LIGHT OF THE WORLD MISSIONS
P.O. Box 37451
Honolulu, Hawaii 96837
Ph. No. (808) 845-4162
SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AND MATURITY - PART I
Some members have asked, "What should I teach at our home meetings?" "We need some outlines on basic doctrines of Christianity." After pondering over the question, I have decided: (1) we've had many teachings on foundational truths and now is the time for each member to move forward and do his/her own research [that's part of the training]; (2) we need to move forward into spiritual maturity; and (3) we are running out of time.
Each member of Light of the World Missions is in the spotlight, like it or not and know it or not. We have just made a major paradigm shift from conventional church into house churches. The emphasis on a pastor running everything has changed into every member being responsible for his house group, whether he/she is a leader or just a member.
You now have opportunity and a platform from which to grow into spiritual maturity. You're running out of time.
Our biggest need right now is to have the proper vision and attitudes. The question is whether you will respond to God's training and commands. Will you submit and obey? Will you pursue perfection in Christ?
You need to do works of faith in order to progress upward in spiritual growth. You cannot afford to ignore what God is doing in our church at this point in time.
We have chosen to look at spiritual maturity in terms of what God desires and not what man covets and admires. As the Lord has told me a number of times, "Do not preach for results; preach to obey Me." While growth in numbers is important, it is only a measure of your willingness to obey God by evangelizing. There are other important considerations. We start off with having proper attitudes and learning submission and obedience to God.
CHURCH GROWTH IS NOT THE SAME AS SPIRITUAL GROWTH
There are all kinds of books on spiritual leadership and church organization and operation. There are piles of books on how to grow your church. Someone told me that a friend who attended seminary informed him that maybe ninety percent of the subjects had something to do with church organization and how to operate a church. Very little was focused on spiritual growth.
The size of the church or home group rarely reflects the level of spiritual attainment in individual members. One can have a large church and all spiritual babies. In Isaiah 3, God says, “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.” Is. 3:4. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” Is. 3:12. It is so true today. Mega churches are mostly filled with spiritual babes, led by leaders that have no spiritual understanding or power. They give lots of beautiful, inspiring, soaring rhetoric and sometimes funny sermons, but there is no spiritual power. There may be lots of secular power, wealth and fame, but few signs and wonders and demonstration of power by the Holy Ghost. That is the condition of the church wherever you go in the world today. As Jeremiah, the prophet, said, "For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace." Jer. 8:11. No doubt, secular wisdom can help a little but falls far short of where the early church was and where God wants His end-time church to be.
On the other hand, the first apostles moved by signs and wonders and the demonstration of power by the Holy Ghost. That's where I am headed and you are headed and that is one of our goals. The Bible says that there will be two (groups of) witnesses that will testify with power from God and they will bear testimony for three-and-one-half years at the outset of tribulation. Rev. 11:3-6. God wants to prepare us for the greatest revival of all time. You can't just teach basics; you need to challenge yourself and move on into spiritual maturity. At your home meetings, cast out devils, heal the sick and battle against Satan's kingdom. We have not been called to be spiritual babes and children. We are called to be a mighty army of God.
Spiritual maturity will be imperative at the end of the age. Only the mature in Christ will make it through. Rev. 12. Many Christians will fall to deception and renounce Jesus Christ. 2 Th. 2:3. Satan's beast will war against the saints and overcome them. Rev. 13:6; Da. 7:21, 25. Only the spiritually mature in Christ will be able to hold on to their faith and make it through. Therefore, it is vital that all of us grow into spiritual maturity as fast as we can. Our survival will depend on it. It is the will of God.
It is mostly a matter of proper attitude of mind and heart. One of the most important reasons for having house churches is to grow the saints. The purpose of a house church is to train you. You cannot grow into spiritual maturity if you think that you are doing leadership and the members a favor by opening a house church. The truth is, the members of the church are training the leaders and not the other way around. You need to lead a house church or be an active member of one in order to train yourself. Even as a wife is the best trainer of a husband and vice versa, the best way to mature is to be part of an active house church. Marriage may be a battleground for many, but it is also a training ground. Same with house churches.
