There are several books that I’ve read multiple times. One of them is a little known book written in 1996, The 21st Century Pastor, by David Fisher. In fact, I think I have underlined more passages in this book than any other I have in my library. I’ve been thumbing through the book one more time today.
At one point Fisher reminds that “Paul calls the church ‘the body of Christ,’” and that it is to express the gospel of Jesus in living flesh and blood. He then comments that it seems sad that the church does not seem to demonstrate that well in so many cases. Often because of the hostility of many Christians toward contemporary culture and lifestyle.
The church is called to incarnational thinking, which at the very least identifies with and understands all the subcultures of the world in which we live. Moral standards and deep convictions do not requiure alienation from those whom we are called to serve in Christ’s name. We cannot speak good news to people we hold in contempt.
Francis Schaeffer used to say that the church must speak a word of judgment to itself and the watching world. But, he added, that word must be accompanied with tears. Like our Lord, our hearts must be broken for those we are called to serve. Then the necessary hard words will bear the grace inherent in the gospel, which is specially designed for people alienated from God (pp. 42-43).
I added the emphasis above.
I remember the sting of rebuke when first considering that line. I felt it again this evening. I’m not sure we (I) can truly ministry to anyone we (I) approach with condescension, disdain, or disrespect. Lord, help us in our weakness to love well.