Sunday, August 9, 2015

As Useless As a Screen Door On a Submarine

"It's about a useless as a screen door on a submarine
Faith without works, baby- it just ain't happening..."

One of my interviews trips during the great job search of 1999 took me to a UMC in Indiana. Strangely enough, it too was located in the suburbs of Cincinnati. Even more bizarre, because Indiana does not recognize daylight savings time, the little community where the church was located spent several months each year in a different time zone from the city to which it was most closely connected. I sure knew how to pick 'em, huh?

But that's not what I came to talk about today. On that same interview there was a great deal of discussion (disguised as an argument!) about the direction the adults involved thought the youth ministry needed to go. Some wanted more serious Bible study (I think one guy suggested all the students memorize Lamentations) while others thought that service to others should be the group's primary focus. A few wanted to play more 4-Square. When asked which of these I felt was more important, I presented them with my philosophy of youth ministry. Ministry should be "wholistic" (from J. David Stone) and purpose driven (from Doug Fields). When they said I had not fully answered their question, I went all Jesus on them and told them a parable. A parable I had learned from Rich Mullins.

A man was in a rowboat- the kind with two oars, one on each side. He decided to row only with his left arm so he could make it stronger, but soon found his boat went only in circles. He switched to his stronger arm, his right arm, and rowed- but found he had only reversed the circling. It was only when he rowed with evenly both arms that he traveled a straight path on the water. So it is with faith and works. Following Jesus requires both.

Rich was not trying to say that we can be "saved" by the things we do. We cannot earn salvation. If we have faith, salvation is a gift from God. But it is also true that if we are followers of Jesus we will be in service to others. If we truly believe, our hearts will be broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus. The hungry, the homeless, the sick, the weak- all of the "least of these (Matthew 25)" that Jesus demands we look after, we will want to love in the name of God! As the scriptures tell us, if we truly believe then our lives will show "fruit."

I don't think they liked my answer. They never offered me the job; I wouldn't have taken it anyway. I still believe Rich had it right. He put his thoughts into this amazing little song called Screen Door. Listen, watch and enjoy. But also take this chance to check your own life. If you call yourself a Christian, what do people see in your actions that would confirm that for them? Too many people base the evidence of their faith on the things they don't do. Jesus asks,"What did you do for the least of these brothers of mine?" Don't let your faith become useless...  

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