Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: evangelical

Journeying on

We were having Vacation Bible School and for crafts we were doing a manger scene with Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. I started calling Mary’s husband Joe. I glimpsed a hint of a smile on Miss Parker’s face, just before Miss Napier let me know that I was not to be so flippant and disrespectful. I don’t suppose that Miss Parker was any more likely to encourage disrespect than Miss Napier, but she allowed herself to be amused by my childishness and seemed much more human to this twelve-year-old boy.

Miss Napier and Miss Parker were Bishop’s Messengers who had come to Craik to fill in until we could get another minister. They could not baptize or serve communion, but led the other types of worship service in the Book of Common Prayer: Morning Worship, Evening Worship and the Litany.

Miss Napier was British and the guardian of proper form and tradition. Miss Parker was Indian. Over the years that ethnic definition has gone from Indian to Native to Aboriginal to First Nations and recently to Indigenous. I must be getting old that seems like one change too far. I want to be respectful, but by the time I can get my head around Indigenous the nomenclature will no doubt have changed again. Miss Parker was a bit shy, definitely not pushy, and was liked by everyone. Miss Napier was not disliked, it just wasn’t easy to warm up to her.

After a year the Reverend Kenneth Vickers came to be our minister, along with his wife, daughter and son. Mister Vickers was the ideal country preacher. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty helping a farmer or maintaining the vicarage and yard. Just a regular down to earth guy that everyone liked. His daughter was nine days younger than me. I was horribly girl shy during the years I was in school, but I remember four girls with whom I could occasionally carry on a conversation. For some reason they were all named Joan and one of them was Joan Vickers.

It was while Mr Vickers was at Craik that I became an altar boy, assisting in communion services. The Craik parish included churches in three other towns and Sunday mornings found us travelling to services in two of those churches. When I turned sixteen and got a driver’s license he even let me drive his car, a Hillman Minx. Driving that car left me with the lifelong conviction that British technology is an oxymoron.

There were two other ministers at Craik before I ventured off into the big wide world, but all I remember of them are their foibles. I did try attending church again while living in Toronto, but there just wasn’t any pull to keep going back.

The worldwide Anglican Church has always been a big tent movement, where high church and low church Anglicans were able to function in harmony. The churches in Saskatchewan were pretty strongly high church where the liturgy was of utmost importance. Yet there were occasional hints of low church, or evangelical, tendencies. A discerning eye would have noted that the Anglican Church of Canada was already in it’s declining years when I was a boy. Today it has reached doddering old age.

Some congregations have withdrawn, reorganized and continue as outposts of the Anglican faith such as is found in Africa, Asia and South America. The Anglican churches of those countries no longer recognize the Canadian church as being of the same faith. The Anglican Church of Nigeria has sent a missionary couple to Saskatoon to start a new congregation.

I have moved on in my spiritual journey, yet when I look back it is clear that my journey began in the Anglican Church. After confirmation I was given a little red book of questions for self examination before communion. That little book almost led to my conversion. There is still a warm place in my memory where I believe God came very close to me, and I to Him. Then I looked away and saw that no one else seemed to take this seriously.

The services were permeated with readings and recitations from the Bible, way more Scripture than any other church I have ever attended. I was constantly reminded tin those services that I was a sinner who needed to repent and be forgiven. I learned that the outward forms of baptism and communion were only signs of an inward and spiritual grace. I didn’t find those spiritual realities in the Anglican Church, but it was the Anglican Church that set me to searching for them.

I learned in the Anglican Church that it was important that there was a continuity between the church of the apostolic era and the church of today. I still believe that, I just don’t believe that the original faith has necessarily been passed on through a continuous lineage of laying on of hands in ordination. I also learned that people of a great variety of ethnic backgrounds could worship together.

Eleven years after I left Craik I wanted to get married and neither I nor my fiancée knew a minister of any kind. My mother knew where to find Ken Vickers and he came to Moose Jaw to do some counselling before the wedding and to marry us, thus starting us on another journey.

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A fading faith

[This is one of my earliest posts on this blog, dating from four and a half years ago.]

For twelve years we lived in a little village in Ontario.  Directly across the street from our home was the United Church manse.  The minister and his wife were a pleasant older couple, professional and polished.  There came a Christmas Day where we were all snowbound after a three-foot snowfall that began the day before.  Some people’s children couldn’t make it home for Christmas, family gatherings were cancelled.  In the evening, after the storm had ended, the minister and his wife invited their neighbours to gather in their home.  We appreciated the gesture, but this was about the only time we really had occasion to visit with them.

