Friday, February 8, 2008

i really do want to be a soft and cute puppy, but what comes out of my mouth always sounds more like a pit bull. But my wife says it's ok...some people love pit bulls and swaer by them.

So who, and how will the next renaissance, reformation, revival, and revolution of Christianity emerge?
My name is David Sherwood and I am the lead pastor of 5 stones community church. In the 18 years since in have left Seminary I have under God and through his wisdom run a music club; put together the largest Younglife in Fort Worth; been a successful youth pastor, equipping pastor, and senior pastor; planted a church; merged a church; and worked for a multi-site mega-church of nearly 20,000. In addition I have failed at so many things on such an epic level that I won't take the time to list them. The last 18 years have been far greater and far worse than I might have imagined.
As I look back at the last 18 years there are many things from my Seminary season that I look back at fondly. Understanding how to unlock the scriptures through the computer tools that are out there, an appreciation for the responsibility to guard and nurture orthodox doctrine, and the sharpening of skills in preaching, counseling, and leadership. These foundational pillars set on the cornerstone of Christ are what have kept my legs and heart steady as the storms have blown. There are a lot of nameless faces that accomplished nothing due to my attitude and thiers. And there are a few, who in a moment of time did things with God in me that have changed me forever.
And the storms have blown. Katrina sized tornadoes and hurricanes that have swept over my pastoral doorstep and overwhelmed the levies of my personal life. Being a pastor has far more subtlety, spiritual warfare, and sober isolationism in it than was expected. And so as the seminary has asked me to come here to help us connect and network I will try to unveil my realities in the midst of your own. The hope being to always draw together the threads of theory into the loom of reality. Loving one another is a command i take very seriously as a non negotiable part of my existance as a christian. And love for God, my own disciples and yours, compels me offer ,y own transparency and perspective as imperfect guides in the coming moments. In such, I ask for your grace, and lobgsuffering patience.

