Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...avoiding idolatry in our zeal to serve God

Much needed wisdom from the insightful, sagistic pen of D.A. Carson
"At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals," how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature.
But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements--but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (p. 26, The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson, Baker Books)



The King's Friend said...

Good Point, and well noted. As an MDiv and majoring in Church Planting/Pastoral Ministry, I can concur. However, as you state, there is much use in wisdom which was earned "on the battlefield." I respect those thoughts/insight.

But Paul doesn't even give us a "one-way" witnessing technique. Once he uses philosophy and Greek poets (Acts 17), and other times he reasons with Scriptures. Being lead by the Holy Spirit with discernment and wisdom is imperative, AFTER, you've read some of those books, but in all cases we should revert back to the Word and the imperative of the Great Commission.

Servant to the King,

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donsands said...

Carson is a wise godly leader, and the church needs to listen to his wisdom. Thanks for posting this.

We really need to get this word out. people are having church with the bottom line is sinners being won over by niceness and being relevant.

I think a lot of these young Christians have their hearts in the right place, in that they want souls saved for the Lord, but the gospel has become a moralistic idea that nice sinners can become really nice people with Jesus added on.
There's a bit of truth to this, but it also is very deceptive to a human heart that wants to see people get along and simply be nice to one another, and turn over a new leaf, so to say.

Thanks again for DA Carson's excellent quote.

John said...

Poor ole Paul...all he could do was "preach Christ and Him crucified." Thanks for the quotes!

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