The Church is Not Your Sugar-Daddy

The Church is Not Your Sugar-Daddy

The church in the West is undergoing rapid change.  We are shifting from an Enlightenment worldview to a Post-modern philosophy.  The positive side of change is a stripping away of cultural encumbrance that has kept us from fulfilling the Gospel.  The downside of our current transformation, is that we are all-too-often exchanging one cultural norm for another.  One form of church is torn down, only to be replaced by a newer more culturally acceptable form.   One set of political mores, is replaced by another.

One example of transformation comes under the rubric of Social Justice (ie. poverty, homelessness, AIDS, etc…).  In serving the needs of the world, one of the key purposes of the Church–Evangelization of the lost–has been replace with the purpose to befriending the lost.  The call to demonstrate the mature love of Christ has been supplanted by a childlike fascination with wordly-compassion.

Tokunboh Adeyemo writes a salient response from an African perspective in this article entitled, “Contemporary Issues in Africa and the Future of Evangelicals”

To the world, the Church has the responsibility of witnessing for Christ and discipling the nations (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19). This does not preclude works of charily which are an intrinsic part of the good news. However, caution needs to be exercised in this area. The Church is not an organisation for social and political asylum, nor are we to use divine resources to bribe people into God’s kingdom. Since the Church is in the world but not of the world, she should not be indifferent to the social, political, and economic struggles of mankind; neither should she sacrifice her ambassadorial function at the altar of social involvement. Our Lord Jesus Christ liberates the total man: the material and the non-material. Thus he says: ‘If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36). The Biblical sequence begins with an internal spiritual regeneration and reconciliation of man to God, manifesting itself in an external physical transformation and reconciliation of man to man in society. The task of the Church therefore is to confront (not maintain dialogue with) the world with the claims of Christ as deposited in the Bible. This mission, central to the heart of God, his Son, and the apostles, must be the mission of evangelicals to the world. The New Testament Church was a missionary Church; and so must be ours. We must go forth (i) with a thorough-going Biblicism which does justice to the claims of the Scriptures, and (ii) with a Biblicism that is both contemporary and relevant.

* World Evangelical Fellowship. Theological Commission., vol. 2, Evangelical Review of Theology : Volume 2, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Evangelical Review of Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Periodicals, 2000, 1978), 12.

Does the love of Christ include tangible expressions of kindness? Yes! But, our mission is more than alleviating the temporal pains of this world. We, the followers of Jesus, have a greater call to give the world a hope beyond the ‘now’.  We are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to this passing world and we must live accordingly.

Lest we forget…

Thirst is not quenched by micro-loans for building wells, but by the eternal wellspring of the Spirit.

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14))”

The hunger for meaning is not satisfied by wheat–bread, but through Jesus–bread.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe…

50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him (John 6:35-36; 50-56).

The longing for love is not fulfilled in giving trinkets and bobbles, but in the person of God who IS love.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:7-14).

I know how some folks will respond, “this kind of faith is not practical.”  But therein lies the problem.–Faith in the West is impotent.  The power of Christ, through His Spirit, to transform the world has been entrusted to preachers, politicians and pop-stars.  The church must not give Her grand place in the Kingdom to become the Sugar-Daddy to the world.  Do we really believe it?  Are we able to live it!

Culturally Sensitive Christianity

Culturally Sensitive Christianity

As we live in a blessed age when we are able to place the Scriptures in the hands of more and more people, it is incumbent upon us to also be sure that we handle the Bible with great reverence and respect. The dilemma is this, how do we put the Word of God in the hands of others without compromising the integrity of its message? This is no small question, and there is no one answer. I would suggest a few short guidelines that hopefully can help in the process of taking the Good News to all peoples of the world.

First, we must recognize that ultimate Truth, God’s Truth, is not dependent upon or bound by culture or by its evolution. The Scriptures came to us through Hebrew and Greek culture, but because it was inspired  by God, remains valuable beyond those cultures.

Second, Culture is valuable in that it provides Man with a unique perspective by which he can understand God’s Truth. However, Truth itself does not change or evolve with those cultural morays. For example, American culture gives us a unique perspective on God’s word, but it does not change it. Other cultures too have unique insights which they can pass along to us, and each works together to give us greater understanding of the mystery of God. Thus, when we study culture, past or present, it is not to prove one society is right over another or one culture more ‘Christian’ than another, rather it is to learn and grow in our common faith. For those Christians who desire to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, cultural study helps one to view God’s Truth from a different perspective so that our knowledge may increase and with knowledge, our ability to season our words with salt that we may be pleasing to every man.

Third, cultural study and being culturally sensitive can not replace the importance of trust in God. Study of history, language, culture, and extra-biblical writings are important but fail to serve as a bridge between the Bible and culture. The only true bridge afforded to us, the only trustworthy connection, is God Himself. God’s Spirit is the great intercessor and it is His Holy Spirit who comes to us as our guide. These other areas of study are profitable to assist us, but in and of themselves are vanity.

Fourth, our ultimate goal, in teaching, preaching, or casual conversation, is not to make the Bible relevant to Man, but to help make Man relevant to Scripture. What is the difference? The former is always easier to accomplish because it only requires that we treat people as a group and not individuals. This means it requires little investment of self and little personal sacrifice. The latter will always be harder because it requires us to love and respect each person as an individual and to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the other. To help make a person relevant to Scripture is harder because it means we must wait upon the Lord to guide and change the heart of the other and give full control to Him.  In practice helping people to relate to the Bible may look different depending on who is speaking, but the goal remains the same (i.e. helping people to see the grace and mercy of God in their lives). Let me say it this way, our goal is not to make people accept the Gospel, but to show them the truth of God’s plan and then allow the Holy Spirit to work in peoples hearts. The core of the content is always the same because we must not infringe upon the Divine prerogative of Revelation, yet our expression of that truth may very.

Ultimately we must recognize that ALL cultures are foreign to the Divine holiness of God and NO CULTURE is completely relevant to God’s Word. That is why the Scripture calls us to make disciples. No man can instantly understand the Bible and all the difficulties it posses without the illumination of the Holy Spirit and the instruction and nurturing of Spirit filled Christians.

Complicated Me

Complicated Me

Strings and things,
Bits of that and Bits of this,
Loved and held
by frayed worn edges

Dreams with wings,
Bottled hopes, a big fat wish
Hide in me
– an unread message

Broken knobs
and crooked parts
jumbled deep
In hidden corners

Ancient scabs
and wrinkled scars
whisper sighs
– Regretful mourners

Trash and treasure
Baggage and bones
All that I am,
and all I will be

Settling down
inside this home,
This thing that is
Complicated me

— Dave Young

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