12:50 PM Do you remember the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot?
We are “sideliners” — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers. Oh that God would make us dangerous!
I thought of these words today when I read this comparison between being “imprisoned” by church traditions and literal imprisonment for the sake of Christ. As many of you know, I often travel to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East assisting the persecuted church. I have seen the suffering, up close and personal. As much as I deplore many of our unbiblical church traditions, I find the comparison unhelpful and inaccurate. Of course many of us feel trapped in our manmade traditions. And yes, we are called to suffer for the sake of Christ (Phil. 1:29). But the suffering of the persecuted church is, in my mind, in another category altogether, and I will continue to do whatever I can to make Americans who are cozy sitting in their padded pews (or on their living room sofas) as uncomfortable as possible about it. Not only do I make no apologies for it, I think that with every passing year it becomes more and more obvious to me that the most important thing we can be doing in our churches — regardless of our ecclesiology — is to get rid of our lukewarm insipid faith and take up the cross of self-discipline, suffering, and real sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. If I have any prayer for the readers of my blog, it is that God will use it to help you take steps in this direction in your personal and congregational life. Jesus is calling all of us to a radical lifestyle lived from obedience that affects the world. With tears in my eyes, I say that as long as we are content to live out a religion of externals (home church versus institutional church, the Lord’s Supper as a full meal versus the Lord’s Supper as bread and cup, etc.), we will continue to miss the mark. Never in the history of the world has there been so much discussion about the church and Christianity but, I feel, so little real knowledge of God. Jesus made it clear that His mandate for each of us is to do the will of the Father by going into the fields just as the Father sent Him (John 4:34-38). This means that “missions” is not just one of several options for our churches. God is not asking us to give money to missions. He is asking us to make missions the central passion and thrust of our lives and congregations. When I think of your church, is that what I think of? Or of my church? Tragically, many of us have developed a church-first mentality that is distracting us from our main task. I should know, because I have been the chief of sinners in this regard.
There is a way out of this mess. New Testament Christianity is not reserved only for super saints who are doing all the “right” things church-wise. It is for every believer, whatever your church structure, whatever your location or occupation, whatever your circumstances in life. Jesus wants to live His life through us in the world. The only question is: Will we let Him? Our problem today is that we want it all, and we want it now. But we have to choose our priorities. Yes, I will continue to call us back to the Scriptures as far as church life is concerned. But my constant prayer is that God will help me to do it with a broken heart and with a renewed willingness to make a deliberate calculation to accept sacrifice and suffering for the sake of following Christ.
For more on this subject, see my essay Paper Perfect Churches.
(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus Paradigm, Why Four Gospels? and the forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)