Christian Living

Merely Obedient

Today we pause to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s life is one we can point to and agree, “Yes, in his lifetime his work moved nations.” One man brought voice to millions and inspiration to billions.

Many people will reflect on Dr. King’s work and build a wall around his legacy, affirming his works and bravery while simultaneously distancing themselves by labeling him as uniquely gifted by God. As if to say, “I could never be like Dr. King. He was special, gifted, talented, extraordinary– I am ordinary.

My challenge to you would be to examine Dr. King’s work closely for yourself. Read his sermons, watch speeches given at rallies, and wander through the nearly 1 million items in his online archives.

Then ask yourself this question: Was Dr. King gifted or merely obedient? 

As I’ve examined Dr. King’s life, his works, his writings, and his early ministry I’ve discovered a man wholly ordinary but extraordinarily obedient to the calling God placed on his life.

Remember Moses? A man with a speech impediment who murdered a guy in his early adult life? When God called him he was overcome by his ordinary-ness. He complained back to God, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) and “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

Imagine the lunacy of Moses trying to educate God on his personal history and faults? Moses gave God a few good reasons why he was too ordinary to lead a million people out of slavery and God replied back over and over again… I’m not asking you to be extraordinary, just merely obedient.

Ultimately, Moses is recorded as a hero to the Jewish people, not for his bravery in standing up to Pharaoh, but for his obedience to God. He didn’t lead a million people out of slavery. But he did show up and was obedient.

Don’t make the mistake today of honoring Dr. King’s life work without asking yourself, “Am I being obedient to the calling God has laid on my life?”

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Church Leadership

Affluence, Influence, and Activism

Photo by lewishamdreamer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The byline of this site is: Crazy enough to change the world. On Twitter I alter this slightly, my bio line says, “The sane need not apply for the position of world changer.”

Both of those boil down to a basic question in my life.

How do I maximize whatever leverage I can acquire to help Christians be more Christ-like?

Within the church there seems to be two primary ways to gain leverage.

  1. Affluence. The American church is pretty simple to manipulate. It pains me to say it but we all know it to be true. We even come up with cute little phrases to put in books affirming it. “An unfunded vision is just a dream.” Affluence is the fastest way to exude leverage on a Christian organization for change. There are a lot of Christian leaders who would balk at that– I don’t care, you know it’s ultimately true. If you are a leader of a Christian church or organization in America, budget is the fourth member of the Trinity. Budget is the silent elder. Budget is the ultimate accountability partner. We refuse to learn how to do ministry for free, so budget is power. So if you want to exude some leverage in any Christian organization, write a big check. Heck, just waving a big check is generally good enough.
  2. Influence. This is the great hope of all of us not born into money or lucky enough to buy Apple stock at $27. Many of the great voices in the American church today were not born into it. They acquired leverage through wise use of talents. (Either gifted by the Holy Spirit or just flat out gifted) These written/oral communicators are, in many ways, prophets to the church. In many ways, the local church leader is looking at these national church communicators and emulating them. People study their speaking mannerisms. People dress like them. People flock to hear them speak. People buy their books. And when a leader gets really powerful people model their churches after these prophets.

An observation

There are too many in category two trying to leverage their influence to affluence.

There are not enough leveraging their influence to actualized change.

Just because affluence is the fastest way to change any Christian organization– this doesn’t make it right. And, as we’ve seen over the last 50 years, leveraging affluence to change the church doesn’t make the church more Christ-like. It seems to just make the church more church-centric and less community-centric.

Where are the activists?

On Saturday, I watched a documentary about Paul Watson. Where is that guy in the church? The dude took a bullet for a freaking whale!

On Sunday, my pastor talked about Nelson Mandela. Where is that guy in the church? 26 years in prison for his cause and came out hating no one.

Where are the Martin Luther King, Jr’s? Where are the Mahatma Ghandis? Where are the César Chavez’s?

Why is there no one in the American church willing to take a stand and leverage their influence for real change?

There are a lot of strong opinions. But no one seeks to offend even when the offense is offensive. There are a lot of great ideas, but none of the people espousing those ideas are willing to spend the night in jail. There are a lot of offenses in the American church, but no one is wearing a bullet proof vest to preach on Sunday morning because we are offending people with truth to the point where we think someone might take a shot at us.

Why is that?

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the solution. We believe that Jesus didn’t just come to save us, we believe we have been placed here on this planet to make things better.

Do you want to know who is worth following? Find a man or woman who is calling Christians to love their neighbors like Jesus did, love justice like Jesus did, and leverage their influence for big/little things that matter.

Follow those people.

God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:10 The Message