Archive: Christ Above All?

condensed from an address by United Methodist Evangelist Ed Robb, Abilene, Texas

I think I would like first of all to give you a word of encouragement. I travel all over the United States, around the world. In recent years and the last two or three years particularly, I’ve seen the Spirit of God moving as I have never seen before in my lifetime. And of course many of you have found this true also.

But another thing that encourages me is, more and more, I am seeing the Spirit of God working in the United Methodist Church. And I believe that this great Good News Movement has made a significant contribution toward that end. I believe that great things are going to happen yet in the United Methodist Church. I am seeing more evangelicals in positions of leadership and taking part in the structures of the church than I have ever known in my 26 years in the ministry. I am encouraged about this. I believe that there is a place for those of us who call ourselves conservatives in the United Methodist Church. I believe there is a place of leadership for us. I believe we have a contribution to make within the United Methodist Church.

I was ordained a good many years ago, and when I was ordained, I knew that the leadership of the United Methodist Church was dominated by liberalism. This would be the case of almost every man here tonight who is a United Methodist minister. Is that not right? You knew it was a liberal church.

But I have found a freedom to serve my lord in the United Methodist Church. I have never had a district superintendent or a bishop who has tried to tell me what to preach.

I also want to say this. I have been told for many years, that United Methodism is an “inclusive” church, a pluralistic church. I believe it is. And I appreciate this fact. There is room for me. But if this is a pluralistic church, why can we evangelicals not have representatives on the faculties of the theological seminaries of United Methodism? I would guess that a great percentage, if not the greater percentage, of money that is being given to United Methodist institutions is being given by evangelicals. By conservatives. I want to know why—if we are an inclusive church—we do not have our representatives within the institutions of our denomination? Recently a United Methodist institution had two vacancies in the department of religion. I submitted the names of five competent Ph.D.’s who had degrees from prestige schools. But not one of them was chosen. I ask you why. I ask you, United Methodist leaders, Give us a chancel Give us a place of expression. Give us a part in the decision-making processes of United Methodism.

If we do not have representatives in the religion departments of our colleges and our theological seminaries, you are going to see the money and the students going elsewhere.

We have come to St. Louis to give witness to the Church and to the world, “Above All Christ.” This is an attractive slogan. It is a proper theme for a Convocation of evangelical Christians. For we affirm that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (II Corinthians 5:19). The only God that we know is the God that has come to us in Jesus Christ. All other great religions are founded upon a system, upon ethics, upon philosophy; the Christian faith is founded upon a Person, Jesus Christ. He is our message. He is our hope. He is our religion. He is our salvation. He is our God. It is to Him that we owe our allegiance. We worship Him. We adore Him. We come to St. Louis to praise Him. He is our King. The best definition I ever heard for Christianity is this: Jesus Christ. He is our faith. So we say, “Above All, Christ.”

Now what does this affirmation imply? It’s easy to have a motto, a theme. But if we really mean it, what does it demand of us? “Above all, Christ.” If we are going to put Christ above all, it is going to require courage. But I have discovered that when you really follow Christ, unapologetically, without reservation, He gives you the courage.

General William Booth was standing before a Methodist Conference, asking for an appointment as evangelist. They voted “no” and Katherine Booth stood up in the balcony and she cried out, “No, never! No, never, William.”

William Booth walked out of the conference without any security, but obeying God—and founded the great Salvation Army.

If we are going to put Christ above all, we will likely be controversial. This Convocation is controversial. This Movement, as most of you know, is controversial. But any vital movement is going to be a controversial movement. And any person who takes a clear stand for Jesus Christ is likely to be a controversial person. We are likely to challenge the status quo. And there’s too much vested self-interest, too many anxious to preserve the status quo.

We look back at such great men of the Church as Martin Luther. But don’t you ever forget that in his lifetime Luther was controversial, a most hated man. I see him standing before the Diet of Worms. They demand that he recant his Protestant faith, and Martin Luther cries out, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Today John Wesley is universally respected, but it was not always so. He was invited to preach at Oxford University, and in the afternoon after his sermon he wrote, “I preached at Oxford today, but I fear it was for the last time. He was almost right; it was 30 years before he was invited back. They thought that they had invited a frustrated priest, but instead a flaming evangelist came to the campus. They did not want that; he was controversial.

