January 1

Affirming Certainties in a World of Fading Dreams

Recently the pastor of Mars Hill Church, one of Michigan’s largest megachurches, announced he will be stepping down from the pastorate.  The previous and founding pastor of the church made national news for his resignation for blatant apostasy.  The current pastor said that “being a pastor is not really who I am.” 


There is no problem with that if someone feels his gifts and calling are elsewhere.  Better to make a change than to stay in a place not of God’s choosing.  But what is troubling are other comments this pastor has made, saying he is “not drawn to the Orthodox,” and that he doesn’t know “what we mean by God anymore?” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/rob-bell-pastor-kent-dobson-steps-down-mars-hill-being-pastor-not-who-i-am-151102/.)


The word orthodox simply means “right opinion” or “right belief.”  It refers to an established standard of truth that Christians affirm as being what the Bible actually teaches, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3.  This pastor’s father and grandfather were pastors and his father was known as a very influential preacher of the orthodox faith of the Bible, even having a study center at Grand Rapids Seminary named in his honor.  Now some of the language that his son is using as he departs from the ministry is sounding eerily similar to the founding pastor who has abandoned biblical Christianity altogether.  Surely he knows the phrases he uses raise big questions about where he is heading biblically and theologically in light of where the first pastor ended up.


I can only guess at what has caused all of this doubt.  Many have said it is harder today to be a pastor than ever before because of all the changes in American society.  I remember a professor once saying that “many of the things that used to be nailed down have now come loose.”  Some Christians, in an attempt to deal with the new realities, lose their confidence that the orthodox interpretation of the Bible really has it right.  Maybe that is what is going on with this pastor; I don’t know.


What encourages me to remain true to the Bible despite disappointment is the perspective of Evangelist Billy Graham.  Interviewed by Diane Sawyer, she recounted his accomplishments through 50 years of preaching to over 120 million people face to face around the world. She then asked the world-renowned evangelist if he was pleased with his “success.” His answer startled her and surprised the vast TV audience.  He replied, “I don’t think of myself as successful at all.  I feel like a failure.” Sawyer sought clarity so she asked, “Did you think you could change the world?” Dr. Graham softly responded, “I thought maybe, after a lifetime of preaching.  But the world is worse today than when I began my ministry.”


That interview with Dr. Graham was 20 years ago.  Now approaching 100-yrs-old he has just released a new book about heaven and his certain expectation of going there according to the Bible.  His world of fading dreams has not lessened His conviction that God’s Word remains true and reliable and will not fail.  Reflecting on Sawyer’s interview with Graham 20 years later, Pastor Raymond McHenry counsels us, “Ministry for all Christians, regardless of their calling, is quite challenging and often discouraging.  Nonetheless, we must obediently persevere, as did Billy Graham, and follow his example of expectant faith.”  In the New Year some may capitulate to cultural pressures; how much better to reaffirm the certainties that we believe and encourage others by our steadfast faith that God and His Word are still worthy of our trust.


Your friend, seeking to remain true, Pastor Brian (:-}).