For the World…

Over the last two days I’ve listened to some very intelligent men speak on the Great Commission at our fall leadership conference.  It was refreshing.  But I also think that it wasn’t anything that we (the pastors who were present at the leadership conference) didn’t already know… Meaning no disrespect to the speakers who spoke to us, but much of what they said on evangelism and “doing” the Great Commission, is readily found within the pages of the Bible.  Having said that, I also think that we can know something, but we don’t really “Know” it.  In essence I think it’s somewhat like faith.  Meaning that a person can intellectually acknowledge Jesus Christ but not receive Him as Lord and Savior.  Jesus Himself, taught this in Matthew 7:21-23.  James also touches on this subject, when he says, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)

My point being, that what I see happening in the Bible is that a person is saved, and then that person has a corresponding change in priorities, behaviors, actions, and even a lifestyle. 

In the Book of Romans one finds a systematic presentation of the Gospel.  Paul begins by saying, “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).  What that means is that when a person hears the message and responds in true repentance and faith, and is united to Jesus – the result is a radical transformation in their heart and life, and this results in a lifelong journey of sanctification (Rom. Ch. 6-8).  Some have taken the Reformers teachings of sola fide and twisted it far beyond what they taught.  The Reformers never separated faith from works, but instead taught that works will ALWAYS be produced by true, saving faith.  They did argue that “good works” were not what justified a sinner, but they never said that works were absent from the life of a true Christian. 

So Paul, in the Book of Romans deals with both legalism and antinomianism, and of course Paul relates this to a turning away from sin in Romans chapter 6.  And so, one of the types of works a believer should be producing is a turning away from a lifestyle of sin, a move towards holiness. 

But I also think that part of this radical transformation that happens to the one who is born again, regenerated by the power of the Gospel, is that they are to become a witness for the Lord.  This is never given as an option to believers, but rather the Bible says in Acts 1:8 says, “But you shall receive power when the Spirit has come upon you and you will be My witnesses…”  And so the Great Commission is given to every Christian. 

Here is my dilemma; I do witness, granted I find that it is a solo operation as the average age of the congregation I serve is well over 60 and they feel that they have already fought their battles and that its time for the younger generation to step to the plate and take a swing.  In one sense I don’t disagree with that.  The problem is that the younger generation is mostly absent; unless you count me and a few others, and I’ll be 40 in 3 short years. 

I’ve spoken to several young families in and around my community; they’ve heard it all before.  Oklahoma is the buckle of the Bible Belt.  And what I see mainly is that we have become and have been for some time, a consumer driven culture, and they see no value in what I’m offering.  The temptation to put on a cheesy grin and offer them their “best life now” in pure Joel Osteen fashion is not unheard of.  But I’m a Baptist and we don’t do that (ROFL), unless you count Falls Creek, which is an emotionally driven flesh fest, or unless you count any of the other numerous consumer driven programs we offer that allows members to “get something out of” being a Christian – As if forgiveness of sins, redemption and eternal life wasn’t enough.  But apparently it isn’t anymore.  I can’t find it in the Gospels, the epistles, or in Revelation where Christians are offered material wealth, perfect health, or anything of that sort in this present life.  I do however see that in this world we will have trouble.  I see that Jesus was crucified, Stephen was stoned to death, Paul was beaten on more than one occasion, Peter was imprisoned.  I see in history that every apostle, including Paul, with the exception of John the beloved, was martyred for their faith and witness.  John died of old age, but only after he had been exiled to the Island of Patmos, which I believe was a stone quarry, meaning that he was forced to do hard labor.  Christian tradition also tells us; that for his faith, John was dipped into a vat of hot oil at one point in his life.  Scripture tells me that any who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 

Which brings me back to my first point – faith and works.  Could it possibly be that many of us are pastoring churches that are full of those who are not born again?  That they are similar to those I have visited in their homes and who have heard it all before, with the difference being that they are “Christianized,” (for lack of a better word or description).  Church meets their need of social interaction rather than the football stadium, or the bar – as any anthropologist worth their tenured salary will tell you, man is a social creature.  And so they are content to attend Sunday services (but not the evening service that would be far too much), but they show no fruit of faith?  Are they lost?  Or am I missing something?  Why is it that so many in churches all over the US are not, nor have they ever, shared their faith in Christ?  And is their lack of sharing the faith a reflection on their pastor (me in this instance)?  Are they ashamed to invite people to church because of me?  Should I even be concerned about that?  Is it a matter of false faith, or just burn out?  These are the things that cause me sleepless nights.

This brings me to a second question I want to address… namely why do I not see more success in my own witnessing efforts?  I often turn to the book of Jeremiah and read how this man of God was commissioned to preach to an obstinate and stiff necked people who would not repent, and would not come to faith.  In contrast, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit came out of the upper room, preached a 15 minute sermon to people he most likely didn’t know, and had not built relationships with and 3000 people were saved.  Jeremiah preached for 40 years and no one believed him.  Both were faithful to the Lord, and I have no doubt both are seen as successful in God’s eyes.  In the earthly realm we would call Jeremiah a failure, but I strongly doubt God sees him as such.  But the question that comes to my mind is which am I?

