August 13, 2022
“What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have.”
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“What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and do not obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.” James 4:1-3
I have heard the arguments of those who propose we must change the “Image” of the Church-at-large, to keep up with the times. I have sat in the planning meetings of large ministries and heard many creative approaches, all designed to win people by aligning ministry with secular standards. All these efforts perceive that the battle over souls is one of marketing, finesse, and fashion. Here’s a sample argument:
“We’ve got to compel people without offending them, so we must create a non-threatening environment. If we come off preachy, we’ll turn people off with our message, so let’s focus more on topics & art and lay off rigid Bible teaching.”
To this end, a ministry environment emerges that puts forth God’s Word as a “Resource” instead of “The Source.” Concerning this approach to evangelism and discipleship, I ask, “How do we want people to respond, given we reached them with this approach?”
The response: “We hope they would respond by fully devoting their lives to Jesus, reading the Bible, praying, living in community with other believers, and passionately sharing their faith.”
If that is what we want people to become, then that’s how we must lead them. That’s who we should be, what we should model—speed of the leader, speed of the team.
The problem with mankind is internal. You cannot win internal battles by employing the tactics of external warfare. People may be entertained and impressed by a production, but it ministers mostly to the flesh. It may impress at the moment, but it doesn’t “change” someone long-term.
Furthermore, an over-fed flesh is a malnourished soul. It conditions the congregant to judge spiritual matters by how they feel, as opposed to being led by God’s Spirit to find joy in being uncomfortable for the sake of the Gospel. Eventually, someone else will devise a more clever approach, and all your sheep will follow a newer, hipper shepherd.
Only the Gospel reaches souls because only that has the power to reach us within. When the internal is ministered to, our desires and motivations change. A transformed heart asks and receives from the Lord because it has become molded to His revealed will by the power of His Spirit as we search His Word.