A Church of God or Men?
Church communities hold an important place for Christians. They are often spoken of as a second family. It’s no wonder the position of a church leader is held with such care in New Testament letters to the churches.
A family unit can mirror the image of God or it can mirror the image of man. In a family mirroring the image of God, a child will inherently know that they are valuable and human (in need of God). A child raised in a family mirroring the image of man, will learn that their value is contingent on external factors like their appearance, popularity, goodness, etc. In many cases, these families communicate that it is not okay to be human, which leads to perfectionism or apathy.
It is up to the caregivers to model Godlike traits to their children. A caregiver is a child’s first encounter with a power greater than themselves. The relationship between a parent and child is crucial to a child’s future relationship with God.
Like families, churches can mirror God’s image or man’s image. Ministry leaders are often described in the Bible as shepherds (caregivers). A believer’s relationship with their ministry leaders impacts their relationship with God.
So what are the implications for a church run by ministry leaders with Godlike traits versus Adamic (manlike) traits?
A ministry leader with Godlike traits has value built on an internal knowing that they are unconditionally valuable in the eyes of God. Man was created in the image of God and, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, is seen as not only precious, but also holy in the eyes of God.
This type of knowing creates a Godlike understanding of what it means to be human. We are unholy and need God’s help. Jesus’ sacrifice and advocacy allows us to be human and make mistakes. We can surrender our sinful nature to God and trust that He will take care of us. We can be authentic to other believers and the secular world because we are accepted by God. No matter what people think about us, we will be okay. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s love and His will.
The fruit of this way of living is love and acceptance for others. The ministry leader’s Godlike traits overflow into the lives of the church members. A culture of love and acceptance breeds authenticity and transformation. It is a safe place for darkness to be brought to light and healing to take place. An environment like this creates vibrant opportunities for the gospel message.
A ministry leader living by Adamic traits has the belief that value is based on the perception of others. It breeds a “not enough” life philosophy. Acceptance comes in the form of physical appearance, majority approval, perfection, saying and doing the “right thing”, having “enough” church members, small groups, church plants, social media followers, etc. Church can easily become a business venture.
This type of value system creates a need for perfection. Fear of failure drives ministry leaders to keep their struggles hidden. Imperfection has high stakes. Someone’s sin could topple the church image. This fear of being unacceptable encourages isolation and inauthenticity.
This is not addressing a person’s broken state before salvation through Jesus. This is from the perspective of someone who has believed in Jesus, been adopted into God’s kingdom, and still thinks, feels, and behaves as if they have not been redeemed. This is a fruit of Adamic traits.
A church with this type of environment causes stagnation and emptiness. It is run by manmade priorities and strategies. Presenting a certain type of image becomes the main goal and stymies opportunities for authenticity and transformation within the church leaders and members.
Peter is an elder struggling with raging at his wife and kids. Sometimes he has even been known to snap at church members. Overall, he is a loving and responsible husband and father, but maybe once a week he is flooded with anger and becomes verbally abusive. His wife is dealing with feelings of emotional abandonment from her husband, the kids are wrestling with feeling unsafe in their home, and all the while they have to be the wholesome family example at church on Sundays.
If the church they are a part of is rooted in Adamic traits, it would be a huge leap for any member of the family to share what’s going on in their home. Because if they share, what are the implications for Peter and his role? Peter is also known by church staff to be a large donor for the church. How would he react if approached about his anger issues?
If the issue is not dealt with, emotional intoxication in the form of rage leads to severed marriages, and in ministry families, potential disenchantment of religion and connection with God for all parties involved. It is severely damaging for a child’s spiritual health to see one reality at home and a false self presented at church. This impacts their view of God, religion, and spirituality. Some adults with past spiritual abuse are never able to reconcile these issues. They walk through life bitter and resentful towards God and the church. The eternal implications of this are huge.
Allowing people to be authentic and share freely where they struggle is scary. However, there is healing in freedom. Adamic traits create legalism, fear, and isolation. Godlike traits produce love, acceptance, and transformation. We can’t help anyone if they don’t feel safe being honest with their sins and imperfections. God is not afraid of our humanity. He is more powerful than anything we face.
Desert Road Ministries exists to support families in tough situations. The hope is that as ministry leaders and their families experience healing, they can promote a culture of Godlike traits and authenticity in their church culture. Our ministry is a place to start. We provide a confidential, non-judgmental setting to work with ministry leaders and their families. If you feel that you or your family members need support, our team is here for you. Send us a message and we will meet with you to figure out what services can best meet your needs.