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Ralph Waldo Emerson said; “An institution is the lengthened shadow of an individual.” For example in 1870 the Standard Oil Company was established by John D. Rockefeller. In 1903 the Ford Motor Company was established by Henry Ford. In 1975 one of the founders of the Microsoft Company was Bill Gates, just to name a few. Their companies were the lengthened shadow of their founders.
However, nowhere could this axiom be applied more truthfully than with the church of Jesus Christ. The church is the ‘lengthened shadow’ of the incarnate Son of God. The glory, magnificence, and endurance of the church are the grandeur of its Divine Founder. When all other man-made institutions lay crumbled beneath the ages of time the church of Jesus Christ will live on throughout the endless ages of eternity.
Jesus came into the world to redeem a fallen race. The provisions of Calvary are for all men for all time. The word ‘church’ is ekklesia, which means “the called out ones.” The other word is kyriakos, which means “belonging to the Lord.” All who have turned from sin to God, all who have been “born again” are members of His church. While on earth He laid out the blueprint for His church and revealed the purpose and function of those whom He called to be leaders following His ascension back to the Father. (Ephesians 4: 11-13) He sent the Holy Spirit into the world to purify their hearts and empower them to continue the work He left behind for them to do. From that time forward He has been calling men and women to be leaders of the greatest institution the world has ever seen.
To the ministers of the church “He has committed the word of reconciliation”, and He charges them to be “ambassadors for Christ.” They do not represent their own interest or even the interest of a denomination but, first and foremost, the interest of Christ. Therefore in a lesser sense the church is a ‘lengthened shadow’ of its human leadership. The quality of that leadership becomes the quality of the church. The maxim, “like priest, like people” is so true. The strength and weakness of the pulpit is reflected in the pew. The responsibility that rests upon those who are called to preach the word is very grave. The vows that one takes when ordained in the Church of the Nazarene are of eternal significance. Every ordained Elder pledges to faithfully proclaim the doctrine of Scriptural holiness. When ministers are flaming heralds of the full salvation message, the results will be a laity with “Holiness unto the Lord” as their battle cry.
Holiness is a conservator of orthodoxy. Holiness preaching and teaching has a passion to win lost souls to Christ and then urges believers to go on to God’s best in purity, love and spiritual power. The church is here as a place of worship. “O come, let us worship and bow down: Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” God is a spiritual Being and we can only worship Him as we ourselves become spiritual through the power of the sanctifying Spirit. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” We worship Him in spiritual songs, by public prayer, by preaching and teaching, by testimony and praise, by giving of our tithes and offerings, and by observing the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Because holiness preaching and teaching carries a passion for lost souls it therefore is also a conservator of evangelism. If the pastor of the church is not faithful and true to this central message it will drift from the more excellent way and there will be few witnesses to this full salvation among the laity.
Common to the function of all worldly institutions, the church needs efficient administrators. However, the church of Jesus Christ is unique to any other institution because it is a living organism of which Christ is the head. He requires that His administrators and educators be godly leaders as well. He has decreed that the purpose of those leaders along with the pastor be, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.” It is incumbent upon the God-called minister to keep a sharp focus on his designated role as a shepherd of the sheep so that hirelings will not creep in with their false teachings and scatter the flock.
“Your business is to save souls,” was Wesley’s pointed and oft-repeated admonition to his preachers. This was their primary purpose, all else was secondary. It is still true today that if the Church remains true to her primary purpose she will be a gateway to heaven for hungry souls.
“Lengthened Shadows”—It must be concluded that the part of the church which we represent as ministers of the Gospel, is to a greater or lesser extent a lengthened shadow of our lives. That thought should be a challenge to all preachers and teachers called to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. It has been said that He gets His reputation in this world by those who are His ambassadors and we must not misrepresent Him or His Word. The call to total surrender has never been popular to a world rapt in narcissism. The high calling that God has placed on His ministers demands that we be faithful to the whole counsel of God. A religion is as fully dangerous for the truth one omits as for the errors one espouses. In the final analysis, the real reason for the enthronement of outright error or misplaced truth is the unwillingness to make second blessing holiness central in our proclamations.
The question needs to be asked; would I be satisfied to have the qualities of my spiritual life reflected in those to whom I minister? Am I willing to have my exercise of worship, my prayer and study life, my evangelistic passion be the model of those to whom I minister? It is a very awakening question. I can only answer it by saying that my desire for those to whom I minister as well as myself, is to have a greater spiritual depth and devotion then I have yet to experience.
Phillip Brooks stated: “If God has called you to be His preacher, don’t stoop to be a king.” Let us do nothing to compromise this high calling God has placed on our lives.