Friday, June 06, 2008

Some Thoughts on Ablaze

(in a discussion on Augsburg 1530, a person clarified that Ablaze wasn't a program, it was a movement designed to inspire Lutheran congregations to be on fire for sharing God's word, and invited us to embrace it. I took long enough typing this that I rationalized that it should be posted here, too (because it took as long as a blogpost does. After all, time is precious! I am simply trying to be efficient, not in the least trying to be lazy. I know you all will appreciate that, right? )

I am already part of a movement. I really trust this movement and think that it has done a very good job and it has one of the best and strongest traditions in existence.

It began when Jesus ascended into Heaven saying “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

It matured on Pentecost, when tongues of fire descended onto the heads of the disciples and they preached God’s Word to the masses, and the people who believed came together into congregations to learn God’s Word, to baptize, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

I thank God that my parents were part of that movement, bringing me to the font when I was just a couple of weeks old, and I thank God for pastors and teachers who have been true to the Great Commission along the way, not seeing it as just as a command to the unchurched that stops when we have cast the seed. They also took the “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” seriously as well, seeing it as a lifelong nurturing process, and I am also part of that -- in teaching my children, strengthening my brethren, and being ready to account for the hope that I have when I am called upon to do so.

It is a movement that has lasted for over 2000 years now and it is still going strong. It is not based on statistics or gatherings, or techniques, or evangelical revival (which is what it sounds like you are hoping for). It is based on Scripture, vocation, and the life of the Church. It is based on how those who are a part of the body of Christ interact with the world.

It is also based on “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” In Acts, Luke didn’t bother marking a “1″ by Phillip’s name when he proclaimed the gospel to the Ethiopian eunoch. Luke told the story of this man’s faith and his desire to be baptized. Paul didn’t mark down “30″ after a good night in Galatia. Instead, we are told what he said and the work that he did. Later, his letter to them tells us of the challenges that the church faced as it was under attack. It was real. It was not accounting.

It is not about how many times we share the gospel, it is that we do it when we are put in a place to do so. It is that we know what a precious gift Christ gave us in His Word and Sacraments. It is that we teach our children so that they walk in the faith and teach their children. Those who are already in the Church are very undervalued in Ablaze. Their continued strengthening in the faith is not talked about.

I will take Jesus’s movement, the Holy Spirit’s movement of saving each individual soul…of going after each little lost lamb one at a time, over Ablaze’s way of taking that and making it fit into the mold of today’s consumer culture and gauging success by quantity.

While I am not undervaluing the joy and the “combustion” of the excitement that happens when one discovers the gospel (I remember that, too). “Ablaze” is not what comes to mind when I witness how the Gospel is working in the lives of the strongest Christians that I know and admire. Loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, kind, faithful, gentle (humble), and self-controlled…really are what comes to mind. The fruits of the Spirit are clearly within them, and sometimes I am astounded to find that those fruits are stronger in me than I ever expected them to be. Strong Christians are not often “on fire” in the colloquial sense, but they share the love of Christ through their daily vocation, and it seems to smolder there within them…and the work that they do does not need “fanned into flames” it touches other’s lives and gives them warmth.

I don’t want to just see people come to Christ and experience that joy…I want to see them grow and partake of the meat of the faith, to have strength for when the fire doesn’t seem to burn (but is) and to have the strength to endure the suffering that Christ has promised. The count is not taken when the gospel is proclaimed or the seed is cast onto the field, it is taken when the names are read from the Lamb’s Book of Life and the harvest is brought in.


Jane said...

Good words, my friend!

The Official David Hammock Blog said...

Yes, the true movement has been going on for 2,000 years. It isn't a new kick, a fad, a cultural wave, or a phase. The true Jesus movement is simply Jesus moving.

So much of what I see today that attempts to duplicate the work of Christ is mere counterfeit. Discipleship isn't easy-but it is LIFE. The disciple's life--that is the on-going movement of the Holy Spirit that will change lives and change the course of history.

Thank you for your blog. God bless you and keep the fire going!

Rev. David Hammock
Revivals For America
Raleigh, NC

shieldwolf said...

I think the "it's a movement" is silly. From what I can see it is simply an attempt to get the folks in the LCMS off their backsides and actually do work of sharing the Gospel. Other than LHM, we pretty much stink at sharing the Gospel. Where congregations are growing it is usually either non-Anglos or it is transfer growth. I see pros and cons with Ablaze, but most of the folk I see that are against it are of the fortress mentality: They see the church as a fortress or exclusive club rather than a hospital for sinners. The reality must be between the two extremes of "we just baptize" and the "I shared the Gospel with 20 people today."

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Actually, I think that there are plenty of places that do a better job than Lutheran Hour Ministries anymore. Lately I have been very frustrated with the material we get from them on being a better parent, dealing with stress, etc. There is little mention of God and less of the Gospel.

Good News, Issues Etc. LCMS Human Care, Friends of Mercy, Higher Things, Midwest Chinese Ministries (that spoke at our congregation yesterday) and so many other things are doing a VERY good job of sharing God's love (The new name of Issues Etc. is forthcoming). The problem is that in order to do a good job, more and more groups have to become independent.

Lutheranism has a precious gift. NO other denomination really has such a grasp on justification. Our doctrine on separating Law and Gospel is as clear as it comes, so that works do not get confused with salvation. We should be so excited over this fact and when we know how precious a gift we are receiving both in God's Word and His Sacraments, we should be eager to share. A fortress mentality is not what we should have.