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Aug

16

What Your Pastor Can’t Do For You

By pastorbillwalden

(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots) the_incomplete_man_in_grey_by_alexkhaine-d7682rf

I’ve been a pastor since 1989.  Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people.  They sincerely care.  There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.

If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people.  That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.

Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts.  Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.

Good pastors are anointed men.  When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life.  There is an anointing from God upon them.  When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly).  The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”.  The pastor is only a clay pot, at best.  The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message.  Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot.  If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.

A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships.  A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.

(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)

A good pastor has wisdom from on high.  He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face.  It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.

A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.

A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem.  He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.

A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago.  Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”.  A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.

(Dot connection now follows…)

If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor.  I’ll list a few things numerically.

  1.  Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status.  It just doesn’t.  Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different.  Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
  1. Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself.  He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions.  Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts.  Pay the price.
  1. Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere.  I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back.  If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors.  If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere.  Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
  1. Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
  1. Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense.  Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.

Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”.  Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men.  Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.

Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor.  If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…

Feb

23

Having A Healthy Trans-Generational Church

By pastorbillwalden

It takes intention and effort to really hear what people are saying.  As water always runs downhill, it is natural for all people to get into social ruts.  We have our favorite people, groups, movements, and social tendencies, but (social) ruts limit lateral movement (awareness), and as Tozer has suggested, ruts turn into graves.

I have noticed that people often don’t see the need to cross the generational bridge to see what is on the other side.  Perhaps they feel too busy to put in the extra effort needed to enter someone else’s “foreign” world.  It could be rightly claimed that most of us can’t even keep up with our chosen friends, much less take the time to meet others who live in a parallel but distant world.

I have a hunch that in most cases, people don’t care that much about other people, and see no redeeming value in crossing the generational bridge. Why bother?  Is it really worth the effort to learn about the “other culture” that sits in the same church as me, but seems so different?  Some might argue that we ought to just “give each other some space”, and be happy with a peaceful but non-integrating co-existence.

The Bible teaches that Christians are “One Body”, and that we are organically and inextricably joined together in Christ, bur lack of social interaction seems to indicate that we don’t believe that, or at least are unwilling to pursue and enjoy it.

When is the last time a high school or college group sponsored an appreciation dinner for veterans of WW2?  When is the last time a 20 year old invited a 60 year old out to coffee, and ask to hear his/her Christian testimony?  The reverse is true as well.  When has a group of retired folks (who have a lot of free time), gotten together and plan an event for a college group?  How many high schoolers does the older generation know by name?

Why is this missing in our churches?  I am sure that trans-generational fellowship happens here and there, but it certainly seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

My encouragement would be that both sides reach out.  Meet someone from a different generation than your own.  “Adopt” a young person, and pray for them, mentor them, learn about them, and pour yourself into them.  “Adopt” an old person, realize the wisdom and experience that is available, and listen to them.  Retired people have much to give, including time and experience.  Older people might get rejected by some younger people, but keep trying.  Pray for that one young person who you can be a friend and mentor to.

Young people have time too, even though they “think” they are busy.  😉 I often read the facebook status of young people about how bored they are, and that they want to know “who wants to go to the beach or the movies”.  I suggest that young people find an older person to connect to, to visit with, to assist, and to learn from.  There are retirement homes full of older people who are extremely lonely.  There are older people in churches that would greatly benefit from the energy and presence of a young person.

The Apostle Paul stated it beautifully when he said of the Thessalonians, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us”.  (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

Paul imparted his life to others.  Other Christians had become dear to him.  May we impart our lives to others as well, and may we cross the generational bridge to do so.

Dec

7

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Life Together

By pastorbillwalden

Jesus Christ stands between the lover and the others he loves.  I do not know in advance what love of others means on the basis of the general idea of love that grows out of my human desires- all this may rather be hatred and an insidious kind of selfishness in the eyes of Christ.  What love is, only Christ tells us in His word.

Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love towards the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the word of Jesus Christ.  Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it.  Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sale, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love.

Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother.  It originates neither in the brother or in the enemy but in Christ and his word.  Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above, it os something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.

Jun

7

1 Peter 4:8

By pastorbillwalden

“And above all things, have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Cover- to hide, veil, hinder the knowledge of a thing.

We have all had people sin against us. Often times, we have insider information on them and their sins. Information that we could use to make them look bad, and validate our position and character. If such information was leaked, people would know that we are not as guilty as the other party makes us out to be. The public would know that we indeed have been fair and loving. In order to let the public know that we have been fair and loving, the truth of someone else’s sin would have to be exposed, so as to let the general public know the whole story.

