“Man Made Formulas of Faith” by Garris Elkins

by | Oct 23, 2012 | Church, Faith, Kingdom of God, Leadership, Revelation | 0 comments

Today, there are many formulas floating around the American
Church promising success. If you do this – that will happen. They don’t require
much faith – you simply follow the formula and you will arrive at your spiritual

Most of these so-called formulas perpetuate a mindset that has
crippled the effectiveness of the Western Church. Here are a few of these

“You need to read in
order to lead.”

The need to read in order to be an effective leader in the
Church is a phrase that has surfaced in our educationally empowered Western
culture.  I don’t mean to say that
reading is a bad thing.  It is simply

This formula doesn’t hold water in the interior of China
where a leader may not own a book and may only possess only a small fragment of
the Bible. If a phrase doesn’t work in the outback of Africa or the interior of
China maybe we should cull it from our Western church vocabulary.

I have always thought the best leaders led from a place of
revelation.  Maybe that is why so many
leaders in the undeveloped parts of the globe are now leading in the power of
the Spirit instead of the published opinions from someone in a developed

“If you build it, they
will come.”

Just before the Recession hit, faithful pastors I know
bought into this formula and led their churches into building programs that
could not be paid for once the bottom of our economy fell out.   It
doesn’t take faith to get a bank loan.  All
you need is the good credit that came when the financial bubble was in full

People will only come to what we construct if God is the One
calling them.  He is not calling those in
our care to come and pay for our presumption. He is not impressed with the
brick and mortar facilities we build in His name.

“Dress for success.”

When I lived in a developing nation, I remember how poor the
people were.  They had two changes of
clothing.  One set was literally rags
worn to work the fields during the week and the other was a polyester suit from
the 1970’s pulled from a “missionary barrel” to wear to church on Sunday. These
leaders were wildly successful in God’s eyes, but not in a culture where we
have a great deal of discretionary income we can devote to the changing tastes
of personal attire.

“Do things decently
and in order.”

This formula has led some to create controlled church environments
that are structured around a fear that warns us things could somehow get out of
hand.  A wise theologian once told me when Paul used the words, “decency and in order”, those words actually mean,
“What is appropriate.”

Paul was not issuing a prudish prohibition.  What was decent about Jesus smearing
spit-laced mud in a blind man’s eye? What was orderly about His tipping over
tables in the Temple? What made sense when He said to eat His flesh and drink
His blood?  Jesus was not tidy.  What is appropriate is our obedience to
whatever God asks us to do in the moment, no matter who likes it or not.

The danger with these kinds of statements is for some they
have actually become formulas for success in life and ministry. Faith can never
be reduced to a formula that guarantees a predictable outcome.  Faith has us step into dark and undefined
places where we have never stepped before. Faith produces actions that are not
always figured out before we take the step. Simplistic formulas cause us to
invest in things attainable only by our natural logic and human understanding.

These formulas produce a way of thinking that infers “it” can
only happen along my narrow lines of definition.  Our formulas also have a by-product – they begin
to exclude people from our lives who do life and ministry different from
us.  Our formulas become the knives we
use to amputate parts of Christ’s body that don’t fit into our equation.

Ephesians 3:20, is the wrecking ball used to demolish these
manmade formulas.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through
his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might
ask or think.”

Whenever I read
this verse, I am reminded of those times I have failed God and His people by trying
to create formulas through which I would evaluate them or include them in what
I perceived God was doing. I have had to repent of this a few times over the years.

God is at work
outside and beyond our formulas in those places that require a raw exercise of
faith. This can have us looking like we don’t fit anyone’s formula.  It is in these times that God does His most
profound work apart from our manmade attempts to formulize how He accomplishes
His will.


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