This post is from a devotion presented by Connie Hartzell, our Preschool Minister, to our staff in a recent meeting. The core of its content was taken from a 2006 devotion shared by Ron Walters, Vice President of Pastoral Care, Salem Music Network. ________________________________________________
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
Who do people say that the Son of Man is? Public consensus
Who do you say that I am? Personal conviction
These are two questions that reveal a plumb line for today, for pastors and for churches. The questions showcase two distinct styles of pastoral and ministry leadership: those who lead by public consensus, i.e. taking a congregation (ministry), "where they want to go" and those who lead by personal conviction, i.e. taking a congregation or ministry " where they need to go."
Bucking the crowd is not easy...
An example from the early books of the Bible would be of Aaron when he led the people while Moses was away. The people wanted to create a golden calf. When asked why he complied, his only defense was the people made me do it. Peter faired no better in the New Testament when his spontaneous answers to an inquisitive young girl went with public consent.
Since Pentecost the church was created to be distinct from the world. God designed us that way; to praise Him, and to please Him. We were never meant to conform to the world. His bride, the church, was never meant to be one of the girls. Scripture gives us this distinction with words like "peculiar", "transformed" and "unblemished". Even though we've been called to be separate, we seem to not like being different. The need is there to be popular, to popularize the church, to broaden it's appeal rather then claiming our spiritual birthright.
Why do we work overtime to hide the distinction?
Jesus showed us a differently.
An example is the account of the rich young ruler, when the rising star asked Jesus about the pre-qualifications of eternal life, Jesus gave him a list of commandments to underscore the impossibility of the task, but he claimed to be equal to the task. So Jesus raised the bar because He would not offer easy believism, even if meant losing a great prospect. Another example is Christ's encounter with the Woman at the Well. There is a conversation that included a confrontation. Jesus did not 'candy coat' His message or what was required.
To our Savior, Jesus Christ, the gospel was not cheap. Yet multitudes came far and wide to hear it because the multitudes separately wanted something the world couldn't offer. So do our churches.
Few of Jesus' conversations would be considered church growth techniques. His words tended to alienate rather than recruit. Posting attendance figures was not important. Nor was the favor of power-brokers. His favorite audiences were the pitiful, the sinner, and the outcast. His goal wasn't to be admired, but to be followed.
So what is our answer to the question "who do you say that I am?" posed by Christ?