Mark 9:38-40 38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
The question is ask, “What does it mean to be independent?” We see the word coming up a little more in the media these days in relation to voters who do not claim to be affiliated with one political party or another. But I am thinking of the word in the context of our churches, and I am sure that most of my readers are too. The church I pastor, the First Baptist Church of Westland, MI, is what is known as an independent Baptist church. This simply means that we govern ourselves outside the control of a denomination and or any fellowship. This does not mean that we are against these things, or even that we don’t associate with any of them, because we do. It simply means that we conduct our mission as an independent church.
Many of my pastoral acquaintances fall under same category of being independent. Yet, the truth of the matter is that few ever truly act independent. Often times, we take on the attitude of the disciples and not of Jesus. How do we do this? We see the answer by paying careful attention to the words of the disciples (vs. 38) and noticing that they were more worried about who was not following them, not Jesus. We take it personally when someone else does not want to do it exactly the way we do, and in doing so we fail to remember and practice the words of Jesus in verse 40, “For he that is not against us is on our part.” Too many pastor’s have crossed the line from being a shepherd to becoming a dictator. And when they run out sheep in their church to rule over with their iron fist, they find other churches, and more importantly, pastors, to begin to try to control. As much as these pastors will preach against religious rulers like the Pope, they become pope-like in their dictating of convictions and personal preferences in ministry and daily living. And with the popularity of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, this has seemingly gotten worse.
Would we not do better, and be more Christ-like, if we just followed the Lord in all that we do and allow others to exercise their liberty in following Him, even if they don’t follow us step by step? Instead of worrying about the direction of other Christ-followers, lets pay more attention to our direction and our motives.