The young pastor graduated summa cum laude and earned his doctorate in theology at the age of 21. He was greatly affected by world events and the deterioration of the culture that he was a part of. He witnessed social chaos, the decline of traditional values, and an international financial crisis as the church became insensitive to the evident needs of the world around it. Instead of reaching out, the church seemed to bury Christ in a heap of religiosity.
This description could easily apply to the cultural shifts we witness today. It also describes the world nearly a century ago during the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran pastor and theologian.
Circumstances deteriorated to such a degree that Bonhoeffer was barred from speaking publicly and was required to report all of his activities to the police. He was subsequently restricted from printing or publishing, as if the world could actually silence a voice that God chose to platform. Bonhoeffer died for his faith in 1945 at the age of 39 at Flossenburg, a Nazi concentration camp.
Whether from a pulpit or a prison, God makes sure that His message gets out. Even if nations banish missionaries, laws are passed to make reading the scriptures illegal, or public meetings are stopped… the gospel cannot be silenced. It rises above politics, institutionalism, law, culture, war and economics. The gospel is a message not a method.
Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship was first published in 1937. In it he wrote these words: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer understood the cost of following. The end objective is not comfort; it is not success as the world defines it, and it is not notoriety or fame.
The end objective, according to Bonhoeffer, is for a person to dedicate his or her life for the gospel and to not compromise along the way. He understood that we don’t bargain our way through life. We live it out unconditionally, which is so contrary to the underlying culture that prevails today. “I want it and I want it now, or else!”
Jeremiah’s prayer shouts across the land: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord!” (Jeremiah 10:23, 24).
The choices we make every day reveal one of two things about our character: either we have committed to live conditionally or unconditionally. Either way we will experience troubles. But only one choice will allow us to rise above the fray and experience joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Prayer Focus: My prayer for us as a movement is that we lead with open hands extended to heaven in worship, and to others in service. May we posture ourselves with bended knees in submission to God and to one another. May we raise our heads and focus our eyes toward the heavens, our only dependable help in times of trouble.
Glenn Burris Jr. is president-elect of The Foursquare Church