Lecture 14: Emergent Church Movement
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The emergent church movement emphasizes engaging the culture, authenticity, being sensitive to our hermeneutical “blind spots,” reaching out to “postmodern” people, and an unwillingness to be bound by tradition. When people begin a new movement, it can create an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your theology and practice to determine if your ideas are biblical or based solely on tradition.
Emergent Church Movement
I. Strengths of the emergent church movement
A. It gives serious attention to culture
B. Authenticity is emphasized
C. We often have hermeneutical "blind spots"
D. Intention to reach people who don't often respond to traditional churches
E. Unwilling to be bound by tradition while desiring to link with historic Christianity
II. Weaknesses of the emergent church movement
Course: Theology of Ministry
Lecture: Emergent Church Movement
Okay, shouldn't be surprised every time it seems like I talk about resistance or enemy or issues like that, there's always technical difficulties. Have you discovered that when you preach about Satan or hell in church, seems like that's the weekend, you know, something happened with some equipment or some bizarre things happens.
As we build a theology of ministry it's important that we deal with challenges because there will be, and the reason I decided to include this part in building a theology of ministry is because since we're in ministry and since we're going to face challenges we need to think it through theologically. We need to realize, okay, what are we up against and what is it that when we think about scripture and we think about what God has given us that we should be using in such cases.
We all know this; our theology tells us clearly we're in this unseen war. In the last century alone, I was sharing with the church yesterday, more have lost their lives for the sake of the Kingdom than all of church history, which is an amazing statistic. So rather than the war subsiding, actually it is becoming more intense and while we may not feel that so much here in our culture it's certainly true if you get out and travel and read about the persecuted church for example.
So first of all, in your notes, let's talk about resistance against ministry and I've got several rules here that are pretty obvious but might be worth exploring a little bit. And the first rule is that resistance will come to those who serve God. We all know that, right? It's important you know that now. Scripture affirms this in lots of places.
Almost everywhere in fact, in scripture, it affirms it. If we go to the Old Testament we discover that God's leaders, those who were in ministry, faced ongoing resistance from almost the beginning 'til the end. We see that in some classic cases. I think I saw this really clearly studying the book of Numbers a couple years ago and studying really in- more intensely than ever, the life of Moses.
I discovered that Moses was resisted at almost every level. Who was Moses resisted by, just out of curiosity? Who?
Audience Member: Pharaoh.
Pharaoh, certainly, his own brother, sister.
Audience Member: [Inaudible]
Yes, sons of Korah and almost everybody else. The whole Israelite nation at times. When we go to the kings we see kings who again, a number of examples of those who just faced the onslaught in different ways; subtle ways, overt ways. What kings stand out in your mind who faced resistance?
Audience Member: David
Dr. John Johnson: David obvi- is an obvious example who faced all kinds of challenges from the world of darkness whether it was overt things like lust, adultery, murder but certainly the Psalms tell us there were a lot of covert resistance that fleshed itself out in discouragement. What other kings?
Audience Member: [Inaudible]
Yeah, lots of resistance and Josiah himself in the end made some real misjudgments. In fact it's interesting how many of the Godly kings in the end somewhere didn't quite make it to the finish line well; thinking of Asa, Hosea, Josiah, each in their own way.
Certainly another king that stands out is Solomon who really fell prey to narcissism itself. And right now, in a study I'm doing with our church in Nehemiah, Nehemiah faces one set of oppositions after another by the Sanballats and Tobiahs and others. And we think of the prophets who came with a authoritative word and most the time they were not received with open arms.
Sometimes they were thrown into pits, thrown into jails, slain by adversaries. A good case in point is Jeremiah. Jesus refers back to the prophets as those who were killed for their message, Matthew 5, verse 12. We shift over to the New Testament in terms of scripture affirming this resistance and obviously the classic illustration is Jesus, who right away faces resistance. If we take say, Mark as our working text, Mark chapter 1 and Mark chapter 2. What starts in Mark chapter 1 in the wilderness continues wherever Jesus went, all the way to the cross. The early church faced their own set of persecutions and displacement.
Again some passages to note here: 1st Thessalonians 1, 1st Peter 2:11, James chapter 1, verses 2-4 talks again about those who were scattered throughout all of what is presently eastern Turkey. Hebrews 11:23, to 12 verse 2, gives the list of those who suffered for their faith. Revelations 6 verse 9. So we see then, just looking in the New Testament, we see that the churches faced their own resistance.
Paul was resisted at every level. He lived in three worlds. When I look at the three worlds he lived in, you know the three worlds Paul lived in, what world did he live in? What's one? He lived in the world of Judaism. He also lived in the world of Hellenism. He lived in the world of Rome, Romanism. He lived in all three worlds and went back and forth and yet in each of those three he paid a stiff price.
So in Judaism he faced resistance with the Judaizers. Sometimes one of the benefits of when you do a study tour (and I've led three study tours now to Turkey and Greece), this last trip in particular, we were in Lystra and Derbe. And to understand the magnitude of the hate against Paul, I nev- I didn't really understand it 'til I was at this city in Antioch and then measured the distance of, I think about 150 miles, a three or four day journey that the people took just for the express purpose of stoning Paul.