Eventually, they moved on and were replaced by a young couple with small children.  These people were different — not much polish, but downright friendly.  We visited on our way to the corner store while waiting for the mail, in their home, in our home, our daughter babysat their children, they sent their children to our congregation’s Vacation Bible School.

I began to realize there was something else different about this United Church minister: he appeared to be a man of genuine faith.  Over the course of our visiting his story came out.  He had been raised in a locale that was pretty solidly Roman Catholic.  In his youth, he had searched for answers to his inner spiritual need and had met the Lord.  He no longer felt at home in the Catholic church and the only alternative in the area was the United Church.  He had joined that church, went to theological college and become a minister.

During that time a TV program did a show on the practice of excommunication.  One half dealt with the practice of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the other half with the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.  They interviewed a few people who had been expelled from the church and who seemed to relish the opportunity to vocalize their bitterness.  The next time I talked with my neighbour from across the street, he mentioned seeing this program, then said, “I have only one question.  Is there a way for someone who has been excommunicated from your church to become a member again?”

I explained that it was indeed possible and that most of those who were excommunicated were later re-accepted into full fellowship in the church.  The church only excommunicated those who had lost contact with God and the purpose was to awaken them to the seriousness of that loss and move them to re-establish their relationship with their Lord and Saviour.  I also explained that I had never observed that those who had been excommunicated and re-accepted carried any stigma among the brethren.  The re-acceptance was genuine and complete.

His response floored me: “I wish we could do that in the United Church of Canada.  I wish we could say to our people that this is what we believe and if you don’t believe it and live by it, you have no right to be members here.”

Another time this minister told me, “I believe there are nine real Christians in my congregation.”  I think I could have guessed the names of the ones he was thinking of.  Most of them were older, in their seventies, and I sensed something in them that closely resembled what I felt from this minister.  I think there must have been a lingering evangelical witness in parts of the United Church during their youth and they had caught something that carried on to the end of their lives.  There was also one younger couple who were born again during the time that our neighbour was ministering in the local United Church.

The years have gone by, the newly-converted young couple moved to a more evangelical church, the older true-hearted folks have passed on without passing their faith to their children.  The minister too died suddenly some years ago.  His wife was also our friend, but I don’t believe she ever shared his faith.

The United Church of Canada appears to be slowly dying.  One would be hard-pressed to find much trace of spiritual life among the adherents.  Neither is there much social advantage to be found anymore in attending the United Church.  Rural churches have been closing and consolidating for several generations.  Urban churches are declining in membership and beginning to ask for help to maintain their magnificent buildings.

Sadly, I am seeing the same kind of rot developing in churches that were once considered evangelical.  People are transferring from church to church in search of one that will be more spiritual than the last one.  Whole congregations are transferring from one denomination to another for the same reason.  What is the answer?

Eloquent words

I was a member of the Anglican Church of Canada during my youth and a faithful participant in her worship services. The services and prayers of the Book of Common Prayer presented the gospel message in simple, yet eloquent, words and I found comfort in the familiar liturgy.

As I entered my twenties, I realized that the familiar words and cadences of the liturgy were not enough to bring me into a relationship with God. My theological perspective has shifted since then from Anglicanism to Anabaptism. I appreciate the simplicity of our worship services and the way that ministers and lay brethren speak from the heart.There are a few things in the Book of Common Prayer that I no longer consider sound doctrine.

Despite all this, the gospel is there in the services of the Book of Common Prayer. They may become so familiar that one can repeat them without hearing what one is saying, yet many people have found a genuine saving relationship with God through those words. Many evangelical writers and missionaries have been Anglicans.

The Anglican Church of Canada stopped using the Book of Common Prayer some years ago. That seems to have gone hand in hand with a shifts in their position on abortion and homosexuality. Anglican bishops in Africa and Asia severed their ties with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA over those issues and helped begin a new Anglican movement in North America. This new movement is fervently evangelical and has returned to the use of the Book of Common Prayer.

You may note a certain ambivalence in my sentiments as I write this. I am no longer Anglican, I cannot unequivocally support their doctrines or their worship style, yet I still rejoice in seeing the stirrings of renewed gospel fervour in what appeared a few years ago to be a decayed and moribund body.

The worship services are saturated with passages from the Bible, from a translation that predates the Authorized, or King James, Version. The prayers and other parts of the services are written in much the same style. There may be a slightly archaic ring to the words, yet they are simple and easy to understand – and to remember. There is the other side of learning the words so well that you can say them without engaging the mind – they nevertheless remain embedded in the mind and may surface at times bearing precious truth.

