Friday, January 28, 2011

Central questions

It’s been QUITE A WHILE since I last wrote in this blog. Lots of things have been going on. Right now my family and I have relocated to central Kentucky. In pastoral terms, I’m what you would call “between churches,” as I had resigned the church I pastored in southern Illinois in August; it was a decision my wife and I had prayed about for more than a year. We were blessed to have men and women of God who gave us godly counsel in making the decision. And we appreciate those who continue to pray for us as we seek the next steps God has for us in ministry.

In making that decision, there is one burning question I continually faced, that I believe every Christian and every Bible-believing church needs to face: if your church closed down tomorrow, would anyone notice? And if anyone did notice, would they even care? And I don’t believe this even addresses the issue of numbers. Jesus used 12 men to turn the world upside down. And conversely, as another pastor friend once said, a church of 10,000 can have absolutely NO impact for God’s kingdom!

One of the last messages I preached at the church was based on Mark’s account of the rich young ruler. I can send you an MP3 recording of the message if you contact me by responding to this blog entry. But the gist of the message is this: the rich young ruler was doing EVERYTHING RIGHT in his approaching Jesus, asking the right question, and in the way he treated others! And yet, he eventually walked away in great sorrow due to his many possessions—the idol he was not willing to give up to follow Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comment on this passage struck me like a thunderbolt; he concluded that the ruler was at least honest enough to admit he couldn’t hack it. “The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: ‘Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith.’ But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience” (The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 79-80).

I’ll be getting back to commenting on events. But I believe that my questions above spell out the central issue the church of Jesus in America will have to face, especially in the coming days.

The upcoming events don’t look very rosy for this country. There will most likely be a tug of war over the debt between the White House and the newly-elected House of Representatives—while the national debt continues to pile high. The ever reliable mainstream media, with its puppet masters in the Democratic Party and among “moderate” Republicans, will continue to try to use ANY violence to shamelessly smear Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. There is the “climate of hate” jabber aimed at talk radio, in spite of the fact that the Arizona murderer who tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was apolitical, mentally unstable and NEVER listened to the “hate-inspiring” talk radio. But it was a-okay for a Democrat in Congress to slander Republicans as Nazis (that’s TRUTH TO POWER, don’t you know), and the coverage of a LEFTIST’S attempt to kill the Democratic governor of Missouri continues to go unnoticed (check Glenn Beck’s web site on that one for starters).

World leaders, including our #1 creditor China, are calling for the abandonment of the dollar as the world reserve currency. There are surely more economic hurricanes coming our way (including what’s brewing in Egypt—see Caroline Click’s web site for the chilling scenarios). And the same ole Sunday Christianity which has permeated this country will not be able to stand, and will have no answers for the countless souls would will be shaken to the core and looking for REAL truth in the coming days!

We need to seek God like never before, and examine ourselves on whether we will be a dynamic church that is willing to lift up Jesus no matter what, as the early Christians did—or continue to lumber on as a church that is “3,000 miles wide and three inches deep.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail, made this statement about the churches that refused to support the civil rights movement--but I believe it's even more appropriate for the American church in general, and the challenges its faces in the coming days: "If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning ..."

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