At our leadership conference on the Great Commission one of the key words that kept coming up was the word “missional.”  There is no doubt that being “missional” is a mind-set, but I also think that it is often used to describe a methodology as well. (Though many who claim to be “missional” would readily disagree with me.)  I say this because just about every time I hear the term it is used in conjunction with various methods that are being used by those who are “missional.”  Mark Driscoll probably being the most widely recognized.  In a nut-shell, based solely upon my own limited understanding, being “missional” means to be mission minded.  In-other-words, thinking long and hard how you can reach your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utter most parts of the world.  Coming up with ideas to do just that, and then implementing them.  It changes ones life, behaviors, practices, and thinking, so that you might better reach the lost with the Gospel.  But in all honesty, I don’t know that pastors haven’t been doing this all along.  We just never had a nifty catch phrase to describe it (I guess faithfulness just doesn’t resonate with today’s culture). 

I’ve done this from day one, ever since I was saved.  And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most evangelical pastors would probably say the same thing.  So again, I think that the term “missional” has a great deal to do with methodology, at least as much as the mindset.  Though over time, I fell into a pattern that was approved by the “powers that be” rather than being creative and new.  I readily confess the reason for that is because it is some of the methodology that I have a problem with.  Coming out of the Charismatic Church (the Word of Faith Movement no less), I am very cautious.  One of the speakers at our conference said, “We are so afraid of strange fire, we miss the fire altogether.”  I think that is probably true on some occasions, but I also think we do not throw caution to the wind and jump on whatever band-wagon is rolling by.

In Scripture and history, the Church has had the strongest and most lasting influence on society and culture, not when it has accommodated itself to the world, but when it has been most true to its own confession against overwhelming odds.  When Peter saw that great harvest of souls on the Day of Pentecost, it was when he boldly proclaimed the truth to the very people who were most guilty of the crimes he detailed.  And we see it over and over again down through history.  No compromise on the message… but what about the methodology?  I see a Biblical precedent for differing methodologies, but let me make another confession.  Some of the methods used today scare the heck out of me.  This no doubt comes from the fact that theologically, I am about as conservative as you can get.  I fall in step with J. Gresham Machen on the matter (for those of you who don’t know who J. Gresham Machen was, you should go to monergism.com and buy the book Christianity and Liberalism and read it from cover to cover).  The idea of compromising the Gospel to make it acceptable to modern man is repulsive to me.  This is why I have such a hang up on all the programs we “use” in the Southern Baptist Church.  But I digress.  Throughout the Bible I see God’s prophets, I see pastors, I see the apostles, etc… and all of them are challenging the status quo, they were challenging tradition.  God’s Word has a knack for knocking us out of our routines.  I think of Noah, building an ark in preparation for something that had never occurred before.  I think of Abraham, who God called to leave his “comfort zone” pick up everything he had and start over in a new country.  And then Jesus Himself, came against the Pharisees, people who thought they had God figured out, the Th.Ds of their day.  They were the religious experts, and you didn’t cross them, or else.  They thought that their traditions were true applications of God’s Word.  But in the end, they were completely wrong.  Their traditional ways of thinking prevented them from recognizing the Messiah (See John 5:39-40).

I guess what I’m saying is that I had forgotten the concept of simper reformanda.  As long as doctrine and theology are sound, methodology should follow suite, even if it isn’t necessarily traditional, or for that matter… comfortable.  And so today; this blog is a public confession.  I have missed it.  But it’s also a public proclamation of repentance.  I’m still here Lord, send me!

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One Response to “For the World…”

  1. Joshua Says:

    I here you, every word! (well aside from the references to pastors)
    God has been putting the same thoughts on my mind, this is one of our biggest short comings in the modern church!

    We have lost focus, I have lost focus. Being born again means more then just getting to go to heaven.

    Like I said before How can we call some one Lord when we are not Serving Him? How can he truly be our Lord, unless we serve?

    And let me remind you that you are not a failure. You maybe not be the next Peter, but I know that you have profoundly touched at least one life. You have touched my life and God, and I am both grate full for that.
    from the first day I met you I knew that you had the same Spirit in side you as I did, you had the The Spirit of God. You have been an example, and an encouragement to me. You were some one I could look up to as a strong Christain example, and who know maybe God will use me in some great way, and only He knows the fully, how much helped me down that path…

    I am called of God. God is just beginning to pull back the curten and show me what he wants of me, but I am like you, saying here I am Lord send me….

    (only in my case I believe he is calling to go over seas or very far a way, and for now I believe he would have me stay where I am.)

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