Tuesday, February 10, 2009

THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
...bring nothing to the spiritually starving except the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

"Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself 
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God 
was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses 
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. 
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, 
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
-2 Corinthians 5:11a; 17-21

People are obsessed with programs today. The latest gimmick, method, fad, trend, cultural anomaly seems to govern the thinking of most church leaders in how they structure their church services and do ministry. Christian market researchers have made the audience sovereign and not honored God and His Word as the only true Sovereign in ministry. 

The new hermeneutic of the trendy reformed champion this paradigm: 
interpret Scripture through the lens of culture. Whether they are seeker-friendly; emerging; emergent; grunge; edgy; culturally contextualized; missional, blah-blah-blah-etc. - it's really all the same... a man-centered means to doing divine ministry. 
They simply have forgotten the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He said, "I will build My church..." He is not only the chief cornerstone and the head of the church; He IS its divine builder and architect. And in so doing, our Lord has given us all the privilege to be about this ministry of reconciliation. Proclaiming His gospel to all; calling all men everywhere to repent of their sins; to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him; and believe solely on the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. Oh what a joy to serve the Lord... isn't it? And lest we forget, this ministry of reconciliation (compelling others to be reconciled to God and to flee the wrath to come) is not about healing race relations, ministering to the poor, or carrying for people with AIDS. Though those are things that we should be involved in as a way to love our neighbor - the ministry of reconciliation is one thing: the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

So why don't more churches simply be about the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of His Word, equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, biblical worship and evangelism? Because they are dominated by the times in which they live. Relevance and Pragmatics are the two voices of our postmodern culture that are the dominating voices in any local church pastors meeting.

May I encourage you to pray for your church and pastors today. Pray that they would be men of the truth and not of the times; pray that they would preach the Word in season and out of season; pray that they would fulfill their ministry and do the work of an evangelist. And lastly, pray that the one burning question that they would ask of themselves each week is not: how can we better relate to our people and draw bigger crowds? BUT, how can we bring more glory to God and further exalt the Lord Jesus Christ through the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit according to His Word?

I trust this short Spurgeon illustration below will help to focus our thoughts on what is truly important. It's the gospel...

Think biblically - not culturally!
Steve
2 Cor. 4:5-7

For if I preach the gospel,
that gives me no ground for boasting.

For necessity is laid upon me.
Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
-1 Corinthians 9:16

For I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
-1 Corinthians 2:2



"In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in the city of Rome, although there was abundance of corn to be purchased in Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel… noticed many hungry people straining their eyes toward the sea, watching for the vessels that were to come from Alexandria with corn. When these vessels came to the shore, one by one, the poor people wrung their hands in bitter disappointment, for on board the galleys there was nothing but sand which the tyrant emperor had compelled them to bring for use in the arena. Then the merchant… said to his shipmaster, ‘Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn; and whereas aforetime thou hast brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time… for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them.

Alas, I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and [entertainment], and I have said within myself, ‘I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people. " -CHS

May the ship of Christian ministry bring to the shores of a drowning world, its galleys full of nothing except the life-preserving hope of God’s Word—the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

12 comments:

Detoured By Travel said...

Amen.

Only one life...a few brief years
Each with its burden of hopes and fears
Each with its record of good and ill
As I please myself, or obey His will
Only one life, 'twill soon be past
Only what's done for God will last

Alan Kurschner said...

That's good brother.

SJ Camp said...

Alan
Good to hear from you and thank you!

detoured
Thank you always for your kind words that edify and encourage.

Grace and peace,
Steve
Col.!:9-14

RonaldJ said...

Good post, Steve.

My pastor is going through a series on what's wrong/right with the Church. He's solicited comments from people inside and outside of our congregation - and it's amazing. There are so many people wanting "sand" instead of "corn"! Your blog entry gave this a neat perspective.

I am extremely thankful that the pastor is trying to raise corn fed sheep. SDG

theoldadam said...

