Church Is Messy?

I don’t know what flashes through your mind when you read, church is messy.  My guess is that for many your reply may be a tad sarcastic or even dismissive, something akin to:

“Yeah. Church and any venture that tries to lead people is messy.  Tell me something I don’t know.” 

That is very true.  But I’m talking about messy in a different way.

The thought that Church Is Messy (and that’s a good thing) is birthed from an obscure verse in Proverbs that gripped me a couple of years ago.

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”  Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

That simple verse has fundamentally altered and invigorated how I view my responsibility as a leader of Christians and as a follower of Jesus Christ.  It’s all about the harvest.  For the wise it doesn’t seem to be enough to have a harvest.  The wise are invested in a large harvest.  Many ache for, dream of and pray for a large harvest.  Having a harvest of any size assumes a great deal of hard work and long hours.  But having a large harvest requires adopting something that can exponentially amplify the hours and energy invested.

Having a large harvest means I’m going to have to shovel a lot of…eer…Well, you know what I mean.

I love the simplicity and the imagery of this verse.  I can imagine a farmer, up before the sun, walking into his once clean stable, greeted by the warm stench of dung.  As he reaches for the shovel, he reminds himself,

If I do this, the ox will do what I can’t.  If I provide for it, the ox will produce for me.

So the work  continues.  The next harvest produces more than the last.  With greater revenue he eventually buys more land, more oxen and hires more hands.  Soon he is no longer shoveling dung.  That task falls to young, eager farmers who now work for him, hoping to learn from him.

The time and energy that we have to invest will always be limited; what is produced doesn’t have to be.  Having an ox isn’t about working more.  It’s about making an investment in something or someone who will make more of what you value most, bringing more people into the kingdom.

I love this verse because it challenges my lean toward comfort and familiarity.  I love this verse because it pushes me to ask the question,

“Where can I invest to increase my harvest?”

The answer to that question is almost always going to be people.  I love opportunities to invest in emerging leaders and interns.  Doing so always means more work, especially in the beginning.  It can be great fun, certainly more fun than shoveling ox fodder.  Still, it is more hours, more work, more lost energy.  So why do it?  Because it exponentially increases influence and that always means a larger harvest.  I’ve found few joys in ministry that are sweeter than watching the purposes of God unleashed through one of those emerging leaders, as he or she leads others to trust and  follow Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what the ox is for you.  For me it has meant honest and sometimes excruciating evaluation of ministry programs.  It has meant saying goodbye to much-loved ministry activity that didn’t produce a harvest.  It has meant retooling or restructuring to invest in the influence of others.  It has meant bringing in the perspective and opinions of others into the message crafting process (if you are not currently doing that, it is messy and it is good).  It has meant not only financially backing those who care for orphans, but adopting an orphan myself.  My wife and I have been surprised by the world of influence and relationships that this act has opened to us.  In short, having an ox has meant leaning into messy activities that lead to larger harvests.

These new and messy activities often feel awkward and are counter-intuitive.   That is alright.  What is never alright is being satisfied with a smaller harvest because you are not comfortable with the mess.

Any hope of a harvest at all rests on the messiest event in human history.  There was nothing neat and tidy about the cross.  It was a brutal and messy affair.   Because of the mess of the cross, we now have the message of reconciliation.

Whatever the ox is for you, there is a good chance that it means making a mess out of some neat and tidy things in your life and in your church.  And that mess is a good thing.


32 responses to “Church Is Messy?

  • Charles D Undefrwood

    I am grateful to you for your stand against these false teachers,when I make remarks to the them My fellow ministers in my denomination seem to put in a judging category.I have made statements against such as Rick Warren , Kenneth Copeland and even Joyce Meyers, and I am blacklisted.
    I cannot stand idle and watch this trash go on..Thank you so much.
    I have been a pastor 50 yrs.
    Charles D Underwood

  • Joe Meek

    Rick, if you expect an avalanche of amen’s to this, then I have beachfront property in Kansas for you to buy. “I want you to prosper as you soul prospers” is a quote that has been used more than a lazy mule is beaten. We love prosperity and our adoration of movie stars proves it. These “pastors” are Christian movie stars, and have more fans (100 million dollars a year, good grief). God is permitting these deceivers to go on preaching and a gullible public to drink it in. “An angel whispering in my ear”, where does she get this nonsense from? and angels don’t preach, they minster to God’s elect. Hebrews 1.14. “He was not the Son of God, but sin”? The quote she is alluding to is “He was made to be sin for us”, II Cor. 5:21 means that He was made the “scapegoat” of sin, yet He remained the Son of God and in His perfection took on the sins of those who would be chosen…and so He died in our place and carried them away into the wilderness (Yom Kippur). He was also the sacrifice on the altar of sin, a Lamb with no blemish, dying a death in place of His chosen that would have condemned them to an eternal one. Why oh why can’t these “ministers” just preach Christ crucified?

