“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50, NIV)
Recently, part of my role at Tabor has changed. As well as being a lecturer here, I’ve also began working to find ways that Tabor can better support and empower Adelaide’s churches and parachurch organisations.
What I’ve discovered in this role is that Adelaide is blessed with an abundance of great Christian churches and parachurch organisations. We have a host of exciting, innovative, courageous, gospel-driven groups, powerfully and effectively revealing Christ and His Kingdom. I’ve also seen that these organisations are more than “organisations” – they are people, working incredibly hard (with the empowering of God’s Spirit), and with tremendous passion and focus.
There’s just one little risk with this.
Firstly, part of the reason that these people work so hard is because there’s so much for them to do. The world is such a broken place, there’s no end to the stuff we need to do. And thus we always wish there were more people to help us do it all. Secondly, because so many of us are so passionate and focussed on what we’re doing, that can sometimes mean we don’t have the brainspace to understand or appreciate the work that others are doing. It’s sometimes easier to ignore them, or even to denigrate their work. Part of the reason for denigrating them, if we’re honest, can be because we see them as a threat. We need more Christians doing our ministry, not doing theirs. Ours is “more important”.
I recently heard a great talk on this passage from Luke 9, as I was wrestling with all this, and it got me thinking. John was boasting to Jesus about telling this guy to stop driving out demons. John had seen a Christian “competitor”, and been able to stop him from stealing John’s “turf”. Jesus’ response must have deeply disappointed John, because you get the distinct impression that He was rather angry. Why was Jesus angry? Because the only entity that won in that little transaction was the demon.
We must all avoid this competitive spirit. Firstly, because it blinds us to the opportunities for partnership – there are so many opportunities I’ve seen for organisations to work more closely together, and this would allow them all to be far more effective. But more than that, all of us are not against Christ, but for Him. We are working to further His Kingdom, and if one group is furthering His Kingdom, all the others who are doing the same will be stronger, too.
Which is better? Fifty people in your organisation, and only ten in your “rival”? Or a thousand in yours, and a thousand in theirs?! When we all work for the spread of the Kingdom, more people are saved, blessed, healed, discipled, grown, and all of us are stronger.
And then the demons shudder.
Matthew James Gray
Lecturer Tabor Adelaide