The prophets of God, by their very nature, are controversial. They challenge the status quo. They probe our conscience. They make us uncomfortable. The Church has a history of killing her prophets—and then 300 years later canonizing them. We love dead saints, but we don’t care for living prophets. But I would that God would raise up in our time the prophets of courage and boldness who would die to declare the truth of God.

If we are going to put Christ above all, then we are going to have a compassionate concern for the hurts, the heartaches, sins, and the suffering of this world. Oh that as Christians, as evangelicals, we would be moved by the suffering of the world! It hurts me when my liberal friends are making a greater impression upon the world about their concern and about their care than you and I are making. We must carry a burden for the lostness of the world, if “Above All, Christ” is truly our theme. We must love the unlovely and the lonely, if we are truly going to be followers of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals are not going to make the impact that we want to on the Church and the world by witch-hunting for doctrinal heresy or by political manipulation. I have never read in the history of the Church where revival or renewal have ever come that way, have you? If we are going to experience renewal, and if God is going to use us in the Church today to glorify Christ, to bring needed reform in the Church, it is going to be because the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ is in us. Not only that we are orthodox. Not only that we believe the Book.

Hardnosed fundamentalists seeing a heresy behind every bush are a most unattractive people. There is nothing so dead as dead orthodoxy. Evangelicals maneuvering for political power tend to become like those they are seeking to replace.

I recognize the need of working through the structure. I recognize the need of participating in conference debates. But let us remember this: we have never yet had a revival because of a victory at General Conference. We have never seen renewal come to the Church because some individual was elected bishop. Revival and renewal follow Pentecost. When we have a Pentecost, then we are likely to see change in the Church. When you and I make a full surrender, make a complete dedication, when we have a new baptism with the Holy Ghost, then we are likely to have revival. Then we are likely to see changes at General Conference. Then we are likely to see some great men raised up by God, elected to the episcopacy, to lead us forward in a mighty way. It follows Pentecost, it does not precede Pentecost.

I challenge you today, fellow evangelicals, fellow United Methodists, fellow Christians, to put “Christ above all” in stewardship. I’ve been hearing something lately that disturbes me greatly: “God’s children deserve the best.”

When I was in Chile a while back, I was preaching at a community called Libertad. A humble, frame, unpainted Methodist Church. It was 40 degrees and they didn’t have heat in the building. They had no organ. They didn’t have a piano, and they had little rough benches that people sat on. I’ll always remember the day I walked up to that little church. There, standing in the mud, in the rain, in 40-degree weather, was a little 10-year-old Chilean girl barefooted. When I go back to Chile, I’ll tell that little girl (and the tens of thousands like her all over the world) that American evangelical Christians deserve the best. I’m sorry we couldn’t send you any shoes. I’m sorry we couldn’t help you paint your Church. American evangelical Christians deserve the best.

I was in India last year. We went up to a typical Indian village. And we went into a typical Indian village home. Open fire with no chimney. Two dark rooms with no ventilation. Seven children sleeping on the cow dung floor beside their father and mother. Two water buffaloes, their most prized possession, in that same room sleeping with them there. Their annual income was $60.00. When I go back to India, I’ll tell them that American Christians deserve the best.

A prominent author recently said that any Christian minister who has more than two suits is a hustler. There’s just enough truth in that statement to make me feel rather uncomfortable. Does it you?

“Above all, Christ” … in stewardship. We have professed the faith, but we have not always lived it. We have talked humility, sacrifice, but our hearts have shrunk from them. We have lived to see militant atheists stagger us with the utterness of their self-giving.

Have you read Dr. Sangster’s The Pure in Heart? It’s a great book. He tells of Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers, an editor of Time magazine and a former communist. One of the grand jurors asked, “Mr. Chambers, what does it mean to be a Communist?”

He answered that when he was a Communist he had three heroes. One was a Pole, one was a German Jew, and the third was a Russian. He said the Pole was arrested for taking part in the Red terror of Warsaw. When he was put into prison he requested that he be given the job of cleaning the latrines of the other prisoners, for he said, “It is a Communist philosophy that the highest and most developed of the party must be willing to do the lowliest of tasks.” This is one of the things it means to be a Communist, Whitaker Chambers said. His second hero, a German Jew, was arrested for participating in a revolt. He stood before the military tribunal; the judge sentenced him to death. Eugene Levine said proudly, “We Communists are always under the sentence of death.” Mr. Chambers said, “That, too, is what it means to be a Communist.”