Imagine that. And Paul left for dead, Paul and his own resilience (and this is an amazing thing) he, left for dead, would suggest that he was in horrible shape. In fact I believe probably it relates to 2nd Corinthians, what is it, 12 where Paul has his vision of heaven that probably Paul did die for a brief moment.
But out of that, the incredible thing is this man gets up and I think then goes to Derbe. Which, you know how far Derbe is from Lystra? It's about 100 miles. And then Paul I think headed back to Poseidon, Antioch to the people that made his life hell. It's amazing. So Paul faces, faced his own persecution from Judaizers, from the Hellenistic culture, Acts 17 gives us a picture of that, by the Roman authorities.
Colossians chapter 4, verse 3, Paul is writing from a place where he was imprisoned in Rome and so we see all kinds of resistance whether it is malicious attacks, whether it is church dissension, or angry mobs. Little wonder that what did Paul do when he got the elders together? He said to them, in Acts chapter 20, what did he say? "When I leave, wolves will come in sheep's clothing." Remember?
And to the Corinthians he recounted the personal price of being a minister of God, 1st Corinthians 4:8-13, Paul says, "We have become the scum of the world, the refuse of all things," which is an amazing statement. 1st Corinthians 16:9, here's an interesting statement Paul makes, "God has opened a wide door of opportunity and," you know how he ends it, and there are what? God has opened this great door for ministry and...
Audience Member: Lot of resistance.
"and there are many adversaries." What's my point in sharing some of these passages? To make sure we understand when we sign up for this thing called ministry it's no different with us.
That, that is what we see looking back. In the pastoral epistles Paul repeatedly warned that ministry will entail hardship. So he over and over reminds Timothy of this, that there are powers and principalities that will contend with Kingdom work and so he says to Timothy, fight what?
Fight the good fight, because it is a fight but it is a good fight. It is a good fight, 1st Timothy 1:18. If you go on a spiritual retreat sometime, guy named J.C. Ryle, R-Y-L-E, who's written a lot from a devotional side, written a lot on prayer and J.I. Packer wrote a book about J.C. Ryle in which he brings together some of J.C. Ryle's greatest writings. And one of the chapters is titled, "The Fight," and it's just a great, great description of the fight we all face.
What J.C. Ryle does is he describes it as a good fight and explains why it is a good fight we're all in. So J.I. Packer, his book on J.C. Ryle. Scripture stories affirm this resistance. Here's the second thing on your notes, our identity invites this just because of who we are. And I go to a quote by Richard Baxter that we've looked at who said, quote, "If you will be leaders against Satan he will not spare you."
I'm assuming here you've signed up to be leaders. "If you will be leaders against Satan he will not spare you, he bears the greatest malice against the one who is engaged in doing the greatest damage against him." I'm going to read that again. "If you will be leaders against Satan he will not spare you, he bears the greatest malice against the one who is engaged in working the greatest damage against him."
Spurgeon in his lectures to his students gave this warning. It's, "Upon the whole, no place is so assailed with temptation as ministry." "No place is so assailed with temptation as ministry. Our dangers are more insidious and numerous than those of ordinary Christians." So our identity invites this. Our mission leads to it. Number three, because our mission is to advance a Kingdom of God and our mission is to equip the church and our mission is to glorify the name of Jesus. These are all things the adversary hates the most. Then number four, our union guarantees it. Jesus said, "If they hated me," what?
Audience Member: [Inaudible]
"If they hated me, they will hate you," John 15. In the vine and the branches in discussing the union, describing the union, this is how he, he comes to conclude; "If they hated me, they will hate you." 2nd Timothy 3:12 makes the same point. The whole point I'm making here is that ministries are marked endeavors and ministers are marked people. First rule is that resistance will come to those who serve God. Here's the second rule, the second rule is that resistance takes on many forms.
Sometimes the attacks on, on you, on me will be overt. Sometimes the attacks will be overt just as they were for those in the early church. Sometimes it was dead on persecution and again, you go on a study tour and you go in some of the theaters and you stand there and you realize the small space. A lot of those theaters where the Christians were the prime entertainment and you see the places where the wild beasts were released. And Paul at times faced his own overt challenges the mobs of Acts 19 as an example.
And that same violence is overt today, think of Bonnie Witherall in Saida, Lebanon two years ago who was shot and killed for the name of Christ. So we know that resistance comes in many ways. It will be overt. At other times the attacks will be far more subtle and those can be temptations that get us off the mark, they get us off ministry. I want you to listen to the words of Eugene Peterson. In his book on "Necessary Pastor," he says, "Though it may not seem like it at face value, ministers are persecuted in North America, and I don't believe I'm exaggerating when I say that it is far worse than in seemingly more hostile countries." He says, "Our culture doesn't lock us up; it simply and nicely castrates us, neuters us, and replaces our vital parts with a nice and smiling face." Something to think about.
