Saturday 2 July 2011

The Problem in Going Public

From: Joe McKeever
"Your words have stood men on their feet." Job 4:4

The problem in writing a blog is that you are putting your opinions and convictions out there--exposing them to the world--where they can be shot down, vilified, criticized, and dissected. Yes, and also praised, lauded, reprinted, reposted, and remembered.

That's what keeps us blogging, I suppose, the knowledge that someone somewhere reads it and is blessed or helped, encouraged or instructed.

The trick is to think seriously about what you're writing and not post anything you're not prepared to go to the mat for. Nor do you want to take a position on something sure to enrage a lot of your readers, particularly if the payoff is poor. That is, you will not see me attacking President Obama's position on almost anything on this website. The issues are far more complex than most of of my friends think them to be, I'm not smart enough to know all I should on the subjects, and most importantly, I have something far more important in mind than who's in the White House at the moment.

I'm working for eternity here.

This is a God thing for me.

You'll not find me opening up an article here announcing that "this morning God told me to tell you" anything. Even so, I know the inner voice of the Lord. As all believers, I know what it is to hear God speaking to my heart, guiding me toward this and away from that. (See John 10:27 and Psalm 23:3b)

Still, it's a precarious business, writing a blog, particularly if your ego is fragile and constantly in need of a booster shot. (Instead of "ego," however, I prefer to call it a reasonable self-confidence. I am well aware of Paul's admonition "not to think more highly" of oneself than we ought to.--Romans 12:3)

So with preaching.

A man--and sometimes, but less frequently, a woman--stands in front of a handful or a multitude, opens the Word and declares "Thus saith the Lord."

He's putting himself at risk.

In a typical congregation there are people sitting before him who are offended he would:

--be so presumptuous as to speak for God.

--call himself a holy man with the right to address them on celestial matters.

--overlook the flaws in his own life and counsel them as to theirs.

--speak to them about death and the afterlife, make claims about Jesus and God, when we know so little.

Welcome to the ministry, young pastor. The antagonism you are picking up from a few members of your congregation is normal, widespread, and probably good for you.

If you can't handle that, you had no business accepting the call to represent Jesus Christ before mankind. This, incidentally, is what your call into the ministry amounts to. I hope you are clear on that.

The Lord has planned for every one of us to go public with our faith in Him.

You don't have to be a blogger or a preacher to step out of the crowd and own up to following Jesus. It's not par for the course; it's the course.

Want to see it in black and white? (Or red, in some translations.) Here goes, from Matthew chapter 10....

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. And what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. (10:27)

Whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. (10:32-33)

And in case anyone wonders what kind of repercussions this might cause, wonder no longer:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother.... (10:34-35)

There are in the ministry young men (and yes, the occasional woman) who entered this work under false expectations. Suited more for the life of a hermit--or at least a monk on a permanent desert retreat--these fellows are unprepared for the harassment they get from doing nothing more threatening than standing in the pulpit and bringing a message from the Bible. As odd as it seems to the rest of us, when they enrolled in seminary and signed up for ordination, they really did think they were in for a life of peace and godliness, quiet and reflection.

The best preparation for ministry is for the young believer to go really, really public with his/her faith in Jesus.

Take it out of wraps and let your classmates in school or your co-workers in the factory or your colleagues on the faculty know that everything has changed for you, that you are now a follower of Jesus Christ and you take that with the utmost seriousness.

That will be the best decision you could ever make for your spiritual growth. Going public will put you on display. People will start watching you to see if you live up to the teachings of Jesus. And when you make mistakes, which you will, it will back you into a corner where you will have to do one of two things: humble yourself or become a hypocrite.

Sooner or later, every believer who goes public for Jesus in school, on the job, and at home, has to emphasize to his closest friends that he/she is a baby Christian with a long way to grow. That's what humility does.

Without your doing this, you end up bluffing your way through life, trying to make your co-workers and friends believe you are better and stronger than you are. The hypocrisy of that will eat at your soul and destroy your witness.

So, go public for Jesus. This means, among other things....

--Get baptized. This act is the initial declaration that you do not intend to be a secret follower of Jesus, amd tjat you are burning your bridges behind you, turning your hopes and ambitions all over to Him, and throwing in your lot with other believers.

--Tell your friends. Tell them naturally and normally. Don't make a big show of it. If they are also believers or if they aren't but truly love you, they will rejoice and encourage you. Mark 5:19 instructs us in this.

--Take your Bible to work. Lay it on your desk, and read it (sometimes) at lunch hour or during breaks. Again, not for show, but for two reasons: you will be needing its guidance and you will be bearing a witness.

--Bring the Lord into the conversation as is fitting. Careful here. No one is asking you to be self-righteous or to preach to your friends or to condemn sinners for anything. Even our Lord said, "I did not come to condemn the world" (John 3:17). Particularly in one-on-one conversations, if you feel a prompting from the Spirit to mention the difference Christ makes, go for it.

--Stay alert to the inner urgings of the Spirit. This is where you are going to do your best work. The Lord sees needs in your community you overlook, knows people in your city you don't, and is at work in places and people you would be surprised to hear. Trust Him. When you sense His prompting to stop and talk to that person, to offer help to that one, obey it. See what He does with it.

Do these things and you will soon be in the devil's crosshairs.

The enemy of Jesus Christ turns his infernal attention to you also when he learns you intend to take your devotion to Christ seriously. Until then, he has left you alone. (I do not have to remind you that millions of church members have no dealings with the devil. In fact, they wonder whether he even exists. They receive no opposition or harassment or temptations or criticism, for the simple reason that they are causing him no problem. But let them move up to the front line for Jesus and they will soon become a prime target for the enemy.)

Had you lain low in your burrow and never raised your head, no one on the other side would have ever shot in your direction.

Welcome to the Christian life. This is what it's all about--going public with your faith in Jesus and taking your licks for Him. In that same Matthew 10 passage, the Lord reminds us: A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.... If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household. (10:24-25)

This--and this is my point--is the best preparation for the ministry you could ever receive.

Harry Truman used to say, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

Our variation on that might go something like: "If you want everyone to like you and cannot endure criticism, whatever you do, don't become a disciple of Jesus Christ. They crucified Him."

Too long? Okay, we shorten it to: "If you can't stand the hate, stay out of the ministry."

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