I believe the old English Bibles and the Book of Common Prayer are proof that one does not have to use big words and complicated sentence structures to be eloquent. In fact, the opposite is true, the only way to be truly eloquent is to avoid complicated words and writing styles. Here is one example from the Book of Common Prayer, probably added at a later date, but written in the same style as the rest:

“We thank thee, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to build thy Church in many lands. We praise thee for the light of the Gospel, the labours of thy servants, and the ministrations of thy Church. We also bless they holy Name for those who have lived, and suffered, and died for thy sake; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may at last attain thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Broken paradigms

Sixty years ago, when I was twelve years old, I  did not know any child my age who had not had the same father and a mother from the time they were born.  One neighbour boy was being raised by his grandmother; there was a highly publicized fund raisng effort every year for the orphange in Indian Head, Saskatchewan. These and other evidences made me aware that not all children were growing up in a  stable, two parent homesuch a setting, but that was the accepted norm, or paradigm.

Two generations later, I wonder what percentage of twelve year olds would now say that none of their friends and school-mates have lived with the same two parents since their birth? Judging by the weekly birth listings from a newspaper in a mid-sized Saskatchewan city, only 40% of babies are born to parents who share the same surname. Some unmarried parents will later marry, but 40% of all marrieages will end in divorce. This paints a pretty bleak picture — the majority of today’s childrenwill not grow up in a stable two parent home.

What happened? Not all the homes of 60 years ago could be described as happy homes; a few would have been miserably u8nhappy. Because of these few unfortunate situations, our society has taken a sledgehammer to the paradigm of marriage and family. Years ago the intellectual leaders of the sociology and psychology departments of our universities made no secret of their desire to destroy the family, teaching that it was the enemy of human progress toward freedom and self-fullfilment.

The sexual revolution came upon us very suddenly. The pill gave teenagers the feeling that they could experiment freely with sex withoiut consequences. And if there were consequences — well, abortion soon became readily available and socially aceptable. And then the stigma of homosexuality was removed. Within a few years everything that stood in the way of seeking unbridled pleasure in sex was swept away. Of course there have been consequences, but no one wants to admit that the increasing abuse and violence against women and children has anything to do with the sexual revolution.

We survey the wreckage around us and agree something needs to be done to fix it. But we can’t agree on what should be done. The seeds sown many years ago are bearing fruit today in the form of people who see persoanal freedom as the ultimate goal and therefore view marriage as a form of bondage for both men and women.

Sixty years ago, the majority of people still went to church every Sunday. I think we are down to about 10% now. Many of the churches of years ago had bought into the social gospel movement, which was just a camouflaged version of socialism and psychological-sociological thinking. Those same churches endorsed the sexual revolution on the basis that all liberty is good and wholesome. Today they are dying out, since a church that applauds all that is done in secular society makes itself irrelevant.

What may be a greater problem are the self-proclaimed evangelical churches that have no idea how to apply the evangel to the needs of society around them. They are seen to be making inept attempts to appear relevant, without addressing the basic needs of people. All too often, that is because they have bought into a large portion of the values of the secular society.

In a few years time we have gone from being a society largely founded on Christian values to a pagan society that is not much different than the world in which the apostles lived. What is needed today is the same straightforward gospel that they preached. That is, the gospel needs to be presented to the people who are suffereing the most from the malaise of our time as the only true remedy for their distress. That would mean actually taking the Word of God at its word, and not trying to smooth over the parts that challenge the current paradigms of our society. We need to preach repentance as John the Baptist and our Lord preached it. Not in a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude, but with compassion for all the victims of the current broken and fatal paradigms.

What is our heritage?

One day, about twenty-five years ago, my wife and I were visiting in the home of an Old Order Amish couple. The husband was not ordained at the time, but is now the bishop of his Old Order Amish community. He is a fine man with many admirable qualities, kind, warmhearted, industrious, knowledgeable about many things.

Most Amish today are descended from Anabaptists who lived many years ago in the canton of Berne, Switzerland. During the course of the visit, our friend volunteered the thought that there must have been something special in the character of the old Bernese Anabaptists that has enabled their descendants to keep the faith for so many generations.

I don’t think I responded to that thought, but wished afterwards that I had enquired into how he would define faith. The Old Order Amish have indeed maintained many outward forms from centuries ago, but is that the faith that their forefathers had? It seems to me that the essence of the faith is missing.

