The Search For The Perfect Filament
This past week I journeyed to Iowa for some church visits and meetings with pastors. Unfortunately, I found myself journeying alone, without my beloved wife to keep me company and share the journey along the way. It was a difficult proposition at first, and one that took some getting used to, being without my beautiful wife and partner in adventure. In fact, it was akin to experiencing the five stages of grief….
1. Denial: Still talking to the passenger seat as if Nikki were present.
2. Anger: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
3. Depression: Seriously, there was a lot of pollen in the air.
4. Bargaining: A phone call plead for Nikki to grab the next bus to Omaha.
5. Acceptance: I might as well make the most of this trip; suffering from occassional bouts with allergies still.
As for details about my trip to Iowa, I will be following up on that tomorrow. But for now, I find myself incapable of writing about anything other than the powerful lessons the Spirit has been pressing upon my heart. (Spoiler Alert: This is a lengthy post.)
One huge benefit of my travels over this past week has been the opportunity to listen to numerous great sermons through podcast that really have uplifted me and challenged my thinking. I enjoyed two such sermons today. The first, by John Piper, challenged my view of worship. Far too often do I view worship as a means to bring glory to God for what He has done for me. But today I was reminded that even a mindset such as this is very man-centered and not God-centered. I need to worship Him because He is righteous, and His righteousness deserves and demands my passion for His glory. It is clear from His Word that we won’t praise Him for eternity because He is loving and gracious. We will cry out “Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” His righteousness is prominent in the reason we worship and bring praise to Him.
The second sermon was by Francis Chan, and challenged my views on the church and ministry. If I have learned anything in my time in church in general, and on deputation in particular, it is that every church has their own way of doing things, and, for the most part, they view that as the right way of carrying out the ministry. I’m not talking doctrine here, but more along the lines of methodology and philosophy of ministry. This is not a problem in and of itself, except that it predominantly manifests itself in the view that “everyone else” is not conducting church correctly, that they are not reaching people the “right way”. This notion that there is a perfect way to run a church, conduct its ministries and reach the community just seems so irony-laden to me. I think we would all agree that we as Christians are not perfect, that the church itself is not perfect (seeing as how it is made up of imperfect people), that this world is not perfect, that our motives are far from perfect most of the time even as servants of the Lord. Yet we expect our pattern of ministry, the process we carry out to fulfill our purpose, to have reached the pinnacle of perfection and have little room for improvement. And worse, we expect every other church to conform to how we do things. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our order of service, our methods of outreach, our philosophies of ministry, our style of worship, these are so incidental in comparison to the power of the Holy Spirit working. The New Testament is vague in regards to most of these, and I would claim for a reason. There is no perfect way to “do” church. Even Paul calls the practice of preaching in and of itself a folly, a absurd method for reaching this world. But the Spirit that enables us is perfect, the Word we preach is perfect, the Savior who saved us is perfect, the salvation we have been offered is perfect, the doctrine we have foundation in is perfect. We should never be satisfied with the way we “do” church, but should instead be always looking for how we can improve in this regard, just as we should never be satisfied with our spiritual walk, but should always be seeking to grow through santicification.
I think the best way I can illustrate this is through the example of Thomas Edison. See, we often fall into the erroneous assumption that he invented the light bulb. Nothing could be further from the truth. He, in fact, did not invent the light bulb. He invented the first commercially viable light bulb. The method was there, he just had to work at finding out how to achieve a better result. The first light bulbs would only last a few hours before their filament was spent and they burned out, requiring replacement. It just wasn’t all that practical to have to replace the bulbs in street lamps every single day. What Edison did was experiment with the intention of finding a proper filament to burn in the bulb. He and his team literally tested thousands of different filaments to see how long and how bright each would burn. I’m sure there were plenty of times he came across a filament that burned a little bit brighter, and a little bit longer than the last time. But he was never content to just stop there. Edison is quoted as having said “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” It wasn’t as if he was waiting for his light bulb to shine. Each filament burned in its own way, but not to the full effect that he desired. He didn’t call it quits on filament no. 5, no. 55, or no. 955 and say “Eh, that’s close enough.” He kept looking for the absolute BEST result. We too in our churches need to never be willing to settle for the status quo and feel like we have arrived in our ministry, but should be searching for the way to see our church burn the brightest and the longest in this world enveloped by the darkness.
I feel like this is the case for the ministry of our churches as a whole, and our spiritual lives in particular. I had a realization of sorts during my drive and pondering these thoughts, a Holy Spirit-induced epiphany. I don’t want to settle for a lesser filament burning in my spiritual life. I desire to find the way to burn the brightest and the longest in my life, and not for my own accolades, or to look spiritual or to get a pat on the back and a stroke of my pride. I desire this so that I can bring the greatest possible amount of glory to God in my life because He is so righteous and deserving of it. My soul aches to achieve this in service to my Master, Judge, and Lord. I want my life to be the sponge that Christ has wrung out every last possible drop of service and spiritual impact from me to bring Him praise and His name renown. I want to be utterly spent and used up with nothing else left to give in my life.
I can not stress more emphatically that I do not write these things to brag about some kind of spiritual revelation or to show off any piousness on my part. Far from it, I am just an ant scurrying around in frantic service, seeking the goal laid upon my heart by the Spirit of the Lord. I write these things here for the purpose of accountability. It is my prayer that those who read this would closely examine my life in objective Godly observation and search me to ensure that I daily practice this passion of mine, that I would not allow these to be empty words. I pray for your call to me to hold true to my word. I may not be the perfect filament, but I will not accept my life to be an inferior and deficient testimony of God’s righteousness.