The Riverbanks of a Movement – Part 2
– By Steve Smith –
Part 1 of this post addressed one essential riverbank of a movement: the authority of God’s word alone. In this post, we address the other essential riverbank.
OBEDIENCE: Value to Obey Whatever the Word Says
To make sure the movement stays within biblical riverbanks you must secondly build in a value to obey whatever the Word says.
In the 1 Corinthians 5 situation, Paul guided the Corinthians to obedience:
For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. (2 Cor 2:9, NASB)
What a difficult step for them to take, yet they obeyed. Loving obedience was their basic value as followers of Jesus.
Only obedience-based discipleship will keep the CPM in the banks of orthodoxy and holiness. In CPMs, you frequently ask people to be obedient to the Scripture they study each week. Then you lovingly hold them accountable, and vice versa, for obedience in the next meeting. This reinforces obedience. Without it, disciples quickly develop a value to be a hearer of the Word, not a doer.
The enemy is working actively to deceive and create problems. But if obedience is the value, you have a way to call errant believers back. This is what happened in 1 Corinthians 5.
Obedience necessarily includes the discipline of the group to see the issue through. Like the Corinthians, disciples must believe it better to obey the Word and suffer any consequences for correction than to continue in sin.
A Case Study: Wife-Beaters
Several of us planned to spend one-week training twelve local leaders representing eighty Ina churches in a budding CPM in East Asia.
One basic ground-rule was: Try not to answer their questions, but rather ask, ‘What does the Bible say?’” This is so much easier in theory than in practice!
One afternoon, my pastor friend spent an hour teaching from Ephesians 5: Husbands love your wives. The application appeared to be crystal clear.
After his teaching, I asked if there were any questions. One 62-year old man in the back nervously raised his hand. “I would like to know if this means we have to stop beating our wives!?”
My pastor friend and I were appalled. How could he possibly dream there was room for wife-beating after such a clear teaching from the Word?
Back to our ground-rule: “What does the Bible say?” It was at this point that our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit was put to the test.
We carefully shared with the whole group:
If we pray, the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher. If we go to his Word, he will give us a clear answer about beating wives.
First, I want you to stop as a group and cry out to the Holy Spirit: “Holy Spirit, be our Teacher! We want to rely on you! We need you to give us insight!”
Together, in unison, we bowed our heads and cried out that prayer to God several times. When we were through praying, I said to the group:
With the Holy Spirit as your Teacher, open your Bibles to Ephesians 5. Together read it and ask God to help you answer this question. When you have come to agreement, let us know.
The twelve huddled together and began talking rapidly in the Ina dialect, which the rest of us could not understand. Meanwhile, we huddled together in prayer. We cried out to God: “Lord, please let them get this right! We don’t need a movement of wife-beaters!” We had to trust that the Spirit of God in the group could overcome the confusion or objections of one or two people.
Meanwhile the turmoil in the Ina group rose and fell and rose and fell. One person would get up and air an idea, then the others would admonish him. Then another would voice an opinion and some would agree. Finally, after a very long wait, one of the leaders stood up solemnly and pronounced, with import worthy of the Council of Chalcedon, their decision:
“After studying the Scripture, we have decided—to STOP beating our wives!”
We were very relieved, but I thought: “What took so long?!”
A day or two later one of the twelve, an Ina man who was a close friend of mine, explained privately to me their discussion.
“We have a saying in the Ina language: ‘To be a real man, every day you must hit your wife.’”
I quickly realized the importance of the 62-year-old man’s question and the reason the answer took so long. His real question was not, “Do we have to stop beating our wives?” Rather, after a startling discovery of the holy standard of God’s ways and the clash with their own culture, the real question was:
Can I be a follower of Jesus and still be a real man in my culture?
Would we have stepped in if they arrived at a non-biblical answer? Of course. But if we had cut short the process by quickly giving them the answer, we would have missed God’s deeper lesson for them.
That day, and many other times like it later, God’s Word was reinforced as the final authority, not culture or any Bible teacher. A group of young believers trusted the Spirit to guide them in truth, and then heeded the call to obey whatever answer he gave them. The group faced the challenge to re-define manhood in their society despite the mocking they would receive.
Pursue kingdom movements in your area. But don’t pray for rain to flood the land with rivers until you have prepared riverbanks to guide the channels of the waters! Set this DNA within minutes and hours of the first breakthrough.