Summary: In order for the church to reach the lost in the world, it must first reach the lost within the church.
"The Dirty Side Of Ministry"
By Reverend A. LaMar Torrence, Cross of Life Lutheran Church
In his words concerning the tragedy of the “Columbia” explosion, President Bush said of the seven astronauts, “These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life.” When we consider our call to take up the cross and follow Jesus, we too should be aware of its dangerous dynamics and still be do it willingly. Our ministry will not always be one of glory, celebration, and success. We will be afflicted in every away but not driven to despair. We will be persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. This ministry we have is like a two edge sword-one that heals as well as one that destroys; One that cuts downs as well as one that builds up. And often when we commit ourselves to taking responsibility for telling others about Christ, we forget about the dark side of our ministry-the dirty side of ministry. We forget that in this ministry we not only have to deal with the good, but also with the bad, and the ugly. It’s a dirty job but someone still has to do it.
This ministry modeled after Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and prophesizing also has to confront the ugliness of its opposition. Strangely, the ugliness is not always found outside of our four walls, but it’s found within our midst. The ugliness, the darkness, is often discovered in ourselves. One does not have to search the far corners of the world to encounter evil; but the message of today’s text is that evil and spiritual terrorism can be found in our very midst. There is a spiritual war going on that exists to hinder the work of God. There are spiritual terrorists that come to church to undermine its mission and ministry. We have our own “O San have Bin Ladens” working to divide the kingdom. We have our own spiritual terrorists destroying God’s ministry. Who are they? We have our ‘O-some-have Bin Sleeping’; ‘O-some-have Bin Arguing’; ‘O-some-have Bin Fighting’; ‘O-some-have Bin Complaining’; and ‘O-some-have Bin Missing.’ (This illustration was adopted and modified for this sermon from an illustration that was posted to the following Internet web address: Http://storm.cs.swau.edu/pipermail/vga-l/2001-November/000510.html)
Humorous and cute as that sounds those spiritual terrorists are doing more damage to our ministry than the drug addict, the prostitute, and the pimp simply because those spiritual terrorists lurk in our hearts. And in every church, there sit saints bound by spiritual forces –saints going to hell and saints that love to raise hell. Well, what are you talking about preacher? Let’s look at the text, here is a man possessed with an unclean spirit (more actually “in an unclean spirit). Here is a man who knew who Jesus was. He practiced his religion coming to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He heard the word preached by Jesus. He knew the right things to say, calling Jesus the Holy One of God. Yet, he was found with an unclean spirit. You see everybody talking about heaven ain’t going there. Just because you say you believe in God doesn’t mean he is the head of your life –even the demons believe in God and shudder. And we often think that just because people say that they know Jesus and have a relationship with God, that every with them and in them is good. We feel that just because they may serve on boards, committees sing in the choir, work on staff and have been faithful to the church for years that they are in good standing with God. We like to call them good members because they seem to be helping our church in a good way. But even Jesus proclaimed of himself, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” And I declare to you this morning that just because you may look good, smell good, act good, and talk well do not mean you are good and doing well. It does not mean that you are clean on the inside and free from evil. But Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” because we do have some evil ways. If many of us were honest we will acknowledge that we have some unclean spirits about us-some evil, wicked ways. We have some habits that we just can’t kick. Some lifestyles we just can’t get away; some compulsive natures that we can’t control. And the original reason we have come to the house of God, the real reason we have come to the foot of the cross was to get answers and deliverance. And since we’ve been here, all that the church has given us has been to show us some apathy or maybe some sympathy, some tolerance, acceptance, and understanding; yet what we need is deliverance. (Say we need deliverance). And so we pray, Lord deliver us from evil. Deliver us from our impulse to lie and our fear to confess the truth. Deliver us from the spirit of robbery-our desire to steal whether it be money, office supplies, or company time. Lord, deliver us from our murderous natures- our abilities to assassinate each other’s character with ridicule, criticism, and scandal. Lord, deliver us from this evil- the desire to always do things our ways and go by our feelings and what we think rather than walking by faith and your word. Lord, deliver us from this evil coming to church when we feel like it and when we do come, bringing our own agendas and plans. Deliver us from evil, Lord – our proneness to worry, our anxiety to always be in control, our refusal to worship, our excuses for and reasons for keeping our arms folded, lips tight, and legs cross when you should be up giving you praise and glorifying your name. Lord, deliver us. Deliver us, Jesus.