What he's saying is something like this, in our culture we are not thrown into little prison cells, but we are imprisoned in a mesh of things that keep us from doing the task. That is we become, and he puts it this way, "bullied by well-meaning but ignorant demands." The point is, one of our great temptations, one of our great challenges and one of our great persecutions so-to-speak, will be to get out in ministry and have a profound sense because of our theology of ministry what we need to do. What we must do, what we should do, but we will, so-to-speak, be persecuted by a thousand demands that want to imprison us from doing what we need to be doing, and in our culture that easily happens because we're a culture of such distractions.
So there will be the temptations, the subtle things to get us off ministry. The temptations that will lull us to sleep when it comes to the war we are in. He says later on in the same chapter, "We've been treated nicely for so long, we've forgotten we're in enemy territory." That's why it takes some time to talk about resistance because sometimes we forget that we are in this war and as ministers our theology needs to inform us of that and remind us of that; and that temptations that are subtle are temptations that will deceive us, because sin is deceptive by nature. I put here in the margin a really important book you should have. I know you hear this from instructors all the time but one of the books you really need to have if you don't have it, is Plantinga's book, "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be."
It's a book really on sin. I think his subtitle is "A Breviary on Sin," and in it he exposes, tears apart sin in ways that I've never thought about. He makes some great statements such as this statement. "For sin to do its worst, it must look its best." "For sin to do its worst, it must look its best." Sin's primary role is to masquerade. That's why so many ministers fall in ministry, because in particular for us in ministry sin has to become, will become more and more subtle and in its subtly it will look more and more appealing. It will look more and more, not only appealing, it will look more and more right. Like, "This is what I should do."
The longer you and I are in ministry the more perceptive we have to be, because the more subtle sin becomes. He makes a really good point that sin is nothing more than hijacked goodness. What he means by that is simply this, that sin in and of itself has nothing to offer. You think about that. Sin as an entity, as something in and of itself, there is nothing to sin. It is like, just a hole; it's like something -- a vacuum. What sin is, is taking something that's good and hijacking it, then turning it into something for its own devices.
Technology can be good but sin will take it and if we're not careful, turn it into a dominating master. Or take it and turn us into more and more impersonal people who no longer interface with people because we sit in front of a screen all day. It's very deceptive and money it the same way; money is truly something neutral but we know it has the potential to become mammoth, to become a god. And that's essentially what sin is.
It's taking something, hijacking it and then transcending the boundaries because that's what sin always does. It transcends the boundaries. That's why the primary word for sin is "transgression," because that's the essence of sin. Sin is to go past the lines and you and I in ministry can go past the lines in what we do and what we say and in a broken world the problem is nothing stays within its functional limits. Everything tends to overstep its boundaries and that's when we start to make gods of things.
Because that's what sin is all driving us to do, to make things bigger than they are, so material things can turn into that. Cars, whatever you want to choose, and technology can. I don't think it was my wild imagination at work, I remember one time I wanted to set up something, so I wanted to network in the home with my computer --and this was a number of years ago. Wanted to do it with other computers and I decided to go down to Fry's. Never been down there and I asked somebody to help me with that and by the time they got done, I had this cart filled to the top. Cables, software, all of this equipment and I was you know, thinking, "Okay, I-I'm up to about $2-300 dollars. I just wanted to network a couple of computers."
And I had this almost powerful strange sense almost, I don't want to say demonic, but it was like something that was getting way out of control and yet I was feeling the power and the -- that I had to do this, and I remember at a certain point when the guy that was helping me left, I just took it all and I returned it back and left the place. You know, we all have those moments that, that things can do that. A powerful example for me is, if you've ever bought a new car and the guy says, "Well, take it around the block." Something happens that's hard to explain but there's something that by the time you get back says, "I own this." The reality is it is working subtly to own us. That's the nature of sin, always trying to go past the bounds.
We need to realize that resistance can manifest itself in all kinds of ways. For us, I think the more subtle is what you and I are going to have to deal with, all the time. Our thought life, what goes on. Third rule, resistance often focuses on key areas. So as we understand what we're up against when we choose to do this thing called ministry we need to realize that this resistance often focuses on particular areas. When I say particular, they focus on the nature of ministry and the nature of ministers.
And so here are so many ways that over the years I've discovered that have been the reason a lot of ministers fail, fall, and you know most of these. The first one is pride. Some of the most arrogant people I know tragically are ministers. How does that happen? Someone put it this way, "Few tasks will expose the ego so relentlessly to the ruses of pride and vanity as ministry." "Few tasks, few fields will expose the ego so relentlessly to the ruses of pride and vanity as ministry." Now why is that so? Is that true? What is it about ministry and pride?
Audience Member: A lot of people look up to their Pastor, I think, as higher than they should have been.
Yeah. People immediately begin to assume that we are at a whole 'nother level. Heather?
