Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Not Better Methods

by Shawn Brace

About a year ago, I had the distinct privilege of taking a preaching class from Dwight Nelson while I was still in the seminary at Andrews University. The best preaching class I have ever taken, he had us read a small little book called, Power Through Prayer, by E. M. Bounds—that Methodist monster of prayer who died almost a hundred years ago. Something on the very first page jumped right out at me that has left a great impression, even to this day. With amazing poignancy, Bounds writes, “The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”[1]

Though written nearly a century ago, Bounds’ quote is as relevant today as it ever was. As we in the church get bogged down with methodology—whether a certain type of music is most effective in reaching the lost, or if Small Groups are the model that will finish the work—God’s greatest desire is to have a group of people who have been touched by His cross. He’s not looking for better methods, more clever marketing, or more efficient organizational structures—as helpful as these things may be. He’s looking for better men and women.

This can only happen when we, ourselves, experience Christ crucified in our daily lives. This can only happen when our conversations, our visiting, our preaching, are saturated with the message of Christ’s great condescension of agape love.

The concept is nothing new, of course. Long ago, another great warrior wrote to a flock he shepherded, saying, “For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2, NKJV). Paul tried different methods to reach the lost. He tried to use wisdom and philosophy when dealing with the Greeks on Mars Hill in Athens. But the methods were found wanting, and only the message of Christ’s cross proved to be fruitful.

That is why, in this magazine, we are focusing on message, rather than methods. We believe that when Christ and Him crucified is properly understood, when we comprehend “what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph 3:18, 10) then God will have His better men and women. He will have His better pastors—and God’s end-time message will spread like wildfire, no matter the method.

Another wise writer also caught this vision a century ago. With pen ablaze, the author, who grew up in this cold, lifeless region of the country, wrote, “I saw that when the message shall increase greatly in power, then the providence of God will open and prepare the way in the East for much more to be accomplished than can be at the present time.”[2] Obviously, what she saw long ago hasn’t happened yet. God is still waiting longingly for such a revival to take place. But it can become a reality through us—when the “message” increases greatly in power.

So I would invite you to see what she saw. I would invite you to determine to know nothing except for Jesus Christ and Him crucified. As that same author wrote, “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness.”[3] There is no need to look any further than Christ our righteousness. He is our everything. He is our all. In our personal lives, in our public ministry, let the message of Christ’s righteousness be the foundation of all that we do.

[1] E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), p. 9.

[2] Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 149, emphasis added.

[3] Ellen White, Review and Herald, Dec. 23, 1890.

1 comment:

Dingo said...

Oh joy - the message increasing while our self-made-improvement decreases! Really we must decrease - dying to self and Christ living in us if the message of the cross is to increase. For sure, when it is Christ living in us instead of self, we will be better men - or in my case - woman.