December 11, 2019

Making Ourselves dismissible

As we continue examining the state of the church by surveying some of the Biblical Pastoral concerns for the church let us spend some more time on the matter of irrelevance.  We have argued that the large stone water jars which had been on the outside in an unused state represented the state of the religion of the day. It had become infected with idleness, inertia and irrelevance.  We have already shown how our inaction leads to our irrelevance but there is another angle of this irrelevance to be explored.  There is a sense in which the closing period of world history is in fact predicted to be marked by an increase in ungodliness. For example, we are told by Paul 2 Timothy 3:4 that in the last days people will love pleasure more than they love God.  Notwithstanding this prophecy, the Scriptures make it clear that the faith community has a direct role to play in the extent to which she is respected, revered, considered and resorted to by those whom she is called to serve. In other words, we must not make ourselves dismissible.  We are to exist and function in a manner that ensures our perpetual relevance.  This point is anchored in our text at verse 11 of chapter 2: 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.”

 In that single statement, John makes the inextricable link between the book of signs and the book of glory in his Gospel.  The signs which Jesus performed were for the revelation of God’s glory and the directing of glory into God, The Farther (indeed His entire life was lived to that end).  The result of which was the sealing of the faith of the disciples in him.  Put another way, Jesus’ person and ministry retained relevance among the disciples by continuously bringing glory to the Father through the signs he performed.   It is my contention that in so far as signs are concerned, and in so far as the direction in which glory is being directed that the church today is off target hence the infestation of irrelevance presenting itself.  We are losing our relevance because we are tend to be functioning more in human capacity and intellect than in the demonstration of God’s power and our actions are designed more to bring glory to ourselves and less about the glory of God.

It is my considered view that the ministry of the church today is in constant danger of becoming more physical and less supernatural.  The more what we are and what we do has the appearance of mere human will and contrivance is the more dismissible we make ourselves.  As Jesus prepared to leave his disciples he made it clear to them that he was bequeathing his ministry to them, and that this was to be continued into perpetuity.  He speaks to them for example and tells them he is conferring his kingdom upon them [ Luke 22:39 ]. 

This conferring of the kingdom in that text by the way has nothing to do with pomp and ceremony and power as we know but everything to do with humility of servant leadership as he had just explosively demonstrated by washing their feet.  Let that sink in for a moment.  When the world sees or hears on the news of deacon and pastor coming to blows over who should run the church rather than seeing church leaders humbly serving the charges and their communities they easily dismiss us as being no different from tribal politicians drunk with the lust for power.

        Jesus also informed them that in the same manner that His Father had sent him into the world he is sending them.  Some of us may recall the words of the once often sung hymn “so send I you, so send I you…”  In doing this, He empowered them with the Holy Spirit and affirms them by declaring that their works shall exponentially surpass his, not because we are greater than Jesus or will do greater miracles than Jesus,  as some mistakenly think this verse suggests but simply because we have much more time in which to do supernatural things than He did.  John 14:12ff Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  Did you notice the reason Jesus gives for doing what his disciples ask by faith in the person and authority of Jesus? There is that word glory again, and glory in in the same direction. It is when, and as we prayerfully believe for the demonstration of God’s power so that God will receive the glory that the miraculous and the signs and wonders are displayed among us.  At the time of Jesus, in the early church, throughout history and today whenever God is glorified by his people there is a magnetism, a dynamism, an attractiveness and a relevance quotient which outweighs any impact from human noise and ferment.   It would appear that signs are absent from our ministries because in some cases we simply do not ask, then when we do ask we do not believe, and in other cases, as James puts it, we ask amiss that we may consume it on ourselves.  The glory is intended to come to us and to our church or ministry rather than to God.  We are designated as the light of the world, and as we shine the purpose is that the world would see that light and give glory to our Father. Again, it is not about us!  

        I feel very strongly that all of us, leaders, members and aspirants alike should carefully adapt the perspective of the Apostle Paul.  Here is what he tells the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 2: 3-5 : “3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Let me hasten clarify here that the focus on God’s power must not be narrowed to the spectacular events like moving a mountain into the sea, as we tend to narrow it down to. This must include the power of God at work in our midst enabling hatred to melt, addictions to be broken, selfishness to give way to social solidarity, and greed to give way to selfless hospitality. The watching world will have a much harder time dismissing such a church.

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