One of the defining turning points in my mind when I think of the history of the twelve tribes of Israel was a point of decision. God had, with a mighty hand, led them out of slavery in Egypt, through the mighty red sea, and now into the desert where he would prepare them for their promised land. The whole nation was encamped near a mountain and God had told them to draw near so he could talk to them from the mountain. He desperately desired fellowship and open communication with His people.
The people purified themselves and drew near to the mountain, which was now enveloped in loud thunder, flashes of lightning, great quaking, and a roaring fire: a display of the awesome glory of God. The people were afraid – and their fearful desire for self-preservation was greater than their desire for fellowship with their creator – so they told Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Ex. 19:12 – 20:21) So the people withdrew from the bottom of the mountain to stand afar off and watch.
I can only imagine God’s disappointment when he saw the people back away. He had done so much for them and all He expected in return was an open line of communication. He did not want to start a religion, He wanted to start a relationship with His people. He wanted to talk to each of them, and only one was willing to do it face to face. Only one was hungry enough to know God that they were willing to risk hair and hide to find do it. Only one.
The unfortunate dilemma in many church systems today is very similar. Churches have been set up using Old Testament hierarchies when the Old Testament has passed away. The church in the first century was so wonderfully free from religion that there were no heads or tails among the people. No pulpits and pews in their meeting rooms. No clergy and laity. Rather all were kings and priests to God, and for the most part they acted like it. They all ministered in different ways, all were used in differing gifts of the Spirit, all took part in building up the whole body. As a result, all layed hands on the sick, all visited the infirmed or imprisoned, all baptized new believers, and all were charged with being prayer warriors and soul winners.
The average church group today looks very different. They have a Moses, and they have told him, “You go for us.” Without realizing it, they have rejected God as their King and heaped to themselves a mediator. Someone who will talk to God on their behalf and deliver His messages for them. A leader they can call their own and who will represent them to the world and to God. This setup hinders the forward movement of the body of Christ in at least two key ways. The leader becomes overworked and born down with way too much responsibility, and the saints under their ministry become fat and lazy and carnal – I say this with great respect for the motives and efforts of every church group today, because I used to be on both sides of that coin.
What is most unfortunate is that most saints prefer it this way!