Serving, Church Membership, and Submission

To the church in Taiwan:

I am so reluctant to write these words because it is so easy to be misunderstood. It is so easy for even my closest friends to believe that I am trying to bring division to my family by writing this. But far be it to me to bring controversy. No! I want peace the same as you do. We are fighting for the same cause. We are on the same team.

But it is in my love for my family that I write these words albeit through my own tears, for if I am misunderstood, others may distance themselves from me, but if I am truly heard, our bond will be so strong that the gates of hell shall never prevail against us!

The core matter is the same one that Paul shed his blood for to establish New Testament truth and reality for us. Do we live under law or under grace? Under grace, you say, but why, after obtaining freedom, do you try to make us live like we are still slaves? Please hear me in this!

The New Testament calls us saints, freed from the power of darkness to live for the glory of God! We are new creations in Christ, the old is gone and the new has come! In former times, we served the lust of our flesh and the pride of life, but now we serve our king in all freedom and with all joy!

A church leader in Taiwan has told me very clearly that serving God is not about doing what we like or what we want to do. He told me it is about doing what needs to be done in the church. He told me the church we go to is not about what is best for us, but where God shall put us. He told me we must humbly submit to the leaders and not what we see in our own eyes to be right.

This well-intentioned and beloved leader has much wisdom, and I cannot say he is wrong, but let me try to explain where this teaching has drifted from the New Testament reality.

Under the curse, serving was hard and arduous. Sin and selfishness created a self-serve and self-help mentality that continues to plague the world. In this system, we must do what we do not like, but my friends, it is not so in Christ! We have been purchased with his blood and we do not live under curse because Jesus became the curse for us!

I don't serve God under obligation or terror or hardship. I serve him out of love! And how could serving in love be anything except what I love and desire and long for? My friends, serve God in what you love and want to do because your old desires have been washed away in the blood and you are a new creation with new desires to love and serve your glorious king!

If I serve in what I hate doing, I am still a slave, doing only what I must. But if I serve in what I love, then I am a true son and my Father is pleased in my service. That is why any menial task is glorious, because it is all done in love for my King!

Taking out the trash, visiting someone in need, washing other's feet, etc. All of it is service to my king and therefore I love to do it! I refuse to go back into a slave mentality to do what does not please me. No, I actually have the most pleasure when I live to serve Jesus and the Father and the Spirit.

Is the church divided? It is divided with names and titles and factions, but it was not so in the New Testament. The church was both a universal term for all Christians everywhere as well as a local term for a specific gathering of believers. But a division of locality is not the same as a division in spirit.

Look at the New Testament and you will see the only names for churches given were the names of cities. There were no denominations, but only the genuine believers and heretical false apostles who led others astray. If two gatherings took place in the same city, it was still called the church of one and the same city. There was never meant to be divisions between believers. What is called church membership today was simply saying Jesus is Lord in the New Testament.

This unified church meant being able to visit other family members, but now we are so worried about believers visiting other churches. This would be the same as visiting distant relatives who live in the same city. Would your parents tell you not to see your own family? Of course not, so why do leaders get nervous when we visit other gatherings?

Let's be real. The problem is simple. If you have anything against anyone, then reconcile with each other through the shed blood of Jesus. Do not evade or escape from churches to run from a problem. But leaders, do not hold your sheep so tightly in fear that in the end you will lose them. It is Jesus who holds each one and he is able to keep each that the Father has given him.

Every believer that submits to the lordship of Jesus in my city (and the world) is my family, regardless of doctrinal differences, customary practices, or titles. We are one in Christ!

But let's be real and say that different gatherings have different styles and different values and different missions within the united mission of bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. One gathering has a band, another sings acapella. One gathering tells women to wear head coverings and be silent, the other lets women preach. One gathering feeds the hungry, the other trains business leaders. But we all serve one Lord.

Will you tell a woman evangelist to go to a church that doesn't believe in women leadership? Of course not! And there is no calling to specific 'churches' anyway because we are all one church with different expressions in different locations. The core beliefs must be upheld and taught and all the minor issues must be swept away in the flood of unity. We are the answer to Jesus' prayer to the Father, "may they be one, as you and I are one."

Submitting to leaders, I totally agree. We must submit to leadership and follow in the example of the early believers who submitted to the apostles' teaching, but do not follow blindly! Even Paul told the apostles 'no' sometimes. He rebuked Peter for unintentionally bringing division between Greeks and Jews and refused to listen when they told him not to go to Jerusalem.

We are not perfect and neither are leaders. We honor them and respect them, making it easy for them to lead us, but don't follow anything they say that you feel in your heart is not right! Check it with scripture and against other believers! Too many have been abused in the name of submitting to leadership.

Remember, you also have the mind of Christ! God also gave you a conscience. But do not be proud. If multiple people are telling you the same thing, you better honestly and humbly check the facts! We are all wrong in some ways, that's why we need each other so we can continue to be built up, matured, and discipled in Jesus' name.

I hope you can feel my heart beat in each word of this poem. I belong to you. You are mine. No matter where I live or what gathering I attend, we are still one in the mercy of God.

I have no answers. I only know Jesus. And I really love each one who lives for my King.

I am saved by grace. It is the gift of faith given by God.

I cannot boast except in Christ.

He is our Lord and King.

Let us serve him together as one body, in one spirit, and under one banner:

Jesus is Lord!

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