The apostle Paul knew what a big part of the problem was with the church of Corinth. He says, Focus on Jesus – instead of people. I mean by that, human leaders. We’re to focus on God, not men. Why? Because people in that church were following ordinary people, rather than Jesus. They were aligning themselves with certain personalities, rather than God.
In verse 12, He said, “Here’s what I hear is happening there: some of you are saying ‘Paul is our guy.’ Some are saying that you follow Apollos. (We know from Acts 18 that Apollos was a gifted orator, that might have had something to do with it). Some of you say you follow Peter, and some of you are even misusing the name of Jesus by splitting off from everyone else and saying the kind of thing you sometimes here in ’emerging’ churches, ‘We don’t need any leaders at all – we follow Christ alone!’
There’s at least a 4 way spilt over personalities taking place! He doesn’t lay out the specific concerns they were disputing – he didn’t need to; they knew what they were anyway. And behind it ALL the main issue was this: division. All these groups, fighting, striving for position, labelling themselves as right and labelling others as wrong – and trying to pull off in one way or another. Nightmare!
Paul said, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be! Jesus died for us and we were baptised into Him, not into any mere man.” Then Paul posed 3 rhetorical questions – and the answer to all of them is no…
Is Christ divided? NO! So how can his people be?
Was Paul (or any other human leader) the Saviour, head of the church, crucified for the forgiveness of their sins? NO! Well why were they exalting mere human beings?
Do you baptise people in the name of any human being? NO! It’s not about them! It’s all about the FATHER. It’s all about the SON. It’s all about the Holy Spirit.
But here’s what had happened. These Christians were focusing too much on the people who had brought them to the Lord, instead of the Lord himself. Paul had founded the church in Corinth. Then after him Apollos took it on for some time. It seems Peter came there too. The fact is, God calls leaders for a season, then he calls them on. They are not meant to be the focal point, if that happens, something went very wrong! It’s been said the day you start church leadership is the day your ministry stops because according to and Ephesians 4 model one is meant to be an empowering enabler of others. My role therefore is not to DO ministry so much as to Discover, Develop and Deploy the Saints for their ministries!
If you were to visit my beautiful C11th church, and look at the long list of names of past ‘Rectors’ on the wall over the centuries. Any local church ends up with a variety of leaders in its history. They are called for a time, and then they are called away – or called home.
Since I was called into full time ministry I’ve never lived anywhere longer than three years, until God called us here to Horsley, over 7 years ago. It’s such a fantastic loving place for us as a family, we’ve seen God do so much in our own lives and in the lives of other people too. And one of the hardest things for me to ever do – I’ve been wrestling with God in these last few months over it – was to announce last Sunday that we’re going to be moving on in the next phase of my own call in following the Lord’s call, to go to lead Ivy Cottage Church, Manchester.
Anyone who knows me will know that this hasn’t been an easy decision, it was made with much prayer and many tears. I began to sense this might have been a call from God as the New Year turned, and God has been unsettling me for some time.
A few months ago I went up to look at the Manchester Church and came away that night, got a bit lost and ended up driving through some horrible rough streets, thinking, “No way! We left Manchester! I love Horsley. This isn’t right, we shouldn’t be going, and I don’t want to go.” So I told all of that to God in prayer and went to bed fully convinced that there was no way.
But that night I had two very clear dreams, and I’m not one who has many dreams I can remember, but I knew God was calling me, had called me – that very night. He even sent an angel to tell me in that dream, unforgettable. I must blog about those dreams actually!
And one of the hardest things is that nobody else in the family has had any dream or angel or really any kind of revelation about it; but we are going in faith on the basis of that call – and God is confirming it and has confirmed it – as we follow. If we have to have it all laid out before us, let’s not pretend we’re people of faith. Because if the Christian life isn’t about faith then I don’t know what it’s about, if it isn’t about trusting God then I don’t know what it’s about.
So I can trust God for my own life, as I always have done, and I can trust Him for my family, as I always have done, and I can respond to his call in obedience and trust Him for this Church as I always have done; because He is the Lord of the Church. Jesus is the head of the Church! So I said to the people here in Horsley last Sunday – ‘Focus on Jesus!’ and they are doing!
I’ve said it before many times. to them, “I am not the head of this Church. Jesus is the head of this church.” Some people there, I’m thrilled to say, have become Christians while I have been here – I am (to use Paul’s terminology later in 1 Corinthians) their ‘father in faith.’ For them, it will probably be more unsettling than for others. But to any extent that people end up following me or any human leaders – then that’s just not the right way for it to be, because my job as a leader is to be like John the Baptist; who pointed the people away for myself and said, BEHOLD the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! My job like his is to say, “I must decrease so that He can increase.” Focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.