Thursday, August 2, 2012
ministry paradigm for an "evangeli-phobic" culture
And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.
God called the prophet Ezekiel to a very difficult ministry. Even though the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, they were still not repentant. Ezekiel began his ministry just as the Jews were under Babylonian threat. The first thing that Babylon did was to replace the king in Jerusalem with a puppet ruler and then exile all the leading officials. Ezekiel was among this first wave of exiles since he was a priest.
That is why he has such a rough ministry assignment. He was primarily prophesying to the elite who had long ago rejected God for idols. They were still resistant to the Word of God. It was an ongoing rebellion. They would make his ministry extremely difficult.
At issue was not the "success" of Ezekiel's prophetic confrontations. His ministry would not be evaluated by positive acceptance. Rather, God warned him in advance that the main thing God expected of him was faithfulness to the prophetic call. It did not matter if the Jews "heard" (obeyed) God's message or not. What mattered was that the prophet indeed gave them God's message. If Ezekiel faithfully proclaimed, than prophetic ministry would be rewarded by God.
In Ezekiel and God's words of encouragement to him, I find a pattern for ministry among a gospel-phobic generation. This whole Chick-fil-A flap has me thinking about how opposed the cultural elite are to Christian values and the changes the gospel brings. Personally, I find it a shame that a fast food chicken sandwich chain is taking up where the church has given in... but that's another issue. There is a deeper struggle here.
Ministry today is increasingly complicated by a calloused disregard for all things spiritual and moral guidelines coming in a written form. But faithfulness to God's call AND to God's Word are the things that matter most. Success is not measured in wild numbers, but in gospel clarity and commitment in these days. I believe our world will just become more evangeli-phobic. Sodom will vex our righteous souls. Few will choose to "hear" the gospel. But this generation still needs to know that a prophet has been among them. Will Christians be faithful to stand for the gospel and proclaim it despite a lack of "success"? That remains to be seen. Historically, evangelicals have not been known for this kind of focus.