Instead, it is information that we willingly keep hidden, so as to not unnecessarily expose another person’s sins. The result can be that we are misjudged and misunderstood. We are criticized for our reactions to that person.

At least, this is how it can seem to be. God knows the whole story, and sees our blind spots. Read more »

Apr

19

True To God And Self

By pastorbillwalden

The above title represents what I believe all Christian are called to.

First, we need to be true to God, meaning, that we need to obey Him, follow Him, and be sure that we are listening to Him. We need to have His Word buried in our hearts, and we need to surrender to the work and leading of the Holy Spirit in our own life.

Following that, and linked very closely to it, is the need for us to be true to the convictions that God has given each of us. If we are Christians who are actively seeking God, and walking with God, then we will have convictions that are part of the fabric of who and what God has made us to be. None of us should ever allow anyone to move us away from the convictions that God has placed deeply within our hearts. We should never bow to peer or public pressure, and we should not be moved by the hope of avoiding conflict or the quest of enjoying self preservation or self promotion.

Martin Lloyd Jones speaks about Christians that have opinions and Christians that are opinionated. He draws a clear distinction between the two types of people. Read more »

Mar

6

A Simple, But Profound Blessing

By pastorbillwalden

I have come to greatly enjoy writing, and receiving feedback on my thoughts. I never would have guessed this even a year ago, but it has been a great discovery.

Some of the unique blessings of writing online is the immediate exposure of your ideas to an audience that wants to hear from you. I can also receive feedback very quickly. The process is amazing.

And honestly, I like the idea that my thoughts mean something to someone. We are all like that.

I am a pastor, and by nature, a communicator about Jesus. My blog stats tell me that some people find my thoughts interesting. I like to share, I like to be heard, and I like feedback.

Delays in communication can inhibit my interest in writing and communicating with people. I have some ideas for a book, but there isn’t any immediate feedback during the book writing process, so I blog instead. Immediate gratification is what it’s all about, right?

😉

I’d much rather talk than write. I’d much rather write online than send a letter. I have gotten quite spoiled at being able to interact with people very quickly. That’s how I want it. I can’t imagine living in a time when there was only communication by letters carried by men on horses.

That brings me to the point of this article.

One in every hundred Americans is currently in prison. Some of them are in their cells 23 hours a day. I am talking about a 5′ x 10′ cell, designed for one man, but holding two.

I am not writing to talk about poor prison conditions, or how we should treat prisoners, or get tougher or softer on prisoners. None of that is my point.

My point is this: I take for granted my ability to communicate freely with other Christians all over the world. Life in prison can be quite limiting for those desiring edifying Christian interaction. If a man or woman wants to have true Christian fellowship in prison, there aren’t a lot of options. Some of these folks are denied access to chapel services for good or bad reasons. Sadly, most prisoners aren’t seeking deeper and more meaningful spiritual interaction, from what I have heard.

One option is to write to inmates, or at least send them articles, Christian literature, etc. Caution is always needed about revealing personal information, etc. You don’t have to be a writer to communicate ideas with prisoners. You can cut articles out of magazines, or print blog articles of your favorite online writers. Find articles that speak to your heart, and let someone else’s writing do the talking for you.

Or you may be blessed to be able to write and express yourself. That’s great too.

Long story short: Pray about being able to encourage a prisoner in the Christian faith, or about sharing Jesus with an unbeliever who is incarcerated.

Feb

11

Susan’s And My Friend

By pastorbillwalden

I am posting a recent comment by Susan regarding a young man who is a mutual friend and loved one. We are both privileged to know him. I really mean it when I say privileged. My coming to know him was through some tragic circumstances, and it is always bittersweet to see him, since he is now in prison for life. My visits with him are far more sweet than bitter.

A person who is living for Jesus, even under the most difficult circumstances, can make times of visiting really sweet. Such is my experience with our common friend. Every time.

All who know and love my friend understand the limitations and imperfections of the human justice system. We understand what the law sees and what it doesn’t see. We understand that man’s inability to bring perfect judgment is the nature of the world we live in.

None of us are trying to overturn the judgment that was made. In our hearts we wish it were different, because we have a perspective that only a few have. We also undertand that we are not feeling the incredible pain of others, who would also disagree with the judment in an opposite fashion.

I thank God that we have a judicial system, but it is not perfect. Thankfully, as Christians, we live under God’s grace and not just human law. God’s perfect grace tempers human law, at least within the soul of a child of God. Our friend has an eternal perspective that tempers what could be a deadening sorrow of the soul.

