Archive: How Shall We Escape?

By Buford M. McElroy, Sr., Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Camp Hall, Alabama

There must be a deep realization that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant in our sophisticated “tech-ronic” age. But the cost of discipleship will not be found in Dow Jones average. The price of discipleship remains the same today as it was when Jesus first sent out the call for His first disciples. “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Christian discipleship is composed of sacrificial life built at the great cost on the eternal foundation of Jesus Christ … and dedicated to an uncompromising fight to transform the world in His Kingdom, regardless of the cost—even unto death.

There are two reflections I would like to make in reference to this subject: First: we, as ministers, are not willing to pay the price of Christian discipleship to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. I’m not sure I understand all that has taken place in our church today. We are supposed to be God’s people settled to our convictions and working to transform the world into His Way. But I am afraid the world has shaped us into its image! I think that most of us realize that America’s god has become the $. Not only America, but the Christian church has succumbed to the same god. We fall down and worship the almighty $ just as much as the non-Christian.

We who are in the ministry speak of our appointments as a six-thousand dollar, or an eight-thousand dollar assignment. We feel highly insulted if our new appointment does not carry with it a large increase in salary. Professionalism has invaded our ranks; there is no question about it. We need money to live on and provide for our families. We are not supposed to be paid for preaching, but given a living allowance so that we may be able to devote ourselves fully to preaching.

I think the words of John Wesley hold true today, maybe more so than when he first uttered them: “Your business is not to preach so many sermons, and to take care of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can.”

Jesus told His first disciples to preach the Gospel and as they went to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out devils” (Matthew 10:8).

Brethren, is this true today? Or are we going forth unfit for the task, seeking to heal others when we need to be healed? We are going forth after bigger appointments and we have become slaves to our own profession.

My second reflection is that we are fighting the wrong fight. In the Christian Church we are fighting one another. Especially we Methodists are fighting among ourselves. We have come to the stage of name-calling and branding one another as “liberals,” “conservatives,” “far-out lefts” and “far-out rights.” And if these labels do not fit, we create one! There are holiness preachers, and for-the-race-issue preachers, and against-the-race-issue preachers, up-and-coming preachers. There is the preacher who preaches an hour and of course the 10-minute preacher. I think you know what I am talking about.

We fight one another over where the money of the church goes. The “conservatives” say the “liberals” are not using the money in the right way and therefore we will withhold our dollars. The “liberals” say they alone have the answers to all the questions- even the spending of church dollars. I do not approve of many things that have taken place in the Methodist Church. But I was called to preach not to judge. And besides, I think we forget that God knows what is going on. I give my tithes to the Church. If the bishop or someone else does not spend this money in accordance with God’s plan then God will hold them responsible, not me. If I spent my time fussing about where the money is being spent, I would not have time to preach the Gospel that I am called by God to preach.

I will be frank in this matter: I am afraid we are hiding the real issue by the name-calling. In reality, all this fussing is over who will control the physical power of the church. Or maybe a better word would be a “power grab.” The real issue is that none of us wants God’s power to control our whole being.

I don’t really know which one of these power groups I fit into. I’m sure that the “liberals” wouldn’t own me. And the “conservatives turn up their nose when I step on their toes in some such matter as this. But I guess my standing in church politics really does not matter. Because these things are not lasting. They too will fade.

There is one side I do hope and pray that I may be on. When Jesus comes back to earth, I want to be found on His side. Then all the hurts received from my brethren will be all forgotten … swallowed up in the new life with Him.

“We must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so we will not be carried away. The message given by the angels was true, and anyone who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment he deserved. How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3a)


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