Katrina, Darfur, and 911 are perhaps inappropriate comparisons, however they do help to illustrate what is happening in western Christianity in America. Christendom is dying and the dwindling church attendance numbers prove it. In addition over 3,000 churches this year will die and a number equal to that and larger of pastors will exit the ministry and never return. Leadership magazine has told us through thier surveys that those in ministry feel depressed, overwhelmed, failing, and even suicidal. The trajectory of these statistics are sobering and stinging…even sad. But nothing remains purely linear, and God's providence and fullness of time has always shown us in history the way forward…a new way forward. The night of despair ever gives way to the dawn of hope. And every revolution is born in the midst of someone's failure.
So who, and how will the next renaissance, reformation, revival, and revolution of Christianity emerge?
I am neither a seer nor a prophet, so I will defer on this being answered by others. However I would speak and will speak about what sort of people will do this. We have seen them before and we will see them again.
So go back with me for a brief moment to glean from our heritage and history. There are 3 men who see the world with bright new eyes. The church around them is fading, and new cultural changes surround them. They know they must not compromise but they must change to face the present future that surrounds them. Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli do their best to adjust to the new paradigms with a new commitment to orthodoxy, relevance, and revolution. What starts as reform is forced by the antiquated structures around them to grow into and be birthed into reformation. They and their followers make mistakes and we today stand both on the shoulders of their success and in the wake of their failures.
Go back even further and we will see another man. Caught between three paradigms. A splintered Jewish captivity trying to keep itself alive; a Greek philosophical perspective hijacked and propagated by Roman cultural saturation; and an emergent perspective on life that is set in motion by the arrival of God in the midst of man…the Christ. Paul, adopted late and awkwardly into apostleship is given the opportunity and responsibility for building blueprints for this new landscape. But the blueprints are not just for church but also for the sort of people that will build these churches…and rebuild them when they fail. Timothy stands out in the New Testament as a model example of the next generation leader. His attributes are as important today as they were in the 1st century, and the 22nd century church will stand, be reborn, or fall based upon the discipleship we provide for the Timothies of the future. Europe today stands as a humbling icon; and a proof against our arrogance, passivity, and vague hopefulness. Christian europa lies in ruins and ashes, and we will either raise up a phoenix generation or face the same fate. In the year 2038 your graduates will either quit, compromise, cop-out, or change the world. But it will not just be their choice. Thier cowardice or courage is now seen in us. What you sew into them now; how you shape and build them now; your personal and institutional discipleship now…will be answered by and through their lives then. And Paul amply warns that we will answer for having works of gold, silver and precious stones…or wood, hay, and stubble that we invest in others. And when the big bad wolves come…and they will…either our Timothies will stand and fight and win like brave Spartans or they will be devoured by circumstances and Satan.
So what does Paul try to build into Timothy? Let me give us a quick tour of the pastoral epistles and a few other references for us to glean within.
Orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxis are all here in some form or another.
I Timothy 1: 3 "Charge people not to teach any different doctrine." Paul understands that orthodoxy is the root that will determine the fruit of the church tree. Timothy is taught the pillars or the faith and is charged to guard them and build them into people. Without this he warns that people will pursue vanity, compromise, and indulge in making everything or anything into Dogma. The Timothy of the future must know where and what truths to build into people; what is paradox or vague or grey; and where heresy creeps in and allows false teachers to tear apart the church. In an age of pluralistic postmodernism we dare not construct the church on shifting sands, and we dare not be so rigid that we cannot survive the earthquakes. Timothy must be taught what is rigid and what is flexible in order to survive and thrive in the future.
I Timothy 1:18 "Wage the good warfare" Paul explains that faith and good conscience will stop him from being shipwrecked. Thus while we have various cults of holiness ranging from legalism to libertarians we see moral shipwrecks in pastoral ministry everywhere. People who abandon spouses, churches, integrity, and sexual purity. Timothy must have a vibrant faith and a conscience that is integrated with the spirit. He must know and live understanding Gods imperative commands and the unique design of his conscience and convictions. He must know how to live and how to forgive…even himself. And it is a war, a civil war within. Abraham Heschel has called man a piece of meat invaded by angels and demons, and Paul speaks the same of a civil war within him. Moral grandeur and spiritual audacity must be a part of the DNA of the Timothy of the future.
I Timothy 4:12 "Let no one despise your youth but set the believers an example of speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity." As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he implored and demonstrated this attitude in them. Humility and teachability are such lost attitudes in an age of arrogance and pride. And while you might think I am talking about students, you perhaps will be surprised that I may talking about some of us. If we would have students that are humble, loving, and faithful then we must roll up our sleeves and wash their feet. If we are condescending they will become the same. Your spiritual lives are screaming far more of a testimony than your lectures. We must not only ask our Timothies to transcend their youth but we must transcend the indulgence of middle age…namely pride. Whatever attitudes and attributes must be in them in 2038 must already be in us today. Ultimately you are the book they are reading and your lives are the only notes that will remain in them 20 years from now.
I Timothy 6:1 "Let all who are under a yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor." Submission is lost on those of us who live in the shadow of Greece and the renaissance. And yet somewhere between injustice and providence we are all either victims or victors depending on our attitude. Paul tells Timothy to transcend circumstances and to be defined and define situations in new ways. And if submission has been lost to us, suffering is soon to follow. A true Timothy must hear "deny yourself, pick up a cross, and follow me" as a call of Christ not just for saints and martyrs but the standard operating procedure of Christian leadership. If Timothy doesn't know how to submit and suffer he won't make it. The heretical fad of emotional, intellectual, and financial prosperity will fade in the persecutions of life. Paul, a free roman redefines himself as a slave to Christ by choice. He invites Timothy to nothing less. Only the very strongest persons can submit and suffer as not a victim but with an inner emotional backbone of steel forged alone in deep relationship with Christ.
2 Timothy 2: 1-2 "what you have received from me…entrust to others." Christianity is always 1 generation away from failure. Paul's life is trapped in an hourglass, and the sands of truth must be passed to the next generation and beyond. And while this sounds simple it is not. A have distributed curriculum to many eager faces who have absorbed it's orthodoxy and never entered into a life that actually looks or smells or tastes like Jesus. We have made some of the best books, media, and other digital toys to disciple people that have ever been made. But perhaps we need to not just write as Bonheoffer but to live like him as well. Timothy can only learn to disciple as he is disciple. In 2038 spiritual formation through deep intimate relationships will only be possible if it is done today.
I could go on forever…just ask my church. But here it is in the simplest fashion. From my perspective Seminary is producing Timothies for the coming century. Christianity is dying which means we are probably on the cusp of a paradigm shifting revolution or slow methodical death. The Kingdom, churches, and Christian leaders are not in good shape. Continuing what we have always done is a suicide note to our future. But, we really can change all that. But we must teach the next generation how to think in terms of orthodoxy taking every thought captive, how to feel in terms of orthopathy and making sure that Christ and Christ alone is enthroned on their hearts, and how to live and act in orthopraxis so that not just words are moved but that words become actions [or else the words are simply abortions]. My own seminary taught me only how to think…not how to love or live or forgive or survive or be fully alive. Being a Christian leader is to be abandoned, betrayed, ignored, humiliated, underpaid, overwhelmed, and imprisoned. It is also to live a life of sacrifice, courage, heroics, transparency, unguarded intimacy, and ultimately Christ-like action. Our disciples must transcend themselves, us, and this age...they must become incarnations of Christ with all that that portends.
Ultimately every seminary must answer to God, and the moments in the future that God will place before her graduates. We must be viciously and tenaciously aware of both our past and future. I can think of nothing more important than reading both epistles to timothy and the one to Titus and then working our way backwards to create men and women like them. Every great Christian biography is full of people of influence who invested in the future Amy Carmichaels, Billy Grahams, and Bill Hybels of the future. Even now Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, and others are forming paradigms that will be irrelevant. We are producing too few Aaron Wardle's and Charle's Hill. And although we all feel inadequate to this impossible responsibility the martyrs of the past and their blood demands it...2000 years of saints and their investments teeter on our lives...and Christ himself is pulling and pushing us towards this mission.

Paul if it was Paul who wrote Hebrews speaks of a stadium that surrounds us...

1 comments:

Karen S said...

Pit Bull or poodle...don't change...I hear Christ through you. I'm hungry for the truth and the validation of what the spirit is telling me. As in John 7 16-18.....I hear the truth through you . Thank for being raw for Christ. Karen

 

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