Looking Back and Some Words of Intent
I don't know what happened where you live, but when I woke up Sunday morning, the sun was shining. Came up same as always.
I love that we sang "This is My Father's World" and "God of Wonders" at church last weekend. Much confusion and despair over such a relatively short speedbump could be avoided simply by acknowledging God's sovereignty. "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" was a brilliant selection, as well.
I attended the Saturday evening service with my family and then attended the 10:00 Sunday service by myself.
I am so very, very proud of my church right now. Lionel, Randy, Paul, and the rest of the worship team led us in a fantastic time of adoration and praise. And the place was not only packed, and the congregation was not merely compliant, the place was filled with hearts and wills ready and eager to worship.
I'm beginning to think that those who best understand this situation are those who have most experienced personal brokenness in their own lives. Until you've come to grips with the extent of your sin and the depth of your need, seeing them in the stark light of God's holiness -- until you've got nothing left but to desperately fling yourself onto Jesus -- I wonder if what happened could make the smallest bit of sense to you.
But even for those who find the events of last week confusing still, I'm thankful most of them are trusting that the right decision was made.
Sometimes it is not just that someone must repent of his or her sin. Sometimes people affected by that person have to repent of his or her corrupting influence. And like all repentance, the turning away can abruptly alter lives and perceptions.
I still hear the resounding gong of "Where's the forgiveness?," of "Where's the grace?"
People, this thing happened because of grace. This thing happened because the shepherds of BCC believe in and lead with the gospel. I hope that will become clearer as we talk more this week. But let it be said that forgiveness would not have necessarily changed the decision. Forgiveness, I expect, has already been granted. We'll talk about what forgiveness really is this week, also, but at the moment let's keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean the absence of justice and that forgiveness is only one side of the way to restoration.
We didn't get to this point in a week. So we're not going to "fix" this thing in a week. (That'd be the quickest, cleanest church conflict in American history, eh? ;-)
Now, if all you thought was on the line was great and powerful speaking and the people who love it (sounds like an Oprah episode), you probably think we can stop talking about it now. But if you knew hearts besides the Fosters have been on the line for quite some time, you'd realize we have some pastoring of our own to do.
I want to talk less and less about "names" this week, because I don't want to give the appearance of piling on. To some extent, mentioning the people involved in this conflict will be unavoidable, but I really do think this can be less about what certain people did and more about what BCC is and can be. I want to talk about some underlying church issues and guiding principles. I want to talk about Jesus and the kingdom.
What we have undergone is a cleansing of the temple of sorts. Did you know that the moneychangers in the temple were there out of necessity? People came from lots of places, from far away, to offer sacrifices, and so they had to exchange their local currency for the currency required for temple business. The moneychangers were there, in part, so that everyone could use the temple.
Jesus tore that place up, though, didn't he? The folks testifying to Dr. Foster's powerful gift are not lying. I've said more than once that his teaching is what initially attracted my wife and I to BCC, and it has been, for me, the highlight of the weekend service over the years. Let nobody say God has not used Dr. Foster's messages to touch hearts and win them for Jesus. God's Word will not return void. So don't let anybody say quality and substantive messages are unnecessary at our church.
Even necessities require reformation, especially when issues of integrity and spiritual orientation are underlying. The presence of the moneychangers may have been necessary for the temple system to work, but Jesus declared the place a den of thieves. Because the temple required revolution. It required reorienting around Him. And that is what I think BCC is doing right now. We swept stuff under the rug for too long just so things could keep working. Thank God the elders finally came to the place where they decided that if BCC was going to really teach the arrival of Jesus' kingdom, it ought to get serious about living that kingdom itself.
Ever wonder why Jesus said he came to bring a sword, not peace (Mt. 10:34)?
So, yeah, I'm going to talk hard this week. My intent is not to divide or upset or offend. I realize some things I say may irk or rile, but it's not at all what I mean to do. The path to the fruits of the Spirit -- you know, all those "nice" things like peace and patience and gentleness -- starts with self-crucifixion. And crucifixion is not nice.
Please bear with me. Some tables may get turned over in the process.