When we learn to hold the world with a loose grip we are learning to take hold of the world to come with a firm grip. —Sinclair Ferguson
I am pastoring a church that is an hour plus some away from our home which leaves me and Sharon with a major portion of our week without a close fellowship nearby. I would like to visit with a church, perhaps on a regular basis, with some serious bible teaching, maybe a Sunday night but at least midweek sometime. IT DOESN’T EXIST.
Maybe somewhere. But I can’t find it.
How can this be? Is Bible teaching except on Sunday mornings a dead thing in the church? Does no one get hungry for a word from a servant of the Lord and of the Word on M,T,W,T,F night? What’s happened? How many pastors take it as their primary goal not just to preach on Sunday mornings but to be in nature and in duty a student of and teacher of the Bible as the primary commitment of their lives?
I know that we are all to be self-feeders. Believe me, I am. But I long to have another who will wrestle with me, throw me to the ground, force me to see a truth I don’t want to see and though I would self-feed until Jesus comes will not see unless someone shows it to me. Am I alone?
Yes, I know that if we have a midweek Bible teaching we won’t have time for small group communities. Yes, I know that if we have a midweek Bible teaching I won’t be able to serve as freely in one of the many ministries the church is trying to keep going. Yes, I know that if we have a midweek Bible teaching and perhaps someway somehow have to go out another night of the week then I will be more tired rather than less. Yes, I know there is pastoral counseling, administration, program development, and committee meetings.
BUT CAN’T SOMEONE, SOMEHOW, OPEN THE BIBLE AND PREACH THE GOSPEL EVEN WHEN IT ISN’T SUNDAY?
Here is a link to a blog by DG Hart (former Academic Dean of Westminister Theological Seminary West) that seems to represent the mindset I often found at Westminster Seminary and in its surrounding reformed community. The word “non-cooperating” comes to mind. And that is too light a word. Even The Gospel Coalition comes under the gun.
The Reformed community can’t find a way to belong to evangelicalism. There are some who try but soon the channels fill up with silt and the whole thing plugs up. There is no distinction between the baby and the bathwater. They are one and the same in Calvinistic circles. To have a difference on one level of the concentric circles that close on Christ as the center is seen as the same as compromising Christ. It doesn’t matter how far out the ring is from the center.
One of the great losses of which I am aware is that men like John Piper and Al Mohler do not and cannot speak at IVCF events. Perhaps this is because IV is aware that the boundaries in any cooperating fellowship of Christians need to be sensitively honored without dishonoring Christ. Piper, Mohler and company are not perceived as safe enough for this kind of enterprise. I do not think either of them would be of Hart’s mindset, however. Their influence touches too many for them to remain safely huddled away from the broader Body of Christ.
There is still within me the spirit of John Wesley. “If you heart is as my heart, then take my hand.”
When you are in the right, you can afford to keep your temper; and when you are in the wrong you cannot afford to lose it. —G.C. Lorimer
If the Bible is the book that has changed the world, and it is and has, then that part of the Bible which has focused its laser like energies to tear through the strongholds of this world is the book of Romans.
I have never preached through the book. I have heard the disastrous attempts of others to do so. I haven’t actually seen people’s hair set on fire running from the sanctuary screaming “I can’t take another week in the book of Romans” , but I could see the hair smoking. By the time most preachers get through the closely reasoned, densely packed, and rhetorically tight book, the minds of most listeners have long ago been fried and the spiritual brook dried.
But the book still stands as a spiritual Mt Everest. It says to those below, “climb me if you can. I have killed better preachers and teachers than you.”
I dip into Romans again and again in my preaching. One has to!! Too much that is precious and necessary is therein contained. But I have not done sustained verse by verse study of the book. I did Galatians in seminary. What a disaster. By the end of that course, I was absolutely convinced neither the professor or I understood any more of that book than when we started the course. Even worse, Galatians was permanently scarred in my memory.
But at age 61 I think that maybe now is the time to get to the greatest part of the greatest Book. I have gathered my view materials and will carefully work my way through over the next couple of years. At my age I am not going to do one of those Donald Gray Barnhouse episodes of a decade plus in Ephesians or WACriswell’s 17 years through the Bible. Too late for that!!! (I think I can hear any number of parishioners sighing relief). But one can stay distant from Romans for only so long.
Here we go.
I can’t find chapter and verse to support my queasiness on this one. But my flesh crawls a little bit when the evangelical big guns – in this case Keller, Andy Stanely, etc. – finally reach enough of the big time that they must show up at the White House for the obligatory episode of civil religion.
Haven’t we been here many times before? So many times before? What good comes from this? What is gained? Why can’t these men of the cloth stay away? Just stay away.
What is clear is that those preachers, some of whom have larger influence, who take on the policies of the administration are not invited. To be invited one must be perceived of in some way as friendly to the White House, if not in policy, then in manner or style. I am not sure this is a compliment to Keller and company. In fact, it is not. Let the President come visit their churches.
I remember the days when Gordon MacDonald and Tony Campolo did the camp outs at the White House during the Clinton catastrophes. Clinton needed the evangelical camp’s religious constituency to support him in the great moment of his moral failure. Rather than sneak in the back door of the White House under cover, it would have seemed right for these men to send a Elijah-like message like that sent to Naaman to Clinton – “it is not me that you need to see; go wash in the river Jordan seven times.”
Yet every new generation of evangelical leaders has to flirt with the civil authorities. Go ahead. It’s not a sin. It’s not a moral issue. It’s just that you still don’t get it.
The man who is brutally honesty enjoys the brutality quite as much as the honesty. Possibly more. Richard Needham