OUR HOPE OF A GREAT GOD LIES IN THE PROMISE OF OUTRAGEOUS RESURRECTION
By: Rev. Ed Schneider
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
I think the same thing can be said for local congregations who find themselves in a position where they will either need to renew and revitalize their locations or they will simply die. These same local congregations could learn a lot about the Christian journey by slightly altering Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote to read as follows;
“The ultimate measure of the faith and work ethic of the local congregation is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience but where they find themselves facing eventual death.”
When a local congregation faces the distinct possibility of closing it needs to be honest that most of the time the reason(s) where they now find themselves could have…SHOULD HAVE…been addressed years before they “awaken” to their current reality. IF THEY HONESTLY REFLECT upon the historical circumstance that contributed to their current reality, they then have only two choices.
- The first choice….to go ahead and die, either with dignity or an impoverished state of denial; but die nonetheless.
- The second choice….to lean on God’s resurrecting power to alter what seems to be a course of destruction.
When I recall the meager beginnings of MLK, Jr. it reminds me of the continual theme inside the pages of the Bible regarding how God uses our mundane and lowly beginnings to emphasize being Divinely touched to perform miraculous purposes.
There have been thousands of examples where God’s grace and power to transform overwhelming negative circumstances into a vibrant resurrection. Throughout history when the world says, “No” God says, “Yes!” The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a good example of that. MLK, Jr. with all of the troubles and challenges his life and mission placed before him, easily represents a metaphoric vehicle leading us to conclude if “divine purpose” partners with “divine empowerment” God will be glorified….even if circumstances would suggest otherwise.
The collective history of humanity continues to demonstrate “what a mess” we humans can produce both inside and outside of The Church. The undeniable truth is a huge number of churches in the United States need to be revitalized and renewed. Many of our Christian churches sit right in the middle of troubled neighborhoods, troubled lives, troubled schools, troubled social issues, and troubled political realities. The very places that literally represent the resurrection power of God Almighty that SHOULD BE making a difference find themselves void of any real purpose. It is sad and more often than we would like to admit also unnecessary. Make no mistake! These failing churches have a great opportunity to outrageously prove the resurrection power the the God they claim. To be honest, sometimes it is easier to say you “believe” than actually demonstrating it. Yet, as faithful CHRISTIANS that is exactly our foundational mission.
Everyone of us stands at a time within our own personal history where we will need to reassess who we are, where we are going, and what we truly believe in. Each local church and those who profess to follow Jesus Christ need to do the same. The church that claims victory over the world needs to start acting like what they proclaim. Sitting back in some sort of relaxed position while offering pious platitudes from inside the safety of their sanctuary is no longer sufficient. Our time in history requires more….much more. Our local churches stand at a time when they must, regardless of their circumstances, believe that God can and will perform one resurrection after another.
Our communities and the congregations we serve in the name of Jesus Christ shouldn’t have to wait until the “other side of glory” to touch a true and vibrant expression of Christianity. Unfortunately, far too many people…from every flavor of Christian thinking…haven’t had the opportunity to witness first-hand God’s resurrection power because of an overwhelming cloud of exclusionary philosophies, prideful impostors, self-serving institutions, and local church members who have fallen into the trap of believing where ever they find themselves is all they will ever be. That is not only sad it is a lie of the devil.
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:14-15)
Jesus is reportedly to have said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” The word “repent” equates to the Greek word “metanoeo” or the TRANSFORMATION of “the mind.” To see like you couldn’t see before. To hear like you couldn’t hear before. To think like you couldn’t think before. And to UNDERSTAND like you couldn’t understand before!
The phrase, “at hand,” or the Greek word engizo, DOES NOT MEAN….it is here or it has already arrived. It has the meaning, IT IS CLOSE….it is so close you can ALMOST touch it. The implication or implied inference here is the writer is strongly suggesting the Christian believer ACTIVELY REACH OUT for the gift that is being placed in front of them. Don’t be caught unwilling or lazy in your potential reaction to God’s gift of an empowering Christ. Imagine a thirsty and exhausted person who has received a tall glass of cool refreshing glass of water for them to drink. However, the glass is placed 15 feet in front of them. The gift has been given. It is been placed in plain view. It is readily available. Now, all the person has to do is to make an intentional EFFORT to get up and walk over and TAKE THE GIFT SUPPLIED! That is where many local congregation and far too many of their members find themselves.
According to this one saying of Jesus, the kingdom of God, or the physical manifestation of God’s grace, can be experienced personally right now. We do not have to wait until the “other side of glory” to see God’s grace in action. We do not have to wait until we all get to heaven and start walking on the proverbial streets of gold, to see God’s resurrection power. Because of this gospel declaration, we must no longer limit our view of tangible Christianity to merely some existential, philosophical, or a metaphysically cheap expression of humanity’s innate searching for ultimate answers of life and death. True Christianity is far more than this view.
What I mean by that is, when Christianity is true and honest it brings those that it touches into a far higher understanding of life itself than merely thinking better and acting better.
When real Christianity has been experienced….it cannot be denied, deluded, or delayed!
When true Christianity is seen and profoundly shared….it is vibrant and compelling. It draws people rather than repelling them.
The great theologian, philosopher, and pastor, Dr. Howard Thurman once said,
“Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him then whether he lives or dies.”
Every local church that is in fear of its failure or fatality needs to grasp that their existence itself depends on the attitude that whether they live or die they “live in Christ,” for God’s glory, and for God’s purposes.
Dr. King knew that what was being described as biblical Christianity was not just a good idea that was used as some sort of convenient philosophy. No! Dr. King’s entire public life was dedicated to calling not only the population of the United States to be a better place but also to call the church itself back to it’s good, true, and right way of being. Dr. King called those who claim to be biblical Christians to remember their awakening to a rock solid shift in what they understood life itself to mean and how all believers are to interact with the God that they claim.
In Acts 10:38 it reads,
“God gave the Holy Spirit and power to Jesus from Nazareth. He was with Jesus, as he went around doing good in healing everyone who was under the power of the devil.”
It is within the spirit of Christ that we ourselves, and the congregations that we are part of, will be foundational he changed and continually transformed. It is the spirit of Christ that provides;
- newness of life,
- the power of divine purpose,
- the abundance of gracious living and loving as well as
- the actual presence of the divine walking with each church as they attempt to prove that God can resurrect anything.
Revitalizing is a polite way of saying resurrecting something that has been slowly dying, if not already dead for years. The God that I know, the God that raised Christ from the dead, Is the same God that can raise any church, under any circumstances. All God asks is to be willing to humble themselves before a gracious God and trust that opening their doors, hearts and minds to new people, ideas, methods, and strategies CAN PROVIDE A REMARKABLE GLORY TO GOD!