Your World Is Too Small

            Some years back when I was in the evangelistic field I often preached a message on faith, centered around the life of Joseph as it is related in the book of Genesis. I asked in this sermon the question: “Is your God too small?” The idea was that one didn’t need a wagon load of faith but just a tiny bit of faith in a great, big God.

            Now I ask, “preacher, is your world too small?”

            My affiliation has been with the “holiness movement” for the past forty years. Once when I and my family were visiting my mother in Ft. Myers, Florida I decided to go to Kissimmee to attend a revival service where an evangelist friend of mine was preaching. It was about a hundred and fifty mile drive but we arrived in Kissimmee with time to spare. Trouble was, we did not know the address of the church but only its name. We asked several places for directions but nobody had ever heard of the church. Kissimmee at the time was not a city but a rather small town. Finally I got the yellow pages and called the parsonage of a Nazarene Church. A young man, the pastor’s son, answered the phone. I told him the church we were looking for but he didn’t recognize the name. After some conversation he decided it must be a certain church he knew of and he gave us directions to get there. When we finally arrived the preliminaries were finished and the evangelist was up to preach. These people, so intent on keeping separated from the world, did so with such effectiveness that the world didn’t know they existed.

            Back in the nineteen-seventies I met a young man in Maine who had been evangelized by a group there and converted. He had traveled the length and breadth of these United States and yet had never heard of a “holiness movement” until he was told of it by this group in Maine. Francis Asbury (1745-1816) the first Methodist Bishop ordained in the United States traveled the length and breadth of what was then the U.S. and preached more than 16,000 sermons. An equestrian statue of Asbury was erected in Washington D.C. in 1921. On it are engraved these words: “The Prophet of the Long Road.” At the time of his ministry he was reputed to be “the best known man in the nation.” Quite a contrast to the state of the churches that claim to preach his same message in our day. Didn’t John Wesley say, “The world is my parish”? Preacher, is your world too small?

            I recall some years ago a conversation with a neighboring pastor; a holiness man. He said something to the effect that if you had read one holiness classic you had read them all. Now, I am suggesting that you divorce yourself from the Christian book store and go to the local library or a secular book store and read about the world you live in, and read what the world is saying. Mix in a fair amount of history while you are at it, always remembering that history is written by the victors. (Oh, by the way, in our day it is often rewritten by the bleeding-heart liberals. Personally I am presently reading the Pulitzer prize winning, thousand page tome by David McCullough titled Truman.) Some forty years ago this young, would be, preacher was told by a United Methodist preacher who was pastor of a rather large church, that a lot of preachers use their ministry to shield themselves from the world. He went on to say that this rendered them unable to understand the world that their parishioners had to deal with in their daily lives.

            Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, recently voiced a similar concern when stating that pastors were not warning the young people in their congregations of the very bad example set by luminaries such as Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears.

            I recall a conversation with a businessman who operated a coal mine. He had to deal with the daily problems of this task and see to it that it was profitable while he was at it. He told me that at his church what the pastor preached, “sounds real good, but I have to get coal out of the ground.” This intimated to me that he felt that his pastor had no idea what he experienced and had to contend with on a daily basis.

            Pastor, have you ever been in combat? I mean have you been in the military in mortal combat and seen men killed and maimed? If not how are you going to relate to those in your congregation who have? Do you really know what they have been through and what emotional and psychological damage it has done to them? Are you prepared in any measure to equip young people in your church who may shortly be off to Afghanistan or Iraq to experience war first hand? If not let me suggest that you get at it. Try reading, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, by General Hal Moore. If you won’t read the book, then at least rent the video or DVD We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson. You won’t get everything from the movie that is available in the book, but at least you may get some idea of what the hell of war is like. About Face and Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts By David Hackworth are excellent, as well as entertaining, reads.

            Do you have any idea of how our world runs and just who runs it. Try reading Memoirs by David Rockefeller, Chairman emeritus of Chase National Bank. We live in an intricate, complex nation and world. I think I first began to realize this nearly fifty years ago when I first visited Grand Central Station in Manhattan, New York. Standing on the street you could look up at the sky-scrapers and get some idea of just how much was going on in that borough. But then I rode the subways and took the shuttle to Grand Central Station. Not only did I begin to realize just how much of New York City was underground but I began to get a vision of just how much was going on in our world that is not open to view. Preacher, what kind of world view do you have? If you are the average preacher I’m afraid it is much too small and also quite blurry.

