I hate to say it but sadly one of the greatest obstacle to the spread of the gospel is the church itself. It shouldn’t be. Indeed the church should be the instrument to the spread of the gospel. In one sense it has done this well. What began as a small Jewish community who followed Jeshua has a become bigger than the Beatles, Justin Bieber and One Direction. Yet sadly it is also a major obstacle to the spread of the gospel. Think about all the problems that Paul had. It wasn’t just from unbelievers. It was also from the church. The Corinthians gave Paul a real ear full. It was the same with the Galatian church. And in Titus 1:10,11 Paul tells Titus that the leaders have to rebuke some people in the church (I suppose one could question whether they are actually part of the church) harshly because they are upsetting whole households by their weird teachings. And when you look at the churches in Revelation 2,3 – it’s a woeful picture.
Unfortunately a lot of people sadly still don’t get it. They are surprised when the leadership can be a real $&&&$&&^$)*&)&% when it comes to gospel ministry. They think the church, especially it’s leadership should all be wonderful people like Paul or Peter or even Jesus. But sadly it’s not. One day it will but until that day comes (Rev 21) the church is like a spoilt brat and sadly that’s church.
Why is it like this? For a number of reasons
- The church is still a community of sinners, which by definition means they are selfish, self centred. Many times people are more in love with the world than with Jesus, investing in the things of the world rather than in the world to come, having weird and wacky ideas about Jesus plus tonnes of other things.
- The church is still growing up meaning there are going to be a lot of childish tantrums along the way until they reach manhood (1 Cor 3:1-3)
- There is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes (Eph 6:10-12)
- The devil has taken some captives (2 Tim 2:25,26)
- There are false brothers (Acts 20:29,30; 2 Cor 11:13-15, 26)
- There is sin (1 Coe 3:3)
All this, and so much more, when put together is a sure recipe for a ministry in hell. (Ok maybe not as bad as it can get). For this reason the one thing I keep drumming into everyone is that if you want to do ministry, if you want to serve as a pastor in a church you’ve got to know that you’re training to serve in hell. When you join the SAS you’re not training how to ride a surf board on the beaches of Waikiki. You’re training to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and places like this.
When people want to go into the ministry they need to know they are fighting against the world, against sin and against Satan, all of which are trying, by hook or by crook, to take down the church. Remember what Jesus said about the church
“18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18, NIV.
Leaving aside all the Catholic mumbo jumbo about Apostolic Succession etc, Jesus makes a telling point. Like the Armies of Mordor trying to storm the walls of Helm’s Deep. so the bible reminds us that all the forces of the evil one has not only enslaved the world, they are also constantly battering against the walls of the church. And if they can’t smash the walls, they’ll infiltrate the ranks of God’s people trying to destroy the church from within.
Being a pastor is not like surfing the beaches of Waikiki. It going all out in Afghanistan and the pastor is usually the one in the sniper’s crosshair.
This is not to say we shouldn’t do it. It only means we need to be realistic about what we’re doing. God has given to the church pastors and teachers to equip the saints for works of ministry in order to grow the church (Eph 4:11-16). The church is like a baby that needs to grow up. God, in his kindness and wisdom, has given such leaders to proclaim his word and to work towards presenting her church perfect in Christ. It is not an overnight thing. It is a life long process of battling against sin, satan and everything else.
We need more and more pastors but the context of their ministry is going to be hard, if not hellish. And it will be like this until the Lord Jesus returns.
Having said this, despite all the battle scars it is still the most brilliant job in the world.