One of the guys was talking about how Jesus was such a success and this is where I said my silly thing: I jumped in and challenged him on that. It seems like we can adapt the Bible a little too easily and make it say what we want to...and I don't know why I thought this would be a good thing to challenge, but I did. And told the story of Albert Schweitzer, one of the great human beings of the 20th century, who had great fun showing how all of the historians before him had brought their own presuppositions to bear on the historical study of Jesus, and instead of portraying the actual Jesus of history, they put across their own idea of Jesus. Then he proposed to tell us what Jesus was really like, and concluded that he was a wild-eyed apocalyptic prophet who died a failure.
I tried to comment on Roger's blog, but was told to enter the characters in the picture, and could see no picture and no characters, so I thought I'd comment here.
Roger mentioned a "pastor" who had a medium-sized church that he wanted to grow into a megachurch, and that got me wondering about all sorts of things -- like what do we mean by "pastor" and why do we (or at least some people) think that "size matters"?
And it seems to me that some of the people called "pastors" are not so much pastors as ranchers, or at least wannabe ranchers. OK, we read in the Old Testament about all those patriarchs with huge flocks, and especially Jacob who increased his flocks and herds at the expense of his uncle and father-in-law, and all the good things that happened since their corn and wine and oil increased. And of course in the secular world the more people a person has to boss around, the more important they are. The rulers of big and rich nations are more important than the rulers of small and poor nations. And the CEO of a big company is more important than the CEO of a small one. But didn't Jesus say "It is not to be so among you?"
What is a pastor? A CEO for Jesus?
With Jesus as partner, and perhaps a junior partner at that?
As someone (I think it was Juan Carlos Ortiz) once said, "Is your church growing, or is it just getting fat?"
I remember one Anglican priest who was always preaching about money and the need for the church to look successful. "Success appeals to those who love success, and all men do," he said.
Yet, as Roger points out, in the eyes of the world, Jesus was a failure.
And I read a passage in a book that somehow seems truer to the Gospel of Christ than the false gospel of Success:
The New Poverty is the disaffiliate's answer to the New Prosperity. It is important to make a living. It is even more important to make a life. Poverty. The very word is taboo in a society where success is equated with virtue and poverty is a sin. Yet it has an honourable ancestry. St. Francis of Assisi revered poverty as his bride, with holy fervor and pious rapture. The poverty of the disaffiliate is not to be confused
with the poverty of indigence, intemperance, improvidence or failure. It is simply that the goods and services he has to offer are not valued at a high price in our society. As one beat generation writer said to the square who offered him an advertising job: 'I'll scrub your floors and carry out your slops to make a living, but I will not lie for you, pimp for you, stool for you or rat for you.' It is not the poverty of the ill-tempered and embittered, those who wooed the bitch goddess Success with panting breath and came away rebuffed. It is an independent, voluntary poverty (from The holy barbarians, by Lawrence Lipton).
Whom do we worship? Christ, who came to be poor among the poor, or the bitch goddess Sucess?