Wes Roberts and I had a short email exchange regarding the late Stanley Grenz. This is another occassion where I know someone through their blog first before their book. The co-author Glenn Marshall pastors a congregation of about ninety members (in the past I’d probably pick up a book by one who pastors maybe 9000 members – obviously something has changed in me *grin*).
I must admit the red cover caught my attention … but then it was the introduction that drew me in. Especially the following:
“Consider this question: Who was the “successful” prophet — Haggai or Jeremiah?” My gut reaction went Jeremiah … maybe because he has a longer prophetic book under his name, maybe because he’s considered the “weeping prophet”, … maybe … then the next line went on, “Before you answer, think about your definition of success. How would you want your own success defined?” Oppss …. then our wise guides carry on and sets the tone of the book:
“At first glance, Haggai seems more successful. But why? People listened to Haggai. He built coalitions. The temple was rebuilt under his ministry. He got things done.
Now, think about Jeremiah’s “success,” or lacl thereof. During his ministry Judah collapsed and went into exile. When Jeremiah spoke God’s Word, people refused to obey. He was threatened and imprisoned — even left in a cistern to die. All this happened even though he remained faithful to the Lord.
Jeremiah spoke the truth at a time when it wasn’t wanted or respected. he opposed and confronted the popular false prophets of his day. H epersevered in faithful ministry under demanding circumstances, dealing mainly with obstinate people. So was he a success or a failure?”
As I reflect again the past 5 years of having a breath of new life serving in Bangsar Lutheran Church (we’re celebrating our anniversary this Saturday!) and various opportunities I believe God has opened up for me, it may be premature to assess myself – but it’s good to pause and consider where I’m at and where next … maybe the gut reaction answer “Jeremiah” was God’s way to encourage me … because the authors use him to frame some questions (they don’t put down Haggai by the way but affirm both callings as valid) but here’s there focus:
“If you feel more like Jeremiah, consider these three questions.
First, how do you determine success?
… Second, can Jeremah’s ministrys be a model of success?
… Third, is it possible that smaller is okay?
The next few paragraphs are gems … and timely (even for the coming Lutheran convention and elections!) … and resonates with me … and serves as God’s voice calling me deeper and further ….
“As with Jeremiah’s ministry, struggle provides the canvas for us to tell God’s story honestly and authentically. what our culture needs above all else is a genuine witness to the Lord Jesus Christ that’s in tune with the times.
The people of oour commuities need to be able to look at our churches and see a model of what it means to live under God’s reign. Our communities of faith need to demonstrate a clear alternative to power structures of the world.
Jeremiah serves as an example of this type of demonstration. Against great odds, he stood against the tide of unbelief and remained faithful to his Lord. His story offers us the opportunity to see what authentic ministry is. It gives us the perspective to say to the people of his world that while they find strength in numbers, we find strength in the Lord. While they find power in money, celebrity, or position, we find power in the Holy Spirit.
We need to show the world — which often seeks pleasure apart from God — that we’re willing to suffer and sacrifice for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. As a pastor, to serve in the world as Jeremiah did is not insignificant. It’s a great and holy privilege.”
I’m comforted and challenged at the same time …