KDs are designed/developed/inspired/mused/auto-suggested/indigested to make folks think; an especially uncommon experience among Democrats, Republicans, and jingoistic mainline denominationalists who continue to discourage dissent with their ever-threatening thought police.
Ernie Campbell, one of America’s brightest high steeple pastors and preaching professors who went home to Jesus back in July 2010, wrote Where Cross the Crowded Ways: Prayers of a City Pastor (1973).
As I’ve been repenting from my academic idolatries and trying to spend most of my time in the book than books about the book to be a better man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, pastor, and presbyter, It’s one of the few books that I’ve kept in my study; often going back to his prayers: “May it be our joy and uppermost intention to rest in Thee, to work for Thee, to become like Thee…Grant us what we need to be more like Jesus: a quiet mind, a forgiving spirit, indifference to wealth, a humbler estimate of self, a readiness to pray, a clearer vision of Thy purposes, courage to do the right we know…Help us to clarify our convictions, to subordinate personal whims and private fears to the larger goals of Christ…Bless Thy church, O God, with leaders who both think and feel; with shepherds who love their sheep; with theologians who balance faith and reason; with members whose loyalty to Christ is a seven day a week affair for life…”
I’ll never forget when he said to a graduating class at our seminary, “Those who lead also serve.”
He also put it another way: “Leadership is service.”
Over the years, I’ve come to understand that this way: “Shepherds don’t follow sheep.”
Specifically, undershepherds to the Good Shepherd guide, provide, and protect sheep as led by Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.
Unfortunately, as RC Sproul lamented, “The greatest weakness in the church today is that the servants of God keep looking over their shoulder for the approval of man.”
Indeed, so many of today’s people-pleasing-pastors agree with the last person that they’ve talked to like bad sentences ending in prepositions.
Rather than loving people by pointing them to Jesus by the book for confident living and eternal security with enthusiasm and without equivocation, their need to be “liked” seduces them into people-pleasing at the expense of the glory, laud, and honor due Lord and Savior Jesus.
Their need to be liked by people exceeds their responsibility to love people for Christ’s sake.
So they water down the truth of Jesus by the book to get along for temporary favors with His voice echoing in the distance, “You are making people twice as fit for hell as you are yourselves.”
It’s a sad codependency in which pulpit and pew enable each other’s addictions to everything and everyone apart from the allegiance and affection due God alone.
Instead of God’s approval as the highest goal, greatest ambition, and most fervent prayer, pastor and people rely on each other for their sense of identity and worth.
In short, they enable each other’s infidelities by not holding themselves accountable to the Authority higher than themselves.
They turn to each other more than God Himself to meet their emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical needs.
God is second string.
Essentially, pulpit and pew divorce themselves from God.
Surely, that’s one of the reasons why churches are so sick these days.
Too many churches forget the Biblical metaphor of marriage.
God is the groom and the Church is His bride.
Too many pulpits and pews have moved their marital vows from God to themselves which is why churches aren’t as divine as intended.
They write their own vows without respect, reverence, trust, and obedience to the only Word(s) worth keeping: the enfleshed Word in Jesus and explained Word in the Bible.
Psalm 45 comes to mind.
It’s a messianic psalm picturing God as groom and people as His bride.
Of course, contextually, we understand Jesus as the groom and the Church as His bride.
Precisely, this psalm is all about keeping our vows in a marriage made in heaven.
The Church at His best adores Jesus: “My heart bursts out like a love poem to You…No one compares to Your beauty…I savor every word from Your lips.”
Jesus adores His Church: “Forget everything – country and kin – because I am wild for you…I’ll make you famous. You’ll be the talk of the town.”
Revelation looks to the consummation of the marriage: “Hallelujah! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give glory to God because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself.”
Getting back to Campbell, I like this prayer about the royal marriage of Jesus to His Church: “Grant that fences that keep…[us]…apart may be fashioned into bridges so that the hurts of any may be the concern of all…O God, for whom all times and places are Thy habitation, be Thou our God for we would be Thy people.”
Then there’s Francis Chan’s prayer at the end of Letters to the Church: “Father, thank You for choosing us to be part of something so sacred. Forgive us for the times when our laziness weakened the Church or our pride divided her. Give us childlike faith to have an impact on the Church with Holy Spirit power…May Your Bride become attractive, devoted, and powerful beyond earthly explanation…May we each become consumed with her…Stir our affections daily so we can be found serving Your Bride faithfully when You return to judge.”
Chan preceded that prayer by saying, “Serve His Bride. Jesus is returning soon. We can’t afford to be doing our own thing while His Bride lies unhealthy.”
All it takes for us to heal the marriage is to renew our vows: “I do and I will.”
That’s true love.
Total devotion to each other; forsaking all others.
That’s marriage made in heaven.
Blessings and Love!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus! Shatter the sound of silence! Salt! Shine! Leavenate!