Friday, August 14, 2009

dilluting or engaging in the gospel

This week at the Regional Justice Center has been productive and required faithful farm work, or seed planting and watering and then allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work.

I connected Jeff with Brian Chandler at the the Union Gospel Mission and after a couple of days he actually met with Brian. It's up to him to follow through, otherwise he lives with his freedom on the street as homeless.

He made great strides reconnecting with the Lord at the RJC but it's a challenge when the "fresh air hits his face." This is the obstacle of re-entry and transition.

My connection with Brian could be very helpful to any of the men who are willing to receive what the Union Gospel Mission one year program provides.

Jamie, my 16 year-old inmate, is struggling with many questions and a strong Muslim influence in his unit. I have given him a Bible study and a great book by Ray Pritchard, "An anchor for the soul."

Hans came to me really distressed and struggling with alcohol. Wow, he just grabbed ahold of the gospel and read through "Anchor" on his own. We are dealing with God's gracious healing over a breach in his relationship with his dad lasting years--the father wound and what he himself has done.

Joseph is waiting on the discovery process and his lawyer so he remains in D-unit at the RJC. You may recall his case was covered on TV and the newspapers and that he was convicted as guilty and faces 18 years in prison. However, more evidence has been uncovered and its unclear where that will all go.

I want to share these final paragraphs on the pivotal heart issue of keeping the message of coming to the Lord Jesus and repentance and proving our assurance with a life of bearing the cross He gives each of us.

Much needed wisdom from the pen of D.A. Carson
"At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals," how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach.

I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature.

But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements--but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.

Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (p. 26, The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson, Baker Books)


Ray said...

Mark, thanks for mentioning An Anchor for the Soul. Glad you have been able to use it. We're happy to provide more copies as you need them. Blessings to you and upon your good work bringing the Good News to prisoners. Blessings, Ray Pritchard

dsjulian said...

I agree with D.A. Carson's sentiments but disagree with his assessment of Barna vs the Bible. George Barna personally told me that he warned his own church that this was happening (see his book Revolution)and they didn't listen to him either. So he left his old brick-and-mortar and started his own home church.