A long time ago, I learned that the fastest way to grow in knowledge and skill is to teach the subject. A swim coach has to read up on swimming, learn how to teach students the best way to move their arms and legs and time their breathing, and so forth. He becomes an expert because he is pushed to learn everything he can about swimming in order to be a credible teacher. You can't learn how to do things by just reading about it. The same thing is true with golf, or chess or soccer, or deliverance, or divine healing, or praying. You will find out quickly where you lack. You need to teach, lead and share the gospel. You can't advance spiritually just reading books and sitting on your hands. The doing part is the real and final step. The minute you step in the boxing ring with a live opponent who wants to knock you out, you will start learning how to fight. As the apostle Paul says, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:" 1 Co. 9:26. He knew that he had to run all out (verse 24) in order to win the race. He was certain of his goal - to win the crown of righteousness, and he didn't waste time sparring (beating the air). He stepped into the ring every day and took his lumps. He learned not from books, but through actual experience.
You too need to run all out. Only one wins the race or the crown. You have had much teaching and possess much knowledge. Now, you need to step in the ring. It doesn't matter how large or small your group is. Even if you have only two or three old-time members, you can still do deliverance, healing and so forth. Your small group can visit care homes, hospitals, neighborhoods, friends, family members, etc. House groups are places where you need to take charge and move forward spiritually. You can't just do the same old things you have done in the past.
Check your attitude towards serving others in the church. When you help do things for the church, you are doing it for yourself. God doesn’t need your help and the church doesn’t need your help. It is you that needs to serve the church and God, for your sake. You are the church and your spiritual well-being is at stake. Either you move on with God or you stagnate. Many are already in a state of stagnation. A swiftly moving river has power and eventually reaches its destination. A stagnant body of water stinks and goes nowhere. Which one are you?
It is like buying your kids gifts for their birthday or special occasions. Your children don’t need the gifts as much as you need to be a good parent. You do it for yourself. When we took our kids to Disneyland, we were clear that we were taking them in order to be good parents. They didn't need Disneyland. We did. God doesn't need your participation as a house group leader or member as much as you need it. House groups are for you to grow into spiritual maturity. Serving others blesses you more than the other people in the group. You will be blessed by God for your obedience, loyalty, diligence and love, manifested in your good works. The Bible talks about faithful servants, not faithful spectators. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Ja. 2:24, 26.
OUR QUEST FOR SPIRITUAL MATURITY
From the beginning, the choice was to have either a large church or a mature church. We found out that you can’t have both. Early on, we were on television and radio sporadically, but quickly found that it was not what God wanted. The people that sponsored us dried up and lost their television and radio shows and along with it our spots. We were asked to apply with Olelo for a spot on TV and/or radio. People volunteered to help us with the technical part of it and the programming, but we declined the offer. We were not after fame and notoriety. We were looking for faithful and obedient followers of Christ.
Most people don’t want to pay the price to become spiritually mature. As the Bible says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" Lk. 14:28. All they want to do is survive in this world and have a good life. They have no intention of allowing church to interfere with their good life. They will choose a church that fits their needs and not pressure them to change or risk anything much. They quit building towers. Entertainment and a feeling of acceptance and well-being are their prime criteria. In the end, they will perish.
Our church is much more mature than most, although it is small. Most of our members can pray, cast out devils, heal the sick, preach and pray in public and know the deeper things in the Bible. Leadership has strived to keep the doctrines of the church pure and in line with what the original apostles taught and did. Nevertheless, there is a level of maturity beyond which few have gone. Most hit the wall when it comes to letting go completely; that is, have a faith strong enough to trust God for everything.
In a real sense, spiritual growth is a personal thing between the individual and the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can teach you spiritual things. The church leadership can only point you in the right direction and guide you whenever needed. The cream will always rise to the top.
