Your Middle Name

April 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

What is your middle name? When did you most frequently hear this name when being addressed, usually by your mother? What was the decibel level she achieved when calling you? Do you remember the knot in your gut when you heard this? And the ultimate indignity – – ‘wait till your father gets home’!!

By now, brilliant as you are, you have figured out the paradigm I am using. You heard your middle name when you were in BIG trouble. Every resident of the county could hear your mother calling you. Almost always at this juncture, there was no redemption, only judgment and the corresponding consequence(s).

Several weeks ago a report titled the America Religious Involvement Survey was published. The data in this report provides a decadal assessment of the general health/condition of the church in America viewed from a metric that focused on numbers. There is decline on virtually all fronts. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. David Olsen’s book, published in February 2008, documents this decline in precise and accurate detail (The American Church in Crisis, Zondervan).

This past week, News Week published a synopsis of this report. The report includes portions of a conversation with Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Mohler reads well and widely. He is certainly one of the most competent spokespersons on Christian culture in the evangelical world. Read thoughtfully and prayerfully his comments.

A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us… The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of American culture of the last millenium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture…. Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society.

Notice the verb tense – – “has/have been”. This is not a tsunami that is coming. We are already swimming in the flood. This is now. The luxury of casual analysis is long past. The warnings have been posted for decades. Those of us who stood on the wall and sounded the trumpet of alarm have been viewed as twits (not tweets on Twitter, but ‘twits’) as in whacko alarmist. The Old Testament Prophets were ignored with impunity. The results are recorded in the pages of our OT.

My case is irrefutable. The evangelical church in America is suffering a decline of unprecedented dimensions for our nation. The question now is ‘what is required if we expect our God to reverse this precipitous slide to oblivion’? There are no quick fixes, no simple program(s) applied with formulaic arrogance that will solve this mess (cf. 1 Sam. 15:23 concerning arrogance). At the very least, there must be:

1.  Courage – This is not bravado. It is not reckless or presumptive. Biblical courage is a commodity given by God in His grace and mercy. He delights to bless those with a humble and contrite spirit, those who tremble at his word (Isa. 63:2). Courage includes tenacity for the long haul. We did not arrive at this juncture overnight and we will not be swiftly removed from the devastation caused by abandoning the Authority of Scripture and embracing the culture. Courage is ministry grounded in passionate, accurate and compassionate exegesis. It is Integrated Theology. We must always ask the ‘So What?’ question of application in context. Now that we know what God’s word is saying, what must we do?

2.  Leadership – Leadership is not a title. It is not a position. It is not political power. Leadership is the capacity to inform, challenge and resource people to pursue a path that honors God and is suited to the ministry context in which those people serve. It looks different in each setting even though there are many common dimensions that apply in every circumstance. It is always the initiative of an individual. If Moses had a committee, Israel would still be in Egypt. Leadership sets direction and captures God’s clear purpose. It is NOT a ‘Lone Ranger’ activity. Leadership builds a Team of people who embrace the purpose and direction and all together pursue the objectives essential to see the gospel rooted in the lives of people and guiding their every endeavor in life. Leadership effectiveness is measured by the Transformation of God’s people into the Image of Christ.

3. Action – The Paralysis of Analysis. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the asphalt. This is where most give up. We do not need more studies. We do not need more reports. We need action, systematic bold action that is focused on honoring what God has called us to do. We are called to MAKE DISCIPLES, not converts. When ‘stadium evangelism’ became a substitute for the difficult, messy and costly endeavor of making disciples, we stepped on the slippery slope and have been sliding ever since. The church boasts of the number of baptisms each year. A year later most of those people who entered the waters cannot even be found let alone measure their Transformation into the image of Christ. Set specific objectives, monitor them each month with total integrity and honesty, and PRAY without ceasing. God honors those who honor Him. He is close to those who are close to Him.

Well, the Father is not coming home at the end of the day – BUT – He is going to send His Son, perhaps very soon. Are you prepared to give an account for your efforts as a Shepherd (Heb. 13:17)? Do you hear the call? Do you hear your “Middle Name”? It is not your mother calling, it is Christ Who is LORD and Head of the church.

We are clearly ‘in BIG trouble’. The consequences of our disobedience are upon us. We are at a crucial moment in our spiritual history as a nation. Will you STOP the ‘numbers racket’ = how many, how much, how often and focus on Transformation? Will you find Courage, exercise Leadership, and ACT? You will either continue to be part of the problem, or, you will repent and become part of the glorious Reformation that only our God can produce. He will use YOU. Surrender – Confess – Repent – ACT!


One Response to “Your Middle Name”
  1. Mickey Park says:

    Tom…been exercised over the past years of Christian energy wasted on political processes, believing right politicians will preserve our Judeao-Christian heritage. How wrong we were. You are rigfht, the call is to repentence, humility before the Lord, and a walk with Him in the world unmistakenly declaring His righteousness. No wonder our world has rejected cultural Christianity.