Building your Emerging Church from 2 Peter 3: 14-18
To be effective church leaders, we are called to wait on and for Christ, but we are not to be idle while we wait. We are to be involved and make every effort to know Christ and make Him known. We are not to chase or make up fleeting fads or presumptuous trends. We are to remain firm in our faith regardless of when He comes back. We are to do this actively with the contribution of our trust and assurance in Christ, making the most of what He has given us in His call, precepts, and opportunities. This means being pure and blameless in our obedience to and trust in Christ and being humble, the opposites of the character of the false teachers.
Peter is communicating to us that God is involved, that He does indeed care, and that He is concerned and does intervene in history; thus, we can trust Him in our personal lives and to lead our church. If people come against your belief in Christ and good character, take comfort. No matter what others say or do, God will intervene in His time, and make them the ultimate fools. So we do not compromise! Rather, we remain steadfast in Him. Peter continually tells us to beware of scoffers who deny Christ's return! We are also to beware of those who have any kind of false, theological ideas. We often need to be reminded of this, no matter how long we have been in the Lord. We need that gentle refreshing to stimulate us into correct thinking so we can have the faith and strength to keep our personal lives and churches on His path. We are to know the Scriptures and be disciplined in the faith because this is what keeps our minds on Him; when we practice these precepts, they become rooted and make us firmer in our faith.
Peter is closing his Epistle with encouragements and blessings. He is reminding his people of the importance of Paul's letter(s) to them and that they are to take what he says seriously. He also warns that if they do not understand something, they are not to twist it to fit what they do understand or want. Disrupting His Truth with our whims will only result in disaster.
We are give a call to make every effort; this means that we are to serve Christ with lives of holiness, being devoted to the worship and service of Him. This also means we are to be diligent in looking forward to Christ's Second Coming (Matt. 25:13; 1 Thess. 5:6, 8, 11; 2 Pet. 1:13-16). God wants us spotless and blameless so we can be at peace with Christ and be that role model of peace to those we lead. This means that as Christians, we can have peace with God as a result of being justified by faith. By the same token, we can still sin, disappoint, and displease God even though we are saved. He calls us to live according to His requirements, and if we refuse, we need to take heed. Our salvation is secure but we are still accountable for our actions and commendations and rewards are to be given when He returns (Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:19).
In so doing, we lead faithfully and with encouragement instead of whining, complaining, and theorizing about trivial theological ideas or false paths. We should trust in God's timing and providence. It is because of God's patience that He has the will to save us, for we tempt His patience all of the time (Gen. 6). We are just in God's sight; we are just because He declares us so! So, it is important we remain diligent to persevere in searching for better wisdom and understanding. If we allow our emotions and first impressions to stop us, we will miss out on a lot that God has for us.
We are also given a warning in this passage: do not be ignorant as in unstable people. Ignorant does not refer to people who are not properly educated, but rather people who refuse to learn and grow, such as Christians who have not been discipled and who do not know the precepts of Jesus. Unstable refers to those who manipulate, perhaps are mentally ill, or are just scheming-those whose thinking is twisted, and who seek to lead others away from sound teachings and God's Word. If this mentality is coming from your people or leaders or pastor, you have big problems. You will have a church that is misrepresenting and manipulating something so to make it what it is not. This is done by deliberately making a declaration of what it means when it really says otherwise¾just to fit a personal or group agenda. This can also arise when we misinterpret God's Word from a lack of research and study, catering to a particular viewpoint without considering the merits of it, or being sloppy in our exegesis. The people in Peter's day were allegorizing (seeing the text as abstract thoughts for deliberation but not for application) Paul's words, and other Scriptures, muting the value and application of it. Today, we would call this liberalism and the false teachers as those who have ignored God or have no regard for truth or morality. Do not be led away by errors or personal desires!
In Peter's Benediction, he calls us to be on our guard by pursuing our relationship with Christ, allowing our bonds to grow and become stronger so no reproach can come against our church. He also includes an encouragement, that what we go through-even suffering-has meaning and purpose to it. We can remain spotless, as Jesus showed us by His words and His example. When something happens that you do not understand, seek answers in prayer, asking God what you are to learn. This is how we can better grow in the grace and love of our Lord. Then, your faith-development and steadfastness will be far more impacting and real both for you and to those around you.
