Points to Ponder: Is there a fire or just a lot of hot air?
Points to Ponder
Is there a fire or just a lot of hot air?
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
At Seminary, Dr. David Lowes Watson shared a true story about three Guatemalan Christians who had traveled to Iowa to visit the churches there. At the house where they stayed, the living room was equipped with an electric fireplace. It was the type that featured a flickering yellow-orange glow within the "real-looking" logs. The heat of course was artificially generated by electricity, giving the appearance that it was coming from the "glowing" logs in the fireplace. The Guatemalans were fascinated with this interesting fake fire with the hot air blower behind it.
After a few days of touring several American churches, their host asked the three Guatemalan men what they thought. One said that he had not been able to sleep all night. The experience had disturbed him deeply. To sum up his feelings about what he had experienced, he pointed to the fake fire in the fireplace and said that the American church is like that.
The apostle Paul warned in II Timothy 3:5 that in the last days, there would be those who have "a form of godliness but deny its power." In his letter to Titus, a young pastor, he warned of those who "profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." (Titus 1:16)
My professor, Dr. Watson, challenged our class with a sort of prophetic overview of church, how it is, and how it needs to be. He looked at our group of 30 or so candidates for ordained ministry and he made a prediction: Half of us, he said, would go on to have a good career as we settled into being pastors. Others of us, however, would go on to pay the price that must be paid to bring the church back in line with where it needs to be. That will take sacrifice. That will mean being in the minority, being misunderstood, and going against the flow of the way things have always been. As I heard Dr. Watson say this, I wondered in which group would I wind up.
Most of you reading this are not clergy; but many are members of local churches. You have an obligation as much as the pastors do to see to it that the body of Christ, His church, is truly the Body of Jesus Christ.
John Wesley said this over 200 years ago: "The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men (and women) in which the word of God is preached..." Notice that the congregation is charged with proclaiming the word just as much as the preacher in the pulpit. You proclaim it by believing it, giving your life to and for it, and leading your life by it. "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)
There is much to be done to improve it. But it begins with each one of us daring to obey what the Word of God calls us to do. It begins with pastors serving the Christ rather than the career, and fearing God more than the politics and the powers of the people over us. It also begins with the people in the pews opening their bibles and getting their own heart and house in order. Then it is their duty to hold their leaders (both clergy and laity) to the higher standard of scripture.
There is no fire (or at best a fake one) in the churches because the people are not on fire. The clergy get comfortable and the laity go to sleep because there is hot air blowing through their artificial fire. Warm, comfortable and cozy churches. No real fire. No real desire to start one.
The observation of those Guatemalan visitors should make us think and examine our own churches and our own ministries. Is there a real fire burning where you are, or is it just a warm glow with a lot of hot air keeping you comfortable and dead?
If your church closed tomorrow would the community be affected? Would anyone in the neighborhood notice? The hymn says, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going." How true. But it requires a lot of fuel to keep going and growing. You and I, if we truly are Christ's, are called to jump in and be willing to burn. If we are not on fire, He'll clear us away with the other ashes so that those who will carry the flame can stand where we would not, and be the light that a cold, lost world needs to see and find.
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.