  • Joe Meek

    Sorry, I meant to post this another article you wrote, Rick, on Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen. I like your site!!

  • Waynette Young

    I would add amen. Just in the last few weeks I was researching again these false teachers. So many are quoting them and therefore following the teaching. I too went to The Bible Answer Man, awesome resource still! Love that the church you are at is in Utah, keep up the kingdom work.

  • Waynette Young

    Meant for my comment to go with your latest on false prophet teachers. Thanks for grace.

  • Loretta

    Was in this kind of teaching for a number of years in the 1980′s-1995. Praise the Lord, I am now in a Bible believing church that teaches what the Bible says about Jesus and the Christian life. I am growing spiritually. These teachers you blog about are just greedy, self centered, power hungry. I am glad you are standing up for the truth of the Gospel.

    • Kirstin

      You are wrong. i know some of these ministers personally. They are some of the most generous and giving people. Titus 3: 2-7 – ‘Speak evil of no man”

      • Rex

        I agree with you Kirstin. This type of articles and blogs are exactly why the Church and Christianity is seen as a joke by so many people. I have a hard time believing your goal is to add to the Kingdom. We can’t agree on so we divide to new denominations; we decide what someone else should do with their money; we speak evil of other Christians we don’t agree with all for a few ‘amens’ and a pat on the back. As a church goer my whole life and a born again, Bible believing Christian for 8 years I grow sick of the bickering.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that your views of Joyce Meyer are ridiculous . She reaches millions for Jesus and people’s lives are changed. You have taken a few things she has said and twisted it to be what you want. I do believe that by faith we can speak to our circumstances to change. The Bible says there is the power of life and death in the tounge. Maybe you should teach what God gives you to teach and not point out what you consider others faults . I think you all are on the same team if you are pointing people to Jesus. So it really a sad to me to hear your comments about others.

  • Diana DePriest

    That verse is so true, I’ve said that for years, it had helped me through a lot of hurts and hard times at the hands of church leadership. I blogged about it recently, though inn having a harder time getting through lately. But it I is encouraging to see someone else interpret the verse the same way. Thank you.

  • Jean Dimpfl

    There are about 83 mentions of the church in the new Testament. There are 38 mentions in the plural ( churches) and the plural does not mean the many organizations headed by false teachers. The scripture does not mention nor mean that the church is messy. In fact, I find that offensive.
    The scripture says the church is the “body of Christ”. It says Christ is the head of the church. It says it is the bride of Christ. The church that Peter spoke of in the second chapter of Acts was Christ centered, Christ owned and Christ kingdom. There is nothing messy about the true Church of Christ. It is perfect in it’s design, perfect in it’s purpose and faithfully taught by the few that has found the narrow way and will be saved. If ” few ” offends that’s the term used in the scripture. It grieves me that the likes of Osteen, Meyers, and many others are leading astray the sincere people who show up at church assembly and soak up the false teaching instead of searching the scripture to show themselves approved before God. I suggest that perhaps it’s time for Henderson and Warren to take a hard look as some of your teachings. If the scripture doesn’t say it then man shouldn’t say it.

  • Val

    Hi Rick:

    Before I start, I was going to leave my post with the article/blog, but began to read some of the posts and decided this to be a better forum. It’s a shame what the outcome has been and I am sure not one you intended.

    First, thank you for this post (Osteen vs Meyer) – it was actually sent to me by a woman from my church who is currently discipling me and felt I would benefit from it. I have. As well, believe it or not from the posts I have read, granted I have not read the over 1,045!

    I am a newly rededicated Christian and have been a follower of Joyce and Joel (Joyce more than Joel) and until now had enjoyed their teaching (less the staging and self promotion) for it’s simplicity I guess and it’s lack of esotericism although I must say have been bothered by the constant solicitation to buy books and to give. I have had little background or context for each until now, which because of your post has inspired me to dig deeper, to try to be a little more informed not just for TV evangelists, but all those from whom we approve as teachers. The bible does ask us to “walk circumspectly” and to “test the spirit” so I would think this applies to all those who claim to be a follower of Jesus – for me as well. Although, I think we need to allow for people to make mistakes given that we all have fallen short and without grace we would all be without hope, I do agree that those that lead flocks should be and should expect to be held to a higher standard by man (since they will be by God). That said, thank you for sharing and ‘outing’ as you say people who claim to be of God, but are really about mammon (if that is in fact true in these cases. It seems on the surface to be). I really don’t want to guess, but the evidence you present to me has some compelling merit. I have internalized what you said about living our lives in such a way as to be approved by God and believe along with all that have commented that the scriptures are pretty diffinitive on what that looks like. I am learning as well, that from both old and new testaments God did not tread lightly when it came to false prophets and disobedience, so we should expect that He will find a way to intervene to protect His own. Maybe what this has served to do more for me is to emphasize the need for a deeper personal relationship with God, a better understanding of of His Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit and perhaps a complimentary, but lesser reliance on man, so that I can recognize when I am being led astray. I am learning and have a long long way to go. I especially liked and can say a big “Amen” to Joe Meeks comments above and have learned much from the subsequent comments from others related to this subject on this page.

