We don’t always realize the power of simple affirmations of truth.
I once wrote an article for a church newsletter entitled “No Compromise.” I’m pretty sure that it was an rip-off of Keith Green’s album by the same name, but it felt right. It was something a 26 year-old, arrogant, Christian leader would write. It was about my commitment to a high call. My commitment to obey God, to not sin, to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and never bend to the demands of culture. Of course, I almost immediately proved that I could not live up to the words – though I’m sure I had a pretty good exterior. It was the inside that was messed up. Through a series of interesting “coincidences” a former mentor and youth pastor was led to drop me a note affirming my commitment but ending with some wise words – “If you do compromise, don’t forget the grace of God!” Wise words to an emerging leader because he knew I would fail and he wanted me to still know God loved and valued me. He knew it wasn’t about performance, but dependence.
I’ve not forgotten his words written almost thirty years ago. For some reason I often recall this simple note. I am still committed to the slogan – but far more aware of my weaknesses – and the kindness and grace of God! Sadly I have compromised – sometimes no one knew and sometimes it was very evident. In every case the grace of God has become far more real. I can only hope that I might have the same opportunity to speak long-lasting truth that will have long-lasting impact in someone’s life.
Marketing is one of those issues that seems to have taken the evangelical, baby-boomer dominated church by storm. I guess that I find myself skeptical about the reliance on the formulas and techniques. It feels like manipulation. To some degree, all churches “market” – we make things as comfortable as possible, we clean the bathrooms, carefully monitor the temperature. We also make every effort to communicate well and keep the message understandable and interesting — but we don’t need any of these to really communicate the message. Didn’t Jesus say something about people knowing what we are about as followers of Jesus because of our demonstrated love for one another?
Dick Staub brings to light the marketing machine that seems to be taking the christian world by storm. Sounds like we might soon be able to do away with the Holy Spirit. Yeah, I’ve heard the admonition that “God is using it so just be quiet”, yet it still feels like manipulation and I wonder about the purity of motives. Staub links to a disturbing article – it seems that it may be sooner than we think that we will need to have a marketing background to be a shepherd of Jesus’ flock.
“Learn to say no. It will do you more good than Latin.” – Charles Spurgeon. A hard lesson for many of us to learn. A harder lesson for some in the church to let us learn. Amazing how often we can operate out of “should” and “ought” and therfore say “yes” to things that may add little to our lives. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. I find it highly instructive that Jesus walked away from crowds of need in order to spend time alone (Mark 1:39).
“It is much harder to spot the sin of inaction than almost any sins of action” – Paul Coughlin, No More Christian Nice Guy. Why is it that I far too often sin by not doing something? I don’t step into a battle that cries out to be fought. I don’t speak truth into a situation out of fear? I don’t say “no” to activity when it is best. I don’t pray when I need to. I don’t love. I don’t care sometimes. Coughlin’s point is well taken – few people will point out these potential sins which may damage my soul (and others) more than I know.
Paul Coughlin also says “Confusion is not always a problem to be solved”. Yet, almost everytime I’m in the midst of confusion I will try to solve it. He goes on to say, “it can be a detour that eventually leads to a better life.” Been there done that…why do I so quickly forget?
The great theologian Steve Martin once said “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.”
I have wondered for several years about the activity level of the church – especially growing churches. Being a pastor I know how important and helpful ministry programs can be. I also know that sometimes we get so busy that it is hard to actually spend time with the Lord of the Church. I once talked with a church leader that cancelled every activity in the church for a week. The staff spent time individually and corporately seeking God’s guidance and his perspective.
Today, one of my co-laborers sent me a quote from A. W. Tozer: “Sometimes I think the church would be better off if we would call a moratorium on activity for about six weeks and just waited on God to see what he is waiting to do for us.” I couldn’t locate the source but I did find this site that gets close and reminds us of the need to slow down and listen. Words for a different day, but words that deserve consideration today.
The leadership team of Crossroads Bible Church had a brief retreat this last weekend. We had the opportunity to see what happens when we intentionally come apart and allow our agenda to be set by the Holy Spirit. It was hard. Some want to get on the “real” decisions, the “important” discussions. Yet others found the experience adventurous. We stayed the course and hopefully found insight as a team. I know I was surprised and sensed God’s presence. I’m not sure what is to come from our time, but I sense God is in it! Just another reminder that maybe we need to quiet our activity. Psalm 46:10 is true – “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NASB).