In this age of religious insularity and Christian personality cults we urgently need to develop balance says GLENN KAISER, senior pastor at Chicago's Jesus people USA and founder member of the Resurrection Band.

Glenn Kaiser
Glenn Kaiser

Christians or not, all of us suffer the malady of defensiveness - at least occasionally - when we are criticised. While we all understand the value of positive critique, how open are we to receive it? And from whom? How can we as individuals (AND local churches, streams, larger denominations) come into any sort of balance? In particular, balance of the sort the Bible exhorts us to walk in?

The word "balance" in biblical Hebrew typically means "a pair of scales", from a word that translates: "the idea of scales as if two ears; to weigh, ponder, give good heed." Pretty interesting, eh? I often quote 1 Corinthians 9:12: "We know in part" and "I know in part". Partial knowledge calls for study, respect for others' wisdom and knowledge and certainly learning from others' mistakes. The immature, insecure, or basically stubborn rarely place themselves in situations or relationships where such lessons are available. In truth, many only come to a place of genuine openness as a result of severe conditions they can no longer tolerate without assistance from someone else. May we in the family of God be ready to welcome them. For most of us WERE and at times ARE "them"!

Never has humankind had more media resources available in the interest of communication and information gathering. Communications via audio, video and print are offered in a multitude of modes right in our own homes, schools, city centres. Computers have furnished much of the world with incredible resources through which to gain intelligence quickly and thoroughly. This means more ways through which we are able to learn and network with mature believers. This promotes growth.

Personal devotions - Bible study and prayer - is absolutely primary, followed by gathering accumulated wisdom from those who have walked with Christ before us. Beyond the distance and safety certain educational methods supply, we also need closer relationships with brethren who have demonstrated skill in loving and obeying the Lord (as well as loving and serving their neighbours). These are proven roads to maturity.

The dictionary defines skill as "the ability to do something well". Add this quality to the recipe and you begin to grow in humility, balance, respect for others, respect for the God who favours ALL of his followers - not only you and
It would be hard for me to overemphasise the value of historical studies - especially church history for the Christian - when considering HOW balance can be found and identified. But there is nothing like the "iron sharpening iron" stuff of relationships to remind us of our own lack. Lack of thorough, biblical thinking, research methods, lack of whatever it may be we lack... it all comes to light in the crucible of accountable relationships. And that brings us to our next point:

There are indeed a host of godly, wise people who know more and have far more substance to offer others than you or I. The fact is that some of them don't attend either my church or yours! They are evangelicals, charismatics, Pentecostals and Catholics. They are Calvinists, Arminians, black, white, yellow and otherwise. They are in somewhat independent churches, fairly "starchy" denominational churches, house churches and otherwise. Godly Christians realise this truth. But there are those who quote only themselves. Is it any wonder why so many of our "charismatic" (in personality) leaders fail in character and crash so terribly hard at times?

The "cult of personality" is in my opinion one of the greatest perils of church life. One must work very hard at the very things I am suggesting here lest they end up eating the bitter food of the prodigal...

To the extent Christians actually humbly associate with (ie, listen and learn from) others in the local and larger church, they will learn what it is to live faithful lives of service to the Lord. To the extent Christians ignore or refuse such opportunities to learn and grow, they will eventually stagnate if not actually stumble. 'Take heed how you hear. To the one who has, more shall be given. To the one who has nothing, even his nothing shall be taken."

There is incredible responsibility in Christian discipleship. The actual meaning of the Greek word that is translated "disciple" in our English Bibles means "a listener, a learner". How can one learn from other Christians if one id ignorant of what God is doing in OTHER streams of the Church?

Hence our heading, "Respect And Balance". Respect is one of the ultimate foundations upon which balance must be built. Identifying and praising a (clearly biblical) move of God in the WHOLE body of Christ is essential. Jesus said, "You will not see me until you say 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" How often have you truly examined, even listened with careful, biblical analysis - to the Christian across the street, in the fellowship down the road, or in another stream of the larger Church?

My personal favourite writer/teacher has long been A W Tozer. One of the reasons he is my fave is that he quotes a wide range of teachers, preachers and saints from all over the historical map. About seven years ago the church I (and seven others) co-pastor joined a denomination. One of the most impressive things I saw and see in The Evangelical Covenant Church is a real respect for other believers' love for God and concern for the lost. From the leaders right through, this theme has been consistent. I praise God for humble, obedient servants who enjoy recognising the grace and power of God in other places.

Notice, I am not saying here that we MUST or WILL in this life, completely agree with every hair of doctrine in every other Christian. We shall certainly not. For "now... in part." 'Then... face to face." Until then, let us "take heed" to the Lord who always has the last word:
"A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight." Proverbs 11: CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.