An old, politically incorrect exclamation of exasperation whines that ‘the inmates are running the asylum’. Obviously in this day and age there is a tendency to avoid such imagery (the asylum is now a ‘hospital’, it’s residents now ‘patients’, and it is now ‘administered” instead of being ‘run’), but the metaphor still speaks to my point. The razor thin margin of time available to minister to people whose attention span is ever more fragmented is a precious commodity for the church, but we seem to have succumbed to the tendencies of the fallen world we are called to reach! While there is much that is useful to be gleaned from secular methods and systems, the temptation is to obsess over the means instead of the motive. Maybe this is somewhat inevitable in a culture that has long since forgotten the reason why we need a computer in favor of loving the computer itself. Basements across America and around the developed world are peopled by asocial offspring with a terminal case of arrested development whose only connection to the outside world is through the filter of the World of Warcraft® online. What does our no longer productive culture do for these ‘precious’ stagnoids? We make them gozillionaires! The sermon in that disparity is glaringly clear – we honor what makes our lives easier more than what makes them more meaningful, and in the process we have crippled an entire generation who have, by comparison, never had a really bad day. Much has been rightly said about the vulnerability of a culture that has ‘gone soft’, but that lament is part of the cyclical nature of power and riches in the hands of the unredeemed. History is filled with the stories of men who have come to great heights only to lose everything to their own character flaws, and countries have not been immune from that cycle, either. Therein lies the problem when fixation on the great commission is subsumed to fixation on the context.
Vanity gives birth to fragility. We, as the Body of Christ, are unambiguously called to be absolutely obsessed with introducing the actual Christ to real people in real trouble. The actual Christ is not to be confused with that all too familiar caricature commonly embraced by the church…you’ve seen it – that effeminate, doe-eyed weakling based on the illegitimate son of the compromised pope in Michelangelo’s day. The actual Christ was a man! He was a tradesman, raised in the home of a craftsman who worked with his hands – a man who bore the responsibility for his family after the early death of Joseph, and saw to the care of his widowed mother and orphaned brothers and sisters. Nothing soft survived in His day, and He was no exception. Unlike many in the modern church, He wasn’t in the least offended when his gravy was too thin and it was not a crisis when he got a hang-nail. His callouses were earned as should ours be.
There has been much speculation about His delay in beginning His public ministry until relatively late in life, but considering all the responsibilities imposed upon Him it is understandable. When Christ began to assemble His ‘team’, He didn’t head over to the university to pick up a sharp-penciled sociologist – He went fishing! He proceeded to assemble a group that any good head hunter would poo-poo in today’s culture, and in so doing He conveyed an unmistakable message. His message was at once authentic, accessible, and anything but superficial. Christ came to save sinners, not to pity the presumptuous, and that ethos must be regained if we are to continue His mission in the earth. When the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians to “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13), his message was crystal clear. In the vernacular of my own heritage, he was saying “be a man!” While some are busy parsing that command to see if it is inclusive enough an interpretation, or if it’s too brash to be the mantra of a movement of ‘inclusion’, Paul’s message was one of abject exclusivity! Ours is to stand out, stand up, and stand strong – not to fit in. We are spoken to by commandment, not the limp team-speak of collaboration. We are told to go, preach, teach, baptize, lay hands on the sick, cast out devils, freely give, and any number of direct imperatives that would be lost if relegated to task allocation by committee affirmation. Christ and the writers of the New Testament, under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, brooked no dissent or collaborative participation in the process. Theirs was to discern the will of God, not shape it, package it, or market it – and then to…..wait for it….go DO it!
From the safety of insulated positions away from the grime of actual contact, many purported experts fill volumes with well polished strategies and academic ‘what-if’s’ at the expense of the smell of fish. Real men don’t have time for such foolish obsessions. The task is too dear, and the window of opportunity is too small. The harvest demands participation, not speculation, and insists upon obedience without the first glance at how such obedience makes us feel. Christ is touched by the feeling of our infirmities, not our preoccupations (Hebrews 4:15) – nowhere are we told He is sympathetic to our silliness. The soldier on the front lines of battle needs a cup of water and some ammo, not a dossiere’ filled with vain platitudes and think-tank conceived options. There is no task more urgent, no calling so high, and no vocation more meaningful than the call to preach the truth of the Gospel of Christ, and that calling belongs to us all. The enemy would love to populate the ranks of those who answer that summons with simpering, dependent weaklings rather than strong men, but this cannot be allowed! The battle doesn’t automatically go to the strong – it is on the doorstep of us all (Ecclesiastes 9:11), and it is imperative that we do whatever we can to help the whole Body of Christ to answer the call of Joshua 1:9 (be strong and of a good courage) rather than becoming experts on the supposed motivations of the maelstrom ahead. I don’t need to understand what motivates the enemy – he is evil, and must be defeated in all his permutations, especially in my fallen flesh. The martial language of scripture is intentional, the clash and conflict inherent in serving Christ unavoidable, and the Great Commission is absolutely doable under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. The question that remains is whether or not we are willing to put aside the goofiness of our self-obsessions, stand up like men, and say ‘YES’!