- LogosWalk Word Journal - http://logoswalk.com/journal -

1 Samuel 8:19-20 • There’s No Substitute

“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.'”
    —1 Samuel 8:19-20 (NASB)

The first level that this speaks to me is what I would call “territoriality”. In church terms this might also be called “denominationalism”. It’s the false notion that the denomination, group, or movement that one belongs to is all the spiritual protection and credentials that one needs. These personality types invoke the name of their group in the belief that its doctrines and works are enough to shield and protect its members. It’s interesting to note that a common behavioral characteristic of such people is that they’re most often not actually engaged in carrying out the work or activities of that organization but are quite sure they’re “involved” simply because they’re a declared member. They think joining something that may have a legitimate name and reputation within the kingdom of God is enough to cover them.

The second level at which this speaks to me is how often churches deploy an organizational and leadership structure that more parallels that of corporate America that Scripture. They write mission statements, empower boards and committees, even employ leadership chains of command similar to secular business structures. Their measure of success is how well the structure operates according to worldly organizational standards, metrics that often cannot find their corresponding spiritual capital counterpart.

The third level that leaps out has to do with those who feel if they’re close enough to a person of faith, if they’re regularly in the presence of a good teacher, that they’re somehow exempt themselves from 100% obedience to God’s will and ways. It’s a strange “righteousness by association” wherein they feel that physical proximity and prolonged contact with a man or woman of God extends some kind of similar protection to them. Ultimately it’s a cult of personality wherein a person is substituted for God’s rightful place in their life, even if that personality doesn’t advocate such.

The point is not to obliterate denominations, destroy all organizational structures, or ban all personalities from our lives, but to never allow ANYTHING to become a substitute for Christ alone. The way of the world may be to seal one’s identity within a group or philosophy or personality, but the way of Christ is to serve Him and Him alone within whatever context we find ourselves. The Bible’s instructions for the operation of the church are limited to one King and Leader alone:

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
    —Ephesians 4:14-16 (NASB)