Yeah, we start putting a lot of confidence in ourself too, don't we? You ever think about from a pastoral side, how many professions speak every week and have a platform for 30 minutes? That's an amazing platform. Bill?
Bill: I agree in ministry you put yourself in a perceived position of power in that you are doing the very work of God. You are the hand of God and you do his work no matter where you end up down the line, you may be serving yourself, but at some point you started out really good with the work of God that can get to a person, I think.
Yeah, I think you're right. You know our church is starting a capital campaign. Not one of my favorite things to anticipate, though I'm real excited about the project we're doing. One of the things I'm really internally working through, and I haven't figured it out quite yet, is my role in asking people for money. Part of what I fear is that because of my role and how sometimes people can perceive me, it's not realistic, but put me up here, to ask for money can put a lot of pressure on someone, that I don't want to do. There's a lot of things to, to pride. We're up front as you mentioned, we're in positions of authority whether it's in a counseling office or whatever, wherever we go we are in positions that set us up as the one who has the answers.
As the one whose got life figured out. We can be tempted to seek applause. Ministry is the place where we can really be tempted for human approval and I think that's a real huge temptation. We ask ourselves, "Did they like what I said? Do they like me? When sometimes we need to stop and go, "It's not about whether they like me or like, even like what I said." There is in this pride, this subtle temptation to manipulate. To use God-language to get our way, ministers can become really good at that.
Sure. We equate ourself with God's voice so we don't take criticism very well. We just assume this is the adversary at work when maybe it's just someone saying, "No, frankly I think there is an issue in your life, you need to work through." We can begin to believe in our own importance as Scott, you just mentioned. We can have difficulty acknowledging failure cuz we come to a place where we believe we have to maintain a certain status or a certain image, I guess is the word I'm looking for.
There's this subtle temptation to, to rely on our power and that's when pride really begins to take hold of us when we begin to start believing it's because of us or it's all about what we put together, what we say. We can become enslaved to the need [coughing] to keep up, to ensure a congregation is growing and we can stop somewhere relying on God in the process. Luther put it this way, speaking of pride. He warned, "There's no more harmful vice to ministry than pride," and he's probably right. Heather I think you were going to say something?
Yeah and they will say very flattering things. One of the things I've learned in ministry, is it's not as great as they say you are, but it's not as worse either. Somehow that kind of keeps me somewhere in the middle. I'm not as bad as people really actually tell me I am, but I'm not as great as people actually tell me I am either. A second obvious key area; sexual temptation. Paul alerts Timothy to this in 2nd Timothy 2 when he [Inaudible] to run, to flee.
And obviously you have to mention this because in ministry so many, at least of my peers, have fallen to this particular sin, that we see it in the Catholic Church. I've shared the story of my spiritual godfather who influenced me powerfully in his life. We just have to be really careful. Here's a third not so obvious one, but I think you will get out in ministry a number of you, maybe not, I don't know. Some of you may not struggle with this maybe most of your ministry, some of you this will be almost a life-long struggle and it is a form of resistance, and that is restlessness. And part of the reason we'll struggle with restlessness is because we believe this idea that the grass is greener on the other side and we will live with that.
Much of ministry is not glamorous. We thought it was going to be.
Audience Member: [Inaudible]
Yeah, yeah that's a good statement. I think another one I've heard is, "The reality is, it's brown on both sides."
Audience Member: [Inaudible]
Yeah, I remember where I lived in the Netherlands, I would drive down this road and there was this cattle crossing and the farmers would let out their cows every morning on both sides, really nice lush, green fields on both sides. I remember driving down the road and I would see them almost every day. The cattle on this side were at the cattle crossing staring at the field across and the cattle on this side were staring across there and it was just a funny sight. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I thought, "Boy that, that's exactly us," you know?
Somehow have this idea that it's really different on the other side but you know, like Eugene Peterson says, "You know, you romanticize congregations, you romanticize ministries and you get there and you realize, 'There they are. Sinners.' [Laughter]They're on both sides." And, and you know he, he, he puts it in a wonderful way and he says, "Most of us, we graduate from seminary, we go out, we had this you know, challenge, we're going to go out and we're going to change the world and we're going to ride on white stallions and we're going to make our mark in the world and suddenly we're in ministry and we're mucking out the stalls, and we're going, 'How in the world did I end up here? This is not what I signed up for.'"
I remember when I was going to go the Air Force Academy and I was weighing ministry, Air Force Academy and I was going back and forth and I remember thinking, you know, I just sensed God was calling me and I said, "no" at the last minute and I went to my spiritual godfather and I said, "Okay, you've invited me and here I am." And I remember about three months later I was working in campus ministry and my job was to put the folding chairs down and pick up all the cups and stuff afterwards and I remember thinking, "So this is ministry, huh? This is what I gave all this up for?" We all can have our little pity parties and ministry is often not glamorous. We can become spiritual wanderlusts.
