The Supreme Court struck down the DOMA Act today. The news is exploding with the decision, Drudge has his police light on and the Huffingtonpost has a twirling earth with the bold letters “GAY DAY.” I read it all and I shrug.
On a personal side I grieve as I recognize the long term consequences to this decision. But I grieve no more than I do with the decisions related to abortion, immigration, health care, taxation, the so-called Patriot Act, and a myriad of other decisions that has poured like the Niagara Falls from our elected officials over the last 30 decades. We are a sick nation trying to pretend we are not. We are fractured on every side captured by the three deadly sins of 1 John 2:16, a lust of the flesh, a lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.
But as a Christian should I be stunned by this? Should my worldview be shaken and my gut wrenched in every way possible as I see this unfold? My answer is no. It is the “world” in which every Christian lives and therefore wherever they live, in New York City or Atibaia, Brazil or Ndu, Cameroon the people there are controlled by these three driving forces of sin. So is it any shocking thing that every society rises and falls back in on itself eventually? I remember reading a fascinating book that described the way ancient Rome lived. Over and over I said to myself, “This is America.”
I told my congregation the last two major elections that the real reason most will vote the way they will vote is out of a love of money. Even so-called conservatives are sucking lustily at the teats of their government. Threaten to cut out the programs that each of us enjoy? Not on our watch! So too many Christians vote, not with an eye toward justice or true mercy. We do not fill up our minds with the Scripture and allow it to define our lives. We conform ourselves to the lusts of this world and then shout with dismay when we see a decision like DOMA come down and become stridently angry.
I do not agree with the decision, just like I do not agree with the bulk of the decisions coming from our governing authorities. But I do not desire to be known by these things. Consider the very blunt, pastoral words of Peter,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
(1Pe 4:12-19 NASB)
Any suffering coming our way is not something strange in the eyes of Peter, it is to be expected. So why do we get shocked when we read of the growing number of threats against Christians in our nation? The command in the midst of these sufferings is to “keep on rejoicing” rather than becoming bitter and shrill. We are to fix our eyes on the return of Christ, where true justice will finally flow and we might truly exult for eternity. But all of this presupposes that our suffering is because of the gospel, not American Christianity. It is because you are walking in a manner that is worthy of the name of Christ (that is not the same thing as putting on a “Christian T-Shirt”) and the world hates you for it. But you suffer for being a wicked person then shame on you and you have no reason to rejoice. Note the strong extremes given here, from murderer to a meddler. It is like 1 Corinthians 6 where we have the fornicators and the covetous, neither of when can be such and rightly call themselves “saved.”
Judgment is to first start with the house of God and it begins through suffering in this world. When we are falsely accused, hated for our love of Jesus, reviled in spite of our acts of mercy and humility, then God is pleased and we will endure as we fix our eyes on the end. And part of that enduring is the fact that if God is not pleased to bring our detractors to repentance, that they too shall face judgment who cannot entrust their souls to anything that can save them.
All of this is to say, the DOMA decision is a sad thing but not a shocking thing. It fits the course of this age and for what this age lusts. The challenge for the Christian is to consider how they live within their nation in a way that reflects a different Lord and a different hope. Can the gospel still save people? Does the gospel still save people? Is God’s kingdom somehow stymied due to evil? Did Jesus really receive “all” authority? At some point every follower of Jesus will have to answer these questions in reality rather than in the abstract. And when they are answered, some who say they follow Jesus will stop because they will realize that the God of the Bible is not the god of their hearts.
What the Church must do is continue to call men and women everywhere to repent and turn to the living God. We must build up the people of God in the most holy faith. We must purify the Church through correction and discipline. We must grow in our salvation through rich, dense teaching that flows from the Word. And we must learn to “eagerly await” the return of Jesus (Hebrews 9:28).
Over at the Gospel Coalition blog an article was written entitle Why the Missional Church Isn’t Enough. Here is the opening paragraph:
The missional church in the United States is not missional enough. The local focus of mission is shortsighted. If we only make disciples who make disciples in our cities, thousands of unengaged, un-discipled peoples of the earth will not hear the gospel. To be sure, many ethnic groups are migrating to cities, which brings some of the nations right into the neighborhood. However, there remain many ethnic groups that do not migrate to Western cities. Western churches must send missionaries, not only across the street, but also across the world.
