Ironically enough, our church is in the last days of a massive building project.
I say “ironically enough” because the problem of churches spending millions of dollars on bigger, better buildings instead of true ministry was the opening point of the first chapter in David Platt’s book, Radical.
Not that our church neglects ministry. Far from it! Our missions giving puts us in the top four percent of all Southern Baptist churches, and we scholarship so many events for our young people that many of them have yet to pay a dime to participate in ministry activities. And frankly, the building needed some serious help, as the foundation under the pastor’s office had sunk so deeply in our red Oklahoma dirt that I was half-expecting to find Wes underground within a matter of months. We’re blessed as a body with every imaginable trade and skill involved in construction, so most of the work has been done at the cost of materials alone, thanks to well-equipped members who use their skills to honor God.
But still. Has our greatest excitement as a church body recently been about a building or about following Christ? I know the answer for me personally, and it’s not what I want it to be.
Wes is preaching through the book of John at church, and this past week, he spent some time in chapter six, talking about how the multitudes were following Jesus because of stuff (bread, in this case), missing out on the true treasure of following Christ — Christ Himself! This has gone hand-in-hand with our reading in John Piper’s God is the Gospel, where we’ve been exhorted and challenged again and again to examine what our real joy is in life, in ministry, and in the Gospel message itself. If our joy and satisfaction is in anything above Jesus, then we’ve missed the point entirely. In the words of St. Augustine, “He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.” What a humbling thought!
I think this is all very timely teaching, as it goes hand in hand with the convicting statements Mr. Platt presented, even in his opening chapter. Isn’t Christ worth losing everything for? Then, why do I hold onto things that make me feel secure? Why is my joy in things that won’t last eternally? How have I overlooked all of these hang-ups and mistaken my faith for true devotion when it is, very honestly, caught up with some serious reservations?
My posts on Radical will all likely start to sound the same after a while. I have the good fortune (or misfortune?) of walking this road with someone (Wes) who has already read the book. So, when I say, “Wow! Isn’t X from chapter one really challenging?,” he’s all too quick to follow up with, “Yes, and Y and Z from chapters three and five!” (I would so totally be doing the same thing if our roles were reversed, so I can’t complain too much.) I feel like I’m getting a feel for the whole book after just one chapter, thanks to Wes and all the teaching and studying we’re doing at church that is so closely related to the subject matter.
I’m excited to read more…