Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin,and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:28,29 NIV)
And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. (2 Corinthians 11:28,29 MSG)
Paul was a missionary and his mission was to plant churches. Wherever he went he planted churches and only in rare instances did he remain in one place for an extended period. Planting a church is a little like giving birth to a child. We’ve been part of two church plants and in both cases, we began with a group of people who were already followers of Jesus. I can’t imagine doing what Paul did. He went into a town, preached the gospel, made disciples, and soon after left to go to the next town. His trust in God was amazing. He trusted the Holy Spirit to do the work of leading and growing the congregation that he had planted.
Paul was determined to plant churches everywhere, so he was constantly on the move, except when in prison. He trusted God to provide leadership and direction for these new churches. He loved them as his own children and when they were under attack he took it personally. I can’t imagine the love and commitment that must have existed for Paul to persevere through everything he describes in this passage. The attack that threatens them is important to pay attention to.
Given the culture in Corinth temptations were everywhere outside the church. Idolatry and sexual immorality of every sort were common and expected. That isn’t the attack that gives Paul cause for concern. His concern is men who come into the church with strong and confident voices leading people to work their way to be saved or dive into sin to maximize grace. It is very difficult to avoid these extremes. It is also difficult for us to avoid falling for a deceptive message from someone who proclaims it clearly and with confidence. Paul’s struggle against these false teachers continues today, it just takes a slightly different form.
I’m not saying that every minister who has a large ministry and puts his or her messages on the Internet is attempting to lead us astray. I am saying we need to be cautious. We also need to be aware that these ministers do not know the people they are talking to. Pray for your minister today. Pray that God will give him a deep understanding of your need as a church and the courage to speak to that need clearly and directly.
The church is important. A group of people who are committed to God and each other are the body of Christ in their community. The church is God’s plan A for reaching the world with the love of Jesus. As God’s plan A it is constantly under threat from Satan. As our minister pointed out yesterday, anyone who follows Jesus will have enemies. We should not expect life as a follower of Jesus to be easy, either as individuals or as a church.
To my grandchildren:
Pray for your church and its leaders. Learn to follow your leaders so you can one day be a leader yourself.