Monday, October 25, 2010

"The supreme desire and effort of a Christian" - Really?

"Let us never in the midst of the business of the Church lose sight of the fact that there is such a mistake as that of being very busy with the affairs of the Kingdom of heaven and yet of possessing very little personal knowledge of the King; nor let us forget in trying to fit our work in with the conditions in which we find ourselves that the supreme need of men everywhere, whatever may be their superficial desires, is just that need which certain Greeks expressed, as we are told in St. John's Gospel, 'Sir, we would see Jesus.' I feel sure that the highest conviction of us all is, however much passing things may for a time divert us, that the supreme desire and effort of a Christian should be to fix his own full gaze, and to fix the gaze of others, upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man." Bp. William Hobart Hare, first Bishop of the Dakotas, 1891

Lately, my heart and mind have been tossing with that issue of "seeking the lost." I am of that generation of clergy bred to be "pastors" to existing congregations, and to seek growth by "techniques" rather than conversion. That's not what animated the missionaries of the Northern Plains - in fact they rejected such thinking.

What do you think? And if you agree with Bishop Hare, how can we better help one another to "fix our own full gaze and to fix the gaze of others upon Jesus Christ"?

This is up as a note over at the Northern Plains Anglicans Facebook page as well.


The Underground Pewster said...

The other day, I witnessed a pro-Muslim street protest being challenged by a lone Christian witness. This approach seemed doomed from the get-go as the Christian was just barking at a stone wall.

We really have to get to know people and where they are before we can effectively act on our desire to fix their gaze too upon Jesus Christ.

Pastoral types need the evangelical types to approach the lost sheep. There are plenty out there. The evangelist needs the pastoral types to feed the sheep with proper nourishment once they are brought in.

Acts 8:26-40

David Handy+ said...

Thanks for that marvelous quote from Bishop Hare, Tim. As for practical ways to go about authentic gospel ministry that seeks to promote genuine conversion to saving faith in Christ, I know of nothing more effective than the Alpha Course (at least from a programmatic perspective).

Yesterday (Sunday) I was filling in for a priest friend of mine who leads an AMiA church in VA as they held the Holy Spirit retreat weekend that is perhaps the highlight of most Alpha courses. They have several completely unchurched folks taking Alpha, and those non-believers are responding beautifully to the gospel as they hear it being presented in a fresh and credible way.

David said...

Here are the thoughts of a mainline Lutheran pastor along these lines.


TLF+ said...

Thanks, gents, for some good perspective. I agree about Alpha,David+. But getting a congregation to mount it runs into some of the same stuff at the Lutheran link that David provides in the third comment. Well worth a look.

Pewster - quite an example. Where was the visible church that this lone guy claimed to represent? Why wasn't there a group there to just pray, or to offer water bottles, or make some other unexpected manifestation of the kingdom? As you point out in your comment, Christ is represented by an array of gifts, all used together.