Jack M. Lane
For many years ministers have insisted, "We must
do the WORK!" "The Work" consists mainly of preaching on radio and television,
and producing booklets and magazines. But have we been overlooking something
equally important -- God's Way?
It has been repeatedly said in the Church over the years that we were "doing the Work," meaning that we were the ones fulfilling the Great Commission. To point out the Great Commission, we were referred to Matthew 24:14 and to Matthew 28:19-20.
And it was exciting! None of us doubted that we were doing the Work of God! And God blessed the Church when it was wholeheartedly "doing the Work."
WHAT IS "THE WORK" TODAY?
It was, without a doubt, Herbert W. Armstrong's life calling. Preaching the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom of God, getting on as many radio and television stations as he could, printing as many pieces of literature as he could, training and sending out as many ministers as he could, raising up as many church congregations as he could -- this was Mr. Armstrong's work.
He did the very best he could, as God allowed and helped him to do it. There are now countless thousands around the world faithfully, loyally clinging to God's word, worshipping God from the heart, and living better, Christian lives, all because Mr. Armstrong did "the Work."
What is our work? Yours and mine? Are the church members supposed to do what Mr. Armstrong was called to do? No, we helped him do his job, but now his particular job is over. What, then, are we to do?
It's time now for the Bride to be making herself ready for the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19). There has been a missing element in how the church corporations have handled the people God has given them. That missing element has been nurturing -- preparing God's people for positions of leadership in the Millennium and now -- training church members to lead in love. We could call the missing element "discipling."
CHRISTIANITY IS A WAY OF LIFE!
The apostles and elders of the early church went about preaching the Gospel. People were called by God (John 6:44), responded, repented, and came into the church (Acts 2:46-47). What was the job of the church members? To preach the Gospel to the world? Usually not.
What did the members learn? How to be Christians! Christianity, after all, is not just a set of doctrines. It's a way of life!
Far too much emphasis has been placed in the past few years on church government, rulership by the ministers, and relying on a headquarters team to do all the thinking. Far too little time has been spent on helping God's children learn how to think, how to study their Bibles for the best results, how to assume positions of leadership, how to make wise decisions, and a dozen other areas where people need training, both for this life and for the next.
There has been precious little concentrated effort to inculcate following the Eternal God with all our hearts and minds. Rather, more emphasis has been placed on following a leader or a corporation, especially as they go out to "do a Work." Brethren, this is the wrong emphasis!
The disciples of Christ need to spend less time concerned about "the Work" and more time learning "the Way"!
You may be aware that the principles which guided the early church were referred to in the book of Acts as "the Way." Let's examine these verses:
(1) "and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem (Acts 9:2, using NIV for each verse).
(2) "But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus" (Acts 19:9).
(3) "About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way" (Acts 19:23).
(4) "I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison" (Acts 22:4).
(5) "However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14).
(6) "Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. 'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case'" (Acts 24:22).
In each of these verses, "way" is translated from the Greek word hodos, which can mean (literally) way, wayside, road, journey, or highway, or it can mean (metaphorically) a course of conduct, a manner of thinking, or a way of making decisions.
Here are some other verses from the NIV using the same Greek word in the same way in various phrases. We can learn quite a bit about our way of life from these scriptures:
"This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him"'" (Matthew 3:3).
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
"They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are'" (Matthew 22:16).
"to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:79).
"John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'I am the voice of one calling in the desert, "Make straight the way for the Lord"'" (John 1:23).
"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6).
"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence" (Acts 2:28).
"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10)
"In the past, he let all nations go their own way" (Acts 14:16).
"This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved'" (Acts16:17).
"He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately" (Acts 18:25-26).
"Ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know" (Romans 3:16-17).
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33)
"For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church" (1 Corinthians 4:17).
"But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31).
"by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body" (Hebrews 10:20).
"Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).
"Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute" (2 Peter 2:2).
"They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness" (2 Peter 2:15).
"It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them" (2 Peter 2:21).
"and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: 'Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty" (Revelation 15:3).
Looking into the New Revised Standard Version, we can find other passages that use the word "way" to describe this manner of living we are supposed to be pursuing:
"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life" (Ephesians 2:10).
"You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).
"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors" (1 Peter 1:18).
Finally, here is a verse that shows us what we can call someone who strays from the Way: "He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness" (Hebrews 5:2).
We'll be looking into this important subject more in future issues. But perhaps now, when you hear someone encouraging his followers to get behind him to "do a work," you can more readily remember that we are not just a part of God's Work, but His WAY!