Recently in my “What’s Missing” post I talked about how we measure church success. Check out this post below for some additional thoughts on this.
Here We Go Again: Willow Creek and Pastoral Accountability
I wonder how Paul would write this portion of his letter to the Thessalonians today. Most of us, even those of us who are retired, live such frantic lives that we don’t know how to deal with quiet. Paul does not challenge us to pursue happiness. Instead, he challenges us to pursue a quiet life.
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
His first instruction to lead us in this direction is to avoid sexual immorality. This was very challenging for a group of first generation Christians who had been brought up in a culture where sex seemed to have no limits. Monogamy of any sort was rare, and sex was at the core of their worship practices. To commit to a marriage of one man and one woman for their lifetime was unheard of. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is growing more like the first century all the time. We’ve added technology to increase our access to sex and to enable us to pretend that nobody gets hurt when we pursue sexual virtual sexual content.
As the post I mentioned above notes, this is still a struggle within the church. The divorce rate statistics can be debated, but the truth is that the world around us doesn’t see Christ followers as distinctive in their sexual ethic. Once again, a very large congregation has been rocked by sexual scandal. The worst part of this scandal is that the cover-up has been going on for almost four years. It is important to note that small congregations and their leaders are not immune to what Paul warns us about. Anytime any of us determine that our pleasure is more important than God’s boundaries we are headed for trouble and people will get hurt. I don’t know what the ultimate impact of the Willow Creek situation will be on God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, many of us have witnessed the devastating impact of ignoring God’s clear instructions on this issue. Many people get hurt. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation are possible thanks to the grace of God. I pray that this will take place at Willow Creek.
With all that is going on in our world it is easy to miss the positive side of Paul’s instruction.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 NIV)
Love one another. Generously and compassionately, care for one another. Work to provide not only for yourself, but to have resources to share with those who are not able to provide for themselves. Don’t let yourself be driven by the fear of missing out. Seek a quiet life. To practice, I think I’ll finish a book today and enjoy watching the wildlife out the windows.
For my grandchildren:
Learn to work with your hands and enjoy quiet.