Stepping out in Faith and into Spiritual Growth

Stepping out in faith

Dear First time caller:

A few preliminaries out of the way, we move to the heart of your inquiry.

Discovering Growth

I have horrible instincts when it comes to knowing what He’s trying to say to me.

Many IFB and ex-IFBs feel this way. Yesterday’s post addresses the IFB pastor’s investment in membership self-flagellating.

But where you say you ‘have horrible instincts’ for discerning the Spirit’s voice, I see an insatiable thirst for knowledge. And for your questions and timidity, you’re better at this than you guess. You ask how you can learn to read Scripture with new eyes. What you don’t see is that your own post largely answers own question. Here is what I see in your post.

  • You strongly desire to read the Scriptures through new eyes.
  • You know that the Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures.
  • You are open to the possibility that God gives us new wine.

If you are seeking the starting point discerning the Spirit’s leading in the Scripture, I can offer no better council. But I also see how you interact with Scripture from your emotional life. Look at the words you use:

cautious, skeptical [a little], scary [a little].
much more gentle, love to read it, refreshing.

That, First time caller, is the stuff of which growth is made. It requires that we ‘step out in faith.’ And yes, that can be at least mildly scary. Yet we are not called to avoid dangers but to face them relying on the word and Spirit. Willingness to explore and test ideas is why the Bereans [the ones in Acts 17:10-11] were commended. A favorite text of mine:

‘We take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ [2Co 10:5].

Spiritual curiosity disciplined with Biblical-shaped caution is a wonderful gift, and it is a gift is much needed in the church. It is here that the church does some of her best theological work.

Even if somewhat scary, you’ve already made an huge step of faith with respect to how you ‘read’ Ph 2:12. In the process, you’ve touched something extremely important, with deep ramifications, and which is profoundly beautiful. It is also relevant to your inquiry as to HOW to read the Scriptures. It is also revealing of who you are as God’s image. But I’ll take up this in tomorrow’s post.

Blessings!

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

This post is a reply to an inquiry from a reader.


Hedging your Flock

IFB pastors assure us that other churches don’t ‘preach it’ as they do. How they know that isn’t 100 % clear since they’re in their own pulpit Sunday mornings. But most fundies aren’t that deep. And why would IBF pastors want it otherwise?

Openly defaming other pastors and churches, reminding us that many other preachers get this wrong, telling us how tricky this passage is, or warning of the importance to be under faithful preaching, IFB pastors have many means to teach hearers to distrust their spiritual and biblical instincts. There are stories of shipwrecked faith and spiritual seduction.

The picture of a dark, scary world freshly impressed on their minds, IFB congregations are now thoroughly prepped to lean heavily on the superior wisdom of the IFB pastor. Ignore the other voices and perspectives. They are the winds and waves Peter ought to have ignored outside the boat.

Things to Note

There is some truth in this. Not all preaching is equal [and some IFB preaching is very unequal]. Christians are well advised to hear better preaching than not. Spiritual dangers do exist [including IFB sects].

If no real, spiritual dangers existed, no credible case could be made for hedging the flock. So how does one distinguish IFB pastoral efforts at manipulation from the call to grow into genuine maturity where our spiritual instincts develop as God would have them?

Nurturing Dependence

Answering this question begins with understanding why IFB pastors do what IFB pastors do.

IFB pastors may speak of ‘guarding the flock of God,’ or of their charge to ‘protect’ sheep entrusted them. And those tasks are mandated. But often, their concern is not to ‘guard’ or ‘protect’ sheep, but to guard and protect their standing in the flock that pays the pastor’s salary. Controlling and insecure pastors isolate and insulate followers from other believers as a means of job security. And the easiest way to do it is to invalidate the faith commitments of other pastors, churches and faith traditions.

Fear is extremely debilitating for believers. But that weakened condition is very empowering for IFB pastors. Why would they want it otherwise?

Nurturing Empowerment

There is a another way to approach this question, and it is this: healthy churches/pastors/faith_traditions develop parishioners’ spiritual and biblical instincts. Instead of keeping members pastor-dependent, every effort is made to liberate and empower the laity for ministry.

When believers want to develop their spiritual instincts, leaders in healthy churches do not tremble. They rejoice. This is not a thing to be avoided. Church leaders delight to assist them in this development.

To be continued…