As I read it, re-read it, and re-re-re-read it I found myself agreeing with so many secondary points but frustrated because they do not support the primary premise, that missional churches are not seeking the making of disciples of Jesus in unreached places. I say this, thinking of this very video played at our Easter service and my comments after it played connecting the unreached people of this world and the glory of the resurrection. As I commented on the blog itself, his arguments and assumptions could be flipped over on themselves to make the assertion that missions-minded churches are not enough for they are so busy looking overseas that they fail to see the neighbor mowing his lawn.
As a pastor of a church seeking to be missional I think of a church excited as I went overseas to Athens to help set up theological training through Training Leaders International. We did not work with the Greeks, but with the many ethnic groups. Many of them from difficult nations to enter as missionaries, and many of the pastors were looking to return to their lands. What a glorious vision to equip these men with sound theology and then send them off! We have in our Community Groups people tasked to keeping the vision of missions alive before the eyes and hearts of each person there. Not merely local, but also not merely to the unreached peoples.
I am sure the author of the blog post would acknowledge all of this, but that is the point, he didn’t and as a result inadvertently lumped a lot of men and churches I know who have a passion for the lost both near and far with those who can’t seem to see past their neighbor’s fence. Missions-work is not an either/or proposition. If asked to decide which I would choose to push, local or foreign missions, I would refuse to answer for that is not the mission my Lord sent me with. It was to go into all the nations to make disciples of Jesus, and that requires take my first step in my own neighborhood and town and to keep walking until it is in foreign nations as well.
Missional is a word that is thrown around a lot today in various parts of the Church. It is popular to be called missional and it is also an invitation to get verbally smacked around by some well-meaning believers. What it all means is subject to some debate, of which I have no interest getting into.
But, how do I understand it to mean? It is simply the call by Christ to be on mission for His Name. The message is the gospel and the means is by willfully developing relationships with unbelievers with the purpose of showing them an authentic Christian who weaves the message of the gospel into his speech. The goal is to make genuine friends with the hope that God might bring them to Himself. But even if they never come to Christ they remain friends. In other words, this not like the old Amway gatherings where a neighbor invites you to a part only to turn it into a sales pitch.
Some will simply say that this is being “evangelistic.” If you are one of these, then fine. But I have found that many people will speak much of evangelism and yet never really get around to doing it. They are all for evangelism and are ready to do it when the opportunity arises, but it never seems to do so. And when I have examined the reasons why, a common point comes into focus for me–they don’t know any unbelievers. Maybe an aunt or mother, vaguely the neighbor or co-worker; but when it comes right down to it, they simply have little or no interaction with unbelievers. Even more sad is that they have little desire to be with them and have worked overtime in trying to keep their families shielded from their influence.
This is where this term, missional, comes into play. It is that simple application of Mark 16 and Acts 1 where our Lord made it clear that the gospel was to go out into all the world and be preached. This was never seen as a work of the “few” but of the “many.” It is all of our responsibility. And it is, in many instances, only going to be done as we seek to be friends with unbelievers. I remember how Jim Odens put it when he was at our church a few years back. He told us that we are to be purposeful in making friends with unbelievers with the goal that we might proclaim all the excellencies of God to them through word and deed.
All of this is simply an introduction to an excellent post by a seminary student down at Southern Seminary in Kentucky name Timmy Brister. Here is a bit of a taste of his article:
“Everyday I go into work, I want to feel the thrust that I am being sent into this world for the sake of the gospel and the glory of His name. I want to know who God is sending me to, and I want to be ready to listen before I speak, love before I lead, and pray before I preach. I want their world and their lives to be radically impacted by the power of the gospel, and that this power often comes in the form of a seed – a seed that must be watered, cultivated, and spread always and everywhere as a farmer expecting to have a great crop.”
