We’ve all met these kinds of people, haven’t we:
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3a, NIV)
Yeah, those worldly Christians who can only eat spiritual baby food. It’s comfortable to believe that Paul is talking about people that weren’t like me, that haven’t read the Bible as much as me and that are way more sinful than me, right? But what is it really that Paul is adressing?
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. (3:3-6)
Oops. I’ve read this countless times, but today I realized that I’ve been a worldly baby for a very long time. I’ve put a lot of pride in human leaders and traditions – whether its John Wimber, Shane Claiborne, Anabaptism or something else.
And of course, I do think that they’re all more Biblical than, say, the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, but I have gotten more uncomfortable with identifying myself too much with one denomination or theological stream, because I see the Spirit moving in so many of them. Isn’t it ironic that many Protestant denominations have got their name from individuals – Calvinism, Lutheranism, Mennonitism – precisely what Paul warned us for! We should not focus on the gardeners, but the one who makes the church grow, God Himself.
That being said, leaders are of course not useless:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. ( 3:10-15)
The foundation for all churches in all denominations and traditions is always Christ. Then, the house upon it can be of shifting quality depending on who builds it. There are bad and good leaders. It will be revealed who’s who on the last day, and even though bad shepherds who have built a horribly awful house will be saved, it will be painful for them. But we should always remember that even in bad churches, Christ is the foundations, and we should be loyal to Him rather than a human leader in a church far, far away.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? […] So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (3:16, 21-23)
See, nothing can take away the incredible gift God has put inside of you – the Holy Spirit. You are His temple and belong to Christ. And all things are yours – Shane Claiborne, Heidi Baker and Pope Francis – they’re yours. Do not let anyone despise what God has done in your life. Whether you belong to a beautiful church or a horrible one, whether you want to reform it or a plant a new one, you are already Christ’s holy temple, and nothing can take away that from you.