The Swiss Anabaptists were concerned about the salvation of their neighbours, to the point of risking property and life. The Old Order Amish tend to look with suspicion on anyone who wants to join them. The maintenance of precise standards of clothing and lifestyle requires that the Amish watch each other closely for any deviation from those standards. Slight variations in these standards from one Amish settlement to another make it difficult for people to fellowship freely with each other. There is not one Old Order Amish church, but an innumerable number of churches and in most cases ministers from one church are not allowed to preach in another because of the small differences in outward standards.

What it boils down to is that the Old Order Amish have tried to maintain spiritual life by human effort, rather than by the leading of the Holy Spirit. They have failed in this; not many among them can tell of being born again or of knowing that the Holy Spirit is giving direction for their lives. They have succeeded only in preserving a lifestyle that from the outside looks something like the old Anabaptist faith.

We must never confuse our ethnic heritage with our spiritual heritage. Seeking to maintain a semblance of the faith of our ancestors may cause others to look upon us with admiration in this life, but carries no promise for eternity. Those who seek salvation through the blood of Jesus and live solely to please their Saviour will often be misunderstood in this life but they have the promise of a home with the redeemed in the world to come. This is the true spiritual heritage.

Why am I doing this?

I have been doing some reflecting of late. And not much writing.  I’m happy to see people are still looking at my blog, even if I haven’t posted anything since Monday.

Why am I writing? What purpose is there in wanting to communicate clearly, either verbally or in writing?

I attended a Toastmasters meeting Wednesday evening and I think I found part of my answer. There was a young lady there who had suffered a stroke at birth and multiple seizures after birth. The doctors told her parents that she had irreparable brain damage and would never leave the hospital, or if by some miracle she did survive long enough to go home, she would never walk or talk.

This young lady not only learned to walk, she became a runner, competing in Special Olympics events. Wednesday evening she read her speech, but she read clearly, without mispronouncing or stumbling over any word. She wrote the talk herself and made only a passing reference to her disability. Her point was that we are all called to  do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission.

We are acquainted with the family; her mother has written a book about Amee.  I am impressed at how she is continuing to grow and learn and has become an articulate and bubbly young lady.

So here I am, an old geezer with a lifetime of experience outside and inside Evangelical Christian circles.  And a head packed full of stories and information that I’ve lived, observed, heard or read. It seems to me that I see things outside that circle in a way that many people inside just do not comprehend. And I see things from the inside that are just not getting through to those on the outside.

I am also someone from a non-Anabaptist background who has chosen the Anabaptist faith as the truest expression of the Christian faith. It seems to me that we all – Anabaptists, Evangelicals and non-Christians – live in our hermetically-sealed bubbles, passing each other on the street, but unable to speak intelligible words to each other.

The things we say make sense to us and others who live in the same kind of bubble that we are in.  Those words may be misunderstood by others; they may even sound like nonsense. We sense that we are not getting through, so we say the same words, just a little louder. That doesn’t work either and we begin to suspect that the others are just not able to think very clearly.

We really need to get out of our bubble and connect with people. We don’t need a new gospel in hipster language, but we may need to drop some of the expressions that have been repeated over and over through the past two generations. I don’t think they really worked two generations ago and they certainly don’t now. Nor do we need more important sounding words. The deepest truths are communicated with simple words. But to really communicate, we have to become vulnerable, drop our masks, overcome our fears and become real people to those we meet.

Perhaps I have as much of a handicap as Amee. She has spent her life up to now in a battle to overcome her disabilities – and she is succeeding.  What’s stopping me?

Blessings can’t be bought

(My wife unearthed this a few days ago. It is a letter to the editor that appeared in the London (Ontario) Free Press on May 28, 1987, at the height of the foofaraw over the extravagant lifestyle of Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker.  We were living in Fullarton, Ontario, about 20 minutes north of London at the time.)

Evangelical Christianity is being besmirched today by the unfolding soap opera of the TV preachers. Where does the ultimate responsibility lie? Isn’t it with the people who think that the blessing of God can be bought by giving financial support to these empires?

Ray Stevens’s new song, Would Jesus Wear A Rolex? (Would Jesus Wear A Rolex? pokes fun at TV evangelists, Free Press, April 24), is asking important questions – questions that should be honestly considered by every person who is thinking of sending money to one of the TV preachers.

The problem is an old one. Only the methods are new. The following quote sounds very contemporary. Actually it was written over 400 years ago by a Dutch preacher named Menno Simons: “Consider this. As long as the world distributes splendid houses and such large incomes to their preachers, the false prophets and deceivers will be there in droves.”

