Power, success and wealth
Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 24 October 2010, 10:53
SATURDAY 23 OCTOBER – Day Six of Lausanne III, and we’re rapidly reaching the end of this marathon conference. Ivan from our table group has left for Calcutta already, so we’re down to four people. We’ll miss him. We’ve grown to know and respect and learn from each other over this last week.
The table groups have been a great success, enabling us all to feel at home even in a huge audience of strangers, and allowing us to respond to the big issues under discussion. They really do shift the focus away from the speakers on the platform to the participants.
Today’s theme was integrity, and it was striking how honest and self-critical the sessions were. Chris Wright of the Langham Partnership identified three idols of the evangelical movement that stand in the way of Christian mission: power, success and wealth. He said that these were the very same idols that Jesus resisted at the outset of his ministry.
In the temptations (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus turned his back on these false gods and chose the path of obedience to his Father. ‘Tragically, so many Christian leaders – including mission leaders – fail these tests. The whole church pays the price in terms of loss of credibility and integrity.’
In the Bible study, Calisto Odede (pictured above), senior pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church, faced the daunting task of unpacking a huge chunk of the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:17 to 6:9). But he did it with real energy, humility and insight.
Evangelicals often have a lofty view of themselves with respect to the beliefs and way of the rest of the world, he said. ‘Maybe somebody needs to call our bluff – that we are not the people we are called to be. Paul says, now turn your orthodoxy (right belief) into orthopraxy (right practice). He wants us to practise the Christian faith!’
Odede drew attention to the use of the word ‘walk’ in this passage: ‘Don’t walk as the Gentiles’ (4:17), ‘walk in love’ (5:2), ‘walk in the light’ (5:8) and ‘walk carefully’ (5:15). We are called to newness of life, he said, but the evidence suggests that our behaviour is often no different, and sometime worse, than that of the surrounding culture.
He launched a powerful attack on the prosperity gospel, saying that many preachers are little more than snake-oil salesmen and conmen. ‘Our pastor does not love us,’ one man complained to him. ‘He loves our money’. He concluded that ‘sacrifice seems to be the last word in our vocabulary today.’ Echoing Bonhoeffer, he called us all to costly discipleship, not to cheap grace.
Leaders of Odede’s calibre give weight to the claim that the centre of gravity of global Christianity really has shifted south.
Photo: Lausanne Movement