I recommend the post to you and trust that it might encourage each who read this to renew their efforts to break out of any rut they are in and seek new relationships. If this means meeting one less time with a Christian for the sake of getting to know a non-Christian, then do it. But make sure you do it.
At Missio Dei Fellowship we are trying to understand what missional actually looks like. I have found that for some, the idea is still very vague and theoretical. For others it is more of a program, something that you go do. However, the idea of being missional is more immersive than merely doing something, it is a way of thinking and living. Timmy Brister writes in his blog:
There’s a lot of talk about being missional these days. There’s not a lot of visual aids, at least not like this one. I found it incredibly moving. May God raise up many men and women like Sara in our generation to take the gospel in the heart of brokenness and ruin and see the transforming power of King Jesus.
As you watch the video note the simplicity of what she does. Statements like “being present in the neighborhood.” But also note the decision-making process that led her to some very serious conclusions.
It has been a long time since I have posted anything and it has not been by accident. Over the last year-plus I have been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of healing, and a lot of hurting. In that time I have continued to pastor my church and have seen many things come my way, both good and bad, hard and pleasant. But in all of it I have been continuing to try to understand what God has called me to be and do.
Now, understand, I know what He has called me to be on the macro level, but it is on the micro level that I have done a lot of thinking. I am over 50 now and I have seen my children grow into adulthood. In the last year I have married two of them. I have one daughter expecting our first grandchild. I have been to Arlington Cemetery to honor my father-in-law. I have hugged my wife many times and I have learned a new hobby, woodworking. I have traveled with a dear friend to Athens, Greece to meet with many Christian leaders and tell them of a way they might be better equipped. And in all of this I have thought, deeply. What does God call me to be?
I am seeing things more clearly now. I am thinking more maturely on what it looks like to be ‘missional’ and how that works itself out in real life. And in all of this I am seeing God’s hand in many subtle ways I never saw before. I watch the body of believer God has given me grow and change it is humbling to me. Whereas before I desired more and more, now I am becoming more content to simply pour into those who are before me the glories of my Lord.
All of this is to say, I am back but I am unsure of exactly what that looks like. I want to finish the story of how I ended up where I am. But I want to expand that so that the blog takes on my personality.
It is with great reluctance that I am starting this blog and with little expectation from it. I am writing this only because a man I respect told me I ought to do so. That was a little over a year ago and finally I think I may be ready to write. Or not. With that powerful introduction aside, allow me to explain myself.
My name is Matthew Henry and I am not named after the famous guy, my dad just liked the sound of it. I am a pastor. But not like I envisioned. My journey to where I am now has been a long one, filled with a lot of questions, and a lot of ridicule from both friends and foes alike. I am one of those people who is stupid enough to ask questions that are not supposed to be asked. Not that they are deep questions, or necessarily good questions. They are just questions about things such as theology, practices and reality that seemed to be already answered but of which I am not yet convinced. Things like how the Canon came about or what is the primary purpose of Romans? One of those questions that I began to ask a several years ago is what the Church is supposed to look like and how is it to function. And as I pursued answers to that question, stuff happened. Big stuff. Scary stuff. The kind of stuff that makes you stay up at night and get your stomach all twisted up inside.
So off I went on this journey, all the while pastoring my little SBC church in Kenosha, Wisconsin and raising a family of three girls and a boy with my faithful wife. Clueless is a word that comes to mind when I think of the beginning of that journey but that did not deter me. The title of this blog is on purpose. To meander means ‘to wind or turn in a course or to move in a leisurely way.” And that captures me well. Until it was time to press for serious changes in my church, I meandered down the course of change turning this way and that, occasionally finding cul-de-sacs and ugly dead ends, and other times scary, narrow paths that made me a bit worried. So my goal is simply to begin to chronicle my meandering journey on becoming more missional in my approach to “doing” (maybe “being the” is a better term) church.
Somehow this man, born into the Plymouth Brethren branch of Christendom, raised in the conservative Bible Church world, tossed into the strange realm of the Southern Baptist Convention in the North, found himself using terms like becoming missional and learning to be outward facing and gospel-focused. So that is why I am writing this blog. We will see what happens