You know what that means? Spiritual wanderlusts? Glamorize other ministries. We commit what Peterson refers to as, "ecclesiastical pornography," he's so good with his words. Anyone who's been in ministry for any length of time will tell you that they've committed that sin somewhere. I've committed that sin often, lusting over other congregations. Not literally the people so don't read into it. We all at times seek passage to Tarshish. God says, "I want you in Nineveh," and we go, "Well, I don't think so. Tarshish looks a whole lot better, God. It's where I'm going."
We can become "ecclesiastical climbers," as Hughes puts it. This whole thing of restlessness is a serious temptation, for it ultimately distracts us and it can rob us of the demands of our present ministry and the passions and all that it wants of us because we're holding back. We're saving our best for somebody else and it can begin to generate a sense of anxiety [odd sound] and perhaps a better word here is ungratefulness for where we're at, and even maybe "yes" sometimes to an extreme, even to anger. That can be directed at those we minister to, "Why can't you be like, this other ministry?"
So our voices can begin to take on a certain stridency as our anger and disappointment at being stuck in this place begins to leak into our discourse. That can be a real temptation. I would say in my own life at times, looking back, I missed what God was doing in the present because I was looking too much into the future. It's this temptation of restlessness.
Certainly another aspect of resistance, number four is to lose heart, which I think is a driving temptation of the evil one. I think he works really over-time in this area to get us to lose heart and this really comes on the heels of number three. Paul described it, I think well, in Galatians 6 when he talks about weariness and well-doing. "There will be weariness and well-doing," make sure you note that down in your notes. There is weariness and well-doing, there is something that can really take a lot out of us by just doing something that's right.
When we become weary we can become demoralized, we can become discouraged and we must never forget that behind a lot of this is Satan doing everything he can to drive you out of ministry. And so he will try to con us into mistrusting God, we will raise questions in our minds sometimes such as "Where is God?" He'll do everything to unhinge our spirits, paralyze our exertions, bring this dark cloud over us, and sometimes this is why I want to cover this in theology, because your theology needs to tell you this, inform you of this. Don't be surprised if sometimes that dark cloud will almost be literal. It will come over you. I haven't had it very often but I've had some very real encounters such as this.
It's a very scary moment. As Calvin put it, "Ministry's not an easy and indulgent exercise but a hard and severe warfare where Satan is exerting all of his power and moving every stone for our disturbance."
Audience Member: You just mentioned a literal [Inaudible]
Yeah, for me anyway, I can recall a moment in my study where it almost literally became dark. The lights were on and everything else was fine but such a spirit of depression and discouragement and darkness all descended, almost in such a way that I felt like I could touch it and I realized in that moment there was something very Satanic about it. I don't know necessarily when those come. None of us know but I'm simply pointing out they can come and your theology needs to prepare you for the fact that they will and the aim of them again, the aim is what?
Audience Member: To get you out of ministry.
Is to get you out of ministry and you can't capitulate to that. You know Fisher put it this way, "We are in a high demand, low stroke environment," ministry is a lot of that. It is a high demand, low stroke environment. So these clouds can come in the beginning, they can come in the middle, they can come at the end of ministry, where we lose heart, so just be prepared. Yeah, Heather?
Heather: I think I almost feel like that the fact that Satan would find us that important that he would pay us that much attention to what we're doing, it seems...
Yeah but he does. He does and he's got enough of an army out there that maybe he won't personally pay attention to you or to me but he's got enough of a force that will. The point is we must not minimize our role in what we're doing. When you look at the population as a whole in the world and you scale it to how many are truly believers, then you scale back that, how many amongst believers are truly given their lives to ministry. It's a very, very small percentage, so if you're the adversary with this vast army that you control, where are you going to send them?
It would seem a natural place, going back to Baxter's quote, you know, "He will send them against those who work the greatest malice against his efforts." I don't have any illusion that I'm so important Satan's going to be worried about me but I don't have the naiveness either to think that he's not interested or at least his army's not interested in doing what it will and what it will take, to take me down. Just that I've discovered that you will discover is that the longer you're in ministry you can't fall into the illusion that, "Well you know, I've gotten older and wiser and he's realized that and he's moved on to more vulnerable fields." The reality is that each year I'm in ministry, each year the attacks become more subtle, more beneath the surface, sin masquerades itself in more subtle ways.
I gave you one that's a very subtle one and that's restlessness. That I think kills a lot of ministry cuz we have this sense that there's always something better out there for us. That goes back maybe sometimes subtly to our pride that thinks we deserve more than what we are and you know, my first church was not a glamour church by any means. My first church was an old traditional, stuck-in-the-mud, battleship, that anchor rotting, rusting. That first five years I connived every way I could to get out of it. No, actually that's not true, for the first eight years. Okay, ten years.
Audience Member: I don't know if we mentioned this under pride, but just being easily offended by people and by his flock. That was probably the most dangerous thing for him, as a minister.
You mean because he took the ministry so personally or...?
