(Cue Julie Andrews)Sing with me:
Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When we read we begin with A.B.C.; when we sin we begin with Me. Me. Me.
Satan used to be an angel called Lucifer, said to be the highest, and very beautiful. Then he became prideful, vain. He wanted to replace God with Himself and he was cast down from heaven along with quite a few other angels he had persuaded to follow him. Pride and vanity are common errors in individuals as well. But we aren't often told this can happen in a church... where a church comes up with a plan to replace God as first in their hearts with themselves, or their plan.
A typical church's (and often individual's) top 2 idols:
#2- Formulas..."God-formulas" I call them... a plan, a method, a movement, a whatever-step process
Why would this happen? Well, observation would say that it starts in the heart of a man with an earnest desire to make his 'church' look the way God's bride is supposed to look according to what he sees in scriptures. [This is why understanding that the 'church' is not a little copy of the bride responsible for it's own completeness, but one Bride that God says HE himself is preparing to be without spot or blemish, is so important]. So this well-intentioned man starts leading the 'local body of believers' to focus on what they look like...sincerely wanting them to be right.... and what handier of a way to do this than with a formula. Pop into the local Christian bookstore and you will find an endless, and I mean endless, number of books telling you exactly what your church needs to do.
Pardon me for a moment while I tell you why I find this so funny:
Moses was a man of God who had a very real and powerful encounter with God when God parted the Red Sea for him and the Israelites to pass, escaping Pharoah and his crew of pursuing Egyptians. No one is questioning that. What he experienced was very real and it was very much God.
But, imagine if Moses then paused for a little sabbatical and penned his first bestseller entitled, Parting Your Red Sea- Seven Steps to Saving You and Your Peeps. It gets better. In it, he details out exactly how you, too, can take your peeps up to a body of water when someone is chasing you and invoke God to split it.
God did that once for a group of people in a special circumstance. You can't duplicate it whenever you want to without him, or even by asking him really really sincerely to- WHY? Because God is not a formula to be activated on your whim. He wants to be in a relationship with us. We can ask Him for help in any circumstance, but trying to press a replay button on something he did for someone else is not asking him for help. It is trying to skip him and get to what you want- listen closely- even if what you want is to see people saved, just like He does.
Now imagine how frustrating it is when the guy who just invested $20 in Moses' book has some people achasin' him and has rallied his peeps around this brilliant plan... and then (gurgle gurgle)...crap. It's not working. Well, it can't be that the formula was wrong- it worked for Moses FOR PETE'S SAKE! It must be that his people were messing him up. So he presses pause, gathers his people around and has a talking with them about the way they are supposed to be acting.... because right acting and right being peeps get their water split- it's been proven. (This is usually when the people decide they have the wrong leader or the leader decides he has the wrong people or they BOTH decide they had the wrong formula. Either they part and go separate ways or they seek God just in time to find that, Yee-haw, Joshua just came out with a book called, "Crumbling the walls that are holding you back- 12 steps to getting your church to their Promised Land.")
This can go on for a very long time.
So we see that good intentions can end up bad when a church replaces God as number one with a formula or a mirror. Would this happen as much if the leader(s) of that local body didn't think they were supposed to peer into the scriptures and draft formulas they can see to get their Local Bride looking right? I don't think so. If they understood that not every gift, not every role, not every function needed to exist within their one local group....then oh my goodness....
That would mean that God might use me to minister to someone in another place... and I might have time and money to do it...
which leads us to the most brutal of the subjects among church folks...money. You want to see someone turn and tear you to pieces? Bring up the church's use and understanding of money.... but I actually feel personally decently equipped in this subject because of how God has made me in particular...and because of my personal experience. So we'll tackle that next. Stay with me. I'm getting somewhere right along with you and I hope we are all edified and stronger when this is all said and done.