The Ministry No One Wants
I was going to entitle this piece, ‘the job no one wants,’ but that would have opened things up too wide. One thinks for example of those who clean out septic tanks for a living. But I am speaking here of a Christian job, or ministry, or calling. And I refer specifically to the prophetic voice, or the watchman on the wall type of ministry.
And of course the reason no one wants it is because not only is it the loneliest calling out there, but it is one which will often result in the most hatred, the most animosity, the most rejection, and the most opposition – not just from the world but from God’s people as well.
We know from Scripture and church history that the most maligned and most resisted people are those who seek to offer warnings and act as a watchman. Incredibly, God’s people always have despised and rejected such people. Jesus of course was the ultimate prophet of God, and we are told that this was exactly his fate. Indeed, it was predicted a half millennium beforehand by the prophet Isaiah:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:3)
The Messiah met the same fate from God’s people as did all the other prophets. And he often spoke about this himself, as in Luke 11:47-51:
Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
There can be no more lonely and miserable ministry than the prophet of God, or the watchman on the wall. Consider Jeremiah for example. He faithfully warned Israel decade after decade, only to be rejected, opposed and mistreated. Indeed, Yahweh had even promised him at the outset that the people would not listen to him (see Jer. 7:25-28).
And there is so much that we need to warn about. The issue of homosexuality is just one of these. The threat the homosexual lobby poses to faith, freedom and family is immeasurable. This is such a great threat that I have penned three books on this already, along with hundreds of articles.
Yet most times I feel that these words are falling on deaf ears. Most Christians don’t know and don’t care. And far too many of them actually get enraged at me for even daring to raise this issue. Go figure! Other voices have also sought to give warning, but they too have known rejection and opposition.
One brave trooper is Christian doctor David van Gend in Queensland. For daring to state the truth that children need a mother and father, he has faced a torrent of hate and abuse. The world has certainly reacted with furious rage. As he recently wrote:
To say a baby needs a mother would once have been considered a motherhood statement. Not now. If you are more “radical” and say “children have an equal right, wherever possible, to both a mum and a dad” and turn that into a 30 second TV ad, you will be banned by the government broadcaster, your personal Facebook with years of memories and pictures will be shut down without explanation and you risk being attacked by a columnist in the largest newspaper in Queensland.
David is paying the price for speaking truth into the public arena. Yet incredibly there are even Christians who are siding with the worldlings here, and are also attacking him for speaking out. Such is the sad state of the Christian church today.
A recent article in First Things by Rod Dreher speaks to all this as well. He notes how badly Christians are losing in the culture wars, and how “moralistic therapeutic deism” (MTD) has supplanted biblical Christianity: “Sociologist Christian Smith, who coined the term, said it is the ‘de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States.’ It is a vague, vapid approach to religion, one that can be summed up as: God exists, and he wants us to be nice to each other, and to be happy and successful.”
He discusses this in terms of the battles we face:
You may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is definitely interested in you. Christian Smith’s research leads us to the indisputable conclusion that for at least two generations, American Christianity has mounted no sustained, substantive challenge to the ongoing cultural revolution now blessed by MTD.
True, the more vigorous, engaged sectors of American Christianity – Evangelicals and orthodox Roman Catholics – produced more Republican voters, at least for a while, but that’s not the same thing as standing athwart the cultural revolution yelling, “Stop!” In fact, insofar as those Christian voters allowed Republican ideas about freedom and the primacy of the individual to dominate their thinking about the relationship of Christ to culture, they have been part of the problem.
Smith’s research reveals that our Christian institutions – churches, schools, colleges – have collaborated in the death of Christian culture in our country. I do not accept the easy blame-shifting to institutions alone, though. Too many Christian clerics and educators, within churches as well as church institutions, have told me how much resistance they get from parents when they try to teach a more vigorous, theologically substantive form of the faith.
If by “Christianity” we mean the philosophical and cultural framework setting the broad terms for engagement in American public life, Christianity is dead, and we Christians have killed it. We have allowed our children to be catechized by the culture and have produced an anesthetizing religion suited for little more than being a chaplaincy to the liberal individualistic order.
As Michael Hanby recognizes, gay marriage has been a watershed in this regard, revealing how far we have fallen from any kind of recognizable Christian orthodoxy about what it means to be a person. The South, unsurprisingly, is the only region where fewer than 50 percent of all those polled endorse same-sex marriage. This is not going to hold. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll revealed that 80 percent of young Americans believe in same-sex marriage.
Whether things hold or not remains to be seen. And the prophetic warnings are not just about issues like homosexuality. Thomas Sowell just wrote a piece comparing Churchill to Netanyahu. He writes:
When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on March 3rd, it was the third time he had done so. The only other person to address a joint session of Congress three times was the legendary British prime minister Winston Churchill.
The parallels between the two leaders do not end there. Both warned the world of mortal dangers that others ignored, in hopes that those dangers would go away. In the years leading up to World War II, Churchill tried to warn the British, and the democratic nations in general, of what a monstrous threat Hitler was.
Despite Churchill’s legendary status today, he was not merely ignored but ridiculed at the time, when he was repeatedly warning in vain. Knowing that his warnings provoked only mocking laughter in some quarters, even among some members of his own party, he said on March 14, 1938 in the House of Commons, “Laugh but listen.” Just two years later, with Hitler’s planes bombing London, night after night, the laughter was gone.
While Russia and China increased the share of their national output that went to military spending in 2014, the United States reduced its share. Churchill deplored the “inexhaustible gullibility” of disarmament advocates in 1932. That gullibility is still not exhausted in 2015.
“Not one of the lessons of the past has been learned, not one of them has been applied, and the situation is incomparably more dangerous,” Churchill said in 1934. And every one of those words is more urgently true today, in a nuclear age.
The warnings of people like Churchill and Netanyahu are largely falling on deaf ears, just as did the warnings of the prophets and Jesus. And those of us issuing warnings today also feel like we are talking to brick walls. Yet we must continue the warnings nevertheless.
We must ignore the hate, the abuse, the indifference, and the apathy and keep speaking out. And never forget the words given by Yahweh to Ezekiel:
Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’ (Ez. 33:2-6)
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