I don't know about you, but I am a passionate young man. I believe God has given me passion as a spiritual gift. I'm passionate about my family, preaching, the church and God's kingdom, sports, and so many other things. It seems like every new experience I have and every book I read gives me a bigger vision of the world. But the problem is that every well written book and impressive experience is difficult for me to critique. Everything makes a huge impression on me and my vision for the world.
This is hard for some of you to believe. Mom and dad, you probably wonder who is writing this post because this doesn't sound like the same senior in high school who argued over and over again about what was wrong with everything with your parenting, with the church, and everything else in the world. I once had an eye that found what was wrong with everything. I could debate anything from either side of every issue just for the cause of argument.
I can also remember that during my senior year in Bible class at Dallas Christian, I argued with the Baptists in the class every day about doctrinal issues. We would argue about "Once saved always saved," the necessity of baptism, and other "crucial" issues. It's amazing to think now of how off based that was. But fortunately God is in the process of changing me. I'm still very critical of myself and my own work, but I have dropped many debates and arguments with others because they seem so illogical and harmful to me now. But now I wonder if I have gone too far the other way.
Maybe I have just read great books with nothing wrong in them, but it seems to me that I accept and get excited about every book about the church that I read. Every new book gives me more ideas about the church I will one day lead.
During my sophomore year, I became passionate about unity in the church. I saw the problem with our division and God gave me a passion for seeing how churches can come together despite their diversity under the name of Jesus Christ. We must seek to bind broken ties and seek the unity that Christ prayed for us. What a vision for the church!
But then came a new passion and vision. During my junior year, I began reading books from the Gospel and Our Culture Network about the missional church. This became a passion. We need more churches who see mission not just as another facet of the church, but as its lifeblood and purpose. What a vision for the church!
This summer God has given me yet another passion and vision. I've already talked about The Church of Irresistible Influence. It has made an impact on my vision. Now I see a church that works not for the name on the outside of its building, but to further the name of God in the corner of the world that church is in. The church should not build walls, rather the church must build bridges to the world. What a vision for the church!
Which is right? What does God call the church to? How does a church seek to do all of these wonderful things? All of these books have made impressions on me.
I've also had experiences that have been hard to critique. This past Saturday night, I went to a service at Lakewood Church here in Houston where Joel Osteen preaches. This church is the biggest church in America. They just moved into the old Compaq center and they average about 30,000 in attendance a week. Lakewood and Joel have received a lot of criticism for many things and I had many questions about some of the church's theology and ideas. I went into the experience asking God to open my heart and to help me understand what He is doing there. The church made an impression on me and it was difficult for me to critique. (I'll talk more about this tomorrow.)
Now I am passionate about everything and more confused than ever about what God wants for the church. I see many good ideas and discuss them with people wherever I can, but I don't know what God wants. Every experience and book makes an impression on me that will stay with me throughout my life. What is worth being passionate about? What kind of vision is worth putting a passion behind?
I come into my last semester of undergrad influenced by many good things, but unsure of everything. I have grown so much. I want to seek discussion, not argument; unity, not legalism; love, not pharisaical truth; mission, not programs; and kingdom, not the small vision of just "doing church." But in all of these things there are so many more questions I have. Where does God want me? What is the purpose of the church? How do we help God as He builds and furthers his kingdom? How does theology impact practical ministry? How do we stay truthful yet relevant in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-denominational world? Basically, how can the most people's lives be changed to live into a relationship with Christ in this world? These are some of my many questions I hope grad school can help with, but I know at the end of my masters, there will be more questions I can't even conceive of now.
How do I, a young man that God has given vision and passion for the church, fulfill God's purpose for the future? Everything makes an impression on me, but not everything is beneficial.
God give me a vision for your church bigger than ever before. Maybe not bigger in numbers. Maybe not bigger in budget. Maybe not even bigger as I conceive it now. But grant me passion for things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and admirable. Shape me into the man you need for the future through whatever that takes. In Jesus' Name, Amen!