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Called to be faithful, not famous

Wenatchee the Hatchet pointed me this morning to a devotional post written by Jeff Bettger, who up until recently was Arts Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

It begins with a good meditation on Ephesians 5, where Paul says that works of darkness should be brought to light.

Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:8 – 14 (ESV)

Bettger then goes on to hint at practices going on at Mars Hill that he believes should be brought to light. More of a personal confessional than an accusation and calling to account, it still raises some serious issues. Some bits and pieces:

Having a mega church background for the last 16 years I have witnessed first hand the tyranny of injustice done in the name of God. Layoffs during Christmas, weeks after new children are born and first homes purchased. The use of tithe money to purchase books at retail cost in order to build a mans platform and make the NY times best seller lists. All with the name of God stamped on it, and self justified because the rest of the business world has those kinds of practices.

What I see Paul telling us here in this passage is to expose injustice, worldly thinking, business pragmatism, immorality… These shady mega church practices are all impure and covetous, and are hidden in the darkness by people calling themselves “Christian professionals” or pastors. They say that it would be unhelpful for the body to know such information. They say it would be gossip and if you haven’t experienced it directly but only heard second hand than it is hearsay and gossip to bring into the light. That is a lie from the pits of hell that gives justification to keep the truth hidden and the ones committing the injustice from true repentance.

We get so amped up on fighting sexual immorality we forget all that Paul is actually saying in this section of scripture. Any part of our life that needs to be hidden for whatever reason is not in the light, and should be exposed. Human politics and cunning are not an out-flowing of the Gospel but rather a system built by human hands for human ends.

Ouch.

So why am I posting this here? Partly because I have friends and family who are involved in Acts 29 churches and who I hope could at least become aware of some of the tactics that get used with the excuse that everybody’s doing it and that the ends justify the means.

But also because we all need to be keenly aware in our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own churches, how these attitudes can sneak in. We are called to be peaceable and humble, not defensive and self-justifying. To be faithful, not famous. To make disciples, not empires.

True Gospel success is demonstrated in the tender, repentant heart, not in the size of our Sunday congregation or the success of our latest book.

If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us, and His grace abounds to us. If we try to hide them and justify them in the name of building the church and spreading the Gospel, we are only deceiving ourselves and setting ourselves up for a bigger fall, whether that’s in a megachurch in Seattle or a little church in Iowa.

Pastor Jeff showed humility and leadership with yesterday’s post, and we should commend his humility and repentance as an example to be followed.

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