“Altar Calls”

An excerpt from Gail Raynor’s soon-to-be published book, Altar Egos. 

In today’s day and age, how a person is to lead God’s people has become a bit blurry. There are different leadership models across churches that address structure and authority levels. Some believe in the Senior Pastor Model, others hold to an Elder-run Model, and still others believe that a Congregational approach is most fitting. Within each of these frameworks, there will always arise leaders or key influencers who largely shape the culture of the church as well as drive the vision. These influencers tend to be evangelists, teachers, prophets, worship leaders and authors. Most times however, it is the pastor that has the most influence. Right or wrong, these are the people who have the most visibility and therefore become the representatives of a particular ministry. Whatever your view, there should be a consistent standard of how those with influence over other believers should conduct themselves. How much power should we allow these people to have over our lives and how much should they wield over us?

Many letters were written to the early church instructing leaders on how they were to behave. These letters address different issues such as pastoral care, worship, cultural norms and the qualifications and conduct of leaders. We often draw on these letters to provide guidance for when we are choosing future leaders.

However, long before the apostles were writing to the church, God gave a clear mandate on how leaders and followers should behave. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 reads, ”When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”

God in his grace, made concessions for the people. He even chose the king from among their own. He allowed them to stay the course of their action, but in his mercy, gave them guidelines that would govern their choices

Let us set a king over us like all the nations…

God and the prophet Samuel were upset not only because the people wanted an earthly king but that they wanted one like the other nations. This is such a tragedy because Israel had always been God’s chosen people and yet, they wanted to be like everyone else and blend in among the other nations. We too are a chosen, peculiar people (some more peculiar than others) that have direct access to God. Why should we want to be like the world? What the people failed to understand was that the kings of these other nations were often harsh and tyrannical. None of us in our right mind would want to replace our democratic government with a dictatorship. This would be a severe limitation to our freedoms. God knew that their choice of king would lead to a restriction in their freedom. He later warns them what the result of their choice would be. This king would take the best of everything they owned  – their livestock, their sons, their daughters, their wealth and use it for his own pleasure. The law and rule of man is a heavy yoke, but the law of the Lord brings life, freedom and refreshment to the soul.

What happens when the church willingly tries to govern themselves the way the world does? Church has become big business today and as a result, many Christians think churches should be run like businesses. A consumer mentality has crept into some churches today as pastors ask themselves, “What is the best way to cater to unbelievers?” as if they are consumers of a product that we must sell. Many people strategize on ways to  “do church” in the 21st century as if the way Jesus set out isn’t effective any longer.  We must never forget that Jesus gave us instruction on how to build His church. It was true then and it is still true today. Christ never told us to synthesize or blend in with the culture. In fact, He told us quite the opposite. He said we would be hated and rejected because of our devotion to Him, but He told us not to fear because He would be with us, just as God was with the children of Israel.

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