Just recently, a well known and controversial evangelist was in the news for shameful reasons. As far as I know, this is at least the third go-around of immorality with this particular brother. I don’t mention this because I want to wade into the now raging debate over the relevant topics such as his past so-called restorations, or the question of can a minister of God be truly restored to ministry after adultery. Rather I want to say I’m amazed by how much attention and energy is being poured into this debacle by a whole lot of people who are neither part of the problem, or part of the possible restoration.
Let me clarify that statement. I do believe it is a severe problem when a minister falls into immorality. God sees it as a critical issue whenever any of His children end up in bondage to destructive behavior- especially so when that behavior hurts and abuses others. As well, I do believe that to the degree of visibility one is given in the church, there needs to be an equivalent response and, hopefully, repentance.
My concern here, however, is the underlying and ongoing problem of Christians looking for a hero other than the champion of heaven- Jesus!
The timeless worship song ‘Be Thou My Vision’ may have been written as early as the sixth century by the Irish poet Dallan Forgaill. It was translated, slightly modified, and published by Eleanor Hull in 1912. Although I find the whole hymn to be quite stirring the first few lines say it all;
“Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart
None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.
Be thou my meditation by day and night.
May it be thou that I behold even in my sleep”.
Unpacking the Great Mystery
Of the several mysteries, the Apostle Paul referred to the greatest is ‘the mystery of Christ in us’. Colossians 1.27 reads “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This mystery which the Old Covenant prophets caught glimpses of is the thoroughly unfathomable love of God that Jesus would give His sinless life on a cross of shame for us and cleanse us so thoroughly of our sins that He now dwells, by His Spirit, in everyone who surrenders their lives to Him. This Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father, is now and forever the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the champion of heaven and therefore, the champion of the Kingdom of God. Amazingly, this Jesus is the Immanuel- God with us!
Our obedience, fascination, and focus on Him should mirror the cry of Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann as they set sail from Europe, in 1732 for St. Thomas Island, on the other side of the world. They perilously journeyed to evangelize the West African slaves. They had to sell themselves to be indentured slaves for seven years to pay their passage. As they set sail from the dock in Europe, their friends and families were in tears due to not knowing if they would ever see the two young men again. In response to those tears, they cried out, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
They were so singularly focused on the marvel of Christ in us and with us that they viewed their sacrifices as a small thing. Dober and Nitschmann had only one hero and champion. They were more than willing to lay down their lives for their champion! Could it be that the contemporary church needs to further ‘unpack’ this fantastic mystery of Christ in us, and we in Him?
Phenomena, or a Phenomenal Savior?
The Bible tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. Hopefully, as we give recognition to those who God appoints to preach Christ and proclaim His Kingdom we are aware that we are honoring God’s hand on the individual’s life and their faithfulness in serving Him. All too often, however, it seems we go beyond that and elevate a minister to a pedestal of almost blind adulation that only God, Himself, should occupy.
By ‘adulation’ I do not mean demonstrative displays of affection, but somewhat blind faith and support- especially in tossing out Biblical discernment and accountability. The Biblical warning to avoid the influence of those who build platforms on visions and over the top claims of angelic revelation is all too often ignored. This fascination often manifests as misguided financial support when the sensationalism is used manipulatively. We find ourselves too often focused more on phenomena rather than a phenomenal savior!
God certainly does give visions and dreams (Joel 2.28), and He certainly does, at times, move powerfully among us by His angelic servants (Acts 12.6-8). His reason in doing so, however, is always to bring about a greater revelation of Jesus and His kingdom, never to promote fascination with the messenger. As the angel stated to John, the Revelator, when he fell down before him “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”.
The stealth factor of the kingdom!
In contrast to media-savvy preachers who attempt to sensationalize their ministries God so often works powerfully under the radar. Far from the self-promoting, overly spiritualized platforms are the countless unknown works the Holy Spirit does through ordinary people in ordinary life. Usually, they are neither noted or appreciated, (except in heaven), due to being mainly under the radar of social media. That is primarily how the Kingdom of God moves- in the everyday lives of everyday men and women who are sold out for God.
