Archive: The Other Six Days

Condensed from an address by Dr. Ira Gallaway
President, United Methodist Council on Evangelism
Superintendent, Fort Worth (Texas) District

The world is watching to see whether our faith involves us, as Christians, in the struggles and agonies of other people.

The Holy Spirit has a very rough time breaking through in our church. I used to think that was because the liberals didn’t believe in Him. But since I became a district superintendent, I’ve come to understand it’s also because the conservatives don’t trust Him. And so He has a rough time breaking through in our church these days.

Dr. Malcolm Muggeridge was recently being interviewed on a program in America. This famous iconoclast, wit, cynic, former editor of “Punch” became a Christian in his 60’s. He’s a sort of irrascible Christian now – not an orthodox one in our sense, but a tremendous man who’s sold out to Jesus Christ. He was asked a question about the world’s condition and he said, “Oh, the world’s empty. We’re at the end of civilization. There’s no question about it. Either Christ is coming again in His Glory, or this civilization is ending and God is looking to us to build a new one. One way or the other, we are at the end of civilization.”

He was interrupted by a man who said, “Dr. Muggeridge, that is such a pessimistic view of the world!” Then Malcolm Muggeridge said, “That is not pessimism, at all. That’s optimism. It would be pessimistic if God would let us build the kind of world we’ve been trying to build. But He’s not going to let us build that kind of a world. He’s going to make us change our world – or He is going to change it for us.”

I can hope in Christ with healthy optimism that we live in a time of deliverance. We live in a time of salvation. We live in a time of healthy change in the church.

Never before in modern times, if understand church history, has there been so much evidence of renewal and the winds of the Spirit blowing amongst God’s people. God, through His Holy Spirit, is causing many happenings in the church. He is doing His thing, bringing renewal.

We are most favored to be participants in the mighty acts of God in the 20th century. I’m not sure what may happen to the structure of the church, as we know it. And I am increasingly less concerned about that, than I have been in the past. I’m a part of that structure. But I am convinced that somehow, as I become increasingly under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and be true to the claim of God on my life, irrespective of what happens to the structure of the church, God will use my life.

I see some of my own children of faith {whom I call my children because God used my ministry to bring them to Christ) looking at this United Methodist Church and saying, “We can’t stay.” They are going off to sit someplace with a group of like-minded Christians. I am concerned about that. If God can use the church to bring you to faith, why not stay in that church and help redeem that church?

Most of us are rather uptight about the control of the church. Whether it will be controlled by the liberals, the radical secularists or the evangelicals. I get a rather uneasy feeling at this meeting even, that those of us here think that if somehow we could get in charge of the church at Nashville, New York or Washington, suddenly things would be vastly improved. But I’m not sure at all that would be the case. As a matter of fact, I have worked through the temptation to say in this speech that the number one opportunity for evangelicals is to wrest control of the church from those who would make it a totally secular and social action institution. Renewal will not be brought about by control of structure.

Yes, we’re hung up about the structure of the church! And who is going to control it. My mind is at ease at this point. In so far as my life and ministry is concerned I join with Martin Luther, and John Wesley, and with countless others down through the ages. My life and ministry is committed to a Gospel of conversion to God, and a disciplined servant life, under the authority of the Word of God, and direction of the Holy Spirit – whatever happens.

This is His Church, and as we are His people He will always have a place of service, a place of full life in this world and beyond, for you and for me. As he said to those who were under attack in Jerusalem 900 years before Christ, “Be not afraid, nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude that comes against you, for the battle is not yours, it is Mine.”

We’re on the verge of another Reformation, or a Wesleyan kind of revival in the church of our day. There is an irony, indeed, that many wonderful evangelicals cannot see this. It’s going to happen, whatever the dogmatic, secular radicals do – whether fearful woe-preaching fundamentalists believe – it’s going to happen. These cannot stop it because church reformation is of God. God is going to raise up new faith and new hope. I feel it in the very marrow of my bones!

Luther could not have predicted the Reformation. And Wesley had no great schemes to build a church, by dividing his own. But both men had a passion for God and His will in their lives – and a passion for souls. And God did a mighty act in their ministries. They brought men to Him and were vital change-agents, to use a modern word, as channels for God’s love and power in their time.

I am not unconcerned about whom we select as general officers of our church or the type of structure that evolves. But instead of seeking to capture the Church, we must again recapture for the Church in our day, the absolute need for conversion to God and His love, repentance, forgiveness and new birth.

But, we must at the same time make clear that men who are thus changed have their privileged responsibility and holy duty to live lives of love and service in His world. God does not call us to go to church; He calls us to be the church.

Far too often we evangelicals have not sought ways to love and serve our fellow men. And this is where my commitment lies. So far I have been able to do that with the greatest freedom within the United Methodist Church. If I have been intimidated, I haven’t been smart enough to know it.

The secular power boys (and there are many of them) seek control of church structure. They may completely gain it. But if they do it will be a skeleton, it will not be the Church.

The greatest lay revival of modern days is sweeping the Church in the lay witness movement. And there does not seem to be anything the church structure can do, but go along. Praise the Lord! This faith and action movement, relating people to the Bible and relating people to Jesus Christ, is generating a new movement for God in our time. I truly feel sorry for those pastors and church administrators who oppose the lay movement, primarily because they are fearful that it cannot be controlled.

My number one problem as a church administrator is not primarily with the young radicals, but with the institutional churchmen who fill most of our big churches – who want to preside over still waters and slowly sink rather than risk for God. These are not willing to risk their lives.

