March 20, 2011
Chapter 24 Sharing the Wealth
As we come to the end of the Discipleship Essentials book study, I can say it was quite a journey through these key topics of the Christian faith. It has been a good discipline for me to speak on such a broad range of topics, and I’ve tried to complement Ogden in my messages rather than duplicate what he covered.
I’ll take a survey in worship in April to get feedback on this long series. I’m wondering what members of the congregation think about the book and this series, how many people read at least some parts of DE, how many answered at least some of the questions, how many discussed it with anyone, etc. Most importantly, what impressions are they left with about discipleship. I invite anyone who has been following this blog to comment on this.
Chapter 24 brings another challenge to the congregation: to consider the call to disciple others. This is an area that has been lacking in main line churches like Zion’s, but I hope we can continue to develop this ministry. Research by the Barna Group says that churches are most effective when lives are transformed through significant relationships in the congregation that enable people to engage in ministry among themselves. “Sharing the Wealth” explores that kind of ministry.
March 6, 2011
Chapter 21 Ministry Gifts
I always am amazed at what happens when I ask people to pray for me in relation to a difficult situation I’m in. Invariably, I not only feel personally supported; I also discover new solutions present themselves, and the outcome is better than I could have predicted. (The examples that immediately come to mind are confidential, so I have to be circumspect in this entry. )
So for me, chapter 22, Spiritual Warfare, brings a reminder that whenever I am facing a difficult situation, there is always more to that situation than meets the eye. “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh” (I would say, “not only against blood and flesh”) but against … the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12).
We moderns prefer to think that people are above being affected by some sort of invisible evil power. But evil can be at work even in situations where people are unaware of its influence. The power of greed, for example, in creating the current economic crisis, has been widely discussed. Less frequently do we hear the suggestion that “spiritual forces of evil” had their influence in corporate boardrooms, where otherwise good people made decisions that brought immense wealth to the “haves” and then increased the suffering of the “poor and downtrodden” we read about in DE chapter 18. In my opinion, that is evil at work.
I don’t usually use the biblical image of “going into battle” in these situations, because that makes it too easy to mistakenly identify people as “evil” in themselves – and they are not. But evil can be at work in us (Romans 7:21) and in situations (Eph 4:27), sometimes without our conscious awareness, unless we are vigilant. Ogden seems to understand this – but he keeps the discussion on the literal and personal level. Fortunately what comes through loud and clear is that prayer is the key to dealing with these situations.