To preachers: Either shine like an invitation to God’s light and love… or get out of the way #Mysoapbox

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The spirit of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them. For it is Christ Jesus the Lord whom we preach, not ourselves; we are your servants for his sake. God, who first ordered ‘light to shine in darkness’, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten [others] only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4 (Phillips)

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Derek Maul lives – and writes – in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Okay, friends; it doesn’t happen often but here it is. I’m not much of a soapbox writer but something rattled my cage this weekend and I have to make some noise about it or I am simply going to burst.

First, a little background. I am an enthusiastic follower of Jesus. I like to refer to myself as a “disciple” because the word Christian is too often hijacked and repurposed for so much that is political and nationalistic and in consequence people are rightly suspicious of Christianity. Additionally, for the past forty years I have lived out my commitment to Jesus in the Presbyterian Church, and have grown to love this historic, faithful, steeped in marvelous history, constantly reforming denomination.

Like all of the traditional mainline churches, Presbyterians have struggled to enter the modern era effectively. Yet the church remains a vibrant witness to Jesus, rooted in the authority of scripture, open to the leading of God’s Spirit, and committed to the Gospel. A certain amount of reinvention has been inevitable, and it hasn’t always been easy.

Now to the soapbox:

Here’s what got me going this morning! I heard an eyewitness account of a minister standing in front of his congregation one Sunday morning. “The reason our numbers here are declining,” the preacher said, “is that the Presbyterian Church is dying.”

What did you say? This is the Church of Jesus Christ we’re talking about! This is the good news of the Gospel! This is the message that has been transforming lives and energizing communities for two thousand years!

I don’t care what part of town a church is in, how challenging the demographics, how many people are moving because the jobs have gone elsewhere, what local issues you are dealing with, or even how bad your preaching might be… you are a minister of the Gospel of light and love! You stand in the position of offering broken people good news! You can introduce hurting people to Jesus. The faith community you lead can be a place defined by healing, reconciliation, encouragement, and hope. “The whole world will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “because they will see the beautiful way that you love one another” (John 13:35).

Need I say more?

Rebekah and I have been privileged to serve three congregations since she was ordained into the Gospel Ministry as a Minister of Word and Sacrament (Teaching Elder) in 1982. We have never seen any evidence that The Church is dying. In fact, we have witnessed nothing but vibrant life, passion for Jesus, growth both numerical and spiritual, healing, new direction, and promise (Trinity in Pensacola, First in Brandon, now here in Wake Forest).

Not exactly easy!

No, it is not easy. People are people, after all. Of course, there are ups and downs, tragedies, issues with the potential to divide, disappointments, good people who get jobs in other parts of the country and leave, the pressures young families face to get caught up in commitments that leave no room for church, hurt feelings, misunderstandings… All these realities (and more) make leading a church a phenomenal challenge at the best of times. But…

But… the power of the gospel is so beautifully alive and powerfully true that there is nothing so compelling as the invitation to be filled up with God’s light and love to the extent that it spills over to others.

The Church is not dying! Some people may have turned the light out and forgotten how to shine, but such defeat isn’t the truth, it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t the gospel.

The Church is not dying! Some people may have turned the light out and forgotten how to shine, but such defeat isn’t the truth, it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t the gospel.

I will descend from my soapbox now and leave my readers with this from Corinthians: The spirit of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them. For it is Christ Jesus the Lord whom we preach, not ourselves; we are your servants for his sake. God, who first ordered ‘light to shine in darkness’, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten [others] only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4).

You shall know the truth, and because of your witness the truth will shine – DEREK

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