Menno Simons believed in the simple Biblical pattern for the calling and lifestyle of preachers: “Humble yourselves and become unblamable disciples, that you may thereafter become called ministers. Do not go on your own account, but wait until you are called of the Lord’s church. If this takes place, brethren, then pastor diligently, preach and teach valiantly, rent a farm, milk cows, learn a trade if possible, do manual labour as did Paul, and all that you then fall short of will doubtlessly be given and provided for you by pious brethren, by the grace of God, not in superfluity, but as necessity requires.”

Thankfully, there are some branches of the Mennonite faith that still practise this counsel of Menno Simons. Perhaps it seems like a double burden to ask someone to be a minister and at the same time earn his own living. But have you ever noticed how much of a salaried minister’s time and attention are consumed by financial concerns?

The heart of the matter is that I have much more confidence in a minister when I can feel that his primary concern is the content of my heart, rather than the content of my bank account.

Bob Goodnough, Fullarton

Pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction

My personal observations, perhaps not very scientific but still quite realistic I believe, have convinced me that a substantial portion of humanity is afflicted with a strange malady.  This malady manifests itself when a person meets, or even hears of, someone with a different colour of skin.  The symptoms are that this person then seems to become unable to absorb any more information about the person of a different colour.  I have chosen to call this pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction.

This is not really the same thing as prejudice.  Many people afflicted with this disorder would profess nothing but good will for people of another colour.  They just seem unable to understand each other or to relate to each other in any meaningful way.

I know that a great many white people are afflicted with this.  Here in Saskatchewan, when a white person encounters an Indian (or First Nations) person, he tends to instinctively think of all the stories he has heard of Indians with broken homes, a drinking problem and an inability to hold a job.  Of course there are many Indians who are hard-working, responsible and sober.  We tend to identify them as being white people, thus not allowing their example to change our “knowledge” of what Indians are like.  It may take years of acquaintanceship before the white person is able to absorb any other information about what the Indian person is really like.

Many Indian people have their own knee-jerk reflex perceptions of what white people are like, thus both groups face major hurdles in learning to know each other.

No group of people is immune from this malady.  An Indian couple on a reserve in Eastern Canada adopted a black child.  The band council passed a resolution denying this child membership in the band and the privileges that would go with it.  A Christian Indian lady of my acquaintance says that her mother, who is of 1/8 white ancestry, is known as “White Woman” on the reserve.

The same symptoms are manifested, though to a slightly lesser degree in Canada, in the way whites perceive black people and the way black people perceive white people.  I recall an incident while we were living in Montréal and worshipping in a small mission congregation.  One Sunday morning a young black man stepped into church, saw only white people and immediately became very nervous.  I went to speak to him and invited him to join us, but he looked at our literature rack and seized upon that as an excuse, saying he had only come to get some information and he would come back another time.  He never did.  I have often kicked myself for my slow thinking, for there was a black lady seated on the side of the church that was not visible from the doorway.  Would it have made a difference if I had quickly called Esperanza and asked her to help this young man feel at home?

How would I have reacted if the tables were turned and I was the only white person walking into a church full of black people?  I would like to think that while I may not be totally cured of pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction (it seems to be a congenital disorder in most of us), I have had enough experience in being around black (and other non-white) people that I would not immediately panic and run for the nearest exit.

We might like to think that a disorder such as pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction could not exist among Christian people.  Yet I observed in Montréal that most evangelical denominations had separate congregations for blacks and whites.  There were only a handful of congregations where black and white people seemed able to worship together.  No one seemed to have a valid reason why it didn’t work in other denominations.  I would suggest that it is due to the undiagnosed presence of pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction.

The first step toward being cured of pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction is to admit that one has it.  This is pretty hard on our pride, for we like to think of ourselves as warmhearted, magnanimous people without a trace of prejudice.  But how do we react when we meet someone of another skin colour?  What if we meet a whole group of people of that colour?  Or do we perhaps do our best to avoid such a situation?

We can avoid any but the briefest contact with people of another skin colour and convince ourselves that we are entirely free of such a thing as pigment triggered cognitive dysfunction.  That is self-deception.  I don’t know of any other cure but to spend time with people who look different that we are and discover that they really aren’t very different after all.

Where have all the doctrines gone?

