Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Scary Faith

One of the things I've been reflecting on over the last several days is how wonderful it is to not only be free in Christ, but to trust Him enough to exercise that freedom. I wrote this to someone this morning, and thought I'd share it here:

And you know, if there was never anything there [in Every Nation] that appealed to me, and not just in the flesh either, I wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. I mean, in a society full of sin, corruption, and uncertainty, it can be really comforting to have the security of committed, accountability/discipleship relationships, to have authority and structure, to even have someone lay hands on you once in a while and tell you about your great destiny, to think that maybe you can be a leader and change the world for the better. It's a whole lot scarier to put your faith in God and God alone, even though He never fails us.

I don't know if scary is the right word, because I know that Scripturally fear is the antithesis of faith. However, it's really easy to get driven by fear into finding security wherever one can find it, rather than holding fast to faith in the Lord - and that security can sometimes be found in churches that believe that the way to faith in Christ is by putting faith in men who claim to act in Christ's stead as his "delegated authority" on earth, whether it's intentionally or not.

I was absolutely terrified when I left Morning Star/Every Nation. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was the right thing, as led by the Lord Himself. Though leaving that security is terrifying. I mean, most people don't think they'll ever be faced with a decision to choose following Jesus on the one hand, and the institutional church on the other. Most people think that they're one and the same. I thought they were one and the same. And through this process the Lord has given me a much larger view of His body the Church, of His will, of the workings of the Holy Spirit, than I imagined possible. I still see through a glass darkly and will until He calls me home and I see Him face to face, but at least I'm learning how not to confuse the glass with Jesus Himself. I also found that the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of leading us into truth, and keeping me "accountable." (That's His job, by the way.) By the power of the Holy Spirit, I don't want to sin, and when I do, He sure lets me know. I don't need a discipler, a small group, even weekly church services to keep following Christ. In fact, I learned that if you do, then perhaps there is something wrong. I don't need those things, instead I need Him, and He lives in me in the Person of the Holy Spirit Who indwells all believers. Now I am active in a church (and that was scary too - a lot of people coming out of discipling/shepherding movements have a difficult time with finding new churches), do attend a small fellowship, all those things. But I no longer feel obligated to someone else - it's because I want to learn more about the Lord, walk a closer walk with the Lord, and want to fellowship with others who want the same. I don't think, hmm, what if so-in-so calls me today and asks me accountability questions? Oh, no, I need to call so-and-so and ask accountability questions! Did I read my Bible, did I memorize verses, did I do my homework, did I spend x amount of time in prayer?

We're getting ready to do our taxes. I remember not so long ago when I would go into Microsoft Money and analyze our tithing and giving to make sure that our tithe was at least 10%, and giving was in excess of that, and would wonder in the very back of my mind if this really was in line with "cheerful giving" as we recited every week before the offering, or was closer to, "if you try to keep any part of the law, you are doomed to keep all of it." It became more and more obligatory, even though we started out as cheerful givers wanting to be obedient to the Lord.

Well, I need to say that this past year, we did not "tithe" to our church as in the brick and mortar institution. It was a healthy amount, I certainly don't want my pastor living in poverty, but we weren't continually keeping track of whether it was a "tithe" throughout the year either. BUT, I also have no clue how much we gave in general to those in need. Family members, non-family members, ministries, etc. Not just money either, but also things like the guitar we just gave to our current church's worship leader in part because he didn't have a decent guitar, and at 19 doesn't have a whole lot of income coming in to buy a decent guitar, but more importantly because God led us to. The Lord put that on my heart and, I thought, "no way, my husband will kill me, it was a gift!!!" and without our otherwise talking about it, an hour or so later my husband asked, "What do you think about giving xxxx your guitar?"

And maybe I should also count all "this" stuff, my research and "ministry" if you want to call what I've been called to do a "ministry." I don't raise a dime, don't ask for anything, it's all out of my own pocket. If someone wants an article or a CD or whatever, I just send it. I have no clue how much I've spent in ordering materials, books, CDs, documents, postage, subscriptions. So not all of our "giving" is documented, and so not all of it can be written off on our taxes, but based on what I do know we gave and spent it has to be at least what we used to give percentage-wise if not more. I don't say this at all to toot my own horn, in fact I feel kind of funny saying all this because our giving should be in secret (Matthew 6:3-5), but I say this merely to show how the Lord can lead believers through the Holy Spirit's leading to simply give where it is needed.

And we've been blessed. Our income went up quite a bit this year too, for the first time in several years... we didn't realize how much at first because we gave a lot of it away. We did notice that paying bills was overall a lot less stressful this year, and we've paid a bunch of stuff off, but our lifestyle otherwise isn't any different. The biggest thing we did for ourselves is buy a new-to-us car because the other cars are ancient and we felt uncomfortable driving either one further than around town. (Even though it didn't cost a huge amount, it's kind of a mid-life crisis type car, so it's not like we're total ascetics here. It's not quite a toy, but imho it's the most fun one can have on 30-35 MPG.) The most wonderful thing about all this is because it was so free, so led by God, so... cheerful. And we didn't sit through a single sermon on giving, on robbing God, anything like that. I think the pastor mentioned giving in passing once or twice.

Galatians 5:1 reads, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. I can't tell you how many "freedom" songs I used to sing in my old church. But now my heart sings, it rejoices, in freedom in Christ. The apostle Paul continues (Ephesians 5:2-6; emphases mine),

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


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