Thus, any church, including ones who want to bend to attract people (such as some emerging churches) must realize what we are here to do, which is to glorify Christ as Lord. So, we have to make sure we do not fall away from Truth, which includes God's percepts, call, and standards (John 6:37-40; 10:28-29; 17:2-24; Phil. 1:6; 1 Cor. 1:8; 9:1; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 2 Thess. 3:32; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18). We are to be firm in our faith and not allow our desires or others to distract us from Christ. This reinforces the importance of sound doctrine and teaching (John 6:39; Phil. 1:6) so we can grow and help those in our care to grow in Christ. Grow means to be steadfast in faith and in Christ. We do this by pursuing holy living through deepening our relationship and experiences with Christ. We are called to learn as much as we can about our Lord and His teaching and then apply it wholeheartedly into our lives. This is in contrast to the arrogance and pretentious knowledge and pseudo-growth of the false teachers and hypocrites who know little and apply nothing. Growing is an ongoing experience that should never stop until we are called home to heaven. It is not enough to know; we are also called to do. In conjunction, our persistence to know Him and His Word prevents false teachers from getting a hold on us or our church (2 Pet. 1:2-3)!
A good leader will have knowledge. The antidote to heresy is to know the real truth, and we do this by going to God's Word. We are called to pursue education and practice knowledge so we can learn and know more about God, live for His glory, and help one another. Because of the deity and supremacy of Christ as God and Lord, all that we do in our Christian lives and leadership is to be about glorifying Him (Col. 1:15-20; Rev. 1:5-6). Our time should be spent on what is important; the prime factor is that our past, present, and future belong to Christ alone (Isa. 60:19-20).
Our call is simple here; Remain In Christ! God has given us a great promise to keep us in the faith: He is here and He is returning. We need to live our lives worthy in Him and not forget who and what He is and has done. If we have no accountability because we believe there is not anyone to whom we are accountable, we will engage in doing what we want; that is sin. Many people in Peter's time (as well as ours) did not believe there would be a judgment and therefore there were no personal responsibilities or obligations. This thinking produces relativism and our postmodern mindsets (nothing new here), and leads to immoral behaviors and a society in distress, headed for ruin. Such thinking says we can do as we please; however, that will only bring us damnation at worst and missed opportunities at best. Why would we want to play these games?
Disgrace and shame take place only when we fear and honor one another; scruples and character come from when we fear and honor God (Prov. 3:5).
Questions to ponder:
1. What are you hopeful for or looking forward to? What does it mean to live worthy in Christ?
2. How does it make you feel knowing that God is involved and that He indeed does intervene and care for you and your church? How can this help you trust in Christ more as you lead others? What would your life look like with this working more effectively?
3. Why is it important to have a basis upon which to build a morality? How would this affect you as a leader?
4. How do you tempt God's patience? What does it mean to your faith that God is patient with you more than you can fathom? How about that He saves you even though you tempt His patience all of the time? How would you teach and model this?
5. Peter asked what kind of people ought you to be? How would you respond to God's words here? (by the way, He does say it!)?
6. Growing is an ongoing experience that should never stop. Why is this true? Why would a Christian think otherwise? How can you convey this essential truth to your congregation?
7. How can you balance being curious with being hopeful so you do not diverge into obsession, impatience, or sensationalism regarding Christ's Second Coming or others' theological minors (not that the Second Coming is minor, it is NOT, it is how we interpret it that is!)?
8. What does it mean to you to make the most of your life here and now? What would your life look like if you did? What would your church look like?
9. What can you do now so your Christian life will be more about glorifying Him? How can this combat liberalism and false teachers as well as build your church?
10. When something happens which you do not understand, what can you do to grow from it? How about seeking the reason in prayer, asking God what you are to learn from it? How would this help you grow further and firmer in the faith?
11. What does it mean to be established in your faith? What can you do to keep your mind in Christ?
12. How can you make the most of what Christ has given? When will you do this? Now, how would you respond to make every effort? What are you going to do about becoming better in your faith in response to these questions from our Lord?
© 2005 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/