He is following the admontion of the writer to the Hebrews, who said, “…looking unto Jesus…”. (Hebrews 12:2) That decision brings life to him in the near lifeless world he now inhabits.

Finally, these comments are not intended to criticize the system. Rather, the focus is to point out a young man whose life has been radically altered by his sin and the sins of others, but who is choosing to live for Jesus, in spite of the wrongs done againt him, and the wrongs he himself has done.

Here is Susan’s post, which I wanted to highlight. I also wrote about our friend on November 14, 2007, in an article called “The Birth Of Compassion”.

Here is the link to that previous post: http://pastorbillwalden.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/the-birth-of-compassion/

Susan wrote:
Yesterday, I visited a young man who is in prison for life. He made some huge mistakes, and now he is paying a terrible price. Yet every step he has made behind bars has been a step deeper, and farther, with God. I feel truly privileged to be a witness to what God is doing in him, and to be his friend.

At the same time, to see such a young man living in such dreadful conditions, and to know he will spend his whole life, maturing, growing old, and dying, in a crowded and dirty cage, fills me with such bitter sorrow at the waste and suffering, and such disillusionment with a society that would perpetrate this and feel righteous about it, that I am tempted to the despair spoken of in Pastor Bill’s writing. (Referring to the “Things Unseen” post, February 9, 2008)

What saves me from giving in to it is that I see, before my own eyes, God’s power at work. I know that what He has begun in this young man, He will finish, and what looks like dead-end hopelessness is in reality the anteroom of fulfillment. I praise and thank our God for the blessed hope only He can give.

Feb

4

Churchianity6. Returning To Body Life.

By pastorbillwalden

Just for review, we have used the following as a definition for “Churchianity”.

“Churchianity” is a pejorative term used to describe practices of Christianity that are viewed as placing a larger emphasis on the habits of church life or the institutional traditions of a specific Christian denomination than on the teachings of Jesus. It can also be used to describe churches across many denominations where the central focus has moved from Christ to the church. Hence the replacement of Christ with church in the word “Churchianity.”

My paraphrase: Churchianity: When God’s people do “church” their way instead of His way. This applies to pastors, elder, deacons, denominations, non-denominations, movements, para-church organizations, and church attendees.

God’s ways are perfect, and ours are obviously not. Sometimes our ways are innocent mistakes with good intentions. We see the error of our ways, and make corrections. Sometimes, good intentions turn into church traditions that are not biblical, and they limit or damage people. Other times, God’s people, from pew to pulpit, decide that they want their way, and do wrong things in the name of God within the “church” setting.

The result is some degree of people getting hurt and leaving “organized religion” for some safer style of relating to other Christians.

Emotionally, I don’t blame them. I have been tempted to do the same thing, but there is this bothersome problem of being called to be a pastor. 🙂

I understand the mentality of wanting to avoid Body Life, but I believe that those dear folks who separate from the greater “Body of Christ” are missing out on the good that IS to be found in the Body, somewhere.

As the human body has many parts, so the Body of Christ has many members. People with different gifts, abilities, tendencies, personalities, callings, offices, etc. As with any metaphor, there are exceptions when making application, and no metaphor is perfect. I hope that you can glean the truths that are here, and not look for the exceptions that don’t match up.

What is true with the human body is also true of the Body of Christ. The strength of a human body is the sum of the parts all working together in a healthy fashion. Health is when all the parts of the body are present and working together as they were designed to do.

The human body can exist without many of its parts. Life goes on if you are missing a hand or a foot. Life continues though one is blind or deaf. Paralysis of a limb doesn’t bring death. But with any of those scenarios, life isn’t what it should or could be, either for the non-functioning part, or for the body that exists without that part’s contribution. The design is for all the parts to be gathered together and working in conjunction with each other. That is physical health.

The spiritual application is obvious. The Body of Christ is healthiest when every part is working with every other part, or at least present, available, and healthy enough to do so.

Ephesians 4:15, 16 “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Believers who separate from “Body Life” are absolutely on their way to Heaven. They are not second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. Christians can gather with two or three, and Jesus IS there among them. Those truths cannot be argued, and I won’t even try. It’s true. That is fellowship, and it can be edifying and fulfilling.

But I suggest that God has more for us than a minimalist approach of carefully managed fellowship. Jesus spoke of “abundant life”. (John 10:10) Surely, this must include the fullness of God’s design for Body Life.

