I once spent a summer working in a restaurant for £2.50 a week. It was a very long time ago when I was fourteen, but even then it was not much money. The owner of the restaurant was from Cyprus but he did not serve Greek food – very English fish and chips and real solid puddings. He allowed me to eat as much as I liked, so my low wage was off-set by triple helpings of steamed syrup suet sponge with custard and ice cream.
I am not aware that the time there had any impact on my life, so why I remember that and forget so many other things is a mystery.
Memory is a selective thing, not least in the matter of recalling conversations between husband and wife. I can remember a set of facts quite differently to the way my wife, Catherine, remembers them. It is probable that one of us is right, but which one of us? Ah! – That is another mystery.
There are a very few individuals with exceptionally good memories, but for most of us, we need some method to help us – whether on screen, paper or knots in handkerchiefs. That is one of the reasons why we need to keep coming back to our bibles. Most of us easily forget what it says, and we end up relying on someone else to tell us. The problem is that they may have forgotten just as easily as we have. Now, I do believe in the need for leaders such as pastors and teachers in the Church, but not as substitutes for what we should be checking out ourselves.
God has promised that He will teach us through the Holy Spirit writing things on our minds and hearts. One of the most effective ways He does this is by enabling us to understand the bible when we read it. It is very helpful to have good leaders in the Church, but their main responsibility is to teach us how to learn directly from God rather than them acting as a go between. A good teacher will teach what the Holy Spirit is already saying, so that our response will be, ‘that’s just what I have seen’. In this way, it will be a confirmation of what we are already getting for ourselves. This does of course put the responsibility on us to make sure that we are in right relationship with God and continually drawing on the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. If all of us in Church do this and share what God is showing us, we are more likely to grow both individually and as a group.
One of the worst things that can happen, is for a leader to convince us that we are not able to receive from God ourselves, and that what we need to do is just listen to them, support them and do what they say. In her book ‘The Liberty of Obedience’ Elisabeth Elliot states that “Decisions must be made in the integrity of one’s own heart before God – with an unselfish attention to our brother’s good and the glory of God.” When we have to respond to the questions God puts to us at the judgement, it will be insufficient to say ‘I never really came to grips with what you said Lord, but this leader said this, or the other leader said that and I thought it best to just follow them and not to try and understand for myself.’
You may be surprised how many problems happen to churches because a leader spends so much time trying to build a good church, that he or she goes astray in their own life. Some of the other people will probably pick that up, but if they are used to simply playing follow my leader, then the whole church can break up, dry up or go off the rails. But we do have a responsibility to remember to the best of our ability, and most of us will only be able to do it well if we both rely on the Holy Spirit and keep going back to the bible.