“I think you are on to a very real issue as you yourself sum up in the words, ‘Many people in the church are there without having considered that when they belong to Christ they are no longer their own.‘ The question for me then becomes, what are we going to do about this? How do we go about correcting this in our own lives and ministries?”
One of my friends and colleagues, Guy Muse, left that comment on my post entitled “Is the Problem a lack of Discipleship?”. I want to respond here to Guy’s questions.
What are we going to do about this?
We must get back to the Bible. There is an overabundance of study Bibles, Bible studies and streaming media of popular preachers and teachers. I won’t say there isn’t a place for some of these tools and teachers, but we must get back to the Bible. It has been some years now that I have been buying very simple Bibles – the kind of Bible that has the text of the Bible and maps and maybe a concordance. That’s it – the Bible and no one else’s notes. I’ve learned to read it and ask a few simple questions and it is surprisingly clear on its own. I really believe this is the first step because it teaches us how to use the Bible to test the messages we hear – which is not merely our Scriptural right, but our God-given spiritual responsibility. I believe that this is one aspect of the priesthood of the believer. It isn’t that we each have a private interpretation of the text, but that we learn how to understand the text and use it to determine what is true and what is false. We must return to the Bible as our standard of faith and practice.
How do we go about correcting this in our own lives and ministries?
About 15 years ago God gave me a pretty important wake up call. I was re-reading the Book of Acts. It was amazing to see God’s manifest presence among the followers of Christ. It was amazing to see vast numbers of people coming to believe in Jesus. I just had to stop and ask myself, Does God still want to act in this way today? I believe that He does. This led to a second question, Why does God not do today what He did then? There are only three possible answers that I could think of for this question. First, God changed. Those of us who believe that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow must reject that answer. Second, sinners changed. While access to sin may have changed over the centuries, sinners have not changed. Lost is lost – it isn’t a complicated reality. This second idea just doesn’t answer the question either. Third, the church today is not what the church was in the Book of Acts. The followers of Jesus today are not like they were in the Book of Acts. I didn’t have to make many comparisons to know this is the heart of the problem. I had found my answer and it hurt.
This drove me to the New Testament to seek out the differences between us and them. How do we get back to being like they were? I’m not talking about clothes or technology. I am talking about activities and characteristics. I am talking about examining how we use descriptive terms – do we mean by those terms what the writers of the New Testament meant when they used those terms? It is in doing this that we will learn how to correct our own lives and ministries. What I have learned so far won’t fit in a blog post and probably not even in a single book. If anyone asks here specific questions I will give specific answers, if I have them.
Where evangelism is concerned, we have to go back and see how the early followers of Jesus proclaimed the Good News about Jesus. Is that what we call evangelism today? When Jesus told the crowd listening to him that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to be his followers they all left (John 6:52-71). Jesus didn’t apologize. He didn’t soften the teaching to try to get the crowd back. He explained what it would cost them to follow him and they were not willing to pay the price. The twelve even complained about how hard the teaching was. Jesus asked, “Do you all want to leave me too?” He gave them the opportunity to turn away, rather than weaken the teaching to keep them. In much of what is called evangelism today the tendency is to make the gospel palatable so people will accept it. That isn’t what Jesus did.
The goal isn’t to slam truth in the face of lost people either. Rather, we must present the good news – all of it – in such a way that people can consider whether that is the path they will choose to walk. What I am trying to get at here is this – some “evangelism” methods today try to use 5 verses to explain why Jesus is good news. Mark, when writing the Gospel which carries his name, used about 675 verses. Why do we think we can do with five verses what the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to do with about 675 verses? We’ve got to get back to using the correct information about Jesus in the correct quantity – no short cuts. There’s a lot more to it than that, but this post is already way too long. If you want to know more, leave a comment and ask.
If you missed the original blog post, you can read it here: http://rockymeadow.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/is-the-problem-a-lack-of-discipleship/