Why would God design His church to have many parts, and then be O.K. with those parts not directly interacting with each other? I think He wants more for us than a purposed segregation of the Body.

The question is this: If you are a Christian, are you experiencing Body Life? I am not even talking the traditional idea of the “church setting”, though that seems to illustrate it well. Are you part of something that resembles a functioning spiritual Body?

Think of the different gifts and offices that God has established within His Body. Prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, people with gifts of mercy, administration, helps, word of knowledge and wisdom, etc. When the Body gathers together with all of its parts in attendance, the potential to be used is exponentially increased. People show up and, in essence say, “I am here, and I am committed to this Body. If there are needs that I can help with, I am right here, and you don’t have to go looking for me”.

Commitment to a local Body allows for personal relationships to be established, for love and trust to be established between people. You can help people who are strangers, but it is so much more meaningful for them if they know you love them, and they trust you. They are more willing to receive help from a loving friend.

Being part of a local Body means that you are present, and available to be loved. You discover people that you can begin to trust, and that can minister to you. Though we can exist alone, we thrive when we are a part of a community, a Body, a group that can fill in that which is lacking in our own life.

Dear saints, if you are one of the victims of Churchianity, I am sorry. I encourage you to re-consider God’s design, and all the potential of that design. Body Life positions you to use your gifts in a greater way, which is so rewarding for us as Believers. Body Life also positions you to be better ministered to, and loved on.

I haven’t mentioned it, but church attendees are not the only victims of Churchianity. There are many pastors and church leaders that have been hurt by the flock. Betrayal and failure goes in both directions. Many times church leaders have been horribly maligned by a mob mentality that is moved more by emotion and gossip than by maturity and love. Pastors and church leaders need Body Life too. Pray for pastors and church leaders to return to their callings. Love them back, and encourage them back.

If you return to Body Life, is there a chance you might get hurt again? Yes. In fact, at some point, you will get hurt. Part of Body Life is that there are sick members in the Body. There always will be, at least here on Earth. And remember this: all of us are sick to some degree, but amputation or paralysis is not the answer.

Find some way to re-enter into the fullness of Body Life, where you are available to all the other parts of the Body, and where you are easily accessible to them as well. There are people that need your gift to be exercised. Find a gathering of Believers, show up late, slip in the back door, watch and listen and pray, leave early, don’t look too many people in the eyes, smile and don’t linger, play it “safe” to some degree, but take the step of faith that is necessary to re-enter Body Life.

I suggest that we ever hold the high view of what God has for us a Body, as a community. It takes more work, but the blessings are exponentially returned to us.

That’s His design for us. That’s the design that best brings Him glory. Isn’t that what we want? I think it is.

Lord, we pray for your church, your Body, your children. Bring us back to esteeming and embracing your design for our community living, and then bring us back to the practical engagement of all your ways and plans, for Your glory.

Amen.

Nov

20

Love The Bride

By pastorbillwalden

I really like talking about my wife. She is my best friend, confidant, and most trusted counselor. She sees me at my best, and more importantly, at my worst. It is very important that she sees me at my worst, because that shows me how unconditional her love for me is. Unconditional love not only sustains a man, but also can heal a man. God knows that I have needed a lot of healing over these years, and my wife has been a faithful conduit of God’s love to me.

I am very defensive of my wife. Not that she needs it. She really doesn’t do anything to get on people’s bad side, but take notice, all you potential troublers of my wife: If you trouble my wife, we are going to have a talk!

The Bible declares that the husband and wife are one flesh. The Apostle Paul says that that is a mystery. Then Paul goes even further and says, “But I speak concerning Christ and the church”.

Just as surely as a husband and wife are one, Jesus is one with His church, the Body of Christ, composed of all who have Christ in their hearts.

That truth has helped me a lot about my view of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ.

There have been times that the Bride of Christ has bothered me. She doesn’t do things the way I like. Sometimes She hurts me, ignores me, and doesn’t appreciate me. Sometimes the She hurts herself, and in my opinion, deserves to suffer without any consolation from me. In fact, sometimes I am glad about Her suffering for doing the stupid things that She does.

In my mind, I always knew She was off base, sinful, carnal, lazy, opinionated, and selfish. She walked in the flesh, and now She has to suffer the consequences, and I am glad for it. In fact, sometimes I take great pleasure in watching God discipline His Bride.

