That Crafty Devil (Mar-Jun 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Edward Fudge
May 16, 2010

Legend has it that sometime during the Fourth Century, in the reigns of the Emperors Galarius and Theodosius I, the devil convened an emergency meeting of his minions to discuss ways to stop the gospel’s spread. “Kill the Christians!” cried one demon. “Wipe them off the face of the earth!” The devil shook his head. “When Nero killed Peter and Paul,” he replied, “converts multiplied. More recently, Diocletian murdered 20,000 Christians by the most horrible tortures, but their faith simply would not die.” Many suggestions and dismissals later, a certain junior demon, freshly graduated as a Doctor of Diabolica, raised his hand. “I have it!” he ventured confidently, “but the solution is counter-intuitive. First, we will make Christianity popular,” he said, “and then we will make it prosperous. Next, we will invite believers to abandon the catacombs, and to stop meeting in private houses.” His voice grew louder with excitement. “We will encourage them to build elegant edifices, as fine as any government building in Constantinople. And then – heh-heh, here’s the genius – when they all go inside, we will simply lock the doors and their influence will be no more.”

Jesus instructed his followers, “Going, make disciples.” But somewhere the charge was changed. “Come to us,” we now say, “to the security and comfort of our church buildings.” Right before our eyes, “Go” has turned into “Come.” And the magic (or was it mischief?) did not stop there. A heavenly Kingdom became a carnal church, a fellowship morphed into an institution, and maintenance replaced mission. Passion in the heart gave way to knowledge in the head. If we doubt it, we need only read the congregation’s budget and calendar to be convinced. In most places in America, most of the time and most of the money goes to seek and to serve . . . the saved? Instead of divinely-empowered fellowships marked by much prayer and few plans, we often find religious corporations run on human power, with many plans and little prayer.

God’s business has become lost in church busyness, the great commission buried under a great commotion. Why do we even exist as an ekklesia, an assembly of faith? What is our ultimate goal and purpose? What is the essence of our mission? What is our passion? Is the original vision somewhere even yet alive? Have we forgotten entirely that God called us — not to be comfortable, but to send us on his mission? What do you think? Has that crafty devil enticed us into our fine buildings and locked the doors?

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Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.


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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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