LEARNED AND COPIED RELIGIOUS BEHAVIOR
Behaviors, in one form is learning how to talk Christian talk and learn
As Paul noted in his epistles, "Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ." There are some Spiritual expressions worthy of emulation. Certain men or women truly "know who they worship. (John 4:22) " There is a place for conformity and imitation and there is a place where conformity is a hindrance to knowing God. "Are we to follow God or man?" was a sound bench mark for belief from the beginning.
Most of us have had a time in our lives that we tried to keep up with the latest fashions and trends. We kept our eyes on trendsetters and tried to emulate every fashion and fad. Teenagers are tuned in to the issues of "being cool" or being in and staying in. Contemporary media continuously models expressions and fashions that are "in." The media has a message tries to persuade us to conform to the things which only worldly and superficial. Fashionable-ness whether in the "look", in language affectations, or owning material toys and accessories that are presumed to make life fulfilling. Media trends have the power to turn our minds away from things which are true or eternal. While we may quickly condemn conformity we still find ourselves being its victim. No one has less individuality than one who conforms totally to the masses. With populations controlled by the media we develope a group-think mentality and become robots.
Conformity is also relevant within Christian institutions. "Religion" models and promotes its own kind of behaviors to emulate. One can learn how to be appear pious using "copy-cat" behavior which promotes the perception of one's status in the church community. Practically everything about church life can be seen, demonstrated, modeled, and replicated. We are exhorted to be sincere in our expressions of compassion and humility and not merely put on an act. We are exhorted to have Spiritual discernment recognizing the things that are "of God."
Preaching style can also become affected or stylized to fit some mode of power or persuasion. It is not uncommon for preachers to sound like they were cut out of the same mold. The preaching voice may become unlike men or women talk in ordinary conversations. But once behind the pulpit they are transformed into a different person. Voice, mannerisms, or inflections become part of the persona of sounding like preachers? Where do they learn this "preacher voicing" and emphasis? No doubt from one of their preaching heroes.
To use King James English the language of Shakespeare, as the language of prayer, does not make us more Godly. But the religious tone often reverts to this out dated synthetic language by which to affect spirituality and appropriate reverence. This affectation has no more power to influence God than for you and I to simply talk as ourselves. God knows who we are, knows our weakness and knows that we are dust. Do we think that we can persuade him that we are something we are not: That we can "fake anything" with him. Because of this kind of praying many simply don't attempt to pray since they can't intone Elizabethan English well enough.
In a recent television broadcast featuring music and religion I enjoyed seeing the contrast of many kinds of musical traditions including "high church" and "low church" and all sorts of music in between. Music has a way of preserving things which are good and Godly even when the glory has for the most part faded. Among the musicians featured were a young black evangelist whose name I can not credit. His Spiritual gifting was obvious. After this evangelist's conversion, he used his gift to minister the Gospel and the power of God through Rap Music on the mean streets of a major city. The fact that God was using him was unmistakable, his strength and anointing and transparency to God was strongly evident. The difference between this man's street music and the highly intellectual liturgical music of a high church musicologist did not hinge upon natural ability but supernatural anointing. I can't say I'm a fan of rap music, but I confess that I would rather listen to Rap Music enabled and anointed by God, than a performer with a degree in performance, practiced in their method but who does not know God in his Spirit.
a shame that church gatherings should become an environment where anyone
has to put on an act? In the pulpit there can be all manners of affectations
which may or may not be sincere. If a pastor is charismatic (naturally
gifted) many will begin to talk like him, gesture like him, or pray
like him. It is too easy for us to emulate a man.
Oratory and persuasive speech can hold an
audience in rapt attention, with speaking skills. Even when the message
is mundane an hour can go by more quickly when the pastor adds a few
jokes or anecdotal commentary about his life or someone else's life.
the unbelieving world looks at these peculiar affectations of church
life they begin to mock or make caricatures of them. There have been
too many films portraying preachers or evangelists as conniving con-artists,
out to deceive gullible folks at a "revival meeting" into
giving their last dollar. Just about anyone especially those outside
of the fellowship of God can do an impersonation of a drawling evangelist
pretending to heal a person by laying on hands to heal some gullible
soul, thus ridiculing Jesus, his gift and salvation .
Not all role models are bad. God made each of us "originals." There is no need to copy anyone else unless what they know about the Kingdom of God 'works' and also conforms to the model of Scripture. Emulation of a human role model is understandable in the fact that we view our own abilities as inadequate thus we feel a need to copy another. Success in human terms probably motivates us to be like others who we call successful. In church circles any person who imagines themselves as great, powerful, or successful in a very real sense is self deceived. A key distinction is the kind of "role model" we chose to emulate and the correct kind of behaviors which we see modeled. The Bible has some very important things to say about copying others. It even suggests, believe it or not, that we do copy others, but we are never to compare ourselves with others. There is a distinction.
The Bible states, "Be ye followers (imitators) of God as dear children." (Ephesians 5:1) "Be followers (imitators) of me even as I follow Christ." (1 Corinthians 11.1.) What makes it possible to imitate the apostle? It is because he is imitating Christ.
In apostolic ministry the true apostle diminishes so God increases in him. Human gifts are surrendered to God's use and the vanity of personal achievment is discarded. Personal name, rank and reputations become irrelevant. The messenger must never overshadow the message with any affectation of ego or worldliness. Human character and the human flesh is the natural enemy of the Gospel. I have heard a spiritual man say wisely, "I have one great enemy to my ministry, myself." Human pride, (being someone important) is an enemy of the Gospel. Being yielded is of primary importance. A person must cast aside his desire for self exaltation before God can do much with him. This is something that only God can do and does, as he prepares and disciples us. It is part of the task we call "learning Christ." The body of a fellowship can only suffer when hierarchies are established.
God does not want the world to see an self exalted man or woman when a Christian is presented. He wants the glory of God to be revealed through a messenger who is as transparent as possible. When believers come together it is not to exalt any person but to reveal His glory. Those who are struggling to find a Spiritual life often have limited choices about who might be an appropriate role model. Someone may choose to model themselves after a person whose attributes or credentials reflect personality affectations or performance gifts, such persons may be totally without spiritual insights and knowledge of God. Paul states again in 2 Corinthians 10:12, that we should not make ourselves like any who tend to compare themselves to others, he says, to make such comparisons is "not wise" (paraphrased.)
We need to be grounded in the beliefs and understanding of the Christian life. Mentors with authentic maturity come into play as we gather in koinonia (fellowship.) But the active force that causes a believer to grow mentors is principally met by God, through the Spirit of Truth. We listen to preachers, teachers and friends in the faith who share truths they have come to understand. Any advancement of our understanding will come through the voice of the Holy Spirit transmitted through a disciple of God. Through the Spirit God constantly teaches us individually. Most of yearn to experience the goodness of God, the power of God, or the transforming mind-restoring Wisdom of God.
Failing to find a Spiritual mentor we may
proceed to ask God to instruct or direct us. If any has faith and believes
God will respond to us, we may ask him to meet us where we are. He can
then direct us where you can find our "Annanais" The man who
spoke by the Holy Spirit's revelation to the newly converted Saul of
Tarsus. (Acts 9:10-17.) At this moment you may not have the faith
that God can and will, reach down and touch you, in answer to your request.
But I have perfect faith that He will do just that.
Understanding Home Fellowships