    My point. I am curious only about one thing and I am hoping you will answer. What did you do prior to preaching this from the pulpit and writing this blog, what steps did you take about this matter as far as these individuals are concerned? Others have asked the same question, I now see, thought I was crazy for asking. Knowing this would be helpful to me, if you would like to reply to me personally that is fine. God bless.

  • Pat

    Love your words! Time to develop and publish a small group study on this, and use those proceeds to serve the world!

  • Anonymous

    Rick Henderson, you should be ashamed!!!

  • Rachel

    Thank you for your honest, accurate assessment of these individuals! Don’t be deterred by the negative backlash, instead, see it as a reinforcement that you are right. The Bible says they will hate you because they hated HIM. God bless you!

    • browniejo (@browniejo)

      I so agree with your Rachel! I hope Rick has a circle of solid Christians in his church who are surrounding him with encouragement. I’m sure this has brought unexpected, and unwanted, attention to him, his family and church.

  • David

    Joyce Meyer came up on another forum, and I chose to point out the serious flaws in her teachings. I chose to link the comments to a couple of Preachers, an Alan Cairnes “Free Presbyterian”, and Hank Hanagraaf, who most folks know about.
    The post was flagged by the moderator as too abusive and for the fact that Mr. Cairnes called her teachings ‘doctrines of demons’.
    How sad that you cannot even link to a message on some PC forum sites without getting silenced.
    I do believe that Mr, Cairnes has pointed out the jist of the matter.
    And just who does Joyce Meyer answer to?
    Who is she subject to by way of a Bishop or Board of Elders?

  • James Duke

    I’m so with you! I had built a multi-million dollar company from scratch. While we enjoyed the prosperity my wife secretly prayed to God to take it all away! He did just that and for a Great Purpose! Everything was stripped away in less then 8 months. Down to not having even food for our family or a home for our family with five kids. However, he has provided each and everyday what we needed to survive. He also led us to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter day Saints where we have met one of the Greatest Christians. While we were not able to convert due to our own beliefs he has remained by our side till this day! Bishop Erik Brewer of the Centennial Ward in Peoria AZ. After we hit bottom and turned to the many who pretended to be our friends and even family NOT ONE was there! We were left to our situation alone and even those whom I helped with countless blessings turned and walked away. I made millions for people and because I’m a Christian gave to anyone near me in need.

    I thank the Lord for taking it all! For giving me for the first time in my life clear vision of the true friends that he has put in our path since the wealth was taken. I now can go forward and rebuild to do God’s work! I am at the beginning of building an empire. One that will not only bring wealth and prosperity to myself and my family but to help those in true need. I am a rock that God has passed his kingdom to! I’m a sinner and deal with my short comings with repentance. However, I know God knows who I am and he knows my heart. Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers are taking $100s of millions from the poor and I have vowed before God that I will topple their den of inequity! They will suffer now in this world as I take there wealth and power away to give it back to the poor and they will suffer God’s wrath in the hereafter! As God as my witness I will make this my mission for the remainder of my years! Praise be to God and to his people on earth!

    If you are in need and need help know that it is on it’s way. I will not turn you away if you have true needs and I will be hiring thousands and I will create great paying jobs to help you! James Duke (602)432-5785

  • James Duke

    If you are struggling with money to survive day by day I can help you! I have a way for you to start earning money today even if you don’t have a penny. My help is free and I will never accept anything in return. I have been blessed by God and sent to help you!

  • Donna

    This is just trash. Rick, you DO NOT KNOW what you are talking about. So called pastors like yourself, are just troublemakers. Sad!!!!

  • Ces More

    I love the reality and your thoughts paster, especially about prosperity preachers. My question: Is there a description of Jesus in the bible? Does you use or believe it? You have posted pictures of this “white Jesus” that are simply False and Untrue. Teach the truth ALL THE WAY AROUND Pastor, is your faith not in the African Messiah?

