Saturday, September 02, 2006

[subversive underground] SIGNS


In my brief career as an on-staff pastor over the last fifteen years, I’ve noticed a curious trend that has continued to perplex me. It’s the contemporary bent towards a desire to experience the next “Azusa Street” or “Brownsville Revival”, or “Toronto Blessing”. Of course, these tendencies are more prevalent in certain circles, but it’s something I’ve had to deal with, or at least to observe from a distance.

My first reaction to this sort of desire to see signs and wonders displayed in the Sunday morning service is to ask, “Why?” I mean, honestly, I don’t get it. Do we seek after signs and wonders in order to put butts in the seats? I confess, my immediate guess is that many senior pastors seek after this sort of miraculous outpouring because it will bring more people to their church and increase their ministry. Never mind that, to increase their ministry they could simply practice evangelism, and train their people to share their faith in more effective ways. If more people were coming to faith in Christ, wouldn’t that be miracle enough? Have we forgotten that salvation itself is a miracle of God too?

Perhaps the search for signs and wonders is the symptom of a lack of faith? It seems ironic, but I think it’s possible that, in some cases, the two are connected. Because the people have a weak faith life, or their walk with Jesus is getting predictable, they surmise that what is needed is a jolt of a good old-fashioned miracle on a Sunday morning. This is indicative of someone who wants a short-cut to maturity of faith. Rather than to practice the spiritual disciplines and learn to surrender to Christ on a daily basis, they would rather that God simply touch them and zap them into a greater sense of love and commitment to Himself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve actually heard pastors cry out for God to “Raise the Dead” or declare that they want to see “Blind eyes opened, deaf ears hear”, and what they don’t realize is that, for the dead to be raised in our midst, one of us will have to die. In order to see the miraculous cure, you have to go where the broken, the infirmed, the dieing, are at. Or maybe we'll have to be the one's who suffer so that we can experience the touch of God on our lives.

Jesus experienced this same phenomenon in his ministry. As he traveled around healing people, he began to draw large crowds. True enough, the solution to a sagging attendance is the miraculous. However, Jesus did all he could to discourage this kind of growth. He saw it as an artificial growth based on superficiality. To counteract this, Jesus would ask those he healed from blindness and deafness not to tell anyone about what had happened to them, but to keep it a secret. Of course, no one can keep secret when they’ve been miraculously healed, so they did tell everyone and Jesus would end up leaving that region because the crowds would grow too large for him to operate.

Do you get that? Jesus spent his time healing people, not to draw crowds, but simply because he loved people. The Gospels tell us, time and again, that Jesus would look upon the persons in need and that he had compassion on them and healed them. His miracles were not about putting butts in the seats, or about growing his ministry. It wasn’t about spreading his own personal fame. It wasn’t about the show. It was simply about compassion.

I sometimes wonder if the reason more churches in American aren’t experiencing the miraculous outpouring of signs and wonders is connected to their lack of compassion for the sick and the broken, the dieing and the lame.

If we were all as desperate to see people made well, out of a sincere compassion for them, as we were to see God do a magic show for us, perhaps we’d see the power of God poured out again?

Maybe what we lack in our churches isn’t faith, but simple compassion for others?

If we wanted God to heal someone because we genuinely loved them as He did, and not out of a desire for personal gain, or for the entertainment factor, perhaps the Spirit of God would open up Heaven and rain down upon us all the power we needed to help people in need?

Even if we changed our hearts and began to develop a love for other people, it would be a forward step in itself, regardless of whether or not God were to do a miracle in our midst. At least we’d become a people with a heart like His, and I for one would prefer to be a follower of Jesus who had a heart like His than to be a filled with the power to heal and have a heart that is proud and self-serving.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains…if I give all that I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

EMPLOYMENT UPDATE: I've been working temporarily at The Healthcare Foundation For Orange County as an administrative assistant. This could turn into a full-time job. Not sure yet what I want to do, but I'm praying for God's direction. Thanks to everyone who has been praying my job search. Keep on praying!

UPCOMING ARTICLES: I've been brewing up a few new articles lately. Here's a quick snapshot of things to come...

1) "Subversive Arts"- A while back my friends Scott Laumann, Bill Burgess and I were praying and strategizing about a way to confront the culture via the arts. I came across some of our correspondence during that time and want to re-visit some of these ideas. Maybe some of you want to do something similar? We'll see...

2) "Practive vs Belief"- I've been mulling over the discussion of practicing Christianity versus the idea that belief is enough. There is a tension between knowledge, truth, doctrine, and the simple practice of living a life like Jesus. Are the two things mutually exclusive? What is the proper balance between belief and practice?

3) "The Mission: Emerging Missionaries"- I'm witnessing a wonderul stage of growth in our house church members. We're learning from one another how to discover our mission field and step out into the world as messengers of The Kingdom.

4) "Starting A Non-Profit?"- Lately I'm thinking more and more about the feasiblity of starting my own non-profit that would care for children here in Orange County who live in motels, or on the streets. This would tie into the ministry to under-age prostitutes as well.

THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?- Part 3 is up now at Part 2 is up at The complete booklet (with additional material) will be self-published before the end of this year (I hope). More later...


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