There were three churches in the town where I grew up.  The doctrinal position of each was well understood and inflexible; none of them would have been considered evangelical.  About the time I began high school, an itinerant evangelist held meetings in a rented hall and people’s hearts were sufficiently stirred that a Baptist congregation was formed.  A minister was found, but when the new congregation affiliated with one of the Baptist denominations, he left.  I never knew whether his departure was voluntary or not.

A few years later he returned as the pastor of another new congregation, this one affiliated with the Associated Gospel Churches.  I am presuming that there was a disagreement on the understanding and application of some point of Christian doctrine.  Those were the days when doctrine meant something and people would discuss earnestly the meaning of various passages of the Bible.  Discuss is the polite word for it, some folks called it arguing, and indeed feelings did get rather warm and words a little sharp at times.

Our little town was a microcosm of the greater society, where the divisions over small points of doctrine spawned a seemingly limitless variety of denominations.  It mattered a lot whether church services were liturgical, evangelical, charismatic or informal in structure.  It mattered whether you believed Christian life began after baptism, before baptism, or as a result of baptism.  Many things mattered, giving rise to lively discussions about which denomination was on the right track in teaching the Bible.  Those discussions provided abundant fodder for humorists and mockers.

It seems that Christians today have seen how divisive that all was and have determined to just all get along.  The important thing today is to be able to testify of having once experienced a warm, fuzzy feeling at the mention of the name of Jesus.  If you have experienced that, nothing much else matters; this makes you a part of the blood washed throng waiting for the Lord’s return.  Bible doctrine has been cast aside, discussions today centre around feelings rather than Scriptures.

This is pietism and it is not an improvement.  When everything is based on having that warm, fuzzy feeling and it doesn’t make much difference what you believe or how you live, haven’t you forfeited the right to call yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ?

Yes, the old divisions were sometimes scandalous, often farcical, but they indicated an underlying conviction that somewhere there was a truth that mattered.  The real scandal was not that people were searching for the truth, but that they stopped before they discovered it.  Yet there were those who did press on until they found the pearl of great price.  Some are still doing so today.  Yet I fear that the warm fog of pietism too easily becomes a comfortable blanket to lull people to sleep before they even realize that there should be something more to being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Experiences do matter.  There has to be a point in the life of each person who claims to be a Christian where they actually had an encounter with the Almighty, all-righteous God, confessed their own unrighteousness and experienced forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ.  But this is not the whole story, only the beginning of a relationship.  As that relationship grows and deepens, a new Christian should be hungry for the Word of God, desiring to know God better and to learn more of His plan for the life of a believer.

God’s ground crew

About 35 years ago I read a magazine article about a famous (notorious?) Canadian rock musician.  Near the end of the article, this musician was quoted as saying, “I love the Lord; but I don’t have much use for his ground crew.”

That statement has stuck in my mind, perhaps because it seems that so many other people have come to the same conclusion.  Perhaps it is no wonder.  If we would look on the Christian scene with the eyes of the world, and consider all those who call themselves Christian as being part of God’s ground crew, then their activities look much like a Keystone Kops scene: earnest groups of people rushing madly to and fro about the Lord’s business, bumping into each other, tripping over each other, one group undoing the work of another, arguing passionately about what should, or should not, be done, accusing one another of villainy and letting the true villains pass unnoticed and unmolested.

As one views this frenzied, frenetic, comic scene it is easy to miss the fact that in the midst of all the confusion there are some who are quietly and purposefully going about the Lord’s business.  These are the ones who are truly the Lord’s ground crew, following His directions and accomplishing His work.

This is not to say that the others are not accomplishing some good things, but in the public eye these things are so thoroughly overshadowed by the circus of conflicting claims, ideals and programs that the good seems to have happened more by accident than by design.

Jesus foresaw such a situation and warned that not all those who claimed to be part of His ground crew were truly working for Him.  “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Then, in describing the day of judgement, he left this stark warning: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Going back to the famous (notorious?) rock musician, I wish I could ask him if it is the Keystone Kops ground crew or the true followers of Jesus Christ that he has no use for.  Now, this is a man who has cultivated a reputation as a lover of sex, booze and rock n’ roll.  I’m not sure if this reputation totally corresponds to his real life, for one thing he is still happily married to his first wife.  Yet he has deliberately cultivated this persona and that could go a long way in explaining why he would not feel comfortable around God’s ground crew.

However, if we are part of God’s ground crew, truly doing His will through the direction and power of His Spirit, then the love of God for all people will be evident in our lives and our relations with others.  The following words of Jesus must be characteristic of God’s ground crew.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”  (Matthew 5:44-46).

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