Ambiguity may be the word of the day. Events have thrust our culture into times of deep uncertainty. Now much of what we have valued has been obscured by clouds of doubt. People of faith too. The Apostle Paul wrote it. "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8, ESV).
Mixed signals are the new engagement as churches and spiritual leaders around the nation respond to this new world. Where the church stands on a host of contemporary issues is one of the new guessing games. When we speak about life, marriage, racism, hatred, history, crime, immigration, and even loving our neighbor there seems to be no clear definition. Even the comments of our most eloquent and usually decisive leaders are annotated with asterisks, brackets, footnotes, and follow-ups to help clarify what we have said. Now people are leaving our churches every week with question marks. We all know our biblical mandate is to give them exclamation points. Clarity is needed.
And, that's a tough one this side of heaven. Once again it was the Apostle Paul who wrote about the difficulty of vision under the sun. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). Clarity is a problem in this fallen world. But, some things are clear. And, where the gospel intersects the world is one of them. It is truth. And, in it, there's no room for equivocation or wavering.
Five things should be declared loudly and boldly when we're bringing truth to this world. They are five things that pastors and spiritual leaders should announce as often as necessary to equip God's saints for works of service. They are---
1. Total and absolute confidence in God.
It's trendy to verbalize our ignorance about the mysteries of life and faith. In
doing so, however, we must not create doubt. When our son was murdered I
told the congregation that I did not know what was happening. But, I did
recite 1 Peter 5:6 as our promise from God and great certainty that he would
lift us in due time.
2. The authority and efficacy of God's Word.
We are facing complex times and issues. God's Word give's instruction and
guidance for every cultural or societal ill. We must always affirm our absolute
reliance on Scripture in framing our responses to any of them.
3. The New Testament church as God's vessel for bringing truth to this world.
My friend and mentor Reggie McNeal used to say that the church doesn't have
a mission, but the mission has a church. We must stop bad-mouthing other
churches and let God demonstrate who he will use to influence this world. At
the same time, when we see heresy in the church, we better call it out. There's
some good biblical guidance how this must be done.
4. Certainty about the outcome of God's redemptive plan.
Yes, we have thirty-eleven views of eschatology. Let's just all agree that in the
end, God is victorious and Jesus will rule. The final days should be announced
and preached with authority and regularity.
5. God's love for his people and their love for one another.
Love never fails. Let's be sure we know it's not our only response to an ungodly
world. But, in times of uncertainty, love will cover a multitude of sins, and bind
all virtue in perfect unity. Pastors and spiritual leaders, tell your people that you
love them often. You'll be touched by the confidence it builds in them.
Paul's letters are so rich. Most of our theology is the result of what he wrote to the churches. I love to read between the lines, and also to underscore his personal notes to them. In the letter to the Colossians, he wrote,
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the
same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to
declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may
make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2-4, ESV
Paul wanted to speak with clarity. He asked them to pray that he could. That's a good prayer request for those of us who preach and teach.
Speak it loud and clear.