The great Francis Schaeffer (he rocked the chin beard before it got popular) wrote in his book entitled, No Little People (I am aware that this is a very long quote, but in lieu of the present “Superstardom” of modern Christianity, it seems warranted),
Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us–pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included–are tempted to say, I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ. Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord himself extrudes us into a greater one.
The word extrude is important here. To be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape. Picture a huge press jamming soft metal at high pressure through a die, so that the metal comes out in a certain shape. This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrude him into a position of more responsibility and authority.
Let me suggest two reasons (I will list just the first one in this blog) why we ought not grasp the larger place. First, we should seek the lowest place because there it is easier to be quiet before the face of the Lord. I did not state easy; in no place, no matter how small or humble, is it easy to be quiet before God. But it is certainly easier in some places than in others. And the little places, where I can more easily be close to God, should be my preference. I'm not saying that it is impossible to be quiet before God in a greater place, but God must be allowed to choose when a Christian is ready to be extruded into such a place, for only He knows When a person will be able to have some quietness before him in the midst of increased pressure and responsibility.
Quietness and peace before God are more important than any influence a position may seem to give, for we must stay in step with God to have the power of the Holy Spirit (italics mine). If by taking a bigger place our quietness with God is lost, then to that extent our fellowship with him is broken and we are living in the flesh, and the final result will not be as great, no matter how important the larger place may look in the eyes of other men were in our own eyes. Always there will be a battle, always we will be less than perfect, and if a place is too big and too active for present spirit of condition, then it is too big.
The entrepreneurism that exists in the American permutation of the church is both a bane and a blessing. Because of it mission is seen as hopeful and imaginatively creative. Also, however, because of it, we have (and I may overstate this, but…) massive kingdom building, we have the creation of Christian superstars like the two pastors of “the Mars Hills”, we have an unhealthiness in the clamoring in the church to be placated and entertained, and we have the prevailing attitude that “bigger must be better!”
To literally take the lower place is so counter-intuitive to the Christian kingdom builder. Influence is king and practically all is sacrificed for “the mission.”
Obviously, I am annoyed at the moment. I guess, mostly because of the “nor'easter” that has rushed through the American church because of a 30 second promo by Rob Bell. I have not read the book yet. I might not now, but I think it and he played into the machine that I believe lies near the root of much of what is wrong or at least injured in American evangelicalism…
I would like to believe that Schaeffer’s words, even though nearly 30 years old now, might help guide the addicted Bride to recovery, to recover the low place.
I will give you Schaeffer’s second reason for taking the "low place" in the next post.