Theologian, writer, great Bible preacher – phrases that describe the late John Stott. Jeff Loach lamented his recent passing by stating
“We lack ‘elder statesmen’ in the church … I sometimes wonder if theology has taken a back seat to pragmatism.”
It is true I think. Go to most professional ministry conferences these days and the theme is driven by the questions – what works? how can we do it better? is your church successful? If not openly expressed, it is right there percolating under the surface of our humble and reserved ministry egos. I mean, if our preaching series must be pragmatic so must our ministry training.
Transition to Acts chapters 6 & 7. Stephen could indeed be judged a roaring success – both personally and professionally. Tweet this evidence! Is this not success which should be celebrated?
* he was one of only seven elected to ministry at a time when the church was desperate for some additional leadership
* he was able to showcase God’s power with great signs and wonders
* his eloquence in a public sermon, though it brought about an opposite reaction, rivalled the Apostle Peter – perhaps even more reasoned and logical, like Paul who would take the stage after him
But perhaps we should measure success with a different measuring stick. How about a new paradigm, less pragmatic? Try looking a success through a more mature spiritually sensitive lens and you might note :
* Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel!
* Stephen saw an open heaven, saw the glory of God, saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!
* Stephen had the courage and charcter, even while the stoning took place, to mirror the last words of Jesus!
Spiritual substance and excellence is sometimes more difficult to resgister on the success meter. It certainly seems at first glance less worthy of jumboscreen fireworks. It is less pragmatic, but not necessarily less observable. Yet we get drawn into the pragmatic paradigm so frequently, so easily, so foolishly.
My quest, which I renew publically, is to get pumped up about seeing and reflecting in my countenance and my words, my Lord’s glory; and to catch a glimpse of heaven where Jesus stands to advocate for me, to welcome me. At least that’s my vow until I attend my next ministry conference when I will most assuredly and no doubt enthusiastically join ranks with my colleagues to do this thing we call church even better. YES!