Pastoral Poison: Self-Glory
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the most competitive person I know. I hate losing — I hate it more than I love winning. Besides being born a sinner, I also was born into a family where this “competitive trait” drove us all. To this day, there’s the constant competition over which family member has the most money, who has the biggest house, or what married couple has the most sex; it can get awkward at times. In recent years, the Lord has begun to show me that entering into these conversations can be a form of self-glorification as I attempt to convince others that I’m better than I really am.
I’ve recently come to realize that this isn’t just a “Chewning Family” issue, but a massive disease that is spreading throughout pastoral ministry. Actually, many of us are trained in self-glorification from the moment of salvation.
I was raised with no spiritual upbringing at all. My mom is a non-practicing Jew; my dad, a non-practicing Catholic. They divorced when I was four years old. My only memory of church growing up was being thrown out of a church basketball game because I kept using offensive language. After high school, I was recruited to play basketball at a Christian college and decided to go even though I knew nothing about Christianity. Within two months of being at school, a friend of mine shared the gospel with me off campus, and I immediately believed in Jesus and became a Christian.
Baptist21 is excited to once again host a lunch panel at this year’s SBC in beautiful Baltimore, MD. Our panelists will be discussing the most pressing issues facing the church and what these issues mean for our mission and engagement in the world.
Groups are a big part of local church ministry. Whether they come in the form of discipleship groups, accountability groups, Sunday School, or home groups, it’s clear that evangelicals believe groups matter.
For this reason, The Gospel Project is excited about hosting a discussion panel on Group Ministry in the Local Church at Together for the Gospel on Wednesday, April 9th in the zero dollar book store from 2:00-2:40. Our panelists will include:
During the discussion our panelists will explore the theological foundations (why) and practical applications (how) of group ministry. We’ll be tackling issues like:
According to the research behind Transformational Groups, the majority of church attenders don’t believe groups are that important to the church. However, a survey among Protestant pastors, 76% agree (32% strongly) that groups are the primary network to mobilize their church and its work. Why is there such a discrepancy between the church leaders and their members? Join us for the panel discussion as we explore the answers.
Some evangelicals are up in arms (what else is new?) about the new Noah movie with Russell Crowe and the Nephilim rock people because (surprise surprise) it’s not accurate to the biblical text. So, some are calling for a boycott (again, what else is new?). Shhh… don’t tell them that Jesus didn’t invent the chair like Jim Caviziel’s portrayal in “The Passion of the Christ.”
Yet, what I find more problematic than Hollywood taking artistic liberties with the account of Noah is that the church often gets its message flat out wrong. From our sermons and our Sunday School lessons you might think that Noah’s Ark was a story about family values and how Noah “got his family in the ark,” or a story about how we should be sweet to our pets. Neither of these is the point of the text; yet, they are taught in conservative churches that trumpet the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible.
No, Noah’s ark is not a sweet kid’s tale about cuddly animals, nor is it a manual on how to be a better dad. Noah’s ark is a horror story where God drowns humanity and the animal kingdom in the flood of his wrath against human sin. What we miss with the cute Fisher Price toys and the veggie tale-ish VBS lessons is that there were dead bodies floating in the water and the air was filled with the stench of rotting flesh.
God had created the world good, but human rebellion became so unbridled that God poured out His judgment in a global flood. But, not only does this story show the wrath of God, it also shows his rescuing mercy. Through the judgment of the flood, God saves one man – not because he is sinless (this is clear by the end of his life in Gen 9) – because of his faith (Heb 11:7). This is the story of a loving God who makes all things new out of judgment. The Noah story is the story of the world in miniature.
In the account of Noah’s ark, God judges the wicked world with water. Water is often the sign of God’s judgment of human sin. From the flood, to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, to the storm and the fish that swallowed the runaway prophet, to Jesus’ statement that his cross is a baptism (Mk 10:38), water is pictured as judgment throughout the Bible. 1 Peter 3 tells the church that Baptism is the anti-type of the flood. It pictures the fact that in Christ we have been drowned in the wrath of God at Golgotha and raised to walk in newness of life. That is the message of Noah’s ark. Judgment will come, but there is a true and better “Ark” that will drown under the wrath of God outside the gates of Jerusalem gasping hour after hour after hour for one last breath. And three days later the Ark of our Salvation will stand up and walk out of the grave, conquering death because the message of Noah holds true that “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3).
