“If you’ve been burned, here’s what I’ve learned: the Lord’s not the one to blame.” Keith Green
These words have been on my mind quite a bit lately. Over the past 15 years of music ministry I have experienced everything from punk music festivals to the most conservative of churches, rehab centers and homeless shelters to prosperity preaching mega churches. I’ve learned so much. God has used every experience to teach me more about Himself. My prayer from the beginning was, “don’t send me if you won’t be with me” and “teach me your ways so that I may know you” (Exodus 33). He’s been faithful to answer that prayer. He’s never let me, even for a minute, forget that I need HIM. He alone can empower someone to make a difference in the world.
I’ve learned that Micah 6:8 really does sum up what life and ministry is all about: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” I’ve discovered that my purpose extends far beyond “music” or “ministry.” (Actually, those things in and of themselves bring no fulfillment because they have no power to change or to heal if God Himself is not animating every part of them.) God has called me to a life of justice, love, mercy, and humility—in other words, He has called me to walk according to HIS nature and not my own will. Above and beyond anything else He’s called me to be a Christian.
We, especially those in ministry, have turned so many away from the gospel by not living according to what we say we believe. Some of us have even created our own theologies to make us and others comfortable conforming to the world instead of conforming to Christ. What happened to the message of transformation and life and light that we used to share so passionately? Do we still believe it? If so, why aren’t we pursuing it? Maybe we’re embarrassed or a bit jaded from seeing so few actually live out the message of the cross so we have decided to ignore that part of Christianity. Maybe we’ve been a bit “burned” or hurt.
My heart aches to see even some of the strongest Christians I know and love faltering in the fight. Maybe the world is getting darker or I’m just getting older and am finally seeing things the way they’ve always been, but we as a church seem to be losing the power we need not only to impact the world but to survive as lights in it.
What can I do about it? Pray? Sing? Share? Maybe all three. But really, I simply must be a Christian. I must live what I believe. I must stay connected and dependent on the only One who can turn even the most difficult situations around and bring healing.
A few weeks ago I spent some time with someone who chose to completely walk away from Christianity because of horrible past experiences (and continues to stay away because he sees nothing but powerlessness in the Christian church). He wants nothing to do with the “Christian God.” To be honest, it’s hard to blame him when he makes some of his arguments. I understand where he is coming from and even empathize with him in some ways—he was badly hurt (shame on us!). But when I take a step back I remember something: regardless of his experience in organized Christian churches, God is not to blame.
Regardless of any circumstances or difficulty or how people in the church have hurt or deceived us, GOD is still faithful. Our life experiences do not in any way testify that God is not who He says He is; people’s poor representations of Him does not prove anything either. Even when we (or others) are not, God is still faithful. Even if a pastor or leader proves himself unworthy of the title or if a husband or a wife is unfaithful or has chosen to ignore God’s pattern for righteous living, God is still faithful. Even if we can’t meet our mortgage payments or if we lose our jobs, God is still faithful.
The apostles reminded the early Christians “through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” We may live in a place that is unfriendly to Him (or even attend a church that is unfriendly to Him) but that does not excuse US from being Christians. There are countless believers all over the world experiencing more hardship than most of us can even imagine but they are enduring because they know God is faithful.
Jesus knew what it was to suffer in every way. From physical and spiritual affliction to betrayal from even the most “godly” of his time. It is said that “he did not entrust Himself to any man because He knew what was in man.” He wasn’t a pessimist. He just knew that humans mess up. But that same Christ is our guide, our counselor, our “help in times of trouble.”
If we’ve been “burned” by life or by people, by the church or by what we thought to be God, the Lord is truly not the one to blame. Whatever we may go through, we don’t have an excuse to turn away from doing what we know to be right and obeying the one who set the perfect example.
That said, we who call ourselves Christians need to get serious about being connected (and staying connected) to Him if we are to make any lasting impact on anyone in this world. We need to stop living for ourselves and our own pleasures and comforts and remember that we are here for ONE reason: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. To be living examples of the living God. The world needs to see this. The youth in our churches DESPERATELY need to see this. And yes, my friends that means making decisions that may make us and others uncomfortable.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “I long to gather you . . . but you would not let me.” I am pretty sure that’s what He is saying now. “I want to work in your life. I want to make you into who you were meant to be and enable you to serve me and others with justice, faithfulness, mercy, and love. But you are not letting me.”
It’s time for all of us, ESPECIALLY those in ministry to remember that the most important thing we can do in life is simply live what we believe.