Being A Balcony Christian
When I was much younger, I loved going to plays. I would often sit in the balcony so I could throw popcorn down on the people below. But I also learned that when you sit in the balcony you are very distant and uninvolved with the acting.
However, when I was in High School, the shoe was on the other foot because I was often down on the stage acting in plays. Although, I must confess that whenever I went to the theater and sat in the audience, I would critique the acting up on the stage.
Oh, don’t look at me that way. Preachers do the same thing. When we are sitting in meetings, and someone else is teaching, we will silently think, “Boy, I would say that a little differently,” or “I would throw in this verse about now.” (Hey, even teachers of the Word of God can be carnal sometimes).
The sad thing is there are many Christians who do that at church. They want to “sit in the balcony” and watch the action going on down on the stage. Oh, they see a lot, they even know a lot, and then spend their time discussing the performing Christians (the ones who are actually doing the work). Don’t be shocked or embarrassed about that because it doesn’t end there. Christians freely critique and criticize other ministries, ministers and folks “on the streets” doing the Lord’s work, instead of getting their hands dirty.
The point I am attempting to make is that this also applies to fellowship. It is not something we simply discuss; it is something we do. Christians today know so much at a discussion level! What we need are “doers of the Word.” Isaiah 1:19 says “the willing and the obedient will eat the good of the land!” Until you start doing it, you will never be able to see how good it is.
How do you think this would work in a marriage?
“Well, honey, I almost stopped and bought you some flowers on the way home. I meant to, but traffic was too busy, and it was way out of the way.”
Sure you were willing, you had a great idea—but it is the willing and obedient that make a happy wife. You need to follow through with your willingness.
There is a note in my Scofield Bible I wrote several years ago that says, “Christian experience is not something that is going on around the believer, but something that is going on within the believer.”
Larry Tomczak, the founder of The People of Destiny International Apostolic Team, wrote an article entitled, Taking Action, Living Adventurously. This was published in the Last Days Magazine in the fall of 1989. I want to quote one section from that article:
“Many young people perceive Christianity as cold, lifeless, and boring. British Bible teacher Terry Virgo tells of a newly saved young man who, seeing a church nearby, sadly asked, ‘Now that I’m a Christian, do I have to go into that building?’ A common cry against religion goes up from today’s youth: ‘I want action, man, not boredom!’
“God agrees! And that’s why He is stirring His people to action. An explosion of authentic, Biblical, action-oriented Christianity is just around the corner as the Church enters the last decade of this century.
“. . . for too long we’ve been over-equipped and under-challenged. Now it’s time to make our mark for the Kingdom of God. Let’s shake off apathy and indifference and take action like Jesus did.”
Right on! That was written several years ago, but has anything changed? Maybe our first question should be, ”How? How can I live this stuff out? There’s over 400 people in my church, how can I love them all deeply and equally?”
Obviously, you can’t. But it will still require a serious commitment on your part to love as many as you can! A covenant-type of commitment, just like in Acts 2:42-46. John Calvin commented on the fact that the King James Version says, “all those which believed were joined together,” and that the Greek says joined into the same, or into one, “which may be expounded of the place, as if he should have said that they were wont to dwell together in one place.”
In other words, psychologically, they felt like family. And, families have a common pot of money! There is certainly ownership in the family (read Acts 5:4). We talk about “Jonathan‟s room” or “Christopher’s bike.” Nevertheless, there is an overall bank account.
People have often laughed at those first Christians about this. Even in Calvin’s day they joked over the early Christian having “all things in common” and wondered if that included wives. That may make for a good laugh, but the truth of it was a powerful reality.
Even a non-Christian such as an entertainer, or a sports figure, who strikes it rich will take care of his brothers and sisters, or buy his mother a better house. If he understands about the importance family, how much more should we? When some of us strike it rich, shouldn’t we share with Christian brothers and sisters or parents nearby who are struggling financially? James 2:15-16 says that this proves that our Christianity is more than lip service, that it is authentic.
But beyond all this life together in a local Body, there is still an itch that we have not scratched yet when we hear the question, “How can I love them all deeply and equally?”
When I was Pastoring that fellowship, I mentioned earlier at Western Michigan University, I thought it was a written law some place that leaders must love everybody equally in the group. Someone advised me,“Don’t have any close friends because that would be playing favorites, and they would see how “human” you really are and would no longer benefit from your ministry.”
Well, I didn’t listen to them. I tried to be a good politician and hug everybody and smile, but I had the awful feeling I was missing someone. To make it worse, I saw that Paul wrote, “We felt so strongly about you that we were determined to share with you not only the Good News of God but also our lives. That’s how dear you were to us!” (I Thessalonians 2:8). Paul didn’t shrink from sharing his emotions with his flock. When he looked back on the Thessalonians, he said, “Oh, what an affection I had for you. How dear you were to me.” Those are words of intimacy. How could that be?
So how do I love everybody? You can’t. And if f I had followed the teachings of those ministers who said I should never have any close friends, I would have gotten lonelier and lonelier. Fortunately, there were those who moved in to be special friends with me, several who are still dear friends after all these years. We “hung out” together; we camped together; we laughed together; we shared our lives together. We loved each other with a closeness I could never offer to everybody else, much as I wanted to.
Now I know that the policy was not supposed to work because it is unbiblical. The Scriptures are full of stories of close friends, and leaders had them too. Moses had Joshua; Elijah had Elisha. David had his band of thirty men, with three in the inner circle, and then an even closer relationship with Jonathan. Jesus had three within twelve, and seventy beyond those. Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Epaphroditus, and many more.
Okay, I will answer that. Over the next few days, I will share with you what seems to be the “ABC’s” for relational fulfillment in our lives.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.