Continued from Yesterday’s post:
Yesterday I brought up the concept of the “Übermensch” as being a model for pastors, evangelists and teachers in America today. I also brought up that I’ve wanted to be one for much of my Christian life. After all, I thought, I’m not really living radically for God unless I am a “superman” of ministry. Unless I’m the one that everyone goes to for the answers because I’ve been such an awesome and recognized minister, I haven’t really done any ministry of worth in an eternal sense. At least, that’s what I used to think.
The wannabe supermen of the faith including myself, want (and sometimes get) the biggest churches, the most books sold, the highest name recognition and of course the highest salaries (although false humility may demand lowering the salary a little so as not to offend everyone). I personally started to think I was one of the success stories of becoming a “great” minister because there was a time that I was being asked to speak on local radio shows and I was getting invitations to preach in Churches. But I was so deceived, and sin found an open door in my life through my pride.
And I became like most of American Christianity, where we supermen of faith don’t waste time asking God what our church growth strategy should be. No! Here in America the average pastor only prays 15 minutes a day! (That’s a verifiable statistic, by the way. Do a Google search. It might be worse.) In America, we consult with the “supermen” and women of the church to see who won the ministry battle of “survival of the fittest” and has the best technique for building the biggest ministry (often measured by the size of the church buildings or number of church campuses they have) in the shortest amount of time. We follow them because we believe that repeating their actions will give our lives and our ministries more success and therefore more meaning. We do it because we don’t think our lives will “count” otherwise. Meanwhile the American church is shrinking fast. It is just as was depicted in my dream. The parasite has infected our Christian community, and now the American Christian community is dying off.
Paris Reidhead, a former missionary to Africa saw this day coming back in 1969 when he preached his famous sermon, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” In that sermon he attacked what he saw as the rise of humanism and “pragmatism” in the American church while extolling the virtues of God, His means and His glory. He told a story of a pastor who had a big, growing church and drove a Cadillac. This pastor came to Reidhead having heard that he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and asked him if he could pray for him to receive it. Reidhead responded with something like, “well, you seem to have gotten along well enough without the power of the Holy Spirit…” and told him that he wasn’t ready for it. He said the pastor just wanted “power for his programs,” rather than being totally submitted to God. That pastor wanted to be a spiritual “Übermensch,” rather than be about God and His business. Truly, more than that, this pastor had forgotten what it means to be poor in spirit, and to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Reidhead ended his sermon echoing the motto of the Moravian missionaries of centuries past through telling the story of two of their first missionaries. The Moravians were a group of European Christians in the 18th-19th centuries who held a 100 year 24/7 prayer meeting while being notoriously aggressive and successful missionaries.
In the early days of the Moravian prayer and missions movement, 2 young Moravians heard of an atheist British plantation owner whose plantation (with hundreds of slaves on it) was on an island and inaccessible for Gospel preaching. The plantation owner had made it known that he would never allow any ministers to visit his island plantation to share the Gospel with his slaves. When these two young Moravians heard of this, they decided to sell themselves into lifetime slavery to the plantation owner so that as slaves, they could bring the Gospel to his plantation. This was no 6 month mission trip. This was a lifelong commitment, and there was little to no chance that anyone on earth outside of the island would ever hear how they fared, or if anyone came to Christ because of their efforts. As you can imagine, many of their friends and family questioned the wisdom of what they were doing.
Since the atheist slave owner only paid as much for these Moravians as he would pay for any slave, it was just enough money to pay for their passage to the island. As they left the seashore aboard a ship bound for that island, they called out to their friends and family on the shore this sentence, which would become the motto of the Moravian missions movement:
“May the Lamb that was slain, receive the reward of His sufferings!”
And that was their motivation for what they did. Not to be great in the eyes of men, nor to become super-ministers for God, but simply because they saw what they were doing as part of Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. May this be our motivation as well for all ministry. May our love for God drive us to radically love other people, not for their approval or in competition, but because He is worth it.
I’ll pause here for today. Come back tomorrow for part 3.