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Friday, September 23, 2011

Talking It Over: How Would You Respond to Kevin?

A few weeks ago, some good friends of mine received a heartfelt email from their son, who wrote in response to one of my first posts on this blog: “Our Message – Not Like The Others?

Kevin, [not his real name] is in his early thirties and the father of 2½ children. A Bible College graduate who was raised in both a godly Christian home and a Bible believing church, Kevin is a fine, young man who knows Christ and wants to walk with Him.

However, there’s a problem! Kevin and his wife have not attended church in years.

Though they understand the importance of meaningful Christian fellowship and Bible teaching for both themselves and their children, they just can’t seem to find a church in their area that fits who they are.

Of course, this is quite perplexing to his parents, and though they have tried their hardest to help, they just haven't been able to fully grasp the issues or why this is so difficult. 

That is, until recently when Kevin wrote them the following letter:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Foundation Laying and [un]Envisioned Outcomes

We all understand the importance of a solid foundation. Engineers tell us that the Tower of Pisa, which took nearly 2 centuries to complete, was flawed from the start. 

The foundation laid was simply not adequate to support the load, and the structure began to tilt as early as five years later when the second story was being added.

Due to a constant state of war, the tower stood unfinished for many years. When construction resumed after nearly a century of inactivity, the decision was made to deal with the "un-envisioned outcome" by compensating for the tilt rather than by starting over with a proper foundation.

As a result, the walls on each tier of the upper floors were built taller on the near side and shorter on the far side, giving the tower a slightly curved shape at the top.

Modern engineering methods have helped a great deal to shore up the base and correct some of the tilt, but the Tower of Pisa will always be, in spite of its magnificent splendor, the poster child for the importance of choosing a foundation suitable for the envisioned structure.

Though common sense would dictate that the proper foundation be chosen only after the what and where of the structure is fully known, the exact opposite is actually true in the overall scheme of things in God's Kingdom.

It's not the structure that determines the proper foundation in God's economy, but rather the foundation that determines the proper structure.

Paul makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that there can be no other foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christthe chief cornerstone in whom the whole “building” is joined together. In God's economy, the foundation has already been determined and set in place - it's a done deal! 

However, there are two very important elements that we, as the people of God, need to keep in mind:
1) It's up to us to make the deliberate choice to build on THIS particular foundation rather than on one of the many alternatives or derivatives.
2) It's up to us to build on this foundation in a manner that is appropriate for, consistent with, and honoring to the intent of the original design - to choose our "building materials" carefully.
In other words, there is a big difference between Christ being "the" foundation, and Christ being "our" foundation. Jesus may be the foundation, but it doesn't necessarily mean that our foundation is one and the same. We could just as easily have chosen to lay our foundation on one of the many alternatives.

Furthermore, though Christ is indeed "the" foundation, it doesn't necessarily mean that "our" church or ministry is built on that foundation. In fact, the "tilt" that is so obvious in many of our churches today, may very well be the result of a foundation that was laid on one of the many derivatives (which, of course, is simply not capable of supporting, sustaining, and producing the "envisioned outcome").

Several years ago, some colleagues and I did an extensive study of 1 Corinthians together. Most of us were ministering in Asia and the Middle East at the time, so we made it a point to meet each year to study and discuss the issues we were facing on the field as practitioners of the Gospel. Our intent was to go back to the Scriptures with fresh eyes to gain insight, answers, and perspective on the realities we encountered in the rocky soil nations.

One of the many nuggets that stood out to me in my personal study of 1 Corinthians that year was an imaginary conversation that Paul had with his supervisor which I fondly referred to as: “If Paul had a Supervisor.”