(and confessions from “Aaron”, the builder of golden calves)
I’m long overdue for a post here and a message from the heart of the Father began burning in my heart this evening. As the title suggests, my heart and mind are progressively captivated by Jesus, the one who loved me and gave himself for me.
I remember in 2008, months after setting out to plant a new church with a church planting ministry, a new friend of mine detected my zeal for the venture I poured myself into. His words seemed simplistic… so much so it was all too easy for me to brush the profundity of it aside. What Dennis Hall said was this: “anything I get involved with has to be all about Jesus.” Looking back, this was a message straight from heaven, but it would not register for many months. The Father had a lesson to teach me: about the futility of building on any other foundation.
As I reflect on my walk over the years, I’m convinced of one thing… that Satan’s favorite ploy is to distract us from the simplicity of our devotion to Christ. Sure he loves to lure us into lust or greed or other works of the flesh. But I believe the favorite tools in his arsenal are much more subtle. And his favorite time-worn lure… is religion.
As I study my own life, I’ve veered off course in so many ways, under the guise of “growing in the faith”. The strand that runs through much of my life is has been a subtle worship of “the church” and religious systems. My functional idol seemed to be the church that, to the best of my understanding “got it right”.
I first believed strongly in the Baptist church (I have been in National Baptist, American Baptist, and Southern Baptist churches). After all, at the time they were the most faithful to scripture based on my understanding. Later, I learned about the gifts of the spirit and “the deeper life” and found myself drawn to The Christian and Missionary Alliance. That soured when the pastor who most impacted my early Christian life moved to Ivory Coast to serve as a missionary. I found temporary refuge at a CMA church plant where I served as an Associate Pastor, but the religious corporate culture reared its head again. The Lord led us away, and many months down the road, this church closed its doors.
There was a brief interval where I landed at a somewhat charismatic church in transition. Again, I wanted to believe God was doing a great work there, but it was not to be. Mercifully, we moved to a new city, and later learned that this church died a slow death.
In our new city I found what seemed to be a vibrant church planting ministry that had it all together. It was especially attractive since I was deeply cynical and on the verge of rejecting “church” altogether. This would be home for 15 years. Toward the end I realized the life of God was getting sucked out of this as this organization took on a more corporate character.
Our next move seemed to be “it”. There were clearly “divine appointments”. Supernatural affirmations along the way seemed to confirm that there was life in this next church planting ministry. The words communicated were on the money. We gladly stepped out in faith as pioneers so this ministry could establish a new presence in our city. And that brings me to back to the wise words of my friend Dennis Hall.
I shocked Dennis by telling him that in my previous paradigm, there was no place for someone like him. He was not a part of my church or its “family” of churches. 6 months earlier, I would not have even bothered to engage him. But the Lord was doing something new. What the Father began building here was a true kingdom friendship… true brotherhood rooted in our common fellowship with Jesus rather than a brand or sect.
As this friendship developed, it seemed that things were going well for many months in this new church planting ministry. But along the way, increasingly there were nagging thoughts that something wasn’t right. The “meat on the bones” came in the form of some strong words from the Savior himself.
Matthew 20: 25 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I heard these words echoing in my heart and mind, as I continued to hear an emphasis on “authority in the church”. How much clearer could Jesus possibly be?
And there was more:
John 5: 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
This further confirmed that seeking glory from others rather than from the Father alone was clearly a formula for unbelief! It took forever to get it through my thick skull… but truthfully too many so called “church builders” are clearly more concerned about their authority than that of Jesus. After leaving this organization it was during a prayer time with a friend that the Spirit of God gently rebuked me: “I called you to be Moses, but you turned into Aaron in the wilderness”. It required little thought to realize what the Lord was saying. I helped to build a new golden calf.
To drive all this home, let me bluntly confess my own sin and foolishness:
To direct people’s hearts to an organization, no matter how spiritual is to erect a golden calf.
To relate to each other around an organization rather than Jesus is to bow at the feet of a golden calf
To build around a doctrinal position or set of doctrinal values is to erect a golden calf
Building any church or ministry with a man as a foundation (or woman for that matter) and building around that person and his or her alleged authority is to erect a golden calf
This leaves people connected to a “king”… a substitute for the Father and locks them into endless infancy. It is also a formula for divisions.
I Corinthians 1: 10 I appeal to you, brothers,  by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
How do we unite? It only happens in Jesus! Notice I said “in Jesus” not ABOUT Jesus. How many sects, conflicts and divisions continue to this day over varying “concepts of Jesus”.
What did the early church do?
Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
What was Paul’s theme?
I Cor 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
It grieves me to see that all too often I’ve drawn people’s attention to an organization rather than to Jesus! If we think about it, what we’re doing is inverting the gospel, turning it from a heavenward message, to an earth oriented worship of dust. By contrast, Paul says,
II Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants  for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
The power is in Jesus! The secret to transformation is Jesus! So the clarion call is for all of us to stop staring in the mirror at ourselves, and lift our eyes heavenward. We must let Him transform us, drop all the religious “fig leaves” and as we come together “In Him”, that’s when Hell will take notice.
II Cor 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.