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Viruses in the Church

Viruses

   The flu season comes and goes.  This year it was reported that even if you had received the flu shot there was a strain you could still get that the vaccination would not protect you from.  Even when a Christian prays, studies God’s word, and strives to serve Him it is still easy to fall prey to the viruses of the devil.  There are many different strains such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Churches are also susceptible to sickness in their local body.

 

     Three viruses churches need to be inoculated against are Celebrity, Consumerism, and Competiveness.  They are very cunning and can slip up on us before we even realize.  Because of the culture and society we live in they can be hard to diagnose.  Sometimes we are carriers of the virus and do not even realize we have been infected.  Here are eight excellent questions from church planter Brandon Cox for churches at a life and death cultural crossroads:

 

  •  Are we really all about Jesus? Is He the head? Does He have preeminence? Are we clear with people that it is to Jesus, and not to a consumer-oriented experience that we are inviting them? Attraction is good. Jesus was attractive. But are we honest about to Whom we are inviting people?
  • Will we hold tightly to our historical, biblical theology? Will biblical inerrancy, which has survived a tough struggle in some circles, continue to thrive among evangelical leaders? Will we be faithful to the word of Him who is the one and only Way, Truth, and Life?
  • Will we place our need to control, which is based on fear, on the altar as a sacrifice and begin to rely on the Holy Spirit? Will we trust His under-shepherds without the red tape of boards, committees, and votes? Will we listen to Hebrews 13:17?
  • Will we embrace people from other cultures and backgrounds? Will we finally put to death the idea of the “white church,” “black church,” “hispanic church,” etc.? Can we value our cultural heritage without the competitive idea that my culture is better than your culture?
  • Will we create a safe place for people to deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups in the light of the gospel? Can we ever assure people that we won’t use their past against them and handcuff them to their shame?
  • Can we grow up and get over our demand for our own preferences to be met? Will we be able to adapt our communication to the language of humanity instead of church-ese? Will we welcome newcomers with love and wisdom, and listen and learn from them rather than leaving the responsibility of adaptation to them?
  • Will we make prayer and submission to God the priority over polished productions and performances?
  • Will we take risks, spend money, change names, re-constitute, re-launch, help the new church plant down the street, and venture into new mission fields by faith rather than remaining safe and comfortable? Not all of these apply to everyone, of course, but will we take the necessary risks?

 

     The virus of Celebrity can only be contained with a humble spirit.  James is very clear that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Here is good vaccination from Howard Hendricks, “When God measures a man he puts the tape around the heart, not the head.”  Shawn Lovejoy in his book The Measure of Success says offers this advice, “Too many of us are simply climbing ladders that don’t matter.”

 

     The second virus of Consumerism can blindside us and rob of us of all our spiritual power and energy.  David Platt challenges churches to inoculate themselves by realizing that, “A materialistic world will not be won to Christ by a materialistic church.”  Eric Geiger warns us that, “We cannot confront idolatry on a deep level if our systems are reinforcing consumerism.”  Remember, Jesus said that when we decide to follow Him, we must deny ourselves!

 

     Lastly, the virus of Competiveness needs a good injection of cooperation.  The Christian musical artist Lecrae puts it this way, “Stop comparing yourself to others.  You have your own race to run.  Finish well.”  Jeff Christopherson in Kingdom Matrix says, “Individualism is much too self-centered of an aspiration to be fanned by a Kingdom Source.”

 

Developing a Prayer Strategy

Prayer

     God’s word is very clear that we are to be a people of prayer and our churches should be a house of prayer.  The battle we are in is a spiritual battle and when Paul tells us to put on the armor of God he says in Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”  Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle!

 

     When we strive to advance the kingdom of God there will be resistance because the devil is not going to release the ground he controls without a fight.  However, the devil does have difficulty making progress when we speak in Jesus’ name, when we use the word of God, and when we are praying with a positive attitude and spirit.  There are a lot of things Christians are praying against but who are you praying for, who are you asking God to enable to win the spiritual conflict they are in right now?

 

     Do you have a prayer team?  Have you developed a strategy where people are praying regularly, faithfully, and fervently for one another?  Are you praying daily for the leadership of your church?  Are you using the P5 Prayer calendars to pray for a missionary family somewhere around the world, every single day?   We get together to sing, we love to fellowship, but how often do we get together to pray fervently for someone or some specific region of the world?

 

     Henry and Norman Blackaby’s book Called and Accountable has six chapters designed to help you discover your place in God’s eternal purpose.  The six chapters are: Why Does God Call Us?, What Is A Call?, Who Are the Called?, How Am I Called?, When Am I Called?, and How Do I Live Out The Call?  Chapter 1 ends with a wonderful story about how prayer can make a difference in carrying God’s call because of the power of prayer.  Here is that story:  

 

     “Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 in Dresden, Germany, into one of the noblest families of Europe.  As a young adult, Nicholas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he saw the painting by Domenico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man).  The painting depicted Christ with a crown of thorns on His head and the legend, “All this have I done for you.  What are you doing for Me?”  The face of Christ in the painting never left Zinzendorf’s heart, and Christ’s love became the compelling force of his life.

 

     The love Zinzendorf felt for his Savior expressed itself in his love for other believers, especially through a small group of approximately 300 Moravians whom he allowed to establish a church on his estate at Herrnhut in 1722.  He helped the Moravians develop a deep passion for their Savior and helped them to live out Christ’s command to love one another.

 

     Zinzendorf’s love for Christ was also expressed through his life of prayer.  He spent countless hours in communion with his Savior and sought to lead others to commit to a life of prayer.  His example led the Moravian believers to begin a powerful prayer movement they called “hourly intercession.”  They prayed in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the work of Christ around the world.  This “hourly intercession” went on uninterrupted for more than 100 years!

 

     The desire Zinzendorf had to reach those who did not know his Savior was another manifestation of his passion for Jesus.  By 1752, The Moravian Church at Herrnhut had sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant church had done in 200 years.  Before long, they had three members on the missions field for every one at their church in Herrnhut.  All of this was accomplished by men and women with little formal and theological education, but with a burning passion for the Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

     Zinzendorf’s life was a labor of love for his Savior, who had done so much for him and a lost and dying world.”