The Future Face of the North American Church, part 5

Posted: March 24, 2010 in On Being Apostolic
Tags: , , ,

Compassionate.  The future face of the North American Apostolic movement is definitely more compassionate than in her current configuration.  Or perhaps I should say that I hope she’s more compassionate than she is in my corner of the Apostolic world.  And I freely admit that there’s a whole lot more to the Apostolic movement than what happens in my world, though most UPC ministers may be loathe to admit it.  So, perhaps the worldwide Apostolic body (of which I know little) is actually very compassionate…but my view in North America suggests otherwise.

Here’s what I mean…

When a minister is paid a six-figure salary by the church yet is unmoved by the needs of the unemployed in his assembly, there is a lack of compassion.  (The six-figure thing?  Yes, it happens more than you might think.)  When a minister drives a car costing more than the average annual salary of people in his or her church, yet members of that church can’t afford medical care, there is a lack of compassion.  When a minister owns multiple homes yet members of that church cannot afford decent housing for their families, there is a lack of compassion.  When a minister wears $500 boots while working class families in that church are struggling to put shoes on the children’s feet, there is a lack of compassion.

I’ve been amazed at the conservative political and economic jargon that begins to burble from the lips of apostolic clergymen when these things are pointed out to them.  It’s strange how their default position is based in political and economic theory, and not the Bible. It’s as if the very idea that ministering to the material needs of their disadvantaged members would corrupt the Protestant work ethic and bring the whole capitalist economic system tumbling down.  Shades of Venezuela!

I know, I know…we’re afraid of creating a “welfare mentality”.  I’ve heard a lot about that over the years, and I’m still not quite sure what it means…but I think it means that by helping certain people occasionally with their material needs we’ll create an expectation that we’ll always help them with their material needs.  They’ll grow used to “handouts”, and will expect to always receive them rather than take responsibility for the situation themselves.  Pardon me for being doubtful, but I’d like to meet the minister who’d actually given so much to a saint in need that it created a “welfare mentality” in that person.

Before you log off, all righteously angry and what-not, let me assuage your feelings by saying that I’m not advocating some form of ecclesiastical systemic overhaul that caps ministerial salaries and results in a world-wide poverty reduction program.  No, no…nothing nearly so grand or ambitious as that.  No pipe dreams here.

I’m advocating compassion.  More specifically, I’m advocating compassion as a work of the Holy Spirit.

You can’t get around it in the Book of Acts.  It’s there in Acts 2, sandwiched between “continuing steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine” and “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”  Its right there…right there between miracles and meeting daily in the Temple.  If you don’t believe me, read Acts 2:42-47 for yourself.  There is it is!  In plain English!  In plain sight!

“All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another.  They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed.”  (Acts 2:44-45 GNB)

It’s so plain that I’m not even sure what to say after that.  There’s simply nothing to add.  When the early church received the Holy Spirit, they were made compassionate.  And in their Spirit-motivated compassion they took action to minister to the material needs of their brothers and sisters.

How can we jump over it, sidle around it, or look heavenward, arms crossed, foot tapping, and while placing those verses on ‘ignore’?  How can we call ourselves “Apostolic” while assiduously convincing ourselves and others that such demonstrations were cultural, and limited to the Jerusalem church?  Dear God!  That’s the very form or reasoning that evangelicals use to deny Spirit baptism and demonstration!  It’s the “we don’t have it and we don’t want it so it’s not necessary or important” line of thought.  Who ever would have guessed that Apostolics would resort to such spurious explanations?

I find it telling that when people chose to be hypocritical in Acts, they didn’t fake tongues.  They didn’t fake miracles.  They didn’t fake prophetic utterance.  They faked compassion. That’s right.  Compassion.  Ananias and Sapphira faked compassion.  That tells you how significant practical compassion was in the early church.  It was so significant that when hypocrisy arose, it arose around compassion.

Spirit-led compassion must be restored in order for us to be truly apostolic.  And the future church in North America will be compassionate.

At least, that’s what I think.

  1. Proxymoron says:

    If all your predictions regarding the future face of the NA church come true (and I hope they do), I think this will be the last one to come in. This might well be the toughest change for many. At least that’s what I think! 😉

  2. I think it will happen, Proxy. But I also think that the restored apostolic church will be smaller than the current movement…far smaller.

  3. Rodger says:

    Loved this article and I’m so pleased you visited my blog – I’m not nearly as polished as you, and I’m grateful you even took the time to read and comment on my article. Your article got my creative and inspirational juices flowing. I feel the “makings” of a new sermon in my spiritual and mental “kitchen!”

    • Thanks for your kind words, Rodger. Just don’t expect a warm reception to your ideas about compassion if you preach them…especially if you really believe that Spirit-motivated compassion will stir practical action. But it the Word of God after all. Keep writing! And keep reading.

  4. Rodger says:

    Again – I appreciated this article so much. Refreshing and insightful – thanks.

    This entire walk with God is predicated on SACRIFICE. If Christ was willing to lay down HIS life for us, while we were yet sinners, then how are we expected to offer less? I’m not talking about crucifying ourselves, but I am referring to Apostle Paul’s statement, “And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” Why would John the Baptist say, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” The precursor to powerful moves of Jesus on this earth were “moves” of compassion – He healed the sick, he raised the dead, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind. But what moved Christ? Compassion.

    I’m going to pose the rhetorical question, “If we as ministers/pastors/preachers/teachers of the Gospel, were first moved with compassion, What miracles would we see manifest in our ministries?”

    Could compassion be the key that unlocks our lethargic, lifeless, mundane ministry? Could it be we’re weary in well-doing? Could it be we’ve lost sight of our purpose? Has our success chiseled away at your significance?

    I’ll close with the words of Jesus –

    “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:34 – 40

    • Those verses in Matthew pretty much sum it up, don’t they? Apostolics often try to give them spiritual application so as to avoid the bothersome and somewhat socially “liberal” business of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and clothing the poor.

      Rodger, why not subscribe to the blog? That way you’re notified of any new posts that go up.

      • Rodger says:

        …as ye have DONE it. DONE requires DOING. It goes against the grain of Apostolics (and I am one) to own up to the idea we’re required to do anything other than speak in tongues and be baptized in Jesus Name, but this is work; it requires a “doing” on our part. The WORK we’re called to is the harvest. We have to plant and water, but God give the increase! What we “do” with the increase is what we will be judged on. Some people call these “works of righteousness” and are quick to point out, we’re not saved by works. But, we are known by our fruits, and we show our faith by our works, because…faith without works is dead.

        I gotta stop – I’m preaching here brother! I might have to spring off your post here and get to blogging about this. My kids are future Aposotlics, and we’re in jeopardy of raising “entitlement” minded young people. We didn’t dig those ditches for them to fill ’em again with dirt!

        Now you know why the subtitle of my blog is called “Rodger’s Rants…”

        God Bless you and I bless you!

      • Passion is an essential component of compassion. I’m glad that you feel these things to be important. We know their significance in Scripture, but that knowledge must touch our hearts.

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