by Rod D. Martin
July 8, 2015
Because we’re not calling them to anything greater than themselves.
Every mass movement in history has been built on a call to great personal sacrifice in pursuit of a vision of creating a better world. Communists, Nazis, the Founding Fathers, Henry V, Muhammad, organized labor, and even the leaders of the Great Awakenings: everyone has understood this – even coaches at half time – except for the modern church.
Why do God’s opponents understand this? Because Satan can only counterfeit what God has done. Why have God’s people understood this historically? Because this is exactly Christ’s call to His church: “take up your cross daily and follow Me.”
He wasn’t asking us to follow Him to a concert, or a group therapy session.
In periods of the church’s weakness, women always outnumber men in attendance. They believe piety is worthy in and of itself, and they act on that. But men disappear: to work, to the golf course, even to bed, because they don’t need (or at least adamantly do not want) a pastor-as-mother. They want, they crave, a leader.
Men pop out of the womb wanting to follow or become generals, firemen, astronauts: they are born believing sacrifice unto death is their innate calling, toward at least their families and country. The women who love them love this in them. Their heroes are figures like George S. Patton, like Gladiator’s Maximus, like Casablanca’s Rick.
The Sunday Morning Variety Hour (if that’s all they’re getting) just isn’t worth their time. And so to them, the Creator isn’t either.
For the Church Visible (or perhaps invisible, though not in the ecclesiological sense) to become the Church Triumphant in this time – and for the sake of the lost and dying right before us – pastors must again call men to be more than they are: not merely better individuals ala Dr. Phil, but striving toward an organized, realizable goal of community or nation-changing proportions, with importance and meaning worth dying for.
This is the point of taking up one’s cross daily: not the sacrifice itself, but the willingness to do so, for Christ and for those He came to save, and the inspiration and motivation that comes from sharing a vision worthy of such sacrifice. Men respond to this. Indeed, men rarely respond wholeheartedly to anything else.
The Good Shepherd understood His sheep and their needs all along.
Why don’t more pastors do this? Perhaps some see their callings as no more than a job, or think themselves less Peter and more Oprah. But I suspect it’s fundamentally two twin fears: 1. That they’ll issue a call and no one will respond (or that many people will respond, negatively); and 2. That even if they were able to launch something great, they couldn’t sustain it: it would die out, maybe in mere weeks, leaving them looking foolish.
But this is an issue of leadership. Leaders must always call their people to more. The risk of failure is 100% when we do nothing. And our power is from the Spirit, not ourselves.
At the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, President Ronnie Floyd called us to a new Great Awakening. There has rarely been a more worthy, timely, needful goal. It will take extraordinary prayer, and extraordinary action. Men must lead, boldly and sacrificially.
Our pulpits should ring out with this call. Our pastors should lead the visitation, exhortation and sacrifice required. And if pastors do awaken, and awaken their churches, God’s Army will rise, and He will heal this land.
This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.