What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Luke xvi.15
It is very easy to get caught in a worldly mindset and adopt worldly standards to measure our Christian life and ministry. The Bible warns us against adopting worldly values and strategies while engaging in this other-worldly, divine ministry. Jesus’ words – “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” – should be an eye-opener for today’s Christians. (Luke xvi.15)
In the early part of the first century, when Jesus toured the regions of Galilee, no “newspaper” of that period ever carried reports about Him. Thirteen men were too small a company to be noticed either by local Tetrarchs or the Emperor in Rome. The noted historian Josephus too did not devote more than a few lines, that too in passing, about this movement that turned the Roman world upside down within decades of its origin. Yet, the inspired Gospels of the New Testament, describing the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, are the most famous books ever. News that God values may not appear in today’s newspapers; they surely make headlines in heaven.
If we were alive in the first century, touring cities and villages looking for signs of the Christian church, we would hardly see any of the things that mark 21st century Christianity. City or national records or Registrars of non-governmental organizations wouldn’t be able to give us any information about Christian churches or denominations. We wouldn’t find any hoardings or signs pointing us to any “church building” or “mission compound.” There never were any such places! Christians mostly met in homes in small numbers. The “Church” was a group of people, not a building or denomination.
The only easily visible “evidence” to the presence of Christians in any town was public preaching of the gospel. In Roman towns, these preachers were largely ignored or ridiculed. At the instigation of some Jews, preachers were often persecuted. There were hardly any “full time” pastors. Those who led churches in teaching and pastoral care supported themselves through hard work. In fact, St Paul’s advice to the elders of Ephesian churches is quite contrary to what today’s elders would like to hear. (Cf. Acts 20:35)
Unfortunately, today’s ministers and churches are after worldly glory, pomp and prestige. We cannot think of a church that doesn’t have its own property and buildings and an “ordained clergy.” We cannot even think of a church that doesn’t have a full complement of gadgets, instruments and devices. What spiritual edification do we get out of all this show? Most Christians remain pew-warmers; they are never encouraged or trained to participate in Christian ministry. Ministry is seen as the exclusive privilege of a few who prefer titles and honour. Christians of the first century or the rapidly multiplying house churches in China will rise to condemn our penchant for big-money ministry and “churches.” For less than a tiny fraction of what we raise and spend, the Chinese Church has achieved phenomenal growth.
Our churches are governed according to worldly standards. Christian churches and missions are esteemed by the size of their budgets and support base. We spend millions in the name of missions and ministry to pacify our conscience; however, we hardly win anyone to Christ. Our churches are becoming weaker and every new generation goes further away from the Bible and Christ.
We would rather spend a fortune and conduct a televised, global crusade than organize a highly effective local evangelistic effort. We would rather go on a ego-boosting short term mission to a far away country than step across the street to share the gospel with a neighbour. We would rather preach on TV than share the gospel with a fellow passenger on a local bus or train or minister personally to a needy Christian. Fame, money, media ratings and a grand annual report – that’s what many are after.
Let’s forsake worldly standards and return to God’s methods. Let’s focus on what’s most important to God. How much of our time is devoted to directly winning and making disciples? Are our efforts directed at pleasing God or at winning more applause from the world? How many souls are we directing to the Savior per dollar spent on missions? Do we realize that Christian mission can happen without “gold and silver;” without multi-million dollar projects and fund-raising? It hardly costs us anything to share the gospel with our neighbors!