We have turned to a God we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our need rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction-- not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace. Everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well.- David Wells, God in the Wasteland
Ed Stetzer comments:
And this is chiefly why our zeal for evangelism and the gospel has been undermined-- not because we don't care, not because we don't know what to do. We have simply replaced God's purpose for the world with our own purpose for the world. Even when we serve and help and give and share, we too often do it from a sense of obligation or a desire to impress. We have become a church steered by many different motivations but all too rarely by a singular desire to glorify God. Wells is right: "We will not be able to recover the vision and understanding of God's grandeur until we recover an understanding of ourselves as creatures who have been made to know such grandeur."
The message that emanates from the life and work of the apostle Paul, who was without argument the most productive missionary in the history of the church, is that we cannot hope to be either faithful or effective in kingdom service while being overly concerned about our own needs.
On two occasions he called himself an "ambassador." That's a pretty important job. Where I grew up in New York, those were the people who didn't have to pay parking tickets. They mattered. And Paul said, "We are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20). Yet the only other time we read him referring to himself by that title, he said he was an "ambassador in chains" (Eph. 6:20). Yes, he was an ambassador-- just as we are-- yet that ambassadorial role, representing King Jesus, did not mean Paul was without hardship.
No one survives the harsh, abusive treatment he endured without living for something bigger than himself. We might assume, then, Paul was simply that devoted to the people he was called to serve. His compassion for them, his selfless interest in them, his desire that they experience the fruit of the gospel-- all of these must have come together to make him an unstoppable force.
Well, yes, Paul was devoted to the churches and the people who comprised them. He possessed an uncommon zeal to see others convinced of gospel truth and redeemed through God's eternal mercy and grace. But it wasn't concern for his neighbors that ultimately motivated Paul to such extremes of spiritual exertion and sacrifice. It was Jesus' love that "compelled" him (2 Cor. 5:14). "To live is Christ," he said (Phil. 1:21).
And we, too-- if we wish to be faithful to our calling-- must live supremely for the glory of God and what he is doing through his Son in our world.
Books by Ed Stetzer:
- Planting Missional Churches
- Compelled: Living the Mission of God
- Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation
- Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations
- Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them
- Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too
- Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community
- Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)