Eighth in a series reflecting on the firestorm that occurred in our family of churches and told as a parable of the Great Chicago Fire and lessons from Scripture. To read the entire series of articles, see After the Fire.
Ideals or Vision?
Our fellowship stands at a crucial crossroads that every movement faces. Are we going to simply maintain our ideals and hold on to what we have or are we going to surrender anew to God's vision that takes us into uncomfortable, uncharted territory we have yet to experience? Will we plant churches and mature them? Will we build our mature churches to reach the multitudes of lost all around us? It is not a matter of "can we" but "will we?"
Oswald Chambers says this in his classic book, My Utmost for His Highest:
"Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint." -- Proverbs 29:18 (R.V.)
There is a difference between an ideal and a vision. An ideal has no moral inspiration; a vision has. The people who give themselves over to ideals rarely do anything. A man’s conception of Deity may be used to justify his deliberate neglect of his duty. Jonah argued that because God was a God of justice and of mercy, therefore everything would be all right. I may have a right conception of God, and that may be the very reason why I do not do my duty. But wherever there is vision, there is also a life of rectitude because the vision imparts moral incentive.
Ideals may lull to ruin. Take stock of yourself spiritually and see whether you have ideals only or if you have vision.
‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?’
As a disciple, I gladly acknowledge the ideals of the first importance of the gospel, the primary importance of loving God and my neighbor, the Great Commission from Jesus, the essentiality of one-another relationships and the privilege of caring for the poor. But are they my passion and vision? Or have they just been reduced to my ideals? The next reduction is tradition. Our answers to these questions will determine whether we remain a movement or become a monument.
Before we answer too fully, let us ask ourselves "Whose church is it anyway?" The Father is the owner of his church purchased with the blood of his one and only Son. Jesus is the cornerstone and the contractor. The Holy Spirit is the chief architect (Hebrews 3:3-5). God is the one to be glorified in accomplishing this work.
Too often in the 90's we forgot this. We have been reminded by our Father who cared enough to discipline us. Now what is our response to his discipline? We are more mindful of him in our conversation and in our worship. But what kind of temple are we building for him? What kind of church will we leave our children and grandchildren? Will it be one of "glory day" stories, intellectual ideals or of passionate, faithful vision that translates into motion? Will we leave a monument or a living, moving, loving, breathing body of Christ?
Grace and Truth,