Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Leading, Reading or Feeding

Jason Jaggard wrote a very interesting article which I recommend that you read yourself. It has the title: Stop Learning.
Two weeks ago I was invited to preach in a certain church and I started my sermon on Isaiah 58:1-12 with an illustration which I had heard from Rev John Thomas, a pastor at the Fish Hoek Baptist Church close to Cape Town in South Africa, who is doing absolutely amazing work in his community. The illustration goes that this man was visiting a restaurant, looking at the menu, discussing the ingredients of each dish, calculating the calories of each dish, considering which wine would best complement the dish, but never ordering any food. (In my sermon I elaborated on this illustration, making myself the subject of the story.) John calls this: “Menu Study!”
I then applied this illustration to the way in which many people see the church. They come to church to hear a good sermon. They attend cell groups to be fed spiritually. They attend Bible Studies to learn more about the Word. At home they are constantly reading spiritual books. Some even reach the point where they enroll in a course in Greek in order to understand Greek grammar. But a great number of our regular church goers (could it be the majority?) never step out in faith to do something for God. They are so busy doing Menu Study that they never get to eat the good food.
And this is why Jason’s post was so exciting to read. The theme of his post fits in nicely with the theme of my sermon. Church members, in general, do not need to be fed. They need to be led! They don’t need to read more spiritual books. They need to find a place where they can make a difference within the Kingdom of God. The sad thing is that more and more church members who are realising this, either leave the church and live out their Christianity outside the church (in my mind a bad thing to do) or they move over to another church where they can be challenged to make a difference. And the churches where the leaders have been satisfied to feed the flock and to give them more books to read, are left with those people who find the meaning in their spiritual life in just being fed.
Earlier this morning I had a long telephone conversation with a friend of mine who is busy organising an AIDS conference where he wants me to speak about possible ways in which the church can get involved in this pandemic. As we discussed the nitty-gritty of the conference, I asked him about the potential audience and what their attitude is towards AIDS. Although the audience comes from a very large community in South Africa which is especially hard-hit by the effects of AIDS, I was told that many of their pastors still want nothing to do with AIDS, believing that it is caused by immoral women. (Apparently the men have no blame in the spreading of this disease.)
Can it be possible for a pastor to find fulfilment in knowing, at the end of his or her career, that they had spent thirty or forty years merely feeding the flock? And will that pastor’s successor continue for another thirty or forty years, doing the same? I absolutely agree with Jason that church members need to be challenged to move out of the church building to do something for God.
John Thomas, at a recent conference, told the story of a certain man who arrived at the church just a few minutes before the end. As he went inside, he whispered to someone: “Is the service over?” To which the other person replied: “The sermon has been preached, but the service has yet to start!”

Saturday, January 24, 2009 - Posted by | AIDS, Church, Comfort Zone, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Theology, Vision

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