"There are so many people wanting "sand" instead of "corn"!"

That's why there's a huge movement wherein the people who hate the Church are now redefining the church.

Making it over into their own "culturally relevant" image.

They do not want to let go of this age. They do not want to die.

LivingDust said...

While it is not often that I venture from my home church on Sunday mornings, from what I see and hear on the internet there are many Pastors standing in front of congregations of Christian believers that are preaching "humanity improved" instead of "Christ crucified" and thereby spreading sand rather than "proclaiming His gospel to all; calling all men everywhere to repent of their sins; to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him; and believe solely on the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation." I find it curious that men who supposedly really understand the New Testament would waste there time and energy preaching "straw and stubble" messages. Get with the plan - preach repentance, preach heaven, preach hell, preach the Good News about what Jesus did for us. Newsflash - we've been rescued!!!. Our ONLY HOPE for salvation was accomplished at Calvary, by the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, in obiedience to GOD THE FATHER. We now have LIFE because our REDEEMER died and has risen to life. Thank you Jesus for going to Calvary for us.

Dave Miller said...

Steve, I have been reading your site for a while, though I have not commented frequently.

I have a question for you. I am trying to figure out some of what you advocate.

Sound Doctrine - no quarrelhere.
Reverence for God - I'm with you.

You (or the quotes you post) talk often of the seriousness of the ministry and of preaching - again, I agree.

However, I use lots of humor when I preach. I think anyone who listens to me would say I preach seriously the word of God,but I also make lighthearted observations, etc.

Does your view of the seriousness of preaching lead you to believe that humor in the pulpit is always wrong?

I just had an exchange with a guy on SBC Impact (I write at that site) in which he rebuked me for writing with humor, because that is inappropriate for Christian preachers.

SJ Camp said...

Dave
Does your view of the seriousness of preaching lead you to believe that humor in the pulpit is always wrong?

No.

I think humor is a very good tool to use while preaching. Scatological humor is another thing.

A man should not enter the pulpit as a comedian but as a workman unashamed who is approved unto
God as one who rightly divides the word of truth.

Thanks for your thoughts here.
Steve

SJ Camp said...

LivingDust
there are many Pastors standing in front of congregations of Christian believers that are preaching "humanity improved" instead of "Christ crucified" and thereby spreading sand rather than "proclaiming His gospel to all;

Amen! Thank you for those stirring and convicting words.

Steve

James Hunt said...

I agree with much of what you've written...just a little curious as to what definition you're using of following terms:Missional, culturally contextualized.

I too am quite sickened by much of what is happening in church life today. We see many many expressions of unbilical approaches to ministry; however, do missional, and culturally contexualized belong in the category of unbiblical?

Missional, as I see it, is living captured by the majesty and glory of God in Christ with a view toward taking the gospel to those far away from God.

If by culturally contextualized you mean that one changes the gospel or takes something away from scripture or doesn't preach the whole counsel of God because they want to be "relevant" or heard then I say, yes, throw it out! However, if we are talking about a missiological strategy of understanding the culture of someone and trying to proclaim the gospel to them in a way that they will be able to understand it then isnt' that biblical (enter, Paul's different approaches when dealing with pagans - Acts 17 & and Jews at other times)?

Again, by and large I think you are speaking well against the grevious errors of many "practioners" in today's evangelical landscape...I'm just wondering if you're not lumping some things into the garbage that don't belong there. This is why I seek to understand your definitions of the two terms I've addressed.

Humbled by grace.

James

Dave Miller said...

Just to clarify (and I know you've moved on), my question was about humor in general, not about scatological or other inappropriate humor.

The only time I've ever used scatological humor in the pulpit was by accident and that was mortifying!

I've just encountered some folks recently who believe that pulpit humor is inappropriate because of the holiness of the moment.

SJ Camp said...

Dave
I understand and agree with you. Thank you for your thoughts on this important issue.