Jesus, seemingly, placed a value on this stealth factor of the kingdom. In the gospel of Mark, when Jesus healed the leper, He instructed the man to “say nothing to anyone.” In at least two of his parables, found in Matthew 13, Jesus commented on the value of hiddenness, or small, obscure beginnings.
Secular media blogs and online news sites typically are filled with current events of tragedy and horror. As well, often the news items relating to Christianity one does run across on many of these sites tend to portray a lopsided view of Christianity. Such as when a well known Christian figure walks away from their faith or begins to champion a popular stance on moral issues rather than a Biblical one.
I have found, however, that there are always everyday men and women in the body of Christ who demonstrate in surprising ways the love and power of Christ. Partially this is because I meet with so many pastors globally who are more aware of Kingdom endeavors done through the lives of their congregants.
Recently I was asked to lead the memorial service for a woman in my home church. My wife had gotten to know somewhat the woman, but I had never met nor heard of her. As I met with her son, sister, and a close friend of many years, I was blown away by the testimony of how this woman lived her life. She continually extended the love of Christ and the Kingdom of God over and over again in important life-changing ways. Her name was Doreen.
For many years, Doreen and her husband served runaway kids by helping out on a crisis hotline. Despite rules to the contrary, they would often give out their own phone number to the kids they counseled. One such individual, by the name of Shannon, came from a background of horrific abuse. Doreen became a surrogate mother to Shannon, and they developed strong ties that lasted the rest of Shannon’s life. Ultimately Shannon gave her life to Christ. At one point as the relationship began to develop between Shannon, Doreen, and Doreen’s husband Shannon stated the only joy she had ever known was due to the love of Shannon and her husband.
Shannon’s story was not an isolated one. There ended up being many women, some of whom testified at the service, whom Shannon mothered and demonstrated the love of Christ to in numerous tangible ways. Her family and friends testified that Doreen daily prayed for opportunities to extend God’s love and compassion.
While the testimony of Doreen’s life is undoubtedly outstanding, I have found over the years countless stories and testimonies of unknown people who, like Doreen, daily seek first the Kingdom of God. I believe that it is going to take a few millenniums in heaven to begin to hear the staggering number of accounts of everyday saints who lived sacrificial lives that made a real difference. To a degree, however, due to the world’s cultural values infecting the church ‘everything counts in large amounts’- especially large amounts of Instagram followers!
San Diego, California, where we live is a haven for great Mexican food. Many restaurants have a ‘Taco Tuesday’ when you can get authentic tacos at an excellent price. This last Tuesday while at such a restaurant, we ran into a friend who works there. A while back, he achieved his small pilot’s license and purchased a plane. He informed us that this month, he is launching a ministry to fly rescued victims of sex trafficking to safe places where they cannot be followed or traced by their former captors. While this man is very gregarious and outgoing, he is someone most have never heard of, and he has no desire for notoriety. He, like Doreen, is simply captivated by the wonder of Jesus and seizing the Kingdom opportunities God calls him to.
The Apostle Paul wrote and taught on a wide variety of topics relating to kingdom living and church life. He taught on the primacy of love, on the correct use of spiritual gifts, on healthy leadership, marriage, and families. Not to mention penning the Book of Romans, which is the premier theological epistle of the New Testament.
Despite Paul covering such a wide array of topics he made a rather enigmatic statement to the church of Corinth; ‘I am determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Cor.2.2). That statement almost seems a denial of so much of his teaching and preaching. Likewise, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, he pleaded with them not to forsake their ‘one thing’ heart focus on Jesus. ‘I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ’ (2 Cor.11.3).
Could it be that the church today, some 2000 years later, needs to be reawakened to the value of ‘a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”? Could it be that like the church prior to the two great awakenings, that swept America over the last few hundred years, we, as well, need a fresh revelation of the wonder, majesty, and triumph of Jesus? Until He becomes the sole vision of our hearts and our best meditation by day and by night, we will continue to be captivated by less than heroic heroes!
Marc A. Dupont
September 6, 2019