The Church faces a lot of challenges with the changes technology is making to our society. New generations have been taught values that run contrary to scripture. Many believe this presents a problem they have to fix in their own might and wisdom.
I end up cringing at most of these solutions. Some of these efforts, while well-intentioned, come off as fake and cheesy because a church or ministry is doing something that’s so unnatural, that’s so obviously doesn’t fit who they are, that it feels fake and schmaltzy. Then, we have people who ignore the parts of the scripture that are unpopular in today’s culture and thus compromise the truth. And often, in both cases, the people offering the solutions will be telling Christians what they ought to do but haven’t actually succeeded in reaching these groups themselves.
This week, I read in Acts 9 the story of Saul of Tarsus’ encounter with Christ that led to Saul becoming Paul the Apostle. This raised questions for me. What if the people who hold the solution to the church’s most vexing challenges aren’t in the Church right now? Maybe, the people who God will ultimately use to address the needs that vex so many in church leadership are far from God right at this very moment.
Certainly, Saul, the persecutor of the Church, was far from God. No one in the Early Church would view Saul as a solution to anything, but rather as just another big problem. There were a probably quite a few who’d lost relatives to his fanatical persecution who would have shed no tears if Saul had died.
Yet God had chosen Saul for a mission many would not have expected: “the Pharisee of Pharisees” who would have eschewed contact with gentiles became the Apostle to the gentiles. It seems like a horrible idea. Yet God knew what he was doing.
As a man who learned at the feet of Gamaliel, Paul had honed a fine intellect which would be key to reaching much of the Gentile world. His background as a Pharisee gave him a great understanding of scripture and tradition. At the same time, his impeccable Jewish credentials made him the perfect opponent of the Judaizers who threatened to subvert the early Christian Church.
Throughout history, God has done this. He has taken persecutors and skeptics and raised them up to be the leaders and thinkers of the Church. It’s true not only of Paul, but of more modern figures like C.S. Lewis, an atheist who became the greatest modern apologist for the Christian Church, or Chuck Colson, a ruthless take-no-prisoner political operative who has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world through founding Prison Fellowship.
Time and time again, even with churches full of people, God has reached out, drawn people out of the world and to himself and raised them up for the great purposes he’s intended and often are truer to God and his word than many who were raised within the Church’s walls and also more effective at reaching those outside the church. God has provided in this way time and time again throughout history.
The most important thing for Christians to do is to be faithful to what God has called them to do. Any new steps or new approaches will only succeed if they are ordered by the Lord. Let’s remain faithful to who God has called us to be, and let’s rest safe in the knowledge that God hasn’t called us to solve every problem. God has called us to be faithful to do what he’s called us to do.
Mind you, we are all called to show love and kindness. The story of Paul encourages me to look at those who are far from God differently. It’s often said we should not judge people because we don’t know where they’ve been (i.e. what they have suffered that led to this behavior) but Paul’s story shows that we don’t know where people are going. The terrorist, the political extremist, the bigot, the sexually immoral person, and the con man may be one encounter with God away from being transformed as Paul was. They may be the person who helps bring your lost relatives to Christ or who ends up writing words that will save you from losing heart years down the road.
The solution to the problems the church faces is not to be clever and inventive but humble, loving, and obedient. Let’s pray God will raise up those people who will have the wisdom and the ability to address the problems we face at this time as he has done throughout the history of the Church.
[bctt tweet=”Why I Choose Faithfulness: Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Apostle by God’s power, not by cheesy gimmicks or compromising on the truth. By @Idahoguy” username=”@andreajgraham”]