Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Being Humbled

One of the most influential videos I have watched recently is a speech Timothy Keller gave on doing evangelism in a postmodern/post-Christian context.  Amongst the many important things he says in his presentation, a very important topic arises at the 1:01:00 mark: humility.

Keller argues that for Christians to truly make an impact in our society today, we must be humbled before God so that God can actually use us.

Keller draws from Jonah and then again from St. Paul--God's power is made manifest in our weakness.  Essentially, it boils down to one particular facet: we will not be effective communicators of the Gospel if we think we somehow are morally, intellectually, faithfully, or what have you better than others.  If we somehow think we are Super-Christians, we will not be effective in doing effective evangelism in this day and age.

Sure, I know there is a strain of Christianity which gets a lot of attention--the prosperity gospel folks--you know, the folks who teach that if one is faithful enough; gives enough; does just the right amount of things; then God will bless them with health, wealth, and wisdom.  These folks get plenty of air time because they have the funds available to get their message out there, and their teaching garners plenty of attention.  Yet, in all reality, they are very much a minority in the Christian landscape.  They attract a number of people, but not an overwhelming amount.  There are always folks attracted to "Superpreachers."

But those numbers will dwindle.  When those "Superpreachers" are shown to have clay feet, their flocks disperse.  It has happened before.  It will happen again.

But it's not just with the "Superpreachers."  It's also with the "SuperChristians."  When I post this label, I am caricaturing--which is not necessarily helpful, but somewhat necessary in this case.  What do I mean by "SuperChristians?"  Those Christians who willfully try to tell everyone just exactly how to live their lives; what everyone should do; what everyone should say.

Yours truly was there not too long ago.  In some ways, I'm still there, although I've received a major jolt--although I'm not sure whether or not it was God's way of humbling me completely.  There may still be more to come.

Before I went through burnout, I thought it was my job to tell folks what they should be doing.  "You've got to be a disciple!  You've got to make things happen in your life!  You've got to treat your neighbor in a certain fashion!  You've got to walk a certain moral standard!  You've got to try and implement the teachings of Jesus!  You've got to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God!"  Yeah, I did that.  I even tried it, and I failed.  My clay feet crumbled when I had worked diligently to lead my congregation through a decision made at the national church level.  I wanted to avoid losing members over the ordeal.  I wanted to keep folks from feeling like they couldn't worship with others who disagreed with them.  I tried to carry the congregation through it and keep them together.  Didn't work.  Within a short period of time, we lost several folks who I had spent a lot of time and energy working with.  The effect brought me to my knees. 

It's taken quite a bit of time to find healing, and that healing coincided with a hefty dose and reminder of the reality of grace. 

I know now it is not my job to hold a congregation together.
It's not my job to make people behave.
It's not my job to make people do the things Jesus called us to do.
It's not my job to make people put money in the offering plate.
It's not my job to tell people what they should or should not say.

It is my job to proclaim the Gospel.
It is my job to tell folks what God has done for them.
It is my job to imitate Christ to the best of my ability--even though I fall far short.
It is my job while imitating Christ to show His love to others even when I disagree with them.
It is my job to stop trying to think I have more wisdom, more morality, more insight into what it means to live the perfect life and instead simply know Christ crucified.

If people hear the Gospel and understand God's love for them, then the rest follows.  I do not believe people will hear the Gospel if I stand before them and say, "Be like me.  I'm doing it right." 

I do believe people hear, "I'm broken.  Don't look to me.  Look to Christ.  His grace is sufficient for you just like it is sufficient for me."

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