One of the most difficult adjustments in vocational call for a modern pastor is learning “what is his thing?” Where is his action opportunity?

There was a day when he was the prophet-preacher. The spokesman for the whole congregation, or perhaps for the whole town. As the best educated and perhaps most respected man in every town 50 years ago, he spoke with authority on everything.

But that’s not true any longer. The world is saying “No” to us by passing us by in droves. I know no church that has a problem seating the Sunday morning crowd.

I believe that the pulpit is still the key to a fruitful ministry. There’s no question that effective evangelical preaching will bear fruit. The modern day pastor, though, had better recognize that he must learn to sit in the back seat and let his laymen get in the front. The world will listen to laymen much more readily than to preachers in our day.

I like to emphasize the role of teaching elder. And that, my dear friends who have been to seminary recently, or 40 years ago, we have not been trained to bel To work to equip all the people of God for work in His service will require a new mindset for us. A new determinism. A new dimension. A new orientation of time. It will require teaching time with men, women, youth and children. Throughout the week. Week after week. Year after year. If we’re to raise up a people of God for our time we must equip our people.

My friends in the ministry, I would ask you today to give up your career, and reaffirm your calling. Quit worrying about where you are preaching or where your brothers are preaching. See God’s opportunity right where you are.

I yearn to see a group of preachers together in our day who say, “I don’t care where I’m sent. I am called to serve God, wherever I am sent.’ Dare we believe that God will use His Church – even the cabinet of The United Methodist Church?

The number one opportunity for an evangelical pastor in our day is to come before God daily in his own life. Then he brings the people of God there to equip his people for service in the work of the ministry. This is not so much being pastor in charge, as it is being servant-teacher of the flock. We’ve got to come to a new understanding of that if we’re to be a part of renewal in our day.

The world is passing the church by. It’s saying in effect, you don’t matter anymore. You have no answers for my life. But the world cannot pass Christian laymen by – men who man the lathes. Who sell the goods. Who work at the offices. They’re there where the action is, where God’s prospective people are. That is why they must be trained to witness for Him, to talk about the Gospel in everyday language to everyday men at the workbenches of America, in the classroom, in the backyard, or wherever God calls us.

Most Christians today are basically orthodox. That is not our basic problem. It is not that our intellectual belief is that far off, but that our commitment does not match our faith. We must go into the ghettos of our world, and into the poverty pockets, into the minority situation and into the racial problems, rough as they may be.

We must go and give our lives and witness there to our faith, in tutoring, day care and all other sorts of ministries. We must go and win this great cauldron of seething revolution for Christ. Otherwise we’re going to have revolution in our day, and a state of dictatorship will prevail in this land in ten years. We have no choice, but to go and lay down our lives for Jesus Christ, however hard that may be. This may take some of us out of our comfortable pulpits, and some of you laymen out of your comfortable pews.

The other crisis area in the life of civilization and society that I see today is the youth culture. I guess the thing that distresses the most, perhaps, is when a pastor says to me, “I don’t have time to spend with these young radicals! I just can’t stand hippies!”

You see, my oldest son has been a hippie for six years. We don’t know how it happened, and it’s been rough in all our lives. But I know them as human beings. I’ve spent time in Haight Ashbury, observed the witchcraft, the black magic and astrology that is all there. Unless we’re redemptive here, we’re going to lose the next generation. And many of them are open to Jesus Christ because they’re willing to risk all for a new world.

At the Berlin Congress of Evangelism there were a couple of stone age Acco Indians named Comë and Quemo, from South America. In 1956 a group of missionaries (Wycliffe Bible Translators) were trying to reach these people, to put their language into print and lead them to Christ. In an attempted contact, their plane was burned. All five of them murdered.

Two women, Elizabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, a wife and sister of two of the missionaries, decided God wanted them to complete the work started by their husband and brother. Nobody thought they could do it. But they went ahead. They settled in Quito, Equador. And they waited. They felt that God was leading them, and He would provide.

Then out of that jungle came a young girl who was thrown out of the tribe because she’d broken the tribal laws. She was banished under penalty of death should she return. So she was living out of the alleys and the gutters of Quito. They heard about her, sought her out, and brought her into their home. They nursed her back to health; they learned her language and they led her to Jesus Christ. Then they asked her to take them back to her people. It meant death. But she took them. A strange miracle: she didn’t die. And neither did Elizabeth Elliot. Or Rachel Saint.

The tribe took them in and built shelters for them. In Berlin, Rachel Saint told us that 80 percent of this tribe are now Christian. Comë is the chief and Quemo is the Pastor. Elizabeth Elliot stood up and said, “Quemo is the man who killed my husband. And he’s also the man who baptized my daughter into the Church of Jesus Christ.”

In Berlin Comë and Quemo were asked how was it before Jesus Christ. And they said, “Before Star came (Rachel Saint was called Star) and told us about Jesus, it was very dark. Very dark. Now it is light.”

How about your enemies? “Oh, we have no more enemies. We only have friends who don’t understand.”

David Sumano, a Nigerian chieftain’s son, came rushing past me, ran up onto the stage, grabbed these two Indians, and said “I understand! darkness and now light!”

Will it work? Oh God help us, it will work! God will still work His miracles if we give our lives.

Let us pray: Holy Father, thank you for giving me a piece of the action, and letting me be a disciple of Thine, as one saved through Jesus Christ my lord. Amen.


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