Then it hits me…wait a minute…I am the Bride of Christ…I have done all of those things…I have suffered for my actions and attitudes…I have brought pain to Jesus, because he is one with me…and He has never rejoiced over my suffering. Jesus has never been hard hearted against me. He has never rejoiced in my iniquity, or the consequences that that iniquity brought. He has been broken hearted over my sins, and has longed to draw me back, and heal me.

I am the Bride of Christ. If you are a Christian, you are the Bride of Christ. We are one with Him. So are those ones who are His, but who for the moment, are hurting themselves and sowing to the flesh. Sometimes the Bride ignores her Bridegroom, always to Her own hurt. We should be sad about that.

If my wife was hurting herself or hurting me, and you rejoiced over it, how do you think I would feel about your joy? How does Jesus feel when His bride hurts Herself or Him?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus: Let’s have a correct view of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. Let’s embrace what Jesus embraces. Let’s sorrow over what He sorrows over. Let’s pray as he prays, and forgive as He forgives. Don’t hurt the Bridegroom by how you treat His Bride, but rather, bless His heart as you bless His Bride.

Nov

8

Tribal Or Fraternal?

By pastorbillwalden

Words are interesting things. When I was a kid, we used to drive across country to visit my dad’s family in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. At midday, they used to tell us that “dinner” was ready. At the end of the day, there was this meal called “supper”. “Lunch” didn’t exist.

We didn’t talk like that in Yorba Linda, CA, where I grew up, and I was very confused about all this. Somehow, it all worked out though, and I don’t remember missing any meals.

That example of similar/dissimilar words brings up another interesting pair of words: tribal and fraternal. Pastor Tim Brown of Calvary Chapel, Fremont, CA lit and stoked me on this one. He used a slightly different combination of words, but what I came up with was this: are you tribal or fraternal?

The words seem to be very similar, but increasingly are meaning very different things to me. Allow me to offer some definitions.

Both words talk about togetherness, likeness, and identity, but there are distinctions. In its purest form, “fraternal” speaks of a brotherly connection based upon common parentage, while “tribal” is a connection that can be based upon other things, such as common interests, mutual admiration, or what can be gained through united efforts.

Fraternal seems deeper, higher, more permanent. Tribal seems convenient and optional. How we practice these ideas is what I want to talk about.

The Bible teaches that all Christians are “brothers” with one another. We have the same Heavenly Father, and we are born again into the same heavenly family. Through faith, we are absolutely linked together in Christ. Let’s call that the “fraternal” connection.

Within the Body of Christ, we have our favorite people. I don’t think that it is a bad thing to have some favorite people. People that you genuinely enjoy, whom you prefer to spend more time with. Special friends and colleagues in the best sense. You are linked to them by a deep passion for missions, evangelism, ministry opportunities, or other very respectable aspects of the Christian life. So far, so good.

The problem, as I see it, is when we only want to spend time with our favorite people, and we end up ignoring other parts of the Body of Christ that we should be spending some time with. That is what I would calling being “tribal”. Tribal is always mutually beneficial. Fraternal isn’t always so pleasing on the first few layers of the emotional/mental/spiritual grid. Tribal is easy. Fraternal often calls for the cross.

What are some other examples of this? We can be tribal by following a certain movement within the Body of Christ. Then, within a movement, we have our favorite styles of ministry, and we associate only with those folks. It can go even further. Within a style of a movement, we will have our favorite pastors, and so we identify ourselves with them. But then going even further, we have that one favorite pastor whose personality and style just thrills us. We hang on that man’s every word, and really don’t even care much for those who are not as illumined as us.

The Apostle Paul encountered this…you remember…“I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas”.

Tribal almost always guarantees immediate gratification. Fraternal might cost you a bit more, and you might walk away not being “blessed” by the encounter. Tribal is easier…you are with people like yourself. Fraternal is a little more difficult…you are with other sons of the Father, and they may not be like you. You might not even like them. I have heard that happens with brothers sometimes.

I believe that it is extremely easy to justify being tribal, even to the point of never being fraternal. We can claim that we have a mission to accomplish (we do), and we only have limited time to spend with our co-laborers (also true). We can claim we “just don’t feel led” to spend time with those “other brothers”. It can all be dressed up very nicely.

I think in the end, we as Christians can glorify the tribal mentality and minimize the fraternal mentality. If we do that, I believe that we are choosing the lesser over the greater.

For me, recognizing and embracing the brotherhood of believers is becoming more important than spending all my time with Christians who are just a little bit different than me. This idea is helping me embrace a wider spectrum of Christians. They are also the sons and daughters of God. I need to spend some time with more of the family of Jesus Christ, not just those of my tribe.

John 17:23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.