Contend Earnestly: It Worked, Why Ever Change?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

It Worked, Why Ever Change?

Something that has concerned for quite some time is the thought among Christians on what ministries, programs and the like to use for mission work within the community. Anytime you try to speak to people about possibly changing these programs or dismissing them altogether, what usually happens is that someone will have a great story of redemption that happened because of the ministry or show how it has worked for decades. But, is this enough to keep a ministry going or start it in your church?

I am very leery of "boxed ministries" because what these state is that they have come up with some sort of program that works for all cultures for all times. But, what does it mean to have a ministry that works? Do we see anything like this in the Bible? Honestly, what is our calling as a gathered church in our communities around the globe?

Here is the truth, God calls you specifically, your church corporately, and the universal church together to spread his fame for his glory. God has done this in many different ways, but even looking biblically, we can't see one way that was the most appropriate for everyone. Let's be honest, just because God spoke through Balaam's ass doesn't mean that we should raise a bunch of asses and let them loose on the city hoping they speak. Even though it seems that this happens in other ways today. Did it work for the purpose God had as told in Numbers? Yes. Does that mean that because it worked then, we should try it now? If you think, yes, then you might want to look for a Red Sea to part and a burning bush to talk to you.

This doesn't mean that God won't use the same way twice, but in reality, God calls us within the culture that we are in now. I am sure that people have been saved through many different ways, but is that our calling? Isn't there something that works in all cultures for all time?

The answer is actually, yes. We are always called to live for the glory of God. We are called to live out the gospel, and preach the gospel to those around us in the best way possible. This is how Jesus did it. He didn't come to Jerusalem wearing khaki pants and Tevas. He came to the culture and spoke and lived the way that the culture lived so that he could reach them (there is so much that could be written and has been written based on this one sentence). In all this, he never sinned, but loved the people so much he became one of them. This is what we are called to do. We are called to live in the culture, love the culture all for God's glory. Whether we like it or not, our job is not to convert people, but to live for Christ. Through our living and through our preaching the Holy Spirit will take souls for the glory of God, but we cannot and will never win one soul for Christ. We are merely the instrument. It's like giving glory to the shovel for digging the hole instead of the one doing the digging.

Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.
Isaiah 10:15

We need to know our place and simply ask God how he wants us to live out his glory to those around us. We need to be willing to serve those around us without some secretive plan to convert them to Jesus. Now, would we love for those around us to convert to Christ? Of course, but we should be willing to love the community around us and serve them for the glory of God and let God do the work and let God allow the right timing in speaking to them about Jesus. It should be natural, not some odd tract or bullhorn yelling at them as they try to buy milk at Safeway. We should be willing to serve and love a community even if no one that we know of is never converted. If we bend ourself to only converting, we will stop loving and serving the community if we find no converts. Ask Jeremiah, sometimes that is God's plan. It won't be easy, but we must continually love a community even if that community hates Jesus and never show any converts.

The worst part about trying to get people to see this is that everyone has a story where this one guy was saved because of this certain ministry. That's great, praise God, but that isn't the question at hand. The question isn't what happened that one time, but the question is, "What is the best way for us to live out Christ to those around us right now?"

We must get around this idea. It actually is way more pervasive than we think. I have had people that go into almost a depression type feeling because they had a great vacation with family that don't love Jesus and they never preached to them the gospel. Or that they passed someone on the street and didn't ask them if they knew Christ. It becomes evangelism out of guilt instead of love for others and ultimately love for God alone.

The question isn't "what has worked in the past?" but the question is "How do I currently live out God's mission for his glory right now?" The church must start personally, then it will spread corporately. Humility is key to this, because this might mean putting an end to programs and ministries that have been in the church for ages. This is way harder to do than to say and think about. But, we must be a people that is searching for God's will and glory now, not God's will and glory for a different generation and a different culture. Some things that "worked", and I use that word loosely, in the past, might not be what we are called to do today.

In Reformed circles we use the term, "Semper Reformanda" which means "Always Reforming." The question is, "Are we doing this in the community and culture we are in now?" If not, I am afraid that we are just being lazy, not wanting to change and just pointing to conversions and love that happened 25 years ago instead of pointing on how we impacted our community for Christ last weekend.

I know that this post has been quite the rant and quite the mish mash of ideas, but I pray that you read this and simply ask, "What is the best way for me to live out the glory of God to those around me?" Don't hang your hat on an ass and a burning bush, hang your hat on knowing you worship an eternal God who will not give his glory to another.


Josh R said...

I think the key to the problem is right there in the title. "It worked" God works, and He is not an "it". I think that there is always a temptation to give too much credit to our method and not enough credit to God.

Anonymous said...

i like your blog and posts, but it seems that you're attacking the tract, bullhorn crowd, if its not the person but the spirit that converts, how is their form of ministry any less valid? It can be abrasive sometimes, just as the serving missional route can be passive in regards to the gospel message at times, but in the end there's room for the spirit to use both methods.

Seth McBee said...

We still have a responsibility to put forth our best effort in what we believe "works" the best to bring people to Christ.

If this weren't the case...we could all buy tracts and throw them away knowing that God's sovereignty will guide them where they are supposed to go.

So, although I am a hardcore predestinarian, I believe that we still have a responsibility to do what we feel will reach the most for Christ without losing the message of the Gospel...this would adhere to how the apostles put forth their gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with your point however i think that there are instances/contexts and places where the bullhorn tract route is the best form of evangelism. Im a big time follower of Driscoll/Piper/Chandler/E Mason etc. but I also think that Ray Comfort and his open air preaching crew have done wonders for the furtherance of the gospel

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