First and foremost is the desire to become spiritually mature and conformed unto the image of Jesus Christ at all cost, and to take personal responsibility for your walk. Without an all-consuming desire to be the best you can be in Christ, you will go no further than what your comfort zone allows. God will not accept our paltry excuses. He is pleased when someone makes the decision to go all the way with Him, seek truth in the inward parts and risk all for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Our goal is to produce spiritually mature Christians that will be able to stand upright at the end of the world, defeat Satan and his kingdom of darkness, bear the testimony of Jesus Christ in their bodies and be willing to give their lives for the kingdom of God. Rev. 12:11. We can teach how to defeat Satan with the blood of the Lamb, and expound doctrines. But we cannot force anyone to bear testimony that the Word dwells in them through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot put it in anyone's heart to willing lay their lives down in obedience to God.
LOVE AND OBEDIENCE
It is easy to talk about love and we Christians toss that word around a lot. But love is not easily understood by most. The closest English word to the Hebrew and Greek word for love is “benevolence.” Benevolence is “kindness, compassion, generosity, munificence, goodwill,” according to the dictionary. Andrew Murray edged a little closer when he defined love as “the desire for the very best for someone or something.” Most desire someone or something for selfish reasons. Of course, chastening, scourging and trials are often what is best for someone. Heb. 5-12. Only God knows.
Jesus said that if a man loves Him, he will obey His word or commandments. Therefore, submission and obedience are important measures of love. Jn. 14:23-24. Further, the Lord Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works that these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” Jn. 14:12. If doing the works of Jesus is the measure, most of us fail miserably. When was the last time you cast out devils, healed the sick and preached the gospel?
In John 14:23, Jesus says, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” Obey the Lord Jesus and the Father will love you too and both will live with you. You will dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. If you abide in Him, the devil cannot touch you. Ps. 91. Abiding in God and having God abide with you is not just something you pray for and receive automatically. It requires obedience.
Loving God is not the question, for we all love God. The question is – who do you love most? Most of the time, the true answer is that God comes only second or third best. We love ourselves and what belongs to us the most. Will we do the will of God or our own will? There can be no compromise.
Watchman Nee says that a personal revelation about obedience and submission is absolutely vital to truly serving God and becoming mature in Jesus Christ. Every Christian should have a direct confrontation with God or authority. Saul of Tarsus met power and authority head on when he was on his way to Damascus. Ac. 9:1-9, He was never the same again.
We who labor must be brought face to face with authority. Otherwise, we will be working under the rebellious principle of Satan.
Once a person meets absolute authority, everywhere he goes he sees authority. When he walks into a room, he immediately looks for who is the authority in the room. Then he submits to and obeys that authority. When a wife looks at her husband, she sees more than a man. She sees the authority of God in him. When a Christian goes to church, he or she sees the authority of God in the leaders and not just frail, mistake-prone humans.
One obeys the pastor not because of anything in him as a man, but because he bears the authority of God in him. Many Christians disobey church leaders because they do not understand authority and do not fear God. A pastor (not all) does not care if they obey him as a man; he cares that they obey him because by so doing, they submit to and obey God‘s authority. Whoever has met authority deals purely with authority and not with man. We do not obey man but God’s authority in that man. Pastors are human and they make mistakes, but it is God‘s job to deal with the pastor, not ours. Our job is to obey. As we practice obedience in the church and in the family, we grow into the image of Christ.
Many consider instructions and commands from the pastor as just an invitation or a suggestion. If they have time or it doesn't infringe upon their activities too much, they may consider obeying. It is a huge mistake. They may have to account for it one day. The obedient in heart will always look for ways to obey; the disobedient will always look for excuses not to comply. King Saul blamed the people for saving the best animals and for saving King Agag. 1 Sa. 15:20-21. At first glance, his actions seemed rational and well-intentioned, but he lost his kingdom because of it. Obedience to God is very precise and well-intentioned excuses will not impress God. I've had people tell me that they do not come to church meetings because the Bible says that parents must be responsible for their children and family and attending church sessions would be against this principle.
