October 3, 2013
(The LORD says) "He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth ...." Isaiah 42:2-4a
Bob and Julie Clark were happy members of Faith Community Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
That is, they were happy until they received a letter from their congregation asking them to "participate in the life of the church" or worship elsewhere. Commenting about the letter, Julie said, "They basically called us freeloaders."
Her husband Bob says, "We were freeloaders."
Now some of you might be wondering why a mega-church would send out such letters.
The head pastor explained, "No more Mr. Nice Church. Providing free services indefinitely to complacent Christians is not our mission." He continues, "When your bottom line is saving souls, you get impatient with people who interfere with that goal."
Another staff member adds, "Before now, we made people feel comfortable and welcome, and tried to coax them to give a little something in return. That's changed. We're done being the community nanny."
And if you are curious about how the recipients reacted to the letter, Bob spoke for many men who were delighted that their church has some standards. He said, "A church that doesn't allow wussies -- that rocks." Indeed, he admires, and has become more active, since his congregation told him to take a hike.
Me, I have mixed feelings about the letter.
I can understand those who support the letter from Faith Community Church and are pointing to Revelation 3:14-22 where the Lord said He wasn't overly pleased with the church at Laodicea, which had become lukewarm in its response to the Gospel. And I can also see the point of those who disagree with the letter and refer to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42:3), who prophesied the Redeemer wouldn't snuff out a smoldering wick, that is, a very small and smoldering faith.
The reality is this: no such letter should ever need to be sent to those who have been saved by the Christ. Indeed, any person who has made a complete inventory of the sins he has committed must be totally terrified of the punishment that awaits him, the punishment which he cannot escape.
When that same individual sees that, in spite of those sins, the Lord sent His only Son to pay the penalty and take the punishment for him, he must be overwhelmed with eternal gratitude and unending thanks. When that moment comes, a Christian will, without prodding and pushing from anyone, do his best to live a life that shows His gladness for God's gracious gift of salvation.
And if a person does not have such a response, he needs to go back and do two things: take another look at who he was and who he has become because of the Savior's sacrifice.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, by the Savior's suffering, salvation has become available to all sinners. By the Holy Spirit's power and intervention that sacrifice has saved me. Forgive me for those times when I take these gifts for granted, and replace lukewarmness with a burning desire to thank and serve You. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries