Last time we started looking at the idea of responsibility. We looked at the idea of individual responsibility and how we need to start seeing that it is individuals who are responsible and not the ever convenient “they”.
Today I want to take a look at why taking individual responsibly is healthy and not only that it is the only way to become a leader.
First of all, it’s important to hit again the fact that in the end, according to Christian theology we are individually responsible before God. Yes God will judge the nations but there will be people in each of those “nations” that get into the Kingdom and those that don’t. You aren’t going to stand before God and get away with “But. . . . ‘they’ did it”. Heck you won’t even be able to say, “I’m not responsible for that – you are”.
As we continue to think about what leadership as a Christian looks like in our culture today I want to talk about an idea that I think we too often seem to forget about. That is the idea of responsibility.
We live in a culture that doesn’t like to take responsibility. This is true both outside and inside the church. We like to talk a lot about other things. We talk about rights, as in my rights. We like to talk about blame, as in blaming others for my situation. Actually what we typically do is talk about my rights and others’ responsibilities.
But there are some key truths that we need to get ahold of if we are going to lead and make an impact.
One of the things that postmodernism sort of introduced in our culture is the idea that your truth is yours and mine is mine. This was sort of the battle cry of tolerance that was taught in early 2000’s (which now seems like a really long time ago). The idea at the time seemed to be that I’m ok and you’re ok. We’re all ok as we are. What we feel is ok. What we see as true is ok. We should tolerate differences not only of experience but we now could say that our different perspectives and experiences were actually different truths that were ok to live out of. Back then it was ok for everyone to not agree. In fact the idea was that no one should impose their belief or truth on anyone else.
Many in the church sort of went along with this. I don’t mean to say that most church leaders agreed that truth was relative. But I think the idea was that to get along and work in this new culture we should just sort of let that go and be loving and understanding. This idea of loving and understanding everyone isn’t a bad thing as far as it goes but by not standing up stronger we gave a lot of things that aren’t true a lot of ground. The results are that now even more believers are of the belief that there is no absolute truth and that half of millennial evangelicals think evangelization is wrong. After all that would be forcing our truth on others.
All of this has backfired spectacularly both inside and outside of the church in our culture.
Today I want to talk about an idea that was tossed out briefly in our American political circles. That is the idea of unity. Obviously that was a shorted live political idea and this blog is not a political one. But what it made me think about is the current disunity in the body of Christ. This is important as we continue to look at what it means to lead as a Christian in the current culture.
You don’t have to look far to see this disunity. I want to think about where this comes from and more, what would unity look like – or at least the beginning of unity. Also I’m not talking today about the thousands of denominations. I have strong opinions on that but for today let’s phrase it this way; Assuming our denominational divisions how can we have a more unified front in our western culture. Even then some aren’t going to like my answers but that’s nothing new for me. Ha!
Let’s start with a couple of the main causes of our disunity.
I’ve been writing a lot about what Christian leadership might look like in our current context. When I say current context I mean mainly within the American culture and Church. Of course part of the problem is that in America there is no “the Church” per se, but that is something to be addressed at a later time.
One of the things that happens all the time in the current cultural conversation over Christianity is that we tend to set things that appear opposed against each other. Or another approach is to take two Christian ideas and say that we need to balance them.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Let’s think for a bit on the idea of the false prophets. What is a false prophet?
In part one of this study we began to look at the story of Jesus and the healing of Bartimaeus the blind man in Mark 10.
Jesus has entered the town of Jericho and the crowd has gathered. Bartimaeus a blind man and beggar is on the side of the road and hears that Jesus is going by. He cries out to Jesus. The crowd tells him to be quiet and stay out of the way. But Jesus stops and tells the crowd to bring him forward. They go and get him and Bartimaeus leaps at the chance and goes to Jesus. Jesus asks him what he wants and when he says he wants to see, knowing that Jesus can give him his sight, Jesus heals him. Bartimaeus is healed and follows Jesus along the road praising God.
Last time we looked at what this story tells us about Jesus. One of the things we mentioned was that it shows that Jesus loves and interacts with everyone. He is interested in every person from every background.
Today I want to look at what this truth about Jesus has to do with us.
Mark 10:46-52 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus the blind man.
Jesus and his followers are entering the city of Jericho. As they are walking along what is probably the main road it seems there is a crowd of people gathering. Bartimaeus was a blind man sitting and begging on the side of the road. When he hears that it is Jesus who is coming by he begins to call out to Him, asking for Him to have mercy on Him.
Bartimaeus had obviously heard of Him. He cries out to Him. The crowd tries to quiet him. They basically say, get back to your side of the street. This is Jesus, He has important things to do or teach. Stop crying out. But this doesn’t stop Baritmaeus. Instead he cries out all the louder.
We’ve been looking at the story of the healing of the paralyzed man in John 5.
Jesus is in Jerusalem and ends up by a pool near the sheep gate. It was believed that when the waters were stirred (perhaps a spring occasionally bubbled up there) that the first person in the water would be healed. Because of this there were many lame, blind, and otherwise ill people laying there. One such man was paralyzed and had been in that condition for 38 years.
Jesus approaches the man and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” The man answers that he does want to but that he can’t get to the water in time. In a sense, as we said last time, he is saying that if Jesus would help him with his plan to get well then he could be ok. He is failing to recognize that Jesus is offering something different, something more. Jesus is better than the pool.
Jesus of course does not help the man into the pool. He also doesn’t say, “Man that’s tough. I hope that works out for you at some point” and move on. Instead he does something very Jesus like. He gives him a command.
We live in interesting times. I don’t want to call them hard times because I don’t think that is very intellectually honest. In most ways we have it easier than any generation before us. We have advantages and wealth, that no time period has ever had. Frankly we even have more peace than pretty much any period in history.
The one place this might not be true, although I would need further study, is mental health. At the very least we can say that it has not improved over the last few years and certainly not in the 2020 during COVID.
I knew this would be true of singles, having been single until I was 40, and I offered some thoughts here. Might be worth a read. I also knew that it would impact kids, and I’ll have more to say on that later.
But today I want to look at an interesting statistic from a recent Gallup Poll. Now if you read through this study, you see lots of interesting things. You can see we’ve got things to work on from looking at the starting point for each demographic and how they compare. But today I want to focus on something really interesting in relation to the Church.