REBELLION VERSUS OBEDIENCE
Satan is not afraid of our preaching the Word of Christ; he is afraid of our being subject to the authority of Christ. Violating authorities is a principle of Satan. Sinning is a matter of conduct, but lawlessness is a matter of heart attitude. (Quoting Watchman Nee's book, Spiritual Authority, here and parts below.) Lawlessness is choosing to do your own thing.
The greatest of God’s demands on man is not for him to bear the cross, to serve, make offerings, or deny himself. The greatest demand is for him to obey. Because even in sacrifice [also, in bearing the cross, serving, making offerings or denying self] there can be the element of self-will. Obedience alone is absolutely honoring to God, for it alone takes God’s will as its center.
The biggest question in the universe is – who is the authority? Is it God, Satan or you. If it is God, we need to serve Him with all of our heart. If it is you, Satan is behind it.
All power and authority in the universe flow from the throne of God. Power is the exercise of authority, while authority is the very nature and essence of God. All authority comes from God. There is no other source of authority. Even Satan is limited by God's authority. That is why it is easier for God to forgive sins against His power than it is to forgive sins against His authority. Sins against His authority are called “rebellion.” God will punish rebellion more severely than sins against His power.
There cannot be a real kingdom without real submission and obedience. A king is only a figurehead if there are no loyal subjects that will obey his commands. For instance, in England the royal family has no real authority and power. They are only symbols. A leader may have authority and even power, but without people to submit and obey, he has no kingdom or church. Very often, a pastor is only a figurehead used by church members to operate and maintain a form of church convenient to their way of life. The members have a “church” they can identify with and go to whenever it fits their lifestyle, but they have no real intention to obey a serious leader. They may occasionally obey where it profits them or when they agree with the leader; but they will disobey when they do not agree or if it is inconvenient. They refuse to suffer unduly or take away too much from their good life in order to obey. Of course, many pastors have learned to operate successfully under such a system by catering to the desires and wants of the people. They have learned how to play the game.
Whether it is evangelism, family retreats, intercessory prayer sessions, Bible classes or pot luck affairs, the members pick and choose what they want to do. Therefore, church leaders are forced to persuade, charm, cajole, befriend, entertain, praise and beg whenever they want members to participate. Of course, pot luck, family retreats and movie nights are easier to promote and a good number will do so willingly. After all, it's all part of the fun. But when it comes to evangelism, intercessory prayer and fasting, it is like convincing people to pull out their teeth.
In most churches, Jesus is only a stage prop they can use to play church. Truth be told, God is not supreme and His will and authority are given only lip service by most Christians. "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." Mt. 15:8. They continue to do their own thing.
In Mt. 7:21-23, the Lord reprimands those who prophesy, cast out demons and do many mighty things in His name, when it did not originate from God. "Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity." God is looking for a people that will do His will and not theirs. They are hard to find, like a species about to become extinct. That is why the four beasts on the throne of God are full of eyes. Rev. 4:6-8; Eze. 22:30. They are looking for one man or one woman to stand in the gap. They find none. But do not be dismayed. Jesus stood in the gap and He lives in you and me. Rev. 4:6-7. If we learn to let Him have his way in our lives, He will stand in the gap again and again. Gal. 2:20.
There are two principles in the universe: the principle of God’s authority and the principle of [Adam’s] rebellion. We cannot serve God and simultaneously have a rebellious spirit. The principle of service must be authority.
Our conflict with Satan is the direct result of our attributing authority to God. We must maintain God’s authority by being subject to it with all our hearts.
THE LORD’S PRAYER IN GETHSAMANE
It is the highest prayer ("not my will, but yours be done") in which our Lord expresses His obedience to God’s authority. Our Lord obeys God’s authority first, more than sacrificing Himself on the cross. The Lord’s death is the highest expression of obedience to authority. Even the cross cannot be higher than God’s will. The Lord maintains God’s will more than His own Cross (His sacrifice). Is sacrifice better than obedience? No.
Next: Spiritual Leadership and Maturity, Part II