Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reflections on Chapter 1 from Radical by David Platt

I am honored to have as a guest blogger my dear friend and member of our Connect Group family, Mr. Bruce Wayne Morgan...or as I affectionately call him, Batman!

See His thoughts below and we would love to hear your thoughts. You can post your comments here on the blog or as a comment on the Facebook post.

Here ya go:

A lesson I’m learning over and over again is that when one of my extremities gets kicked, it’s because I had it in the wrong place.

“Someone Worth Losing Everything for,” Chapter 1 of David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, is a painful but well-deserved kick to the head.

Mr. Platt described differences between the churches we know here in the United States and the underground house churches he visited in Asia. In particular, he contrasted the way people in each church live out their faith. The differences were as stark as that between “I pray that I don’t run out of gas before I get to work. I need the money,” and “I pray that I don’t get killed before I get to the next village. They need my help.”

Further, he relates the promises Jesus made to those who would follow him. They would be poor, homeless, separated from friends and family, always hard at work. But they would have treasure in heaven! Jesus was telling them that they must put him above all else, the needs of others ahead of themselves. Without hesitation. Without planning. Without doing it our way.

Our culture surrounds us with reasons to talk up selflessness while we chase after our own wants. We no longer have “wants” when we can rationalize everything we have as necessary. All things have become “needs.” The second car, the big comfy house, high-speed internet service. Blessed are those suffering in an unfriendly economy, for they will re-evaluate their needs. Historically, though, this trend reverses itself elastically once the economy improves.

We rationalize wants into needs with ease. I’m sure the people who built the $23 million church building didn’t feel like they were spending $23 million. The cost wasn’t dollars but time. I don’t imagine the executive pastor wrote a check for the entire amount, backed by the accumulated gifts of the congregation. The church leaders most likely signed for a loan that would turn $23 million cash into $40 million in time-leveraged debt. Stretching out the pain over 20 years makes it a trivial matter. We get what we want right now. After a few months, the payments will be a routine matter. It suddenly becomes a monthly bill.

“If we build this beautiful new building, we’ll draw more people who will give more money. Therefore, we can make the payments on this beautiful new building to draw more people. It’s an investment!”

Can you imagine anyone saying, “The victims of this latest natural disaster desperately need relief. The most effective way we can help is to send as much money as we can for supplies. Let’s get the largest loan we can and send it all to them, then spend the next several years paying off the loan.

That just doesn’t make sense. We will admire a new building for years, but we will have forgotten the sufferers by the time the first mortgage payment comes due.

That knife cuts at least two ways, though. It is just as wrong to be boastful of a small congregation. “We don’t spend money on a church building. We channel almost all of our funds to those in need. We are doing a better job than the megachurches are.” Too bad that’s just another tale of the prodigal son becoming his own big brother. Inevitably, when we get close in to examine the mote in our brother’s eye, we beat him over the head with the log in our own. Do we ask if we are doing the best we can? Have we made the best decisions on how to use our resources? Have we even considered what our resources are? Or are we doing just enough to feel satisfied?

The point is not what we are, but what we do. Jesus was known for His actions. He walked to where He was needed, tending to those on His way. He met needs while He rested. He suffered the ultimate punishment to meet our deepest need. He has done for us because of who He is. We are insignificant, except in light of who He is. His being is all that matters. We are meant to do. To love, to meet needs, to provide comfort, to glorify Christ Jesus in everything we do, say, feel, and think. Not to build irresistible storefronts, to invent persecutions, to entice people to perch with us on our pedestal, to reason the Gospel into a comfortable fit. We are a people called by His name, not our own.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24

"23 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." Matthew 12:33

Just before we parted company, Zach made a particular point, one which brought questions to my mind for which I have no answers. “What does the face of our congregation look like to the community? What are we known by?” As I reflected on that, I realized that I know what the effect of that appearance should be, but I am missing some very important details. What do we do to present those fruits in the most evident and effective way to the community? Put another way, what are the pressing needs of our Royse City neighbors? How do we discover what those needs are? Once known, what do we do to meet them, gently and faithfully?

We are centered in our own worlds. We know what we need (or think we need!) but not everyone’s circumstances are identical to our own. We know they all need to know the love of Jesus. What we do is how we introduce them to Him.

Great thoughts Bruce. I look forward to hearing from the rest of you.