Neglect is defined as failing to care for something properly. Whenever this is the case the something needing attention, begins to deteriorate. Followers of Jesus should take great care to never have the word neglect associated with their name. This of course is difficult for us, because our humanity, after the fall, tends toward breaking down, losing strength and becoming insensitive. Those who are truly redeemed, through repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning work, have resurrection power to live apart from neglect, as we live in humble submission to God’s Spirit.
That being said, the New Testament is filled with commands and admonitions, which reveal the fight we still fight against being negligent, concerning our faith…
“Come out from among them” — “Awake, you who slumber” — “Finally, be strong in the Lord… take up the whole armor of God” — “walk worthy gird the loins of your mind” — “Be sober, be vigilant”—“contend earnestly for the faith”
*(II Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:14, 6:10-12; Colossians 1:10; I Peter 1:13; Jude 1:3)
We definitely must consistently strive against our old nature’s bent to re-prioritize what needs taken care of in our relationship to God. It is my contention today that negligence in all areas of our walk with Christ arises from ministerial neglect. I realize this may sound a bit clunky or redundant, so let me explain using the ministry of pastor.
Ministerial neglect is not avoiding, ignoring or forgetting some important function, as outlined in church by-laws, ministerial handbooks, expectations from congregations, ministerial peers, or even by the minister himself. Although some of the afore mentioned, may have biblical significance and need attended too, neglect in biblically defined areas, arises from a more primary and problematic neglect.
For ministers of the gospel it is important to differentiate between Biblical pastoral responsibilities, and the expectations of men. Even in the early church this was an issue. Consider reading Acts 6, where the apostles needed to diffuse a difficult situation, that was sucking their time away from their most primary responsibility before Christ (Acts Acts 6:1-7). Without refusing to be dragged around by others preferences and expectations, spiritual breakdown is certain.
Yet even being able to differentiate between God’s called activity and refusing the opposite, takes discipline and protection concerning the most important ministry. This ministry is outlined in II Corinthians 3:18-4:1.
2 Corinthians 3:18 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:1 1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
You will notice I left the chapter heading in between the cited verses. The reason for this, is that these two verses, are rarely seen as being connected. This is the unfortunate by-product of our citation based English translation of the Bible. Remember, in its original language, there are no chapter headings or titles. Therefore, when the word “Therefore” appears in a sentence (much like in our own grammatical structure), it signals that what follows is tied to the previous verse or verses. In this case the “Therefore, since we have this ministry…” of verse 4 is defined by the previous verse. What is this that we ALL have? The ministry of beholding the face of Christ, through seeking him in the secret place.
No we must be careful, in our Christian devotional culture, to remember that beholding Christ and being transformed into His image by the Spirit of God, is not reading alone or praying a list. Lets face facts, our current devotional culture is set up to give us little bite sized nuggets, so we have some truth in our crazy and overbooked lives. Millions are made each year on new materials that are not inherently evil, but constantly have us living off of someone else seeking the Lord Jesus in the secret place. For those in ministry, with unbelievable and unreasonable expectations, planning 1/2 to choke a chapter of the bible down into our soul and pray something at all, is often seen as a spiritual victory. The only issue is that there is no victory in it, only ministerial neglect.
We are so adamant on referring to our walk with Jesus as a relationship instead of religion, that we have missed that we are what makes a relationship real, lasting, and life giving… Intimacy. Intimacy takes time, and complete focus on the person with whom you desire relationship. We need to have a shift in our understanding of discipline in the ministry of beholding. We need to have a transformation of mind, concerning what it means to know God.
In Christ Jesus we are called into one of the most intimate relationships possible in the human world; that of Father to child. Yet what does intimacy look like? Essentially it is to have first hand interactive knowledge of the persons presence and actions. To the Christian, this is more than knowing orthodox word of God facts concerning the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, how we are to live and what happens to us when we die. All those things are necessary, but without a cultivated and personal knowledge of God’s person and presence, the necessary will be at risk of being wasted.
Although our American Christian culture trumpets relationship to God, and there are many who know much about God, His word, and His Christ, we are suffering without the manifest presence of God. As we are called to “Behold His face, and be changed”, it appears many are simply adding more files in their informational archive. We may be intellectually prepared to give and answer to people about our beliefs, but are we growing in submission to the word of God, as the Holy Spirit leads us in all things? Truth be told, if you can’t find His voice speaking to you in the secret place, letting Him lead by that voice the rest of the day is impossible.
In America, both minsters and rank and file believers, I’m afraid, are guilty of gross ministerial neglect. Sadly, this neglect may not be acknowledged or even seen until the devastation of crisis hits. Then, in the midst of soul shaking trials, we will potentially see an absence of Christlike character and unbelieving actions in ourselves, which reveals our current ministerial neglect.
May God leads us to drive beyond what we see as required fair for the Christian life, and learn to pursue His presence. This ministry is for all who come to Christ receiving God’s grace, through the cross. This ministry is the pursuit of Abba’s person and presence. It is an unrelenting journey to see His glory.
Psalm 63:1-8 1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. 4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. 6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. 7 Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. 8 My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.