Audience member: Yeah and because I think he called Simon, it was more of a personal attack than a [Inaudible]
Mhm. Well, whatever ministry God calls you to, the danger is that you will find because ministry is so absorbing and so demanding in the sense that it wants all of you that you will start to give a lot of yourself to it and you will want to, because you'll want to do it well, but what happens is the more you give yourself to ministry the more your identity begins to become lined up with that ministry so when people attack the ministry what will you do? You will take it very personally. If somebody comes along and says, "You know, yeah, you know Village stinks." I don't go, "Well, you know, I'm not Village I'm just the Pastor," I get really offended because a lot of me is there. Same thing with Western, it's a natural thing.
And we have to make sure at times we disassociate ourselves in a healthy sense that may have nothing to do with us, may have everything to do with the church or the practice or whatever you're going to do as a ministry. Let's shift gears then and talk about -- and here's the second thing we really need to think about and that is the authority we have for ministry. I think most of us understand the resistance and our theology is pretty clear on that maybe already but what I want to talk about is the authority we have for ministry. A long with the theological assessment of our resistance, there must be a corresponding theology that defines [coughing] our authority, our power that makes us able to deal with the demands and the pressures.
Back to really the question, "How do we fight the good fight? How should we fight the good fight in ministry?" And what I want to say right at the beginning is we need to take the offensive and run towards righteousness and run against evil. Which, I'll take and define in some particular ways with some rules after the break.
Okay, rule number one, rule number one is, we need to take hold of the authority we have. Several passages suggest an authority that is ours in Christ and again as we're out there in ministry and we face this intense war at times, we just need to realize we have an authority that comes from Chris. Mark chapter 3, verse 15, where Jesus gave his disciples authority I assume that's still true today. Matthew 3:15, in authority that he expected them to use and exercise and he rebuked them when they did not.
Something else I think is worth noting is Matthew 5:14. Matthew 5:14, where the light of the world and I take it that part of the purpose of light is to diffuse the darkness to eliminate the darkness. Maybe you could add there salt or the salt of the world and part of the role of salt is to take on the decay. In Ephesians 6:10-20, our weapons are not merely defensive but offensive. You put all these passages together and what do they say? That, they say that we should not be intimidated by these attacks and this resistance but rather to take it on and in an offensive way.
Realizing that behind this authority again, let's make sure we understand our theology beyond this authority, Mark 3:15 is Colossians 2:15. Colossians 2:15, Jesus at the cross, what does this say? He disarmed the rulers of darkness. The enemy has been disarmed. Ephesians 4, tells us, has been displayed as defeated and their final end foreshadowed, so there is an authority that God expects us to wield from time-to-time and we need to do that. Mark 4:39, Jesus rebukes the disciples in the face of the storm. I think maybe in part because he expected them to rebuke the storm and they did not because they didn't get it, Mark 3:15.
What does that mean? That means that there are prayers. God expects us to pray. When we minister to people who are facing evil in very powerful ways we need to help them take the offensive. I think fundamentally what a lot of Christians don't understand today is the authority they have in Christ and so we have the authority to withstand and resist and unmask and move forward. I really love the passage I was preaching this weekend, Nehemiah 4:1-6. Nehemiah's resisted and what does he do? He comes to God in prayer and he takes it to God and he resists and he calls for God's justice.
He didn't mince words and he didn't ask forgiveness for being so angry because with sin we need to be angry. Bill?
Bill: If there's so much authority, why is there so much failure? Is it because we don't understand the authority? We don't take the authority?
Yeah, well I don't want to pretend to have all the answers but I think what you just said is part of it. Back to [ theology of ministry, we don't understand theologically the authority we have and so we don't exercise it and so we're often defeated. If James says, "Resists the devil and he will flee from you," there's something about that imperative that implies we have an authority, correct? That we either exercise or we don't. If we don't exercise it, I'm going to assume if we don't exercise it, evil will have its way. If we do exercise it, it just may mean that things will be different.
"Resist the devil and he will flee," what does that say? It says that he doesn't have a choice. If Colossians 2:15 is true, he's been disarmed. If Colossians 1:13 is true, we have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. We are in a kingdom now and we, in the authority of that Kingdom have the ability to resist in powerful ways, the evil one. So, we put the two together, our theology of ministry tells us we will face at times, furious, fierce resistance, but our theology of resistance authority tells us that we can take that and respond.
If you want to write this down, if you haven't, a great working model is Nehemiah. More I study Nehemiah the more I go, "You know, that's what we need today. We need Nehemiah's that are not intimidated at all by evil, but they stand up and they're willing to curse it and they're willing to say something like this, 'God don't blot out their sins.'" We get nervous with that kind of prayer but frankly sometimes I think we need to. What did Paul say? Galatians 1, "If someone preaches a different gospel, let them," what? "Let them be accursed," which is another way of saying, let 'em go to hell.
When's the last time we've prayed something like that? Probably it's been awhile but I wonder sometimes, honestly, I wonder if sometimes the church is a bit in paralysis today because we are not exercising our authority? Why is it again when the disciples were bailing and Jesus was sleeping and they woke him up to still the storm that he rebuked them? What was he expecting them to do? And the only thing I can figure in that passage is he was expecting them to take the authority he gave them and do something with it, because in that, Jesus used the same word for rebuking, or I should say for exercising demons.
