Thursday, June 2, 2011

On the Necessity of Sanity to Ministry (as explained by an orthodox rebel)

"It is not fitting that we should leave the Word of God to serve tables." Acts 6:2b

There is a certain balance and sanity to Christianity, mainly because there was a certain balance and sanity to Christ. He knew nothing of our frenzies and hysteria, where we are moved along by fashionable sentiments and good intentions. In recent years, we have seen such madness. An extra devious madness, because its good intentions make it seem so right. Certain individuals (with initial clean hearts and hands) have perceived in the Church an apparent inordinate focus on doctrine, a focus that has created a kind of doctrinal intellectualism: cold, passionless, compassionless, and dead. In short, the thinkers continue to think, the bible-thumpers continue to thump, and meanwhile the poor and needy and all-alone continue to suffer.

In response to this real (though not nearly as great as they supposed) crisis, the best efforts of those certain individuals have yielded opposite yet equal problems. The Church has turned from a cold-hearted academic hall to a vapid therapeutic hospital, where doctrinal clarity has been so far jettisoned out of all preaching and practice  that Christianity's very identity often dissolves into a vat of ambiguous religious goo. We provide medicine, education, and social justice for many, but the truth that Christ died to save sinners from the just wrath of God is lost in transmission, if it is in the transmission at all. In short, in attempting to fix a broken leg, they have shot themselves in the foot.

All these things (from cold-hearted dogmatism to bleeding-hearted secularism) are the direct result of our innate insanity, i.e., our constant, furious drives to make the whole of the Church about one thing, ministry, or virtue to the detriment of all else. We trumpet the primacy of urban areas, and thus the rural and suburban are forgotten. We cry for the oppression of the poor, and thus leave the rich and middle-classes to damnation. We merrily reupholster people's furniture and plant trees in their parks, and yet we leave their souls to die. In fleeing from a pit of vipers, we have fallen into a den of thieves.

In Acts 6, it is clear that the disciples knew nothing of our mass manias. When widows were truly being neglected, the disciples did not halt everything and make the whole of Christianity about them, but neither did they ignore them. Rather, they said it was "not fitting" for them to help them, because they already had a ministry: "the ministry of the Word" (vs. 4). Apparently, it was the duty and calling of others to serve the ministry of the tables, and these others were found and their ministry made a part of the whole.

That is the balance and subsequent sanity of Christianity, of Christ. Everyone and everything finds its place. The body is many members, with many different gifts meant for many different issues (Rom. 12:4-6a). As long as those members see Christ as the head (Eph. 4:15-16), then what does it matter what they have been given to do (John 21:21-22)? If they are preachers and the gospel is preached, then rejoice! If they are intellectuals and the gospel is preached, rejoice! If they are doctors or volunteers and the gospel is preached, rejoice! If they are artists and the gospel is preached, rejoice! The one needful thing is Christ, and as long as He is the one constant, everything else will find its place in Him.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011

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