Francis Chan’s Crazy Love begins with this:
“We all know something’s wrong. At first, I thought it was just me. Then I stood before twenty thousand Christian college students and asked, ‘How many of you have read the New Testament and wondered if we in the church are missing it?’ When almost every hand went up, I felt comforted. At least I’m not crazy.”
He’s right. There is something wrong with what we’re doing. This is not said out or anger, bitterness or hatred of the Jesus’ Bride, what the New Testament calls “the church.” Quite the opposite, in fact. I love the church. I love God’s people, both “saved” and not saved.
In the Old Testament, there were men and women called by God to speak truth to His people, to call them home, back to a right relationship with God. They got there by way of repentance, because you cannot have restoration, you cannot have reconciliation without first having repentance. This message proclaimed by these men and women (referred to as Judges and Prophets) was more often than not ignored, maligned and mocked. And, even when the Judges succeeded, it was only shortly lived as the people returned to their wickedness as soon as the Judges died. Most of the Judges died of natural causes, as Jesus himself would point out to the religious leaders of his day, that the Prophets were simply killed for their proclamation.
Over the past moth, I’ve been reading what we call “The Pastoral Letters”- letters written by Paul to Timothy and Titus. Whether we view them as instruction manuals or not is really irrelevant. The early church (at least those led by Timothy and Titus) built their systems and structures following these models. Many Christians today read scripture and accept it as “true.” My friend Rob Rienow takes that one step further and asks, “But, do we view it as enough?” This is a key difference, the term for this is “the sufficiency of scripture.” I’m not intending on making the bigger case for that here because some of those who read this “ought to be teachers by now” and truthfully you should be seeking this stuff out on your own (which is an entirely different blog series!).
What I intend to do over the next “x” amount of time, is simply post thoughts and questions from these Pastoral letters. At times, my thoughts and questions will be rhetorical, and because they come from me, they will probably be abrasive. It will appear that I’m calling out a specific place or church, if you feel called out, go with it. You’re either following what we see in these texts or you’re not.
Sidebar: Often when pastors are in the pulpit and have given the message, we’ll invariably have someone approach us and ask us if we were speaking “to them” or say something like, “you seemed to be talking directly to me.” My response is usually, “That was likely the Holy Spirit, don’t ignore it.”
Clearly my bias is that these texts are prescriptive and are present to tell us how to lead in the church. And, clearly, context matters- I took biblical interpretation classes in both my undergrad and graduate programs, too. When you have an issue with my interpretation, let’s talk; by all means, comment. However, if it comes down to an issue with the text, your issue is not with me.
I’m just another guy reading Scripture and being challenged by it. Not only by what it says, but by how I live it out. To that end, if I believe it’s a) true and b) sufficient, I need to decide how I’ll respond. I’m going to close this initial post with Ezekiel 2:5 (and take a small liberty and apply it not to Ezekiel or to myself, but to scripture): “And whether we listen or fail to listen–for we are a rebellious house–we will know that a prophet (God’s word) has been among us.”