We have in all of this, this task of reminding the body of Christ that the sovereignty of the powers has been broken and a limit has been set as to their work. Satan can do nothing without the permission of God, so take hold of our authority. What's the key text in terms of taking on the authority we have? Mark 3:15. Where he called them to the mountain and he gave them these three things; be with me, exercise the authority I'm giving you, and preach the Kingdom.
And I take it that's the same three full things we're called to do. Be with God every day as a minister, that's the first thing. We got to spend time with him, be with him. Secondly, exercise his authority. Thirdly, preach Kingdom. Maybe a lot of ministries messed up because we just don't do the three basic things. If ministers primarily spend time with God, exercise God-given authority, and preach the Kingdom, we'd probably be a lot further down the road.
Second rule is lay hold of the spirit. We need to lay hold of the spirit so we have this authority. We also have the spirit of God and we look back again and building a bit of theology around that we discovered that the power of Jesus' earthly ministry was attributed to the work of the spirit, Acts 10:38 and the early church was commanded to wait for the power of the spirit before it dared try attempt anything. Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, and we look and study the book of Acts and we discover each time the spirit of God was poured out the church received what? Great power, Acts 4:31-33.
So any power that we have in ministry is the power of the spirit of God. You know Paul said it well didn't he, when he said, "Now to him was able to do exceeding, abundantly, above all we ask or think according to the power of," what? "Working in us." A lot of people forget the last line of that. You know, they go, "Now to him was able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond on all we ask or think," isn't that great? No you, you got to finish the rest of the sentence. God's not going to just do something out there mighty and beyond our imagination, he's going to do it, how? He's going to do it according to the power that what? Is, what's that word? [Inaudible], is working? Is that work inside of us. God does not choose to work outside of us which is an amazing thing, but chooses to work through us and through his power working through us.
Now what this means is that our theology of God's power must work side-by-side with our theology of our weakness, this is part of Marva Dawn's point in her book on weaknesses, "Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God." Have you seen that book? It's an interesting book and the point she makes in that, is that if we're going to be effective as ministers we need to have a very clear theology of power, power of the spirit of God, theology of our authority in Christ, but we also need to keep that really parallel with a theology with our weakness. See and that's really a good point, isn't it because if we start becoming focused on the power we have in Christ we can start if we're not careful assuming it's what? It's our power.
So we have to keep in front of us to always a theology of weakness and when you look at that, think about that. Isn't that something Paul really modeled? Paul was constantly aware of his weakness but he was also constantly aware of his power. He understood that we operate out of weakness. Galatians 2:20, "I've been crucified with Christ, not me, but it's God that's working through me." Galatians 6:14 "Our weapons are his weapons and unless we are equipped, we will fall." That's why then, when we do battle, when we do this work of resistance, largely it's not us aligned against people; it is us coming to God and letting God work through us. When we are resisted our flesh will tend to want to fight back but our theology of ministry tells us that's a bad road to take.
I go back to, as a working model is Nehemiah who when he was maligned he didn't lash out at the enemies. What did he do? He came to God because God's the power. Make sure you under, we all understand this. In this theology of ministry we build, our battle is not with people; our battle is against the powers. Correct? That's largely what we face. For the most part, it's something far deeper that we need to remember that we're dealing with.
Therefore in our own weakness we come to God and say, "God, this is - you have to deal with this." Paul attributed all the power he had for ministry to the work of the spirit, Romans 15. Romans 15:18-19, "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, to bring the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the spirit of God. So that from Jerusalem and all the way around, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ."
And so he admonishes Timothy to take hold of the same power, 2nd Timothy 1:7, so that Timothy could fight the good fight. Realizing that a lot of what releases this power of the spirit is prayer and Jesus again models that. Jesus began his ministry praying and the more popular he became the more fervent he was to escape the masses and go to the desert. Rule three is, now that we understand this authority and we understand this power that we have, we need to then have to confront sin with wisdom. So let me just hit a few of them real quickly. For sexual sin we need to make sure we're looking at it spiritually and understand the subtleties and the war that's going on for our soul.
Understand theologically that if we fall into this sin that is the judgment, that is something that really scares me, but my theology informs me that way, that if I fall into sexual sin it's not, "How will God judge me for that sin," that is the judgment of God.
Proverbs 22:14, is just an example of that. A lot of our manifestations of our sins are the judgments themselves. Romans chapter 1, I think would be another where God gives over to the lust. Proverbs 22:14, "The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit. He who is cursed of the Lord will fall in to it." "He who is cursed of the Lord will fall in to it." Now there's some theology of sin. What does that mean? "He who is cursed of the Lord will fall into it." It means something like this, if a man for example continues to allow fantasies in his mind to persist and maybe in ministry you begin to become focused more and more on someone that you should not be focused on, there can be a moment when God says, "Okay. I'm giving you over to your desires."