            So let me be so bold as to suggest a few things that might help correct this. The next time you go on vacation, instead of taking the kids to Disney World visit the Alamo or The Little Big Horn, the site of General George Armstrong Custer’s famous last stand. (Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell is an excellent book on this subject and will give you an eye-opening story instead of the myths that most have learned.) Try some of our national parks. (My two favorites are Yellowstone with its amazing Old Faithful geyser and Sequoia with its huge and stately trees.) Just try anyplace or anything that will broaden your world view without involving you in the frivolity and sins of this world.

            There was recently broadcast a warning from the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) concerning congress redefining “lobbyist.” This effort has been defeated, at least for now. The concern was that a Christian organization or even local churches could be classified “lobbyist.” The warning went on to say, “Pastors would have to make a choice: either submit to enormously expensive and complicated government oversight ... or stop speaking out. “Most local churches, I can imagine, would have no real choice. They wouldn’t have the money or hours available to follow the tangle of lobbying regulations. “They would simply have to fall silent.”

            Preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would fall silent because of some government regulation or legislation? The apostles, as is related in the book of Acts in the Bible were told not to speak in Jesus’ name. They responded, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Preacher are you ready to mind God and to declare “all the counsel of God,” regardless of the consequences it might have for you from our American government and governmental agencies? If things continue in the direction they have been going for decades that day when you may be fined, imprisoned or worse may not be far off.

            What kind of shape are things in - justice wise? Read Closed Chambers by Edward Lazarus which shows the inner workings of The United States Supreme Court. For things at the other end of the legal spectrum (i.e. down where the rubber meets the road) try The Innocent Man by John Grisham. It is the true story of gross injustice in a small Texas town in the late 20thcentury. However it is very likely the story of your small town in forty-nine other states in our beloved America. If you have any idea that justice prevails in the good old USA you are in for a rude awakening.

            Do you want to get a different angle on justice in our nation? Try Unbridled Power, the history of the IRS by Shelley L. Davis. She was hired by IRS to write their history but when they discovered she was going to write the truth they fired her. She wrote it anyway. By the way the IRS was once the Bureau of Internal Revenue but the name was changed to the Internal Revenue Service. I have often wondered: just what service do they render? For more on this try former congressman George Hansen’s book To Harass Our People.

            About three years ago I attended a large sporting event which was attended by people from all over the world. Setting next to me was an adult couple from England. In conversation with them I mentioned that we like to call our country “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” He had informed me that they travel yearly to two of these events in different countries. That year it was Canada and the US. I asked him just how we compared, freedom wise, with European countries. He said we were much more regulated. He went on to say that there was much more freedom in Europe but also said that people do a lot of dumb things. Finally he said that Great Britain was about half way between the rest of Europe and the USA, as for freedom.

“The land of the free” sounds great but anyone who lived a great part of the 20th century knows that our freedoms were greatly eroded during that time. “The land of the free” is more of a memory than it is a fact.

            If you can’t be gotten out of the theological library and are given to reading John Wesley and the 18th century Methodist writers, try giving them a rest and read some 17th century Quaker writers. You just might be pleasantly surprised at what you will find. Let me suggest:

 Journal of George Fox edited by John L. Nickalls

 Robert Barclay’s Apology

 Sewel’s History of The Quakers

 Fruits of Solitude by William Penn.

I also recommend A Memoir of James Parnell, An Account Of The First Quaker Martyr by Henry Callaway. James Parnell was a teenage preacher who paid the ultimate price for preaching Christian perfection, a doctrine the leaders of the established church of his day couldn’t bear to hear. As one biographer put it, “James Parnell knew the answer to the question he posed to those who opposed his preaching. ‘Is Christ a part redeemer or a perfect redeemer?’”

            If you can be dislodged from the theological library and the Christian book store then let me recommend just a few more:

 The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Political Incorrect Guide to Science by Tom Bethell

The Tycoons, How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy by Charles R. Morris

Sinatra by Anthony Summers (Get a real inside look at the entertainment industry as well as the Mafia.)

From Freedom to Slavery by Gerry Spence (the famous lawyer.)

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (Yes it is the story of a race horse but it is also a story of The Great Depression and America.)

And last but by no means least give a thorough reading to Worlds In Collision by Immanuel Velikovsky. Oh oh, your world just got bigger and your vision clearer and preacher you just may have become a better shepherd for your flock.