1 CORINTHIANS 3
Tribalism is the curse of the church! “I follow Paul”; “I follow Apollos” – what a ridiculous line to take! They are both the servants of Christ and are just doing a job for him. The real root of tribalism is the misplaced need to be exclusive: “I follow Apollos and not Paul” is the subtext of these worldly followers. Exclusiveness is the preserve of a ‘teenage’ mentality, choosing a gang and hating a rival gang; perhaps adopting a fierce sense of independence from one’s parents; maybe a need to find identity from some form of ‘opposition’.
Certain Christian groups and denominations demonstrate this immaturity, along with many minor political parties and campaigning groups who seem to think that they have invented morality, compassion, and radical thinking. In their eyes, they are the only true ‘custodians’ and everyone other is ‘wishy-washy’ or worse.
As we mature, we realise that no-one has the monopoly on biblical truth and godly living. We follow all God’s servants who also follow Christ. We emulate the good and we reject the bad. Paul gave them milk because he couldn’t trust them to move on to a discerning diet, where you choose how much to eat and what kind of food is necessary. Mature Christians show discernment in their input and in their actions.
Paul, as apostle, laid the gospel foundation and happily allowed other leaders to build on it. The other gifts of Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher – accompanied by miracle workers, administrators, helpers etc. – are supposed to create that great superstructure. One day their work, and our work, will be judged by God himself!
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Let us be very careful that we do not speak or act in any way that causes disunity within God’s church – Christ’s future bride. God will not tolerate such behaviour and will judge it with the utmost severity.
In King David’s life, his own son, Absalom, rebelled against his own father’s authority and effectively broke up the Kingdom of Israel, by subversively enticing its citizens to support his cause and to abandon Israel’s cause. (2 Samuel 15). Let us not be Absaloms to our own generation! Let’s avoid tribalism and the hero-worship of human leadership. Everything is ours – so why compete for only a small part of our inheritance!
1 CHRONICLES 23, 24 and 25
Putting people before buildings is a wise policy for God’s people. Buildings should only exist to facilitate people in serving God – and for too many hundreds of years, the Christian church has turned these priorities upside down. Today, large amounts of faithful believers’ money are used to service ancient, beautiful, and completely impractical stone edifices that sometimes detract rather than facilitate the work of Christ’s Kingdom. In the ‘enlightened’ so-called ‘new’ churches, too high a proportion of the generous offerings are sometimes diverted to fund comfortable auditoria, expensive PA and multi-media equipment, and buildings that are unoccupied for a large percentage of the week – off-limits to the local community. We will not see significant revival in this land of ours until Christians again put their treasure where their hearts ought to be, to support mission work, to fund acts of mercy and to employ (only where necessary) men and women whose have a vision for these supreme activities.
In 1 Chronicles 23, even before the Temple building was begun, David started to identify which men should serve in it, and in what capacity. This was consistent with God’s heart of putting people first. One of the most important roles of all in any large group of believers is administration; it is as key a gift as the apostle, the teacher, or the evangelist. Without it, a church of any size will shrink as fast as it grows. The Levites were counted – being aged thirty or over meant that you were now sufficiently mature for a major serving and teaching role in God’s kingdom – and this time, God was not offended by having a census. The big difference is that these folk were being counted and organized in order to serve Him, and not in order to give David a sense of pride or false security. Ten percent of them were designated musicians to help lead the praise of God.
Of the Kohathites – those who had originally carried the holy objects across the desert – those descendants of Moses and Aaron were specially set apart as the priests of the Temple. Their role: to consecrate the holy things, to offer sacrifices to the Lord, to serve him and to pronounce blessings on Israel in his Name. The remainder of the Levites were to assist the priests and serve in the administration of the Temple, and to “…stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, doing the same in the evening”.
Chapter 24 then focusses on the divisions of the priests, who served in the temple day and night, according to a rota obtained by casting lots. In Chapter 25, some key men were set apart exclusively for the “…ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres, and cymbals.” Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun were the three leaders in charge of this vital role, which was again a 24-hour ministry, for which they were rota’d in by casting lots. Again we see that organization and administration will facilitate the release of supernatural power – so don’t knock it! These three men prophesied under the King’s supervision, and their sons (whom they had presumably discipled into their own ministries) prophesied under their supervision. No-one was allowed to be a ‘free agent’; everyone was accountable to someone in authority over them. Heman had a very strong prophetic gift and held the office of “King’s Seer”. As a result of his faithfulness, God gave him 14 sons and 3 daughters!
So we see that some ministries were targeted more specifically at serving God himself – you could say that they were more ‘inward-looking’, whilst others were targeted at serving God’s people and the surrounding nations (“My house is a house for all nations”) – which were therefore more ‘outward-looking’ ministries. All were important and all were valuable. In our New Testament role of priests and Levites, we need to give time to praise our Lord, morning and night, and to devote some energies to our relationship to Him. But we must also lift up our vision to the wider horizons to be a blessing to the world and to help meet its needs. Our giving must be both generous and targeted carefully towards our missional calling and the needs of the poor. Some funds will – and must – go towards the upkeep of the ‘temple’. Those who are leaders in Christ’s church are charged with the responsibility both to receive all these financial offerings and to distribute them wisely.