The Spirit of Familiarity

The encounter of Jesus with the people of his hometown in Mark 6:1-6 represents one of the most amazing (and tragic) stories in the New Testament. Imagine having this powerful and prolific preacher and teacher of God’s Word right in your city. One would think the sheer force of the revelation proceeding from his lips and the countless testimonies of what Jesus had done in neighboring villages would prompt awe, respect, honor, and expectation. Instead of the reverence due the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus was treated with familiarity and contempt.

The sad part of the story is that, because of their lack of faith evidenced by their offense, the Bible says that Jesus could not do many miracles there. The glory spout did not suddenly dry up. Jesus did not cease to be the Son of God. The mandate and mission to bring salvation and soundness to all had not changed. So what happened? In contemptuously rejecting Jesus and writing him off as just the carpenter’s son or simply one member of a large family that has lived nearby for years, they lost the ability to tap into and receive the anointing that was available to those who chose to honor Jesus and the powerful anointing that clearly rested upon him.

Familiarity means to know someone well enough and in such a way so as to lose a sense of admiration, respect, and awe. The result is, like Jesus, the ministry gift is dishonored and treated as nothing remarkable. Some people have prior knowledge of a person called into ministry and just can’t seem to get past that knowledge to accept them as a vessel of God. A friend of mine was called to pastor the church where he was raised. The first Sunday a senior saint just had to remind him that she used to change his diapers every week in the church nursery. It is that kind of proximity and shared experience that prevents the immature believer from respecting and receiving from that minister.  Others, in getting to know someone over a period of years, catch a glimpse of the humanity of the minister and begin to withdraw their hearts in contempt. It is important for God’s people to remember that the Lord chose to call imperfect people to preach the perfect gospel about a perfect Savior. In both cases, proximity breeds familiarity, familiarity breeds contempt, contempt breeds offense, and offense shuts down the flow of that life-giving, life-changing anointing of the Holy Spirit. If this was true with Jesus, it is true today with those that God calls to serve the Church of Jesus Christ.

We cannot have a person’s anointing, revelation, and gifting if we reject and dismiss their calling. This is one of the main reasons for the drought of miracles in our land today. As in the days of Jesus’ ministry on the earth, people get familiar, contemptible, and offended with God’s servants and the flow of the supernatural is compromised. No matter how great the gift or anointing, it is neutralized by the spirit of familiarity.

The greater tragedy in this story would have been for Jesus to somehow begin to question his call, his mandate, and his anointing based on the response and rejection of those in his hometown. Obviously, Jesus was secure enough to know that with or without popular support, he was sent by the Heavenly Father to take away the sins of the world and no human response would compromise that. Unfortunately, the ministry gifts in the body of Christ (pastors, teachers, prophets, apostles, and evangelists) are not always as developed in their security as Jesus and the familiarity with which they are sometimes treated by people tempts them to doubt and even abandon their call and anointing.

Let me encourage you if you are called to an equipping ministry in the Church to focus entirely upon the reality and integrity of the call of God on your life and not the support, respect, or appreciation of people. Remember your message and ministry is anointed whether someone wants a copy of it on CD or not. It is hard and hurtful to be treated with familiarity but understand that this is a form of persecution that the enemy inspires to sidetrack and demoralize men and women of God. Practice telling yourself every day that you are anointed to preach, anointed to teach, anointed to lead, and anointed to guide – no matter how you are received.

Let me exhort you if you are under the care of a God-called church leader to guard your heart for familiarity toward your leadership. The familiar spirit when unchecked in the heart of the believer will precipitate disloyalty, discontent, crossed boundaries, foul attitudes, and things that should never be said. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have outgrown your leader for this is the quintessential mark of the familiar spirit (“I’m just not being fed”). Actually, what’s happened is you have grown familiar and offended with that leader and now it is very hard for you to receive from him or her. Invariably, when believers develop a familiar spirit they begin to withdraw from the very people God has raised up to help them discern their purpose, reach their full potential, and discover their divine destiny. Instead of allowing contempt to enter your heart, choose to honor, respect, and receive from those called to serve you and watch the anointing for revelation and miracles flow.