I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. (Acts 9:16, NIV)
I wonder if they invite Jesus to those recruitment events designed to lure young people into the ministry. Do they talk about suffering and hardship at those things? Jesus sure did.
In this encounter with Saul, I notice how little wooing is being done here. Jesus has no sales pitch. He does not even ask. He strikes him blind. He chooses Saul. What Saul wanted had nothing to do with the matter. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. I will show him how much he must suffer for me name. Don’t even bother asking about a pension and a benefits package.
The New Testament attitude toward suffering and calling is so radically out of line with my own.
From John Wesley’s journal August 10, 1788:
I was engaged in a very unpleasing work, the discharge of an old servant. She had been my housekeeper at West-Street for many years, and was one of the best housekeepers I had had there; but her husband was so notorious a drunkard, that I could not keep them in the house any longer. She received her dismission in an excellent spirit, praying God to bless us all.
Of all the things I’ve read in Wesley’s journals and other works, this is one of the hardest ones for me to swallow. To put this woman and her husband out of his house must surely have meant she would soon be near starvation. Her notorious drunkard husband surely would not be caring for her or earning money to buy them food. I infer from the wording that Wesley had tried to avoid taking this step for a time.
This summer, I’ve seen up close in CPE the carnage inflicted on families by drug and alcohol addiction. I’ve seen families forced to say to their sons and daughters that they cannot come home if they can’t get clean. So, I understand this aspect of it.
The short entry in Wesley’s journal reminds me that discipleship in the flesh is often not nearly so sanitary as the intellectual exercises in which bloggers, authors, and scholars so often engage.
I’ve often thought that our trust issues in United Methodism would be helped with more public thinking by the men and women charged with leading our denomination.
This is why I have always valued Sky McCraken’s blog.
His latest post is a spot on example: A Pastor By Any Other Name — Revisited
The question that emerges for me after reading his post goes something like this: Would I be a pastor if there was no salary, no insurance, and no retirement plan? Would I do it because I was called and for no other reason?
If the answer is yes, then what would that look like?
The answer to my first two questions is “yes.” But I’m not sure what the answer to the third question would could be.
I wonder how you would answer.
David Watson discusses the mainline Protestant tendency to say more about what we don’t believe about the Bible than what we do believe.
He ends his post with five statements he drew from the doctrinal standards of the United Methodist Church:
1. Scripture is the primary source of divine revelation in our tradition. Other claims to divine revelation should be tested against scripture.
2. Everything we need to know to receive salvation is in the Bible.
3. The Bible is the true guide for Christian faith and practice.
4. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand and apply scripture to our lives.
4. Christian tradition, such as is found in the creeds, helps to interpret scripture for teaching the historic faith of the church.
5. Reason and the experience help us to understand scripture, but on matters of salvation, and matters of faith and practice related to salvation, they should not contradict scripture.
My postmodern friends, I suspect, will object to some of these statements because they suggest that scripture has a meaning independent of the community of interpretation.
To address those kinds of objections, I find I need to talk about revelation and the work of the Holy Spirit. But we ground those statements — or at least I try to — on scripture. So, there is a certain circularity in my argument that I do not see how I can avoid.
In the end, I find that I adopt the attitude that scripture is something we receive as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the church, and in light of that attitude of reception I embrace the five statements that Watson offers above.
I’ve had the opportunity this summer to lead three people in prayer to ask Christ to be their Lord and Savior. These numbers won’t show up on my official United Methodist vitality statistics because they were not at the church I served. Two of them were not closely tied to churches at all. (I urged them in strong terms to find a church and get into a community of Christians.)
So here is the question.
How much “education” do you do before you lead someone to Christ?
In these cases, I talked with them about the story of salvation. God created us to be good, happy, and at peace. We are fallen. All of us fall short of the glory of God. Jesus Christ came to save us. By belief in him and by the power of his resurrection we can have new life. By the pouring out of the Holy Spirit we can have the assurance of our salvation. By working with the Holy Spirit we can be returned to that lost vision that God had for us in creation.
This, obviously, takes some time, but it is not like a full-on twelve-week catechism class.
So, I’m curious. What is your practice?
(In case you are interested, my training in the area has come not from other pastors or at seminary, but from this book by Eddie Fox and George Morris. William J. Abraham’s little book on evangelism has also been instructive to me.)