  • reni

    I am a christian from the third world, so agree with you Rick, these false doctrines contaminated many true christian in my country and it’s going worse ( admitted I was one of the victims out of my innocence and the thought that you americans should’ve known better about the scripture), but now I’ve found The Place where Jesus really does exist with His miracles through His Body and Blood and the Power of the Anointing Oil revealed by the chosen martyr in my country, if you are a true christian and deeply in love with Jesus and earnestly seeking His Kingdom, you’ll now what I’m talking about.

  • Chris

    I would just like to bring to your attention that the Holy Spirit in me felt vexed at the phrase “Church is Messy.” Our God is orderly. The church that Jesus Christ is the head of is orderly. There should be nothing messy about it, or about making disciples. All of 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of keeping things orderly when a congregation meets. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

    You said, “Because of the mess of the cross, we now have the message of reconciliation.” The work of the cross was perfect. I suppose that you’re referring to Jesus being physically brutalized, but it strikes me as disrespectful at the very least to refer to the work of the cross as a “mess.”

    The truth is that we are a mess if we do not have Christ. His Church – his Bride – is NOT messy, but “without spot or wrinkle.” He takes the “mess” away and then conforms our behavior to be more like His; right, good, peaceful, and anything but “messy.”

    I understand from your explanation that you are extrapolating from Proverbs 14:4. From my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, but “clean” properly translated means “empty,” and the verse is conveying that without oxen (workers) there will be emptiness (no harvest), but with workers people will hear the Word of God and be converted, thus there will be a harvest. You said, “Having a large harvest means I’m going to have to shovel a lot of…eer…Well, you know what I mean.” It is rather shocking to me that you are using “eer” (which I think we all know what you mean by the word) to mean “messy” to then say church is “eer.” Obviously, I don’t know your heart, but I ask you to prayerfully rethink this concept.

  • K Elizabeth

    Wow wow and wow again. I read through your site, and as someone who is a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ and an eternal student of the Word of God I am embarrassed for you. Your words show me a man who is writing so little in faith and yet taking a position so large in slander. Brother, let me say..you are allowing yourself to be but the welcome mat of creating division in the body of Christ where everyone walks across the threshold you created here, wipes their dirty feet and then verbally blasts another human being that was created by God, chosen by God and preaches the Word of God… where in your site do I see even a small glimmer of representing what it is to lay down YOUR own life and love others as God has loved you? Does one pride themselves on using scripture to harm others as you create this mob of responders on here to feel justified in doing so, or does one honor and respect the scriptures to spread love and forgiveness and encourage others in their walk with Jesus? Get off the soapbox of pride you place yourself on thinking you have the right to write poorly of a fellow child of God and do something FRUITFUL. God knows the truth in every man’s heart, try to remember that. Oh how the Pharisees love the laws of man-made religion, yet the believers in Christ follow Him and Him alone. I am encouraging you to lay this aside, go deep into the heart of God through Jesus Christ and ask Him what it is that HE should have you do. I really do not believe this is what Christ would ask you to do. Rest assured, Jesus has something bigger and better for you and your family than this, this what you are doing here. I know you will find it, because He wants you to have all that He made for you. Jesus doesn’t want us to be busy with slander, to prove what is ‘not’. Our life as a Christian is to be and live in a way that reflects Christ and proves what ‘is’…. and His name IS Jesus Christ.

  • James Duke

    Not sure where you are coming from. Pointing out the a person like Joel Osteen is collecting over $100m a year in the name of our Lord and using it ONLY to better his own situation needs to be done! There isn’t anywhere in his ministry a person in real need can go to get real help! Not one cent goes back to the needy but yet his Church buys him a $10m mansion to live in tax free and a $10m private jet to fly him and his around in and that is NOT right! Jesus would want someone to speak out against the inequity of evil men…..wolves in sheep clothing! Just his collection on the weekend is over $600k per weekend yet he can’t give $1 to a family in need???? He is using the word of God to line his own pockets and the pockets of those around him. I’m so happy that you believe that a TV evangelist and prosperity preacher needs protection….however, it’s the poor and needy families that need protection from people who take money in the name of God and give nothing back to the People of God who turn to him for help!!! Obviously you have not done any investigating into this matter! I challenge you to go to find anywhere in his ministry that a person who has real needs can go for a little help. All you will get is “We would be honored to stand with you in prayer in this matter”. I also challenge you to find one person that has received some real help in their times of need from the Joel Osteen ministry!!!! Don’t respond back if you can’t find one place to go for help or one person who they have helped. Outside of the $30 a month they spend to sponsor a child overseas!!! Good Luck and God Bless!!!

  • Malou

    Which reminds of our reading today at church. Acts 5:38-39. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

    May the Holy Spirit, will guide and give us all wisdom. God is great and God bless.

  • Ms Jackie

    You will know a tree by its fruit….Thank You Rick!

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