Daniel 3:13-18, ESV
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
I have been a part of many discussions about the nature of the universal church. Many people find themselves at a significant crossroads regarding addressing their faith, progressive methodology, and framing an informed theology. Many people that I have encountered have become withdrawn from the church. They are not sick of Jesus. No, no, no. They have become tired of the non-profit organization. Truthfully, I understand the sentiment. Many of you that will read this may not admit it, but you have become disconnected from it as well.
What do you mean, preacher?
The church has become synonymous with many negative connotations. I am not going to dive to far into the those particular issues at the moment. Many of the problems have their own specific nuances. However, the organization known as the church has demonstrated many attributes that they happen to speak out against.
The church speaks to equality, yet we still have debates about women in ministry. The church talks about having more youth in the movement, but it despises methodology that reaches younger generations. The church speaks to God as Creator, but it neglects to promote innovation from the created. Therefore, many conventions, state and national organization, and other entities reflect the one attribute of Christ that should only be left with Christ–being the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The rebellion that many feel in their hearts is addressing a way to return back to a genuine authentic approach to experiencing the presence of God; developing strategies that empower the people of God; and reaching the least, last, maligned, and disenfranchised for the Kingdom of God.
When I was reading the scripture displayed above, I was looking at the text for a message in the future. However, God brought my attention to a unique concept that we don’t talk about. In the scripture, we see the imposition of a type of worship on the people. The people were forced according to the rule of law to worship an image of a leader who thought he was God.
Three men that were employed by the government that imposed this decree refused to sell out. They were ostracized for it. They were punished according to the anger and angst of the establishment. Yet, God showed up for them in the midst of man made exile and rejection. It was only after the horrible reaction that the establishment acknowledged the validity of the stance of those three Jewish brothers.
I grew up as a convention kid. It was the one time that I could hook up with my friends from around the state and talk about everything that didn’t have anything to do with Jesus. (Oh you thought we just talked about the Lord? LOL) Many of us developed friendships and associations that have lasted 20 or 30 years at this point.
We can remember times when we first caught on fire. Many of us began preaching in our teens. We were learning the challenges of navigating adolescence while committing our ways to the Lord. We are still here. We were told that we were the future. We were sold a bill of goods that our association and innovation would be important to the future of the various organizations and connections we made.
Now that we are at the point where many of us have done our due diligence to prepare and show ourselves approved (studied, preached, taught, gone to seminary, obtained degrees, gained experience, etc) the institutions that helped us don’t want our help unless it is at the cost of worshiping the idol of organization. Jesus did not die for that bull!
Many progressive thinkers across many different generations have offered many solutions to this ever growing problem, yet the answers have been ignored. The rejection of freshness has only bred more opportunities for fractures, splits, and new movements that might be incomplete. More options do not necessary mean better. Yet, we must begin to heed the thought that people will go out on their own willing to die for what is right than settle for the dying establishment worship at the feet of yesteryear.
Since I know that people will ask for suggestions or solutions, I offer four.
- Find an organization that speaks to your growth, development, and creativity. Nobody should find themselves lying dormant in the same hamster wheel forever. Be with like minded individuals who want to see the Kingdom of God grow, people loved and enhanced, and where fellowship is not based on title and pretense.
- Refuse to bow to the same old idol. If you know something is inherently wrong with the direction and purpose of an organization, make up in your mind to challenge the status quo with the foundation of the Church–the well exegeted Word of God. Bring the leadership back to the Word. Get people up off the law and do what is right according to God. The Scripture has unveiled more demonic and dysfunctional mess than any other tool. It is useful to keep the focus on Christ rather than our foolish and selfish ambitions.
- Renounce and cast out the demon of intimidation. I should never have an issue with people who have varied gifts and skills. I should never feel so small that I can not learn from others. At the same time, I should never become so petty that I worry if someone takes my spot. The beauty of serving God is that many gifts have been given to the body (remember Ephesians 4). Diversification of gifts, talents, and personalities provide a fresh perspective to ministry and execution of the works of God.
- Remember that you should not “rep your set”. That is not Kingdom. Ultimately, people could care less about your denominational affiliation if your Christ mindset is off center. You and I have an obligation to represent Christ in the most complete manner possible. We are responsible for making sure our walk and talk reflect Christ more than our way desired way of life (if it is outside of God’s plan).
When I decided to take the invitation of my United Methodist brothers and sisters to explore possible opportunity to minister, I said to myself simply that we will see what God will do. I was still pursuing opportunity in the Baptist denomination that groomed me. Yet my experience, training, prayers, academics, and living witness as a believer was not enough. What do you mean? The moment I heard someone say that I didn’t look like a pastor was the moment the Lord fully delivered me from demon of pretentiousness.
Who wants to be associated with anyone that will limit a person’s witness and ministry to clothes and vestments. My mission became crystal clear–go where God will send me. It is for this reason that I will never tell anyone wrestling with the same old nonsense to settle. God did not call you to settle for synthetic high of three days of decent whooping. God called you with a mandate to shift the culture and change lives through the transformative power of God. Anything less will make you a snitch for the idol or prostrate before the powerless image. Try something new. Be the church of the Living God.