jesus said was for Christians misses the mark, and doesn't take into account the full purpose of all that Jesus fulfilled, and I'm wondering if that's not one reason (of many) for a lot of wrong teaching in the church.

Rich said...

Barb,

I so LOVED this thank you!

I was sharing some of what you shared here with my wife today as we were listening to a recent pod cast by Darin Hufford (Into the Wild) dealing with 'traditions.'
I saw in what he was sharing, it so tied in with what Father had put upon your heart.

Barb said...

Thank you all for your comments, again they are better than the post.

Joel, I have heard from other authors the thing about how to interpret what Jesus said as he was still speaking in the Old Covenant. I have never heard that until just recently. I would like to read more about it. All I know right now is that Jesus himself said that he came to show us what the Father was like. It helps me to look at the Old Testament passages and see them through who Jesus was.

Rich, the "other author" that I mentioned was Darrin Hufford. He gets so much credit to this new way of seeing my life as well as Wayne Jacobsen. Most of what I am chewing on and seeing has come from reading these two men. I look at all my new experiences through the lenses of Grace that they have provided me.

Joel B. said...

Hi Barb,

There are several scriptures that came together in my mind over a period of time that led me to the view that I wrote about here. I realize it's not what is generally taught in churches, so I understand if you or anyone has a hard time with it or is interested in it but yet not quite sure about it.

I hope you don't mind me sharing some of what I've looked at that has led me to all of this. As you say, Jesus showed us what the Father is like. If you think about it, the Father is multifaceted. Some examples - the Father spoke a promise to Abraham and fulfilled it. The Father made it rain for forty days and forty nights and flooded the earth, but had Noah build an ark and kept the human race alive. And... the Father gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

When we look at each of the things God has done, there is a purpose behind all of it. When it comes to God giving the Law, Romans and Galatians show us the true purpose of it all. It was to stop mouths and make the world guilty before God (Rom 3:19), and it was to lead people to Christ (Gal 3:24-25).

When I realized what Galatians 3 said, that the law was a tutor to lead people to Christ, I began to understand why Jesus spoke "law" to people such as the rich young ruler and a few other people. I began to see that He was leading them to the end of themselves, and hopefully to Himself. In a big way, the law must do its work in order to lead people to the Messiah.

All that to say, I believe that before the cross, Jesus ministered under the law/Old Covenant for these purposes, and at the same time He also did preach the good news to certain people. I think we always need to look at who Jesus was talking to, which covenant is being represented in the teaching, and what the overall point is. I don't think it's all black and white.

I'm not asking you to subscribe to anything I've said here, but I thought I'd explain myself, and maybe it will make sense. Maybe not. :) I've written about it in a bit more detail in the past. If interested, one of my posts is here.

Old Pete said...

I love the way in which Rich linked to this and Darin's podcast on Traditions.

I have been on an amazing journey over the last three years (and I'm now 73). It's some time since I visited this site, and I recognise several of the contributors whose blogs I visited earlier.

I am not by nature a student but it was about ten years ago that I began to explore the meaning of 'church' or the 'ecclesia'. I subsequently found a definition of 'Christendom' by an Anabaptist writer that made interesting reading. I subsequently wrote an article entitled, "What is Theology and how much do we need?"

I realise that these are difficult questions for anyone who has ever been involved with leadership within a church.

I've reached a point where I'm wondering where to start.

I've introduced myself in the appropriate place.

Barb said...

Old Pete, I think I remember you blog too from a while ago. Welcome back and thanks for the contribution!

Anonymous said...

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