He said his third hero was a Russian pro-revolutionary who had been arrested for his part in attempting to assassinate the Czarist Prime Minister. He was sent to Siberia. He wanted to bring to the attention of the world the awful conditions of Siberian labor, so one day he drenched his body in gasoline and became a living torch.

Whitaker Chambers said, “This, too, is what it means to be a Communist.”

While we have been talking about commitment, while we have been playing church, while we have been mouthing the words, while we have been going through the motions, the Communists have become more committed and they have conquered more than 1/3 of the world-while we have been in retreat.

I’ve got a minister friend with a large church. One day one of his inactive members called him and said, “I’d like to come by for coffee.” While they were drinking coffee, the layman said, “Do you happen to have a pledge card?”

Now if you want to make your pastor happy, just ask for a pledge card! The pastor gave him a card and the man signed the pledge for $600 a month. The pastor was rather astounded. He said, “Would you mind telling me why you made this generous pledge? You haven’t been giving anything to the church.”

The layman said, “I’ve been successful at making a living, but I’ve been a failure at making a life. I have a son who has a rather meager salary, but he is giving $600 a month to the cause of Communism. I cannot allow my son to outgive me.”

Are we going to allow a pagan world to outgive us? To out love us? Are we going to be committed to Jesus Christ? Are we truly going to put “Christ Above All” in our lives?

I have been studying some conference journals. They reveal some interesting facts. I have discovered that churches with evangelical pastors have the best record in missionary giving. Their Advance Special record is impressive. I have also discovered that these same churches have a better evangelistic record. Evangelicals have the motivation to win the world to Christ.

Lest we smugly wrap the robes of self-righteousness around ourselves, we should look more closely at the facts. I have a liberal friend of whom I have been most critical. The other day I was visiting with him and discovered that he goes to the jail every Sunday to share Christ’s love with the prisoners. I have not witnessed in a jail in years. Also, I learned that he has been actively involved in the black churches of our city. Before we throw stones we had better examine ourselves.

Have we put “Christ Above All”?

Some time ago I read a novel about a young married woman who was having severe personal problems. She had a brother who was a renowned priest. Someone suggested that she discuss her problem with her brother. “Oh, no,” she said, “I could not do that. He is too busy with important things like ecumenicity to be bothered with me.”

Is that the story of some of us? Have we been so busy with important things like church renewal that we have no time for persons?

I know an evangelist who has traveled around the world preaching the Gospel. He has preached from some of the great pulpits, coast to coast. Last month he was working in his yard. Two young boys, aged seven and three stopped and visited with him. He asked them if they went to church.


He asked them if they knew who Jesus was.


They lived across the back alley from the evangelist—I am that evangelist.

Are we witnessing? Are we witnessing where we are?

If we are serious about putting “Christ Above All” we must carry Him out into the world. Too long we have proclaimed the Gospel from the captivity of the sanctuary! Too long we have been satisfied to convince the convinced! Too long we have moved in the isolation of a Christian ghetto! Are we frightened by the world? Are we inhibited by the world? Are we insecure in the world? Is our concept of the Kingdom of God and the duty of a Christian too limited?

Some time ago I was in the home of a Presbyterian elder. Some friends called and asked him to go to the precinct convention of his political party the following week. He answered that he did not have the time because he was going to a Christian meeting that particular night.

I submit to you that the political convention might have demanded his Christian concern more than the committee meeting scheduled at his church. The Kingdom of God does not stop at the front door of our churches. Our faith demands involvement in the world, in the name of Christ.

Three years ago last January I was in Kansas City. One afternoon I was having coffee with three young ministers. One said to me, “Ed, last summer I was in Chicago at the Democratic Convention and participated in the demonstrations.”

I said to him, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

He answered, “Ed, I have chosen the way of radical obedience. I am completely dedicated to Jesus Christ.”

I felt rebuked. For while I disagreed with this young man very much, I had to respect his dedication. He was willing to put his reputation, his ministry, his future, his very life on the line for what he believed. And where were most of us moderates and conservatives? At home watching our color television sets in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes, wringing our hands and crying out, “What is the world coming to?”

Some time ago I received a magazine with a statement by Jonathan Edwards on the cover. I liked it so well that I pinned it on my clothes closet wall. This is the statement. ” Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live.” I like that, don’t you? I see so many people vegetating, not really living. There are so many who are carefully protecting themselves. I want to live with all my might!

So I have changed the statement and made it my own. It now has been painted by an artist, is framed, and hangs on my study wall. It reads: ” Resolved, to live with all my might for Christ, while I do live.”


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