Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Gospel as a Pistol: A Confession

In the third season of Prison Break (2005-2009 Fox television series), the main protagonist finds himself locked-up in a ruthless South American prison, a prison so dangerous guards refuse to serve inside the walls. Instead, military sharpshooters, crouched on watchtowers, "take out" anyone attempting an escape. Periodically, military convoys drop off food within the prison walls but what happens inside is much like Vegas: what happens there stays there. As a result, the prisoners developed their own system of government, one that is a far cry from democracy. It's a dictatorship. The "baddest hombre" gets to call the shots.

In one of the episodes, a subordinate manages to acquire a pistol. In a community where shivs are atop the weapon pyramid, a pistol means one thing: POWER! With gun hand, the inmate must decide how he will leverage this new acquired power...create equality, democracy, justice or seize the opportunity to get on top. Whether you've seen the series or not, you know the answer. He removes the current dictator from power and assumes his "throne."

Human nature tends to leverage instruments of power for self-gain - including the gospel!

A couple of weeks ago I ran into the social media hubbub surrounding a letter from a Senior Pastor in Houston, TX. Take a look:

I felt disgust when I first read this letter, "How could a pastor prey upon believers by leveraging the influential power of the gospel? How could he use it for his own personal gain at the expense of his congregation?" I was angry!

But then, as God often does, he shoved my anger and disgust in my face! The gospel is powerful. It fuels hope. It promises that evil will not have the last word. It speaks to the deep recesses of the human heart. It persuades. It convicts. It transform. It changes individual lives. It changes communities. It has left a lasting legacy on the world. It is powerful, but as is often the case, we I leverage the gospel for personal gain.

No, we don't have an Aviation Department at TCOC. We don't even have a bathroom in our Teen Center...but we have a Teen Center (you get the idea). Honestly, I do not struggle with leveraging the gospel for money. Money annoys me (although I do like having it). But I AM guilty of leveraging the gospel for personal gain. Confession time:
  • I have leveraged the gospel to boost a ministry career.
  • I have leveraged the gospel to try and build a "fan base" for my preaching.
  • I have leveraged the gospel to foster a respectable reputation.
  • I have leveraged the gospel to secure employment. 
  • I have leveraged the gospel in search of notoriety.
Fortunately, but in the most unfortunate of manners, I detonated a nuclear bomb on all of my gospel-exploited ventures. That does not make me immune from gospel exploitation. I still plead guilty (nearly daily), but it has given me a greater awareness of those moments when I do leverage the power of the gospel for self-gain.

Bishop Hilliard's exploitation of the gospel might be easier to see, but I am guilty of the same crime.  I struggle daily to leverage the gospel for the Kingdom of God rather than for personal gain. Perhaps you do too.

My prayer is something I tweeted recently: God, I want to close the gap between my desire for the Kingdom of God and my understanding of it.  I have studied and dissected the Kingdom of God. I believe I have a decent grasp on what the Kingdom looks like. I pray that my desire for God's Kingdom match my current understanding of it. I invite you to pray this prayer with me so that we might leverage the gospel for God and God alone!

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