Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Question from God

“…Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor. And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:57-58, NIV).

The Greek word translated “honor” is a negative particle meaning unhonored or positively dishonored. It is translated despised, without honor, or less honorable. Since Jesus experienced this, surely the rest of us will also experience it, if we are walking in obedience to God.

My first real experience with dishonor came when I resigned a near eight-hundred member church to do a church plant. A pastor told me that I would suffer a loss of prestige. He was right! Pastors I considered my friends and colleagues were no longer available for lunch, I was no longer invited to “think tanks” and other meetings within the denomination, and I quickly became isolated from my clergy colleagues. I again experienced this from my denomination four years ago when I decided to accept a part-time staff position in an African-American church of a slightly different denomination (I am Southern Baptist and the church is General Baptist). This move to bridge racial mistrust and build racial harmony caused my dear denomination to even freeze my retirement account. They are holding onto the money until I retire, but will not even let me write a personal check to add to my retirement account; punishment for betraying my denomination, even if I am walking in obedience to God.

Ministries can also be without “honor.” I see this as President of a nondenominational Seminary weekly. Even though we are solid theologically and hold the beliefs of most area churches, we are often shunned because we are not “denominational.” Small-minded Christians have a problem reaching across denominational lines to do Kingdom work. I tell you my friends, that God’s Pastors will give an account to God for their failure to reach across denominational, cultural, and racial lines to do Kingdom work. As for me, I decided years ago to serve Christ in the corner of the “vineyard” assigned to me by the Master Viticulturist and not worry about the honor of humankind. I look around me in the Charlotte metropolitan area and I see many ministries that are doing Kingdom work and they deserve our respect, honor, and donations.

I bring people to the Seminary and show them around, introduce them to students and faculty, and ask them two questions. The first question is “Do you believe God is at work here?” I have never had a pastor or laity to tell me that they did not believe God was at work in New Life Theological Seminary. I agree, I see God working every day, building bridges of trust among various races and cultures, and preparing leaders that shape the world. The second question I ask is, “Knowing that God is at work here, and having seen and experienced it firsthand, will you help support the mission and purpose of this ministry and lead your church to do the same?” It is amazing the responses I get.

So today, as I sip my healthy cup of coffee, with God, He wants me to ask you this one question, “How can you know where I am working and not join me in the Kingdom work I am doing?”

1 comment:

MZG said...

I admire the work. I have seen first hand the personal sacrifice. I still believe that God is not a denomination. Denominations are the business of religion. It is a business and like any business they want to grow and profit. Businesses do not help the competitor. I believe God would be disappointed to see the hurt done by the business of religion.