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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Pastor Thomas E. Corkish
Years ago, there was an article that appeared in Reader’s Digest, and I don’t know the further origin of it. It described so well how the "camel gets its nose in the tent," and soon is able to take over the entire thing before anyone seems to be aware. Do you know that this is really and odd statement? How could it ever be that you could allow a camel into your tent and sleeping bag without even noticing, unless you were dead or something very close?
In goes the camel. In the article, it was assumed that the communists had taken over the United States (which they have, in case you have not noticed.) Children at the local school decided that they would not accept communism and would have nothing to do with the new teacher that was going to be in the classroom the next day. Their parents had taught them too carefully, but even the best intentions can run awry when you are blinded and deceived as to what is really happening.
The new teacher came into the room and greeted the children. They were surprised at her appearance and manner, but they were smart enough to know that a communist is a communist, and they certainly were not going to follow her in any regard. Since she was aware of their deep feelings, she wanted to take her time in presenting herself to the class. She started off with a pledge to the American flag, just as usual, and the children were quite startled at her regard for the flag. Obviously, she won some acceptance from the students, and was ready for the next step. "Camels" come in quietly and unobserved, if possible.
She talked of the flag in endearing terms, and all the children agreed that they "loved" that old flag. She told them that it was a shame that the school had the only flag, and it would be so nice if all the children had one. Since this was not possible, the idea came forth (I can’t remember who recommended it) that each student should have a part of it (it’s the "people’s flag.") No one considered that it was fair that everyone should not have his own segment.
Down comes the tent. I don’t believe the class was an hour old by the time the teacher had won the hearts of the students and by the time the class had voluntarily cut the flag into twenty equal parts, each student had a portion for his very own. "How wonderful it would be to have a section of that dear old flag," they thought. Meanwhile, the teacher may have thought it was wonderful that the children had cooperated fully in destroying "Old Glory," and tomorrow there would be no flag to salute, unless there would be found a substitute. There is always a substitute available for the real thing.
The manner of camels. I understand that camels are not endowed the graces or manners. They are awkward, careless, and often mischievous. I understand that they cannot always be trusted. You might be bitten by one, or spit upon, but surely you would be aware of it if it were coming into your tent. Or would you?
If I were going to destroy the local church, I would be wise enough to know that outside influence in this regard would not work. False doctrine (right out in the open) has not worked, and even under heavy persecution, the local church has prospered. It would have to be a clever move by a "kindly ole camel," like "Joe Camel," if the task were to be successful. He is kind of "cute," and acceptable until you read the label that he can be lethal if he is allowed into your own tent.
If I were working on "getting into the tent of the local church," I would get a series of "inside" teachers, give them a graceful title that sounded somewhat scriptural as long as it was not the term, "Nicolaitans" (which would most likely be the proper description from the scriptural classification), and I would let them work up various divisions in the local church.
It would be their assignment to groom their circles in such a way that they would gain the hearts of the people to unite (does not sound too bad) around smaller groups than the local church. Of course the local church would be the unit, made up of smaller groups under these laymen.
No Christian would fuss over "prayer groups," and "Bible studies." No Christian would argue with variety in these circles, and it might even be well to do some things that were not normally done in the local church. Few would argue with the new freedom that could be had among this Christian fellowship. I personally see that this "camel" is going to bring the united "flag" to a place where it is divided into pieces and placed in the hands of individuals who desire some segment for themselves, rather than the old concept of a "united" church under one local pastor, and under one banner.
Don’t miss the point. Churches all over America are following the leading of the charismatics and neo-evangelicals in the area of dividing up the local church into little groups that meet in homes. We have always thought that this was dangerous and divisive, all through the years. The concept is not new, and we still feel it is a risky business to fall into the hands of multitudes of "pastors," or "teachers" rather than be under the direct leadership and teaching of the "pastor-teacher." But I warn you and tell you that it is extremely dangerous to your local churches and to your individual members.
A history of camels. Years ago, we had such a situation in which some laymen were going to launch out into the community to help boys and girls in their spirituality (not a bad idea.) They wanted to do this away from the local church, so they met in homes. I was not a pastor, but worked as a youth pastor in a local church, and I could get none of these same folks to work in the church with the youth. They did not want the structure of the church. I am talking about a situation that is almost thirty-five years old.
The camel got in the tent. I warned the men with all the grace I could and was asked if I would leave the home since I did not agree with the decision of the laymen. I left and waited. In a few months (maybe weeks), the men met for prayer, Bible study, and planning (you can’t go against prayer, Bible study, and planning (you can’t go against prayer, Bible and organization), and soon we heard that they were speaking in tongues, healing each other, and baptizing over again in the local swimming pool.
It was a tragic result of the "novices" being in charge of something that was not scriptural. They had their freedom but did not know what to do with it. Soon the groups were divided, dead, and forgotten. The local church went on, even though it was wounded. The youth who were supposed to be reached probably floundered because the men would not work in the local churches where they belonged.
May I give some advice to young Christians and pastors? Stay away from "small cell groups" that get together for whatever. They will soon vanish, be disruptive in the meantime, and ring about discord in your local churches. Work with your local assembly and the pastor who is God’s gift to you for your encouragement, growth, stability, and leadership. There is nothing wrong with doing God’s work in God’s way, which is through the local church, not "cell groups."