This is the story of a God who judges and saves. That’s why Noah was also a preacher (2 Pet. 2:5). There was a global judgment coming, and he was the only one with the message of salvation, so he had to share it. We are given the same task. Jesus tells us that the final judgment will be just like the days of Noah. People will be just living life. They will be seemingly normal people – and many of them seemingly “good” people – who are eating, drinking, marrying, climbing corporate ladders, starting families, and then when they least expect it – BAM! – global judgment will wipe away every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet who is outside of Christ – the ark of our salvation!
Since we know that is coming, it is our task to lovingly warn the world through the gospel. Let’s not see this Noah movie as an opportunity to gripe, criticize, or complain. Let’s see it as an opportunity to engage. Let’s engage our neighbors who see the movie. Let’s engage our children as they play with the Fisher Price Noah who looks like Santa Claus. With tears in our eyes over the coming judgment and joy in our hearts over salvation in Christ, let’s tell them what the story is really about, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!” Perhaps they might just seek rescue in the Ark that has already drowned in God’s wrath and come out safely on the other side.
The Major League Baseball season is upon us and playing First Base for the Texas Rangers this year is a man by the name of Prince Fielder. Fielder stands at 5’11’’ and weighs 275 pounds. That is a bit on the heavy side of most Major League baseball players and it is for that reason that Fielder plays First Base.
Imagine if Prince Fielder approached his manager before a game one day and asked him to play Shortstop. Fielder certainly was gifted with the ability to field ground balls and even throw them accurately across a field since all First Baseman have to be able to do such things to play everyday. So, in one sense, Fielder’s request is perfectly legitimate…yet, anyone that knows baseball would know that he would be resoundingly rejected. Why? Because his particular skill set is best suited for First Base, not Shortstop.
Now, should we conclude that Prince Fielder is somehow less important than the Shortstop? Of course not, a baseball team needs all types of gifted players to play their position in order to win the game. This is one of the unique aspects of baseball. You could have one of the best players in the league on your team but still have a losing record (See the 2013 Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout).
In baseball, each position is needed and each position has different abilities. If you attempt to negate those positions or forget about the abilities needed to play those positions you will quickly find yourself among the leagues worse teams.
The same is true in church planting.
Evangelical leaders have rightly been calling men to go to the urban settings of North America in order to plant churches among those cities that are evidently under served. There have been innumerable amounts of good things that have come from this call, but it is good for us to consider that there have also been a great deal of bad things that have come as well.
Urban settings, particularly those outside the south, have, in recent history, been graveyards for potential church plants. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into places like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles with very few sustainable churches in their wake. It wasn’t because the people leading those works were necessarily unfaithful or because they didn’t read the latest church-planting book.
Very possibly the reason why many of those works did not produce sustainable witnesses was because there were too many First Baseman looking to play Shortstop. That is, we often do not understand that just because a brother is qualified and willing does not mean that he should go to an urban environment.
Urban contexts have unique demands on ministers of the Gospel, though they do not demand a different Gospel.
The temptation in hearing this is to believe that the man who does go and thrive inside an urban environment is somehow better than the one that stays in a suburban context. This could not be any further from the truth.
If that is true that means that the people in New York City are better than the people in Lawrenceville, Ga…. an indisputable Biblical lie! I realize that many of us have internal value systems that rank an urban pastor over and above a rural, however this demands our repentance, not our regard.
Lets be more careful with our money and the lives of our brothers by loving them enough to assess not only their abilities, but their positions. Lets value every context because we value every person, not just the ones in the important cities. We need all people playing all of their appropriate positions in order to win the game…and win the game we will…it is promised!
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