Tag Archives: james 5

The importance of economics

I’m increasingly convinced economics are a key to the spiritual transformation of our region.  A few thoughts:

  • The Bible talks more about money than any other subject except love.  It talks more about money than about heaven and hell combined.
  • The indigenous people here are in bondage to a spirit of poverty.  That doesn’t just mean they’re poor.  It means they stay poor because they have very little belief they’re capable of helping themselves.  Five hundred years after the Spanish conquest, they’re still a conquered people.  They largely have a mentality that other people owe them something.  Instead of taking initiative to improve their situation, they wait for handouts from the government and from charitable groups.  It’s a spiritual bondage.
  • In many villages, 50% (or more) of working age men are in the U.S. because the villages have no economy and most jobs in towns like ours don’t pay enough.  The men stay gone for years at a time.  This is having a devastating impact on the region.  Wives are trying to support and raise families as single parents, and thousands of kids are growing up without fathers.  Very young kids are being left at home alone for hours at a time while Mom works.  In many cases, a husband starts a new family in the U.S. and never returns.
  • This area has a wealthy class of small business owners who are doing quite well, but they don’t pay their employees enough to live on.  This is a spiritual problem (James 5:1-4).
  • What economy this region does have (because it’s not in abject poverty) is a house of cards.  It is entirely dependent on outside sources, those being government handouts and money earned in the U.S., Canada, or other parts of Mexico.  When the world economy collapses, our region will take it on the chin unless it begins to utilize its own natural resources more effectively.  (This is difficult, because the government owns rights to most of the natural resources.)
  • The villages are built on agriculture, but the agriculture is not doing well.  Corn is the king crop, yet villages are buying corn grown in other places from the government at subsidized prices.  The agriculture must improve.
  • Most churches in the region gravitate strongly to a model of having paid clergy (which is perfectly biblical).  The trouble is pastors aren’t getting paid nearly enough to support a family, so they’re leaving their churches to work in the U.S. and the churches are then falling apart.  One issue here is the churches believe they can’t be obedient in giving due to their poverty – another spiritual problem.  See the example of the Macedonian churches, whose “extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
  • The other issue is the churches thinking their pastors should do all the work of the ministry since they’re being paid.  This is NOT biblical (Ephesians 4:11-13).  While churches are growing in obedience in giving, pastors could get more people involved in ministry and remove a huge stumbling block for the people by supporting themselves – IF they had good jobs with which to support themselves.

Those are some scattered thoughts; things that burden me as I look at our region and things that are affecting what we do.  If you’ve wondered where projects like a well drilling business fit into our church planting ministry, the above points are some of the pieces to the puzzle.

corn field

The application of church discipline

I mentioned a while back that the previous weeks had been some of the most difficult I had had in a long time.  Things have actually not gotten any easier since then, but that’s a story for another time.  One of the difficult things we went through a few weeks back was having to dismiss two of our mission training school students.  I was not very directly involved in that situation, but I learned a lot by watching how the leaders around me handled it.  Even though it’s older news now, I have wanted to come back to it so I could make a couple of comments.

The issue didn’t seem like a big deal in the beginning.  We have rules against guys and girls getting into romantic relationships just for the seven months they’re going through our mission training school.  This is so they can devote themselves to ministry and to spiritual growth.  We had a guy and a girl who began to break some of those rules – being alone one-on-one, communicating via e-mail and instant messanger, etc.  I am going to share a couple of Scripture passages dealing with the confrontation of sin here, so that you can look at them as you follow the process that happened with these two students:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

James 5:19,20

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:4,5

A couple of the guy students saw their brother getting into sin with the young lady by breaking the relationship rules, so they went and confronted him on it.  They did not go to anyone else; they handled it themselves.

The guy did not repent.  Leadership the rules being broken and also found out those two students had confronted the guy with no change.  So a couple members of leadership then went to the guy and the girl, confronted their sin, warned them of the danger of rebellion (the Bible puts this sin on the same level as witchcraft in 1 Samuel 15:23), and called them to repent.  This couple was taking advantage of some gray areas in the rules to deepen their romantic involvement, so leadership made those gray areas black and white by saying, “You can’t do this, this, or this anymore.”

The rule breaking continued.  The couple was caught doing the “this, this, or this” they had been told they couldn’t do.  At this point, leadership took the confrontation to the third and final level.  This meant bringing the couple before the church, which in our context was the entire student body.  The couple was called out in front of the student body, their sin was rebuked, and they were told that if they rebelled again they would be asked to leave the school.

In the days following that third and final confrontation, the couple was once more caught in several instances of doing precisely the things they were told were against the rules.  We had no choice but to ask them to leave the school.  I was in the meeting where this news was broken to the couple, and I was powerfully impacted to see how much love leadership exhibited, the tears they shed, and the way they pled with these two students to repent of their rebellion.  Leadership’s goal was always repentance, and never anything else.  There was no vengeance on their part, only hurt.

Immediately following telling those two the news, we went to the student body to let them know.  The scene that followed was to me a true picture of the Body of Christ.  Upon hearing the news, the students and staff wept; there was hardly a dry eye in the room.  There was some anger and frustration, but the overwhelming feeling was one of brokenness over those two students who refused to repent.  The love for them was tangible.  A soberness about the seriousness of sin also gripped the room.  It seemed to me like a lot of us were realizing that it was only by the grace of God that we weren’t in the same boat.  It just takes a couple of sins left in darkness to lead us into a spiritual bondage that can eventually make it impossible for us to receive correction.  For maybe half and hour, the students cried, hugged one another, and huddled in small groups to pray.  Many encouraging words were spoken to leadership about their handling of the situation and their refusal to allow sin to go on unchecked in the Body.

Here are some things I learned through the whole experience:

  • Not meaning to be cliché, sin is far more dangerous than I ever thought.  It’s deadly.  A few simple sins of pride and unsubmissiveness can lead a person down a road into so much bondage that it’s almost impossible for them to hear the Holy Spirit.  If you get to that point, you’re at the mercy of Satan.  The problem there is that he doesn’t have any.  Now I understand why the Bible uses such harsh language, like “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed”.  The purpose there, of course, is so that his spirit may be saved.  Proverbs 29:1 warns of the incredible danger of not receiving a rebuke: “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.”

  • Christians who confront sin in others are often criticized as being unloving, but confrontation is actually the most loving thing you can do for someone in sin (see my previous point if you don’t agree).  I learned how much grace God has through the pattern He gave us in Matthew 18.  The escalating levels of rebuke give the person in sin every chance to humble themself and repent.  It takes an incredible amount of pride to be brought before the entire church Body and still not humble yourself.  The Matthew 18 model is not mean; it is a loving way of trying everything possible to alert the sinner to grave danger.

  • It’s all about the heart.  You could argue that the outward acts of the two students who were dismissed were somewhat trivial.  We have dealt with “worse” sins at different times committed by students who have stayed.  The problem had much less to do with their visible actions and everything to do with the pride and rebellion in their hearts.

I think most of us would agree that the rebuking of sin and church discipline is under-applied in much of the Western church.  But why is that the case, if sin is so incredibly deadly?  Is it because we don’t understand the true power of sin?  Or could it be that we fear man more than we fear God?  Whatever the cause, I hear God calling us back to a practice that was commonplace in the Bible.  Will we love our brothers and sisters enough to do it?