Rather than to repent of them, rather than to deal with them, you continue to fantasize and maybe there comes a moment God says, "Okay." Do we have any theology that confirms that, well Proverbs 22:14, Romans chapter 1, which therefore says to us in ministry that the battle starts where? The battle starts with our affections, our desires, our heart. Therefore we've got to really watch our hearts in ministry. If I find out that a peer of mine in ministry has fallen into moral failure, I want to know something and not that I in a way I want to know it, but it's, it's a natural question. My theology asks this question, "What did they do that set up this judgment?" Where as we tend to think more like this, "I wonder what the judgment of God will be for that action," forgetting that it's the action that's the judgment, because it is, isn't it?
When a person falls into moral failure it is a tremendous judgment because of all the consequences that follow itself. So for sexual sin, you know build fences. Build fences around your heart, around your mind, build fences around your pace for example. Stress in ministry out of control can lead to some bizarre things, cuz I've seen it. Guys doing crazy things, you know, rewarding feeling like I deserve -- "I put out so much for God that well, I deserve at least this little fantasy over here." You might be sitting here going, "Well that sounds absurd," of course. Sin is absurd.
If you say, "Well that makes no sense," well understanding your Hamartiology, sin never makes sense. Sin never makes any sense. So in ministry at times you will be confronted with possibilities that make no sense and you will do them and you will do them if you don't build fences around your heart, around your life, around your marriage if you're married. Speaking to men, I would say every now and then you need to your wife, "Look it, it's really important to me that you remain as attractive as you can be for me, because I don't want to be attracted to someone else," and it goes both ways because it's very subtle.
It means bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2nd Corinthians 10:5. Now let's talk about restlessness for a moment. Let, let me just say this that in dealing with this particular potential sin, it is okay, I think it's in fact, it can be good to aspire to being where God wants you to be. There's nothing wrong with that. I really love this word, I probably shared perhaps, convergence where your passions link up with the opportunity, the very best opportunity and I would think that for a number of you that is your hope in your life.
That one day you can look and say, "You know what I really love doing and where I'm at have converged." You all want that, don't you? I mean I hope you do. I don't want to have my very best passions for what I want to do stuck in a place I don't want to be. Nor do I want to be in the very best place I could imagine but it doesn't mix with who I am, but when you get convergence it's just the greatest thing.
So, there's nothing wrong, I think with aspiring for that, but here's what we have to do. We have to, in dealing with this sin of restlessness, number one, be content where we are. Learn to be content, learn to dig in and say, "God, you know what? I'll trust you. If this is where you want me right now, I'll give my whole heart, I'll give my full passion, I can trust you for when the time is right and you want to move me somewhere else."
I think along with that is be careful not to glamorize and romanticize because it's not all glamour and it's not all romance wherever we go to minister. I've learned sometimes the same people emerge in every ministry I go to, they just have different names. For dealing with depression, the dark night of the soul, here are a few things I just give you. Take care of your soul because ministry's not easy. As Luther said, "Household sweat is great, political sweat is greater, church sweat is the greatest," so take care of your soul.
Here would be another key thing. Keep going over and over your theology, proper. Think one of the best things we, we can do for our ministry is keep reminding ourself who God is, keep learning about who God is. We can't just remind ourself who God is because it's a life-long venture of knowing who God is [metallic knock] and we never exhaust that. Have that one person who so believes in you that they will be there when you enter the dark night of the soul and you need to get on the phone and call somebody who will rescue you, because you will probably need to do that and it needs to be that person that will talk sense back in your heart.
Remember that you're not alone. That's a good thing. When you go through that dark night, just remember all of us do. The enemy will have you to think it's you and you alone but you're along with everyone else. Paul dealt with such despair. Think the book of 2nd Corinthians is Paul's journal talking about his dark night of the soul. Spurgeon for all of his greatness fought deep bouts of depression; Catherine of Siena, Patron Saint spoke often of her overwhelming sense of failure; Luther despaired over ministry, and they all concluded that it was the adversary ultimately trying to drive them out of ministry.
Okay for dealing with pride, number four. Always tell yourself, that I am totally saint and totally sinner, and tell yourself that while we have great worth, none of us are indispensable. While we have great worth, none of us are indispensable. Can you say that? I am not indispensable. Now see, none of you said that. You believe you're dispensable, indispensable, don't you? We have important work but if we don't do it God will find somebody else. Book of Esther is a good reminder of that. Yeah, I'd say one of the best thing to deal with pride is just to be in the word of God every day. I find that I'm brought up short almost every day I'm in God's word.
For dealing with material things, aim to desacralize them, desacralize. Things will always try to be more than they are whether it's clothes, or houses, or cars, or things. They will always try to become gods. So keep desacralizing all the time, just learn to say "no," course most of you probably in seminary are saying, "Well, I don't have a choice. I mean that's an easy one." But just, the point is, re-remember this, things can carry a spiritual force. Things always have the potential to be idols. Just knowing that is a huge first step. Questions?
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