The first church I ever served was located in a small town in Eastern Kentucky. There wasn’t even a stop-light at the time. The church was full of wonderful farmers, which was ironic, because the only time I had ever visited a farm up until that time was on school field trips.
On one occasion I was visiting a family in the church and watched their young son throw “feed” on the ground for the chickens. Very quickly there was a swarm towards the food, and the chickens starting hitting each other with their beaks. That day I learned that if you take a group of chickens, any chickens, and throw in some food, pretty soon a “pecking order” will be established. If there are five chickens in the pen, there will be one chicken that will dominate and peck the other four, another that will peck the other three, until you get down to the last chicken who has no-one to peck and gets pecked by all the others.
If there was someone who didn’t relish being the fifth chicken it was Naaman. 2 Kings 5:1 tells us,
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded…
Second only to the king of the land, Naaman was a man who was used to getting his way. If he told someone to do something they did it or else.
The only problem was he had leprosy. But Naaman learned that the prophet Elisha had the power to heal him. So Naaman went to Elisha and asked him to work a miracle. Elisha responded by telling him in verse 5:10,
Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored.
Feeling like a number-five chicken, Naaman stormed off. But eventually he humbled himself and returned to wash in the Jordan and was healed. Jesus made it clear that life in the kingdom means willingly becoming the fifth chicken.
A few years ago another pastor and I went to a conference in the south. It was hosted by a mega-church that had grown from just a handful to thousands in a few short years. We were both looking forward to learning a few secrets to help our churches grow. When we got there we were both taken back by what we saw. The pastor’s face was everywhere. His face was on all the tapes and books and CD’s and Bible studies and flyers and walls and PowerPoint and just about anywhere else it could be squeezed. In the coffee shop he even had a cookie named after himself.
The staff at our church now jokes that “When we make it big, we’ll all get our own cookies.”
Not if God has anything to do with it.
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