Friday, August 26, 2005

Ablaze Is Not the Answer!

Ever since I heard about the Synodical mission emphasis of "Ablaze" a couple of years ago, I was against it. Many "pastors" have asked me, "how can you be against Ablaze? It is all about mission." I am not against mission, just so long as it is God's mission, not our man-made version of God's mission. I am against Ablaze because I don't believe that it coincides with the mission of God's Word. Everyone has a mission. All businesses have a mission. The devil also has a mission. Just because something has the outward appearance of being a mission doesn't mean that it is God-pleasing.

First of all, the name "Ablaze" conjures up Pentecostal themes. Could they not have picked a different name? If I didn't know any better, I would think that the current leadership is trying to take us away from traditional Lutheran theology and practice to a more tolerant, loving and compromising stance. Second, all that "Ablaze" seems to be is numbers and counting. "Boy, look how good we are! We have shared the Gospel with x number of people. We are doing God's mission. Why don't we just pat each other on the back." As if God needed us to do His mission. I happen to remember a certain census that David took in the Old Testament that made God very angry. I have to ask: what is the point? Third, Ablaze fits neatly with the theology of Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Church. In Warren's view, everyone should be a missionary. But I ask you: is everyone a missionary? We say in Lutheran circles that, "All are priests. Some are ministers/pastors." Would we not say the same thing about missionaries? "All are priests. Some are missionaries." The Bible seems to indicate that missionaries are a special group of pastors called by God to start up a new church, hand it over to another pastor and move on. Is everyone called to be a missionary? I must answer no! I do not believe that everyone is called to be a missionary. I do believe that everyone is called to live out their faith in their various vocations. We are all priests of God, "offering our bodies as spiritual sacrifices to God." If we are the body of God and if we extend the metaphor out, would not pastors and teachers be the mouth? Not everyone is the mouth in the body of Christ. We need all the other parts of the body to function.

So the bottom line is this: To count how many people you have shared the Gospel with does not jive with God's mission or His Word. It is arrogant. It gives the appearance of, "Look what I am doing for God." It is foolish. How can we put a number or judge statistically what God is doing? And it is wrong. It gives the impression that to be a "real" or a "committed" Christian, one has to share their faith with as many people as possible. As if living out one's faith in one's vocation is not good enough? I am not saying that we shouldn't share our faith. But, if we are to share our faith with someone so that God brings that person into His Church through what we said or did, it will happen whether or not we make a conscious effort to do so. Praying the Lord's Prayer and its meaning come to mind. "The kingdom of God comes even without our prayer. But, we pray in this petition that it might come among us also." It seems to me that "Ablaze" is about guilt and superficial appearances pure and simple. I welcome any responses.