I already shared some crucial aspects of my background in Chapter 3. Later I was a missions major in seminary desiring to serve the Kingdom in a place that had not had as much exposure to the Gospel as North America. I wanted to be where the action is! When the Lord closed that door, it did not mean that I was to be less committed to the Great Commission but that I would be seeking to do my part to fulfill it in some other capacity. I do not see this as a personal calling but a universal calling on all disciples of Jesus. I am passionate about it not because I have some sort of natural predilection in this direction, rather my passion is a spiritual infection picked up and inflamed through my immersion in Scripture and time spent with Jesus seeking to know His heart. Part of discipleship is training our hearts to beat with the heartbeat of Jesus and the heartbeat of Jesus is, always has been, and always will be for the salvation of the lost. If you don’t have, or aren’t developing this passion, you are not a person who shares the heart of Jesus. If you do have this passion, it will show.
Just say, "No" to the Hokey-Pokey:
The main story of the Bible, its central theme, is about mankind’s sinful rebellion against an absolutely holy, perfect and good Creator and Lord, and of His grace-full and mercy-full mission to save us from ourselves, from Sin, and from the devil, and restore us to perfect fellowship with Himself through Jesus Christ. Everything else in the Bible, and in life, is secondary. This, rather than the hokey-pokey, is what it is all about. Miss this and you’ve missed everything. Miss the full and radical implications of this for the church and you end up with an amnesiac pseudo-church that has forgotten why it even exists.
However big, exciting, popular, enjoyable or full of good deeds and ministries your church may be, if this is not the central passion of your church, and especially of its leaders, then your church is just a social club, a support group for aging evangelicals, a counterfeit which Satan is more than content to tolerate. Jesus promised that the very gates of hell would not prevail against His true Church. Gates are defensive, the Church is to be on the offense, storming Satan's territory and setting people free from his grasp. When a church focuses mainly on defense (protecting ourselves agains the influences of the world and "sin-management"), then Satan has already won. His gates have nothing to fear from a church that is focusing almost exclusively on shoring up its own fences and walls.
Therefore it was always central to the mission and purpose of TA that we as a church be fully committed to this. This is so heavily emphasized in the Bible that all Christians and all churches pay it lip service. But in reality, most churches and most Christians do not make it central the way Jesus and his original disciples did. For us to be true to Jesus and the Bible in this area, we would have to be a church that was different from most churches and we would have to be constantly re-training the believers in our midst to not settle for a cultural Christianity that marginalized outreach but to strive to share the passion of Jesus for the liberation of the lost. Those who share that passion live lives whose daily choices, actions, habits and patterns are dictated by that passion. If they are leaders in the church, this is their main concern and focus.
When we began TA I insisted repeatedly (as most church planters do) that we were planting a church to reach the lost and prodigal, not merely as a place to recycle church-hoppers. It was never our goal to simply become a support group for aging evangelicals or a pit stop for church-hoppers who had grown discontented (again!) with their previous church or pastor.
If a church doesn’t exist, primarily and passionately, to reach the lost, then… (you should be able to finish this sentence for yourself by now!). If you are an elder and it is not your passion to help your church become truly missional, then you should resign. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is still heresy- a departure from the true faith. (The nice thing about being “liberated” from the pastorate is that now I can say these things bluntly rather than always trying to find ways to say them without making people mad at me!).
To be continued, but in the meantime, if some would protest that the leaders agree with all I've said: My position is- Every genuine follower of Christ passionately desires to share the very heartbeat, the deepest passions, the primary mission of Him who came "to seek and save the lost" and who repeatedly (at least 5 times) emphasized in His last appearances on earth that His mission and passion were now to be the mission and passion of His followers and of His Church. I cannot dictate to anyone else what this passion will look like in their life but I can say this: If you share this passion IT WILL SHOW! It will show in your conversations, in your lifestyle, in your daily choices and, if you are a leader, in your leadership. It showed in His life and, if it is authentic, it will show in ours. Anyone who lacks this passion should seek it until they find it. Anyone who still lacks this passion should be disqualified from leadership in the church. How can you lead what you don't live? If the current and former lay leaders agree with me, they won't have to say so, you will see it in their lives and hear it in their words and prayers (including at church board meetings!). It will look different in each of them than it looks in me, but if it doesn't show it doesn't really exist. (You might remember that I earlier said that when you find out more about my position some of you might be glad I'm no longer pastor. Now maybe you are starting to comprehend what I meant... and I'm just getting started!).
If others will protest that I wasn't as consistent and passionate in leadership in this area as I should have been... I agree. But I came to my senses and repented and you can too!