Why, Oh YOU?

The English language has progressively astonished me. I just finished my third semester of a foreign language, and with that I’ve learned not only a lot about it but also a lot of my first language, English. Not everything that I’ve learned about English has been positive, however. English is actually a pretty archaic language if you ask me – especially when comparing it to some other languages. This raises problems when translating to English a biblical language such as Greek. Though there are problems with every language, I think that the American Church has been taken captive not only to its own culture but also to its language. There is one word that I particularly have a problem with: you.

Have you ever thought about this word? The word is contradictory in use and application. “You” is always singular, but it is always used with a plural verb. When one reads anything using this word, they are then confined to context to decide what “you” is referring to. And this ambiguity is what kills me.

When reading the Bible, especially in the New Testament, the word “you” is used a lot. This is where the ambiguity lies. I have been to so many churches, in so many services, hearing in so many sermons, how to apply pericopes to my personal life where this word is used. After taking a deeper look into the text I’ve learned that most of the time where “you” is used, it is used to talk not about the individual but to talk about the church, both locally and as a whole.

I think we are missing a big theme in the Bible because of our ignorance: the theme of unity. Even where there are passages in the singular tense, the Pastoral Epistles for example, they deal with the church as a whole. When Paul is telling those in Rome that they are more than conquerors, he isn’t talking to just one person, but that the whole body of believers in Rome can persevere. When John is talking to Thyatira in Revelation, he holds the whole church accountable for the false teaching of Jezebel, not just one individual. Even the famous “love” passage in 1Corinthians 13 is placed smack dab in the middle of passages dealing with unity in the church. I don’t think this is happen-stance.

Acts 2:42-47 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I wonder if God intended for the church to be so disunited. Did God intend for there to be a different church on every street corner bearing a different denominational name? It breaks my heart. The church, to properly exemplify the Great Commandment, needs to be unified. In Acts this is the first mention of the church, and I think Luke is making some theological significance to their unity. I’m not saying we need to be a pseudo-communal group of believers. BUT, at the end of the short segue Luke says that they were “praising God and having favor with all the people.” The church was living out the Greatest Commandment.

Be challenged today to look outside of yourself. This isn’t restricted to the four-walls of a building. Just remember that you were made to be relational. Your sole purpose is to glorify God, and that can only be done relationally – with Him and with others. Take time to remember a name to a new face, praying for a need concerning a new soul, and making a friend of a new acquaintance.

Mordecai, Motion, Millennium.

Mordecai Ham: the name of a man that most people don’t associate. I remember reading his name in a book once, and upon reading it, realized that if my life played out the same as Mordecai Ham’s, then I would consider myself blessed.

Most people gauge success on numbers, figures and statistics. Whatever an individual can yield shows the true success of the individual. This seems to be the same in the realm of the church. Mega church pastors are the ones usually coveted, heavily followed and admired, whereas the small town pastors are sometimes seen as black sheep and less significant.

Pastor Jeff Leake spoke at one of our retreats last month, and he said something that really caught my attention. He said that, “ministry is not about what you do, but what you set in motion.” Pastor Jeff then went on to compare this idea to that of Barnabas, who raised and discipled an individual such as Saul, pouring into him and helping him to be the great missionary to the Gentiles. Barnabas didn’t know that this would be Paul’s ministry. Likewise, sometimes things that seem incredibly insignificant in this world might yield indescribable profits in the next. I think this is something that Jeff realized, Barnabas realized, and Mordecai realized.

I read Mordecai’s name for the first time in the autobiography of Billy Graham. Reverend Graham writes with vivid clarity the night in which he got saved. I remember reading as this great man describes going to a tent-revival service led by Ham in North Carolina, 1934. Mordecai Ham did not know that that night he would be leading to Christ the greatest known evangelist of not only the 20th century, but potentially the millennium! I think that is something we need to realize too. Sometimes we might not be successful in the eyes of the world, but we could be setting in motion something that will change the universe. Are you willing to be a Mordecai Ham?

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
-Emily Dickinson

Ministers. Missionaries. Momentarily.

Mark 5:18-20 – “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolishow much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

I remember sitting in Dr. Haltom’s Synoptic Gospels class learning about this passage. One of the things that really gripped my attention about this passage was the difference in the story between the Synoptics. Matthew documents there being two demon-possessed men, whereas Mark and Luke only document one. “Why is there an inconsistency?” is what I thought.

Upon deeper investigation I realized why Mark and Luke only mentioned one man, instead of both. Mark wanted to focus on the man who came to Jesus after the demon was cast out. This man is significant because Jesus sent him back to be the first missionary to any Gentile people. In my mind, it would seem more logical for Jesus to take this man with him to disciple him. But Jesus sought it better to send him out – to his own people in his own land.

Summer is always difficult because all of us go back to our homes, our internships, or wherever. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged because we are ready to get back to school, or go out and do ministry – to make a difference. This passage really challenged me because Jesus saw it more fit for the man to go back and preach to his own people rather than follow him. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Jesus is putting us where we are now so we can be missionaries in our own right. When we think about just wanting to graduate or get back to school, we need to remember that Jesus has us where we are for a reason – to follow the Great Commission. If you’re home and bogged down, don’t lose heart. If you feel like you aren’t making a difference, than just do what